Danny Pham’s Jail Cell Death Reverberates Through OC Agencies

Reverberations continue from the July 3 death of 27-year-old Danny Pham in the besieged Orange County Jail.

It has not yet been revealed how Pham, a Westminster car thief who seemed to be in perfect health as he neared the end of his 180-day sentence, died.

But in a move that may have violated jail protocol, psychotic and confessed serial killer Marvin Magallanes had been placed in the same cell as Pham, who had no history of violent crime.

The jail is operated by the sheriff’s department, and five deputies have been placed on leave in the wake of Pham’s death, the Orange County Register reports.

This is the same jail, of course, that was the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union report that found shoddy conditions and indifferent enforcement. The same day the ACLU report was released, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced her retirement, although she denies that it had anything to do with her decision. But keep in mind this is also the same jail that the U.S. Justice Department has blasted and Hutchens’ own deputies claimed was incompetently led after the high-profile escape of three inmates in January 2016.

While the sheriff’s department investigates the conduct of its personnel, and the Orange County District Attorney’s office heads up the homicide probe, both agencies are so far tight-lipped. In an attempt to get answers on the cause of Pham’s death, his family has filed a claim with the County of Orange, generally the first step before a lawsuit.

Central to that litigation will be how Magallanes wound up in the cell of Pham, who was eight days away from being released.

Magallanes, 25, of Anaheim, was in jail without bail on two felony counts of murder with special circumstances (multiple murders) and another sentencing enhancement (personal use of a knife) that at a minimum would get him life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. Special circumstances murders can also lead to the death penalty if the DA pursues it.

The defendant is accused of slaying two homeless men in Anaheim. The body of Onosai Tavita was found with multiple stab wounds on Euclid Street in October. Sabah Alsaad suffered the same fate on South Magnolia Avenue in January. Magallanes showed up at the front counter of the Anaheim Police Department in May to confess to killing Alsaad. Forensic evidence then linked the arrestee to the murder of Tavita, according to Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt.

A GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising funds for Pham’s funeral expenses is nearing its $5,000 goal.

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