After watching him struggle for decades with mental illness and drug addiction, Thomas Lingenfelter’s family felt he was safest when he was in jail, says the Los Angeles Times. At least he’d have food to eat and a place to sleep at night. Lingenfelter, 51, was beaten to death Nov. 8 in his cell at Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles. He died in a 96-cell wing reserved for inmates with mental health problems. His cellmate, a younger, stronger inmate who also had a long history of mental illness, was charged with the killing.
Sheriff’s officials are investigating the decision to place Lingenfelter, homeless and frail from years of drug abuse, alone in a cell with Jay Selznick, 27, a carjacking suspect and martial-arts enthusiast. Selznick and Lingenfelter were among thousands of inmates with mental health issues who receive treatment each year in the Los Angeles County jails. Sheriff Lee Baca says caring for the mentally ill is among the most challenging aspects of operating the nation’s largest jail system, which processes 200,000 inmates every year.