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O.C. Jail Inmate Is Beaten to Death

Authorities say guards didn't see the attacks on the man awaiting trial on child-porn charges.

October 07, 2006|Garrett Therolf | Times Staff Writer

An inmate being held on child pornography charges was found beaten to death Thursday in Orange, marking the first inmate slaying in a jail in Orange County in two decades, authorities said.

The inmate, John Chamberlain, 41, a Mission Viejo computer technician who was arrested last month, was severely kicked in the jail showers and then dragged -- apparently unnoticed by guards -- to his cell, where he was attacked again and left for dead.

The episode lasted 15 to 30 minutes, until an inmate alerted guards.

Chamberlain was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange about 6:30 p.m., where he died an hour later, said Jim Amormino, an Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

"The inmate was dragged about 20 feet from the showers to his cell.... There are blind spots from the guard station," Amormino said.

Chamberlain was incarcerated at the facility while he awaited trial for alleged possession of child pornography. Sheriff's officials believe that word of his alleged crime may have leaked out and prompted the attack.

Amormino said officials are interviewing the 140 inmates who were housed in Chamberlain's unit at the Theo Lacy jail.

Inmates in the unit are able to roam freely in the low-security, dormitory-style confines because they are being held for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses.

The guards' view of the premises is more restricted than in newer units at the jail complex.

Chamberlain had been in the unit since his arrest Sept. 14 when deputies responded to a call that someone was exposing himself at a parking lot in Rancho Santa Margarita.

The deputies were not able to verify that allegation, but they said they discovered child pornography in Chamberlain's car that had been printed from Internet sources.

Chamberlain was charged with child pornography possession and exploitation of a child because deputies said they later found evidence he had exchanged the images with others online.

A jury trial on the two misdemeanors counts had been scheduled for Oct. 24.

Case Barnett, the public defender assigned to Chamberlain's case, was unavailable for comment.

garrett.therolf@latimes.com

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