By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
As each new inmate arrives in jail, a representative of their racial group, known as a "house mouse," meets with them to find out who they are, why they're behind bars, and to explain the rules and regulations of the jail. Some of the rules are mundane: Don't flush the toilet in the shower area while a deputy is nearby, or the guards will punish you with extra work. Don't steal from another inmate, or you'll be "taxed," a euphemism for being stood against a wall and beaten up. Don't lay a finger on an inmate of a different race, or you'll get a severe beating.
The inmates who carry out such punishments, usually selected for their brawn, are called "torpedoes," while the leader of each racial group in a particular dormitory is known as the "shot-caller," typically the inmate with the most time behind bars. It's a rotating job, so when one shot-caller is about leave the jail for whatever reason, he selects his own replacement.
After just a few weeks in F-West barracks, Petrovich had already become the shot-caller for the Woods. Chamberlain also had only been behind bars for a few weeks, ever since being arrested for possession of child pornography while parked outside an Albertsons grocery store in Laguna Niguel. Chamberlain had called his 70-year-old ex-girlfriend, Dorothy Schell, who had recently broken up with him because of his addiction to pornography, to ask her to pay his $2,500 bail, saying he had been arrested for urinating in public. But when a bail bondsman told her the real reason Chamberlain had been arrested, she refused.
At the time, it was the policy of the sheriff's department to not segregate a sex offender from the general jail population unless the inmate's case had received media attention or if the inmate himself specifically requested it. Chamberlain apparently wanted to take his chances by blending in. But in early October, he told Schell to call his attorney and arrange for him to be moved: The other inmates were getting too curious about his charges, he told her, and he feared for his safety. At about 1 p.m. on Oct. 5, Chamberlain's attorney, Case Barnett, called the jail and passed along Chamberlain's request to a guard later identified in sheriff's department investigative files as Deputy Olukoju, who said he'd handle the request.
That afternoon, the two guards in charge of the F-West barracks, Deputies Kevin Taylor and Jason Chapluk, were busy doing an impromptu bunk search. They received Olukoju's message about an hour later, and according to their subsequent statements to sheriff's investigators, they instructed Chamberlain to leave his bunk and meet them in the hallway leading from the dormitory to the chow hall. Taylor told investigators that Chamberlain "was in custody for sales of child pornography and that his preference is for 10- to 15-year-old girls," according to the files. "Chamberlain said that he was being pressured by the other inmates to show some paperwork which would list his booking charges."
Taylor told investigators that he offered to move Chamberlain immediately, but claimed Chamberlain said he'd be okay until his next court appearance, at which time he'd need to be relocated. Why Chamberlain would decline Taylor's offer when he had just begged his ex-girlfriend to arrange for him to be moved from F-West barracks remains a mystery. What also remains a mystery is how in the space of just a few hours, Chamberlain's secret was revealed.
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Petrovich's drug-fueled journey from teenage truant to Woods shot-caller and accused murderer began happily enough. He was born in January 1984 in San Diego, where his father, a sergeant major in the Marine Corps, was stationed. The family later moved to Twentynine Palms, and then to Quantico, Virginia. Petrovich says he began acting out when he was in third grade, the year his parents divorced. His father, David Petrovich, had just spent a year in Okinawa away from his family. His mother, Ruth Camardi, who stayed behind with Petrovich and his older brother, says the relationship crumbled upon his return.
But she insists the divorce was amicable and that it didn't have any obvious negative impact on the kids. "The boys knew there was never any craziness during the divorce," Camardi says. "I think they've always had stable lives." She says Petrovich was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder at about that time and poured his energy into sports. But by the time Petrovich reached seventh grade, he began to get into trouble. That year, he and a friend were caught vandalizing their junior high school in Las Vegas, where the family had moved. Petrovich spent the next year with his father in Virginia, and then moved back with Camardi, who by then lived in Orange.
By the time Petrovich was 16 years old and attending El Modena High School, he was smoking pot. "And that got him into crystal meth pretty quickly," Camardi says. Petrovich began skipping school to use drugs. At the time, Camardi was working at an orthodontist's office, and she asked her boss to allow her to work part-time so she could become a teacher at the school. But despite her efforts to more closely monitor her son, Petrovich continued to ditch his classes. He'd become a diehard meth addict.