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Downtown L.A. jail inmate killed by cellmate, official says [Updated]

March 4, 2011 | 11:08 am

An L.A. County jail inmate found dead in his cell was killed by a cellmate, who has since confessed, an official confirmed Friday.

The victim was locked up at Men’s Central Jail on attempted murder charges, and his attacker was there on a murder charge, according to authorities.

[Updated at 4:12 p.m.: The inmate was killed sometime between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. His death wasn’t detected by deputies until morning, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker, because “during checks of the cell…the victim appeared to be sleeping in his bunk.”

Two other inmates were in the cell, Parker said. The suspect was awaiting trial on a murder charge when the incident occurred.]

“When you have a significant number of people in custody for murder and attempted murder, and then others with various other charges, people of like crimes are often housed together,” said Parker.

[Updated at 11:43 a.m.: The victim was identified as Jonathan Najera, a 20-year-old from Ventura. Najera was strangled to death, said Ed Winter, the county's assistant chief coroner.]

It had not been officially determined how the inmate was killed or why. Authorities have not released their names, and it was unclear if either had been convicted of the charges for which they were arrested.

Deputies found the inmate dead in his cell Tuesday morning, but it was unclear when he had been killed.

Cells at the downtown Los Angeles jail are not under constant monitoring. The jail has long been criticized, even from within the department, as aging, understaffed and overcrowded.


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-- Robert Faturechi

Click to visit The Times' interactive Homicide Report

Photo: Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times