Monday, April 13, 2015

Inmate Deaths at Kern Valley State Prison Being Investigated as Homicides

DELANO – Officials at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) are investigating the deaths of two inmates as homicides.

The first incident occurred at 12:46 a.m. Saturday, April 11, when inmate Damion Soward, 37, was found unresponsive in his cell. He was transported to an outside hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12. Next-of-kin have been notified.

Prison officials have named Soward’s cellmate, Lawrence Phillips, 39, as a suspect in the case. Phillips was received by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on Oct. 16, 2008, from San Diego County to serve a 31-year, four-month sentence for inflicting great bodily injury involving domestic violence, corporal injury to spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft. Phillips played in the National Football League prior to his incarceration in state prison.

Soward was received by CDCR on March 12, 2009, from San Bernardino County to serve 82 years to life for first-degree murder.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, April 11, inmate Rattanak Kim, 41, was found unresponsive in his cell. He was transported to an outside hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at 11:48 a.m. Next-of-kin have been notified.

Prison officials have named Kim’s cellmate, John Munoz, 24, as a suspect in the case.  Munoz was admitted to CDCR on Feb. 17, 2011, to serve a 42-year, eight-month sentence from Los Angeles County for sexual battery, oral copulation with force and violence resulting in great bodily injury, rape/resist with force and violence and first-degree burglary.

Kim was received by CDCR on July 6, 1995, from San Diego County to serve a 35-year-to-life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.

Both suspects have has been placed in the Administrative Segregation Unit pending investigations by KVSP, Kern County Coroner and Kern County District Attorney. KVSP administrators have limited inmate movement on the facilities where the incidents occurred to facilitate the investigations. The Office of the Inspector General was notified.

KVSP opened in 2005 and houses 3,756 minimum-, medium-, maximum- and high-security custody inmates. KVSP offers academic classes and vocational programs and employs approximately 1,800 people. For more information, visit www.cdcr.ca.gov.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 13, 2015       
                                                  
CONTACT: LT. MARSHALL DENNING
(661) 721-6314
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