Prosecutors Clear Officer of Wrongdoing in Jail Suicide

R.I.P. (Rest In Peace) abbreviation on a cracked granite tomb

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - Despite evidence that an officer lied about an assigned check on a Santa Ana Jail inmate, prosecutors found no criminal wrongdoing in the man's suicide, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office released the report dated Feb. 16 regarding the in-custody death of 47-year-old Jason Ray Jones on Nov. 4, 2020.

Jones was booked into the city's jail on July 3, 2020, according to prosecutors who investigated his death. He was moved several times due to "disciplinary issues," according to the report.

While in jail his mother and brother died and he was struggling with drug addiction, prosecutors said. He was also "in an unstable relationship with his girlfriend," they added.

"Jones received both medical and mental health care while in custody and was prescribed medication for anxiety, hypertension and addiction cessation," according to the report.

Correctional Officer Mary Valenzuela was supposed to do a welfare check on the wing of inmates she was monitoring early Nov. 4, 2020, but though she logged accomplishing that task, video surveillance showed that she never left her spot at the time, prosecutors said.

When another correctional officer began doing welfare checks on inmates after a break she came upon Jones and immediately called for help, prosecutors said. Jones was found "unresponsive and hanging by a bedsheet from the top bunk inside his cell," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors cleared Valenzuela of criminal liability because Jones apparently took his own life after the time she was supposed to check on him.

"Had Jones attempted suicide during this timeframe, criminal responsibility would potentially lie with her," prosecutors said.

"It is possible that welfare checks conducted prior" to when Jones took his own life "would have revealed evidence that Jones was preparing to commit suicide," prosecutors said. But it was also "equally possible" there would have been nothing to indicate he was preparing to hurt himself, prosecutors said.

"Ultimately, both theories are speculative, and lack evidentiary support," prosecutors said.

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