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L.A. County health officials investigate Malibu worker's death

Amid continuing confusion over the cause of death of a Malibu kitchen worker, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Thursday that it was looking into the incident to determine whether there was any threat to public safety.

"Public Health is investigating," said Sarah Kissell, an agency spokeswoman.

Authorities found Carlos Ivan Rodas, 32, dead Sunday night in a pool of blood in front of Guido’s restaurant on Cross Creek Road after the restaurant manager said he sent Rodas outside to dispose of trash. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department initially reported that Rodas had been shot or beaten. But on Wednesday sheriff's detectives reported that Rodas had died of an upper respiratory infection.

"There was a significant amount of blood at the scene and at different locations," said Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The Sheriff's Department on Wednesday put a "security hold" on information about the case until toxicology results could be completed. That is expected to take as long as four weeks, Whitmore said.

"We are not able to discuss this case at this time," Craig R. Harvey, chief coroner investigator and chief of operations for the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner, said in an e-mail Thursday.

Malibu, meanwhile, issued a statement Thursday saying that it was "disappointed by the confusing and contradictory messages given to the media and public about this tragedy." City Manager Jim Thorsen elaborated in an e-mail: "It was disappointing to learn that the information being disseminated through sheriff personnel about the potential cause of death had not been fully determined prior to the statements."     

Thorsen added that the city had no plans to close Guido's and would wait for guidance from public health officials.     

"The city's goal is to get the most accurate and up-to-date information before disseminating it to the community," Thorsen said. "The Sheriff's Department and county coroner are working diligently to determine the exact cause of death."

Whitmore said the department had placed a security hold on the case because “there was such a preponderance of misinformation going on that the detectives needed to manage it.”    

“It does not appear to be criminal at all,” Whitmore said of the case. “There were no exterior wounds that were found.”

Whitmore said he understood Malibu's concern.

 "I wish I had a clear-cut answer," he said.

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-- Martha Groves and Matt Stevens

 
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