SAN DIEGO —
A 56-year-old man died Tuesday in a San Diego hospital from injuries he suffered more than two weeks ago in an attack by his San Diego Central Jail cellmate, sheriff’s officials said.
Homicide detectives identified the suspect in the assault of Derek Baker as his 28-year-old cellmate Patrick James Ferncase, who was arrested days before Christmas in Carlsbad after an attack on a 68-year-old man in a crowded shopping center parking lot.
The incident happened March 12 inside the downtown San Diego jail, according to sheriff’s homicide Lt. Chris Steffen. Investigators believe Ferncase attacked Baker, but they gave no details of how Baker was injured nor did they reveal a possible motive.
As of Tuesday evening, Ferncase had not been charged in connection with the incident, but Steffen said detectives “are working with the District Attorney’s Office to file the appropriate charges.”
An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday to determine the cause and manner of Baker’s death.
On the day of the incident, Baker’s injuries were grave enough that homicide detectives were called in to investigate the case, Steffen said. The two men had been housed together for eight days.
San Diego police officers arrested Baker on Jan. 17 on a misdemeanor warrant for allegedly violating a restraining order, and while still jailed in February he was charged with an additional count of failing to register as a sex offender, Steffen said in a news release. On Feb. 17, a judge sentenced him on the restraining order violation charge, and on March 4 jail officials moved him into the cell with Ferncase.
Ferncase has been in custody since Dec. 22, when Carlsbad police arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse causing injury. Carlsbad police said the Vista resident had attacked a 68-year-old man that morning at the Plaza Paseo Real shopping center off Aviara Parkway and El Camino Real.
Police said Ferncase and the victim did not know each other.
In that attack, 911 callers had reported that a younger man was assaulting an older man in a parking log, and police arrived to find the victim unconscious and suffering from serious head injuries, police officials said at the time. Witnesses helped officers locate Ferncase, and the officers arrested him and booked him into the Vista Detention Facility.
Later, Ferncase was moved to the Central Jail. Steffen said Ferncase was the only person in the cell with Baker when the assault happened.
Last week, with Baker hospitalized and not expected to survive, the District Attorney’s Office released Baker from custody and dismissed his pending charge of failing to register as a sex offender. Doctors pronounced him dead at 10:20 a.m. Tuesday.
According to sheriff’s officials, the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board was notified of Baker’s death and did not respond. Under an agreement reached last month, the civilian oversight board is allowed to send an investigator to the scenes of deaths that occur in county jails and at the hands of sheriff’s deputies.
The agreement includes sending board representatives to scenes where individuals have been hospitalized and are not expected to survive, as Baker was. It was not clear Wednesday at what point the review board was notified.
Baker’s death is at least the sixth so far this year among people in San Diego County jail custody. A state audit released last month tallied at least 185 deaths over 15 years in the county’s jails, which are operated by the Sheriff’s Department, and concluded the jails are so unsafe and deficient that state lawmakers should intervene.
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com