SACRAMENTO, Calif. — County prosecutors working under Anne Marie Schubert say they’ve declined to file charges in the January death of a notorious Bay Area sex trafficker at New Folsom prison.
“After reviewing all the reports and related materials, we determined there was insufficient evidence to prove homicide charges on the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard at that time,” Chief DDA Rod Norgaard said through a DA’s Office spokesperson. “Some forms of homicide have no statute of limitations, so our ethical obligations as prosecutors prevent us from commenting on the nature and quality of evidence we reviewed in making our determination.”
While Norgaard declined to get into specifics, the case against Deandre Lewis’ cellmate, Shamar Thornton, could’ve fallen through for a number of reasons including uncooperative witnesses or a self-defense claim that prosecutors felt a jury would likely side with.
Prosecutors have described prison homicide cases as rapidly evolving investigations that “never really close” and can be reopened down the road following any new developments like a confession, a newly identified witness, or a separate incident that sparks a second look into a closed case.
According to a case summary released on Friday by the Office of the Inspector General, Lewis was found unresponsive by a corrections officer the morning of January 8 in his cell – the only other person with him was his cellmate Thornton, serving out a life sentence for murdering a 7-Eleven clerk in Apple Valley in 2009.
Officials whisked Thornton out of the cell and segregated him, with two officers transporting him to a prison medical unit. A physician pronounced the 37-year-old dead, and the Coroner’s Office later determined the death to have been caused by asphyxia via homicide.
The Inspector General determined that prison staff handled the incident poorly when it was revealed that Lewis was found to be missing from a headcount and nobody checked to see if he was alive. That finding has since been forwarded to Internal Affairs for investigation.
The Inspector General also said they provided training to a Lieutenant and Sergeant who failed to properly fill out a housing form tied to Thornton and Lewis’ cell.
Lewis was convicted out of Contra Costa County and sentenced to 180 years to life in 2018 for running a sprawling human trafficking ring across the Bay Area, according to Nate Gartrell of the Bay Area News Group.
Prosecutors said Lewis controlled his victims, some of whom he knew since highschool, with violence and fear. He beat women, raped them at gunpoint, and held them under strict sets of rules – even calling for one woman to be scalped over a phone call from jail.