Sacto 9-1-1
July 29, 2013
Inmate death at Corcoran prison ruled suicide

The death of an inmate last Monday at California State Prison-Corcoran has been ruled a suicide, despite claims by inmate advocates that it may have resulted from an ongoing hunger strike.

Sell P41250.JPGKings County Chief Deputy Coroner Tom A. Edmonds said this morning that the inmate, 32-year-old Billy Michael Sell (pictured), died from "ligature strangulation."

"It's going to be a suicidal death," Edmonds said.

Sell, who was confined in a single cell in the prison's Secure Housing Unit, was found unresponsive last Monday and pronounced dead at 9:32 p.m.

The coroner's office conducted an external autopsy on Wednesday and determined the "cause of death was obvious," Edmonds said.

Inmate advocates had claimed Saturday that Sell was participating in the three-week-old hunger strike and had been asking for medical attention before he died.

Corrections officials denounced those claims as "irresponsible and inflammatory" and said Sell was not taking part in the hunger strike at the time he died.

Sell had been serving a double life sentence out of Solano County for attempted first degree murder. He also was facing trial in the 2007 slaying of his cellmate at Corcoran.

Inmates are protesting conditions in solitary confinement and announced a widespread hunger strike earlier this month that began with thousands of inmates participating.

Since then, the number has dwindled dramatically, with corrections officials saying that as of Sunday 564 inmates in nine prisons were still refusing meals.

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