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San Diego Union-Tribune

Autopsy results show inmate was killed by blunt force trauma; cellmate suspected of murder

By Caleb Lunetta,


Autopsy results released this week for an inmate who died two weeks after he had been attacked in a jail cell last year revealed he had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head, according to investigators.

Derek Baker, 56, was found injured inside his cell at San Diego Central Jail on March 12, 2022, sheriff’s homicide Lt. Chris Steffen said at the time of the incident.

Baker’s cellmate, Patrick Ferncase, is expected to be charged with murder, sheriff’s officials said in a news release.

Investigators suspect Ferncase had attacked Baker after the two had been housed together for eight days. No weapon was recovered inside the cell, sheriff's Lt. Anthony O’Boyle said in an email Thursday.

No motive behind the killing has yet been established, O'Boyle added.

Baker was taken to a hospital, where he died on March 29, 2022, sheriff’s officials said. He had been arrested two months prior on a misdemeanor warrant for allegedly violating a restraining order. While in jail, Baker was charged with an additional count of failing to register as a sex offender, and he was moved into the cell with Ferncase.

Ferncase, 28 at the time of Baker's death, was arrested in December 2021 after an attack on a 68-year-old homeless man in a shopping center parking lot, investigators said. He was being held in jail on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse causing injury. Investigators said Ferncase and the homeless man did not know each other.

Ferncase was convicted of attempted murder in that case and is serving a 28-year sentence in state prison.

Questions asked of the Sheriff's Department about the time it took for the autopsy to be released publicly were deferred to the Medical Examiner's Office. Representatives from that office could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune .

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