California prison guards didn't notice inmate was dead, decapitated - report

Convicted US murderer Jaime Osuna allegedly decapitated and tortured his cellmate.
Convicted US murderer Jaime Osuna allegedly decapitated and tortured his cellmate. Photo credit: File Image

Warning: This story contains graphic content.

New reports reveal California prison guards didn't notice an inmate had been decapitated and killed by his cellmate, reporting during their rounds that both men were alive. 

On the morning of March 9, 2019, at Corcoran State Prison, Jaime Osuna, then aged 31, allegedly decapitated his 44-year-old cellmate, Luis Romero. Osuna severed Romero’s fingers, removed an eye, and mutilated part of his lung before dissecting him further.

According to the Los Angeles Times, two fresh reports on California prisons show that after doing their rounds on the morning of the attack, prison guards reported both men to be alive. 

Why the guards didn't notice a slain Romero in his cell isn't well detailed in the reports. A lawsuit by Romero's family says the cell was hidden by a white sheet and prison guards didn't check behind it thoroughly.

The reports raise further questions over the response to the killing, citing negligence and insufficient investigation from the California Department of Corrections. 

In a statement, the Department of Corrections disputed the findings arguing it had conducted a "thorough and complete investigation from the very beginning", reports the Los Angeles Times.

Justin Sterling, the lawyer for Romero's family, says the report highlights the "veil of secrecy" that hides wrongdoings of officers and guards. 

"The idea that my client had to sue in order to get basic questions answered about her son's death is disheartening," Sterling told the Los Angeles Times. 

Sterling says the killing would have taken hours to commit and if guards had completed compulsory, thorough cell checks Romero may not have died. 

The lawsuit also raised questions over why Romero was housed in a cell with Osuna, a satanist who has a history of gruesome violence and harming cellmates. 

Osuna began serving a life sentence without parole in May 2017 for the brutal murder of Yvette Pena in 2011.

During his 2017 trial for Pena’s murder, Osuna frequently mocked the victim’s family and smiled throughout court proceedings.

A judge has ruled Osuna is not mentally fit to stand trial over Romero's death.

Romero had been serving a life sentence for murder since 1992, but with the possibility for parole. He had spent 27 years in prison.