OC Jails Records First COVID-19 Inmate Death

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 68-year-old murder defendant was the first today to succumb to COVID-19 while in Orange County Jail custody.

Eddie Lee Anderson of River Ridge, Louisiana, tested positive while being housed at the Theo Lacy branch jail within the last week, one of hundreds infected in a recent outbreak at the county's lockups. Anderson was taken to an area hospital last Sunday and was pronounced dead about 5 this morning, said Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

Anderson was last in court for a pretrial hearing Nov. 6 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. He was charged with the May 18, 1976, murder of Leslie Penrod Harris, who was raped and strangled.

Harris had dinner with her husband the evening before at a Costa Mesa restaurant, but she left alone about 8:30 p.m. and was reported missing by her spouse when she failed to return home. Her body was found hours later.

The case went cold until last year, when new DNA technology led investigators to Anderson, a former Marine who had been assigned to the El Toro Marine base in the early 1970s, sheriff's investigators said. Anderson lived less than a mile away from the Costa Mesa restaurant where the victim had been dining the night before she was killed.

When investigators visited Anderson in May of last year, the defendant volunteered a DNA sample, sheriff's officials said.

At least two other Orange County murder cases have been put on hold due to COVID-19 infections. Just as attorneys were poised to make closing arguments in the trial of Austin Ambriz, who is charged with the 2018 murder of a man at a Brea apartment complex, he tested positive and the trial was put on hold until Jan. 4. And the preliminary hearing in a murder conspiracy case involving alleged Orange County Mexican Mafia chief Johnny Martinez was put on hold when co-defendant Ysrael Cordova tested positive.

As of Friday, 615 inmates in county jails were infected with COVID-19, including 35 from new bookings.

Photo: Getty Images

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