Prison Guards Charged in Murder of Mentally Ill Inmate

Prison Cell
AP Photo

Three corrections officers were arrested early Thursday morning on suspicion of murder after a mentally ill inmate at Santa Clara County Main Jail was found dead in his cell on August 27.

Sheriff Laurie Smith, conducting a news conference Thursday, announced the arrests, calling the actions of Jereh Lubrin, 28, Matthew Farris, 27, and Rafael Rodriguez, 27, in the alleged murder of Michael Tyree, 31, “violent and cowardly.” The men were charged with suspicion of murder, assault under color of authority, and conspiracy.

Smith added, “…the disappointment and disgust I feel cannot be overstated. His life had value…This violent and cowardly act that took Mr. Tyree’s life is not indicative of the values we expect and honor with the men and women of this department.”

Smith said Tyree was found lying naked on the floor, with his skin lacerated and bruised, with internal hemorrhaging that caused his death. ABC7 reported the coroner’s report listed the cause of death as multiple blunt force injuries to include visceral lacerations and hemoperitoneum.

The tragic nature of Tyree’s case was accentuated by the fact that he had already served his five-day jail sentence and was only being kept in the special needs section of Santa Clara County Jail because he was waiting to be transferred to a residential mental health hospital nearby. Because there was no bed available, he was held in jail, according to Santa Clara County public defender Molly O’Neal.

O’Neal told the San Jose Mercury News, “This tragedy underscores the need for a greater number of mental health beds so that clients with acute mental health needs do not sit in custodial facilities which are not therapeutic when they have been ordered released.”