SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — Richard Stitely, a condemned inmate at San Quentin State Prison that was found unresponsive in his cell last week and pronounced dead, was confirmed Monday to have tested positive for COVID-19 as an outbreak at the prison was spreading exponentially.
The Marin County Coroner’s Office said the positive test was conducted by the California Department of Public Health as part of a forensic examination of the 71-year-old Stitely, who had been on Death Row since 1992.
The coroner’s office said the cause, mode and manner of death were undetermined pending additional investigation and toxicology testing.
Stitely’s death comes as San Quentin has surpassed 1,100 coronavirus infections among prisoners and staff, with seriously ill convicts being transferred to ICU units across the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s web site, there were 1,016 active cases Monday morning among the 3,776 inmates housed at the facility.
Of those cases, 973 have been confirmed over the last 14 days. None of the infected inmates have recovered from the virus. Among the staff, prison officials said 89 have been confirmed as being infected with six recovering enough to return to work.
So far, at least 25 inmates were being treated at Bay Area hospitals under heavy security, including Marin General, Seton Medical Center and Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco.
Stitely was sentenced to death in Los Angeles County for the 1990 rape and murder of Carol Unger, 47, last seen leaving a bar in Reseda with Stitely.
There are currently 725 people on San Quentin’s death row. In March of 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order placing a moratorium on executions in California, and ordered the closure of the execution chamber as San Quentin.