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Cause of death determinations for 2012

Los Angeles County coroner's officials routinely provide The Times with a weekly list of deaths initially considered to be homicides.

Reporters follow up with the department to obtain additional information about each case and, in some cases, learn that the victim's cause of death has been deferred. This means the final determination on the mode of death is postponed pending additional laboratory tests. The death can later be ruled natural, a homicide, a suicide or an accident. The results usually are available within six to eight weeks.

The Homicide Report has followed up with the coroner's office on some of the deferred cases. Here are the findings in several cases from 2010, 2011 and 2012:

Joe Ward, a 67-year-old black man, died Dec. 22, 2010, after he was found in his home in Lynwood. Ward had signs of decubitus, or bed sores, all over his body, according to preliminary coroner's records. Officials said he was taken to St. Francis Medical Center, where he died. A cause of death was later listed as undetermined. The decedent had several contributing factors to his death, including pneumonia with sepsis and dehydration, officials said. Additionally, Ward suffered from coronary heart disease and dementia, they said.

Ralph Jimenez, a 65-year-old man, was found dead Friday, July 29, 2011, in Cypress Park. Firefighters responded to a report of a fire in an alley and discovered Jimenez's burning body. According to coroner's officials, Jimenez's death was listed as undetermined. However, use of methamphetamine and phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, may have contributed to his death, officials said.

Yadira Ruiz, a 23-year-old Latina, was found dead Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, in Mid-City. Ruiz was discovered unresponsive in the home of her boyfriend's parents, officials said. There were no obvious signs of trauma to her body, and authorities said they believed that  the death may have been a suicide. Coroner's officials later said they were unable to determine a cause of death due to decomposition of the body.

Amparo Villanueva, a 97-year-old woman, died Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, in Long Beach. Villanueva was found living in an unsanitary and filthy environment with her elderly husband, officials said. The two were under the care of their adult sons, they said. It was reported that Villanueva had numerous bedsores on her body. The coroner's office later said the cause of death was natural. Villanueva suffered from a intracerebral stroke and hypertensive sclerotic vascular disease, officials said. Other contributing factors included Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Carl Barry, a 59-year-old white man, died Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, in Mar Vista. Barry was found dead in his bedroom, officials said. According to preliminary records, he had an open fracture on his ankle and abrasions to several parts of his body. The coroner's office later determined that Barry died from idiopathic cardiomyopathy, and his death was ruled an accident.

Jon Rainey, a 76-year-old black man, died Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, in Boyle Heights. Officials said Rainey appeared to have been shot in the leg in 1969 and that his injury may have contributed to his death. According to the coroner’s office, Rainey died from urosepsis due to pyelonephritis, commonly known as a kidney infection. Because the infection began where Rainey was shot, his death was ruled a homicide.

Sharilit Monique Matthews, a 41-year-old black woman, was found dead Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in Reseda. Matthews' friends and family had not heard from her in almost a week, officials said, and when authorities arrived at her home, they found her body in her bed. According to preliminary records, Matthews had an incised wound to the neck. Coroner's officials later determined that Matthews died from a sharp instrument wound to the neck, and her death was ruled a homicide.

Maria Castro, a 77-year-old Latina, died Tuesday, March 20, 2012, in South Gate. At the time of her death, she was attending a party in the backyard of a home where there was a campfire, officials said. At some point, someone threw a can of spray paint in the fire and it exploded, they said. Castro suffered second- and third-degree burns, and later contracted sepsis and died. At the time, officials deferred her cause of death, but later determined she died from multiple system organ failure caused by pneumonia and sepsis. Her death was determined to be a homicide.

Nelson Guzman, a 46-year-old Latino, died Monday, April 9, 2012, two days after he was found in East Hollywood. Guzman was discovered on the ground in front of a nightclub, officials said. He was taken to a hospital and received a CAT scan, which revealed he suffered a large skull fracture and hemorrhage, they said. Coroner's officials said the victim died from blunt force trauma to the head. His death was ruled a homicide.

Yaxza Herrera, a 22-year-old Latina, died Friday, May 4, 2012, in Harbor City. Officials said Herrera was found on the street around midnight with a gunshot wound. She was taken to a hospital in Torrance, where she was pronounced dead several hours later, they said. Coroner's officials said Herrera shot herself in the chest and that her death has been ruled a suicide.

-- Los Angeles Times

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