A Santa Maria inmate who landed in the hospital for COVID-19 complications has died while in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail, the Sheriff’s Office announced on Wednesday.
Eduardo Velazquez, 38, was found unresponsive in his cell at approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday, according to Raquel Zick, sheriff’s public information officer.
Despite lifesaving measures, Velazquez did not respond and was pronounced death at 9:36 p.m., she added.
His death came a month after Santa Maria police arrested Velazquez on child molestation charges, reportedly taking him into custody in Ventura County.
He was housed in the jail’s intake quarantine areas and tested positive for COVID-19 on July 16, Zick said. At that point, he was relocated to medical isolation.
When he began to experience COVID-19-related complications, Velazquez was hospitalized from July 17 through 29.
After his release from the hospital, Velazquez remained in medical isolation, and was routinely checked, including as recently as an hour before he was discovered unresponsive.
At that time, he did not display any significant health issues, Zick said.
The man’s next-of-kin have been notified of his death.
“While his death appears to be due to natural causes, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a death investigation to determine the official cause, manner, and circumstances of death,” Zick said. “A final determination is pending an autopsy, toxicology, and lab results.”
He is the county jail’s only COVID-19 patient to end up in the hospital, Zick said.
Velazquez remained in custody in lieu of $1.25 million bail.
Last month, he pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child by force, aggravated sexual assault of a child involving oral copulation, continuous sexual abuse, forcible oral copulation, and forcible rape.
He also faced several sentencing enhancements, including that one sexual offense allegedly occurred during a kidnapping.
Law enforcement officers alleged the incidents occurred between 2014 and 2020, and that the victim was under age 14.
His case had been scheduled to return to the Santa Maria Superior Court on Thursday.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.