Gruesome torture and beheading of cellmate went unnoticed by California prison guards

Guards at a California prison somehow did not notice the satanic torture and beheading of an inmate until well after the fact, according to a recently published report.

The inmate, Jaime Osuna, 31, allegedly tortured and then decapitated and disemboweled his cellmate, Luis Romero, 44, with a makeshift knife in 2019, but prison guards noted that both of them were alive when they made overnight rounds, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an investigation by a California inspector general’s office.

“The reports add fresh revelations and raise more questions about one of the most heinous slayings inside the California prison system,” the L.A. Times reported. “The killing has prompted investigations and a lawsuit over why Romero was in a cell with Osuna, a self-styled satanist with a history of attacking his cellmates.”

One report lays blame with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, accusing the agency of launching a poorly conducted investigation of the incident and putting off disciplining guards,

It’s not clear why corrections officers did not detect the gruesome murder sooner, according to the reports. However, a lawsuit filed by Romero’s family states that the cell bars were covered by a white sheet, which appears to suggest that guards did not adequately inspect the cell.

The Corrections Department, however, pushed back on the inspector general findings, noting that its own personnel engaged in a “thorough and complete investigation from the very beginning.

Justin Sterling, an attorney for Romero’s family, said that the reports from the state IG’s office make plain the Department of Corrections’ “veil of secrecy” which hid misconduct by 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 Times.

The attorney said that guards are required to check cells periodically, noting that the crime in question would have taken some hours to commit. Had corrections officers been making their required rounds, he said Romero would be alive.

Romero, who had already spent 27 years behind bars at the time of his death, was placed in Osuna’s cell after being transferred from Mule Creek State Prison, the lawsuit says. He was getting close to becoming eligible for parole after being convicted of second-degree murder for shooting a Compton woman as a teen and for associating with known gang members, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, Osuna had been sentenced to life after torturing and killing Yvette Pena, 37, at a motel in Bakersfield, Calif, in 2011.

“With face tattoos and flair for Charles Manson-like satanic antics, he became a dark figure during the 2017 trial, mocking the victim’s family and bragging to a television news reporter of his love of torturing people,” the Times noted.

Officials said that sometime in the early hours of March 9, 2019, is when Osuna systematically tortured Romero before killing him using a razor-like blade that he attached to a handle.

Osuna first disfigured Romero by reportedly cutting one of his eyes out and cutting off one of his fingers. He also removed a portion of Romero’s ribs and cut out part of a lung. Eventually, Osuna cut off Romero’s head and posed the body, slicing both sides of his mouth to make it appear like a wide smile, an autopsy report noted.

When authorities did discover what had happened, Osuna was found donning a necklace comprised of various body parts from Romero.

Officials called it one of the most grotesque acts of violence they had ever seen or heard about, the Times said.

“We do believe that the victim was conscious during at least a portion of the time,” Kings County Executive Assistant Dist. Atty. Phil Esbenshade said.

Osuna had not had a cellmate prior to Romero’s arrival.

“The department’s handling of the case was poor,” said the inspector general’s office, according to the Times. “In the OIG’s opinion, the special agent continually resisted the recommendations of the department attorney regarding conducting interviews and obtaining evidence.”

Jon Dougherty

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