Who is Luis Romero?
The reports on California lockups raise new questions about the heinous attack at Corcoran State Prison in March 2019 that has prompted investigations and a lawsuit by the family of the victim, Luis Romero, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Shortly after the sadistic torture slaying and beheading of a convicted killer in a California prison, apparently at the hands of his cellmate, prison guards making their rounds reported that both men were alive, according to two new reports from the state inspector’s general office.
Luis Romero Killer
Jaime Osuna, 31, is accused of using a makeshift knife to decapitate and dissect Romero, removing an eye, a finger and a portion of the man’s lung, state documents show.
One of the reports faults the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for conducting a shoddy investigation and delaying disciplinary action against the guards.
Why the officers did not discover the grisly scene earlier is not detailed in the reports, the Times said. But a lawsuit by Romero’s family says the bars were covered by a white sheet, suggesting the guards failed to make a thorough check of the cell.
The Department of Corrections disputed the findings of the reports, saying in a statement it had conducted a “thorough and complete investigation from the very beginning.”
The family’s lawsuit also questions why Romero was in a cell with Osuna, a convicted killer and “self-styled satanist” with a history of attacking his cellmates, according to the newspaper.
“The idea that my client had to sue in order to get basic questions answered about her son’s death is disheartening,” said Justin Sterling, the attorney for Romero’s mother.
The guards were meant to check the cell every so often, Sterling told the Times, and the crime would have taken hours to commit. If the guards had been doing their required checks, Romero would be alive today, he said.
Romero, who had spent 27 years in prison, was put in the cell with Osuna after arriving from Mule Creek State Prison, according to the lawsuit. He was convicted of second-degree murder after fatally shooting a woman in Compton when he was a teenager and associating with gang members. He was nearing parole eligibility.
His new cellmate, Osuna, was serving a life sentence for the killing and torture of Yvette Pena, 37, at a Bakersfield motel in 2011. With face tattoos and flair for Charles Manson-like satanic antics, he became a dark figure during the 2017 trial, mocking the victim’s family and bragging to a television news reporter of his love of torturing people.
Sometime in the early hours of March 9, 2019, Osuna methodically tortured and killed Romero, authorities said.
Jaime Osuna and Luis Romero
Prison guards failed to notice that a self-proclaimed satanist deemed too violent to share a cell had killed and decapitated his inmate during their rounds. During the night of March 8 to March 9, 2019, Osuna killed Romero with a makeshift knife, show state documents seen by the Los Angeles Times.
Two new reports on California prisons from the inspector general’s office (OIG), obtained by the LA Times, have criticized the guards at Corcoran State Prison as well as the subsequent California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) investigation into the murder of Luis Romero by Osuna.
While the reports did not explain why the officers didn’t discover the body sooner, Romero’s family filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking a jury trial.
“The idea that my client had to sue in order to get basic questions answered about her son’s death is disheartening,” said Justin Sterling, an attorney representing Romero’s family. Sterling argued that guards are required to check cells at frequent intervals and that the crime would have taken hours to commit, which meant the guards were not conducting proper checks, the Associated Press reported.
The report’s findings were disputed by the Department of Corrections, saying it had done a “thorough and complete investigation from the very beginning.”
Court documents alleged that guards hadn’t checked the cell even after a bedsheet was visibly draped along the bars inside Romero’s and Osuna’s cell.
Jaime Osuna Murderer
“In the early morning hours of March 9, 2019, Corcoran officials finally conducted a safety check and looked on the other side of the bedsheet. At that point, Mr Romero was found decapitated, and Mr. Osuna was found wearing a necklace made of Mr. Romero’s body parts,” the filing stated.
Kings County Executive Assistant District Attorney Phil Esbenshade said it was the most heinous slaying he had come across in his career. “We do believe that the victim was conscious during at least a portion of the time,” he said.
While disfiguring Romero, Osuna is said to have cut out one of his cellmate’s eyes, chopped off one of his fingers, taken out some of his ribs, and sliced out part of his lung. After decapitating Romero, Osuna reportedly posed with his lifeless body and wore a necklace made of his body parts.
Guards found Osuna wearing a necklace made of Romero’s body parts, the Times said.
Kings County Executive Assistant Dist. Atty. Phil Esbenshade called it the most heinous slaying he had ever seen. “We do believe that the victim was conscious during at least a portion of the time,” he said.
Osuna has been transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison’s psychiatric inpatient program. He has been diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia spectrum, antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, according to the newspaper.
A judge has ruled that Osuna is not competent to stand trial for Romero’s death.