LANCASTER – Authorities at the state prison in Lancaster are investigating the death of an inmate as a suspected homicide and are questioning his cellmate.
Rashell Clarke, 39, was found unresponsive in his cell on Saturday, Feb. 6. Staff immediately began lifesaving measures, but he was declared dead at 11:26 a.m., said Lt. Duane Bennett of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives were sent to the scene Saturday to investigate the circumstances surrounding Clarke’s death, sheriff’s officials said in a news release.
“Detectives have learned that the suspect and the victim were involved in a mutual physical altercation,” the news release states. “The victim sustained unknown trauma to the body and was pronounced dead at the scene. The suspect was transported to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries.”
Prison officials and local law enforcement are questioning Clarke’s cellmate, 33-year-old Leron Morris, as a suspect, according to Bennett.
Morris has been in prison since Sept. 13, 2005, serving a life term without the possibility of parole for a first-degree murder conviction in Contra Costa County, Bennett said.
Clarke had been housed at the California State Prison-Los Angeles County since Jan. 12, 2010. He had been serving a nearly 23-year sentence in a Shasta County case in which he was convicted of abusing and endangering the health of a child, according to Bennett.
The Lancaster prison, which opened in 1993, provides long-term housing for about 3,500 minimum-, medium- and maximum-security male inmates.