November 2, 2012 | 10:13am
If the adage that celebrity deaths always seem to come in threes is true, the same can apparently be said about inmates behind bars in Orange County.
Actually, only two of the three inmates died on the same day, and all of them perished last year. But the details of their respective expirations have only now become available: On Oct. 30 and 31, the Orange County District Attorney released its findings on the deaths.
Inmate Juan Fuerte was the first to pass away, on July 3, 2011. According to the DA's report, he was wandering around drunk in La Habra on the night of June 24 of that year when he flagged down a patrol car. Fuerte pointed at a nearby business, which appeared to be closed, and claimed that men inside were trying to kill him. The cops couldn't find any suspects and told Fuerte to go home. Shortly thereafter, another patrol car stopped Fuerte, who repeated his claim and, the cops say, asked to be arrested for his own safety, so they booked him.
A few hours after he arrived at La Habra's city jail, he hung himself with a telephone cord.
He was declared brain dead at the hospital on the morning of June 25 and finally taken off life support on July 3.
Inmate Charlotte Jean Engle
also died on July 3, 2011, after being arrested for drunk driving following a minor collision in a Newport Beach
parking lot two days earlier. Besides being intoxicated, she was also taking medication for hypertension and menopausal depression. After being booked at the Intake Release Center
, deputies told Engle to provide a urine sample. While doing so, she apparently suffered a stroke, and became non-responsive.
It took deputies about an hour to get her to the hospital, because of a policy that apparently requires a deputy in patrol clothes to accompany patients. Ambulance staff waited for that to happen, but when Engle began vomiting in her oxygen mask, they took her to the hospital without an escort. She was unconscious and ceased breathing early several hours later, officially dead of a stroke brought on by hypertension, with chronic alcoholism a contributing factor.
Finally, there's the sad case of Paul Dewey, a 54-year-old meth addict who was arrested in Anaheim for drug-related offenses on Oct. 26, 2011. He arrived at the jail the next day. On Oct. 30, Dewey was in a two-story recreational room and was supposed to take a shower. Other inmates saw him use a telephone and then walk into the shower fully clothed, looking "distraught." Several minutes later, they saw him walk out of the shower with a bedsheet braided around his neck, which he swiftly tied to the railing of the second-story walkway.
Inmates in nearby cells shouted "don't do it, don't do it" and pressed their emergency panic buttons, but Dewey jumped. The bedsheet ripped, though, and he crashed to the floor, landing on his head. He was still breathing and arrived at Western Medical Center within 30 minutes of the jump, but never regained consciousness. His daughter signed a do-not-resuscitate order several days later, on Nov. 4, and three days later, Dewey was taken off life support.