San Jose

Internet Searches Tied to Correctional Deputy in Beating Death of Santa Clara County Inmate ‘Very Revealing'

One of three correctional deputies accused of beating an inmate to death at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in August has been linked to a series of Internet searches made the night of the prisoner's death, according to sources close to the investigation.

Sources said the searches have been connected to correctional deputy Rafael Rodriguez. They were made hours after Rodriguez ended his shift the night 31-year-old inmate Michael Tyree was fatally beaten.

Tyree, a schizophrenic homeless man who had finished his five-day petty theft sentence, was waiting to be transferred to a treatment center for mental illness.

The searches include questions such as, "Can you die if someone punches you inthe armpit?" and "If you get punched in the armpit... will you poop?" according to sources.

Sources said a third was similar to, "Punch in the stomach question."

Tyree's attorney, Paula Canny, called the searches "very revealing."

Correctional deputies Jereh Lubrin, 28, Matthew Farris, 27, and Rodriguez, 27, have been charged with murder in the death of Tyree and assault under the color of authority in connection with the beating of inmate Juan Villa on the sixth floor of the main jail.

The deputies appeared before Judge Allison Danner Tuesday at the Hall of Justice in San Jose dressed in suits and with their respective attorneys. They were out on $1.5 million bail each.

Danner ordered all three defendants to have no contact with the 54 inmates who witnessed the allegedly fatal beating and to stay 300 yards away from the county's Main Jail and Elmwood facilities.

All three waived their right to a preliminary hearing within 60 days and were scheduled to appear in court for a plea hearing and preliminary hearing Nov. 9.

Canny, who is also representing Villa, said she hopes the case will open the dialogue about the costs of incarcerating people who are mentally ill instead of hospitalizing them.

Tyree's family is "still heartbroken and sad and everyday miss their brother," Canny said.

Since Tyree's death, the three defendants and five other correctional deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave, sheriff's officials said.

Two of those five include Ryan Saunders, who allegedly looked up people he personally knew on the Criminal Justice Information Control database, and Mark Navarette, who allegedly filed a false claim for Workers Compensation, according to sheriff's officials.

The sheriff's office announced earlier this month it has begun investigating nearly 100 jail complaints since Tyree's death, with help from retired internal affairs detectives and the FBI, which is also running its an independent investigation into excessive-force incidents.

The county's board of supervisors is also working to improve safety in the jails, in part by expanding the surveillance camera system. The county is also in the process of forming a blue ribbon commission dedicated to reviewing custody operations and making recommendations to the board.

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