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Orange County Digest

Local News in Brief : El Toro : Inmate Death a Suicide, Pathologist Concludes

November 18, 1987

Inmate Roscoe Ben Shirley took his own life in a county jail facility, a pathologist hired by his family has reported.

The conclusion by Dr. Barry Silverman of Los Angeles settles the concern that his family had about the circumstances surrounding Shirley's death on Nov. 8 at the James A. Musick Honor Farm in El Toro, said Dick Herman, lawyer for Shirley's family and a well-known expert on conditions in the Orange County jail system.

Herman said that Dr. Silverman found "no defensive cuts, bruising, or signs of a struggle." That means Shirley took his own life, Herman said.

On the day Shirley was found dead in a jail shower stall, the Sheriff's Department reported that there was "no evidence of foul play." Deputies also told relatives that they had found evidence of suicide, but declined to elaborate.

But Shirley's mother, brother, girlfriend and ex-wife all disputed the suggestion that he might have taken his own life.

Shirley, 38, was serving a six-month sentence for drunk driving, his fourth such conviction, and was expecting to be given an early release for good behavior in by mid-November.

According to Herman, Silverman said the case represented a rare form of suicide. Shirley was found with a three-inch cut on the left side of his throat.

Herman said litigation is still likely in the case. "I think this is just another preventable death," Herman said.

Shirley was the 11th inmate to die in county custody in the last two years.

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