One morning when Camardi woke up and found her son passed out on the couch with meth in his pocket, she had him arrested and sent to a lockdown drug-treatment facility. "He got off the drugs, and it would last maybe three months before he was using again," she says. "And from there, it was going to jail for a few months, coming home, and then getting into the same routine of using the meth."

Three years ago, Petrovich was arrested for possession of a large quantity of meth, as well as several stolen laptop computers he says he'd been given in exchange for drugs. He was convicted of the drug charge and receiving stolen property and sentenced to 18 months at Pleasant Valley State Prison. His bunkmate was a tattoo artist; before long, ink covered both of Petrovich's arms. Camardi visited her son at the prison several times and suspects he was smoking marijuana behind bars. She had remarried, and her new husband told her he didn't want Petrovich living in the house when he got out.

After his Pleasant Valley prison stay, Petrovich moved back to Orange County. "He just got out of prison and needed somewhere to stay," says Ashley Sanders, who dated Petrovich after his release. "He was completely sober and wanted to stay sober, but this girl where he was living was a total tweaker and just putting it in his face. She had all these druggies there 24-7, so he left that place. He knew it was no good for him."

Joseph Macauley, a recovering addict who was friends with Sanders, says that by the time Petrovich left the house, he was once again addicted to speed. "He was normal when he came out [of prison] and was trying to stay sober, but he was living with this tweaker and started acting crazy," Macauley says. "He thought I stole his tweak [speed] and ran after me with a blowtorch. When he was sober, he was fine. He was a really cool person when he was not on drugs."

On Sept. 6, 2006—the last day Petrovich wasn't behind bars—he was arrested as he walked out of a Costa Mesa motel room, which police had been scoping out as a speed house. Petrovich doesn't remember much about his arrest. "I have no idea where it was," he says. "I was spun out of my mind. I hadn't slept in seven days."

By the time Petrovich knew where he was, he'd been sent to Theo Lacy Jail. Because Petrovich had been in state prison, the then-Woods shot-caller, who was about to be transferred to federal prison, chose him to be his replacement and gave him on-the-job training. Petrovich claims that he and the shot-caller arranged for two inmates accused of petty infractions to be assaulted by inmates. (The U.S. Bureau of Prisons denied the Weekly's request to interview the shot-caller.)

*     *      *

Nobody, including Petrovich himself, disputes that he spread the word of Chamberlain's status as a sex offender to the inmates who carried out the murder. But there are two versions of how Petrovich himself discovered Chamberlain's secret. The official explanation is that Petrovich somehow figured out Chamberlain's identity alone, perhaps by getting the information over the telephone from an informant. Or perhaps Petrovich, acting on other inmates' suspicions, confronted Chamberlain about his charges and coaxed a confession from him. No evidence has surfaced to support these hypotheses, although they are certainly possible.

"The law says you have to disclose certain information," says
sheriff's spokesman John McDonald. "You can have someone look up the information and call it in." McDonald adds that the department's website no longer lists booking information and that sex offenders are now segregated from the general population for their own safety.

A guard who currently works at Theo Lacy who asked to remain anonymous believes that this is what happened. "Things have changed now, but at the time of the murder, inmates had ways of finding out another inmate's charges," he says. "All inmates were issued a booking slip with their charges on it. Smart inmates facing sex charges kept those with them all the time or dumped them at the first opportunity. . . . Inmate charges are no longer listed on the inmate copy of the booking slips."

Petrovich has a different explanation, which he has told investigators repeatedly but is sharing in detail publicly for the first time here. He was sitting on his bunk that afternoon when Stephen Carlstrom, the house mouse for the Woods in F-West, approached him to say that the deputies wanted to talk to the white shot-caller.

"I said no," Petrovich says. He instructed Carlstrom to meet the deputies alone and pass along any message they had. But Carlstrom returned to Petrovich's bunk to say that the deputies insisted he go to the hallway alone. "The second time, I said okay," Petrovich says.

He claims he walked over to the locked door leading to the hallway, and after being buzzed through by the guard tower, he saw Taylor and Chapluk standing in the doorway. After the door locked behind him, Petrovich says Chapluk asked if he spoke English. When he said yes, the two guards carried out a brief conversation they clearly intended him to overhear

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