Police Bulletin | March 17, 2023 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

Community Pulse - March 17, 2023

Police Bulletin

County coroner trying to identify remains of 155 people

The Alameda County Coroner's Bureau needs help identifying one body and the cremated remains of 154 other people recently found in a Hayward warehouse.

Five other bodies found in the space have already been identified.

Authorities believe the remains were put in the warehouse between 2013 and 2021 by Oceanview Cremations, which has had its license suspended since March 2018, the coroner's bureau said in a statement.

Oceanview Cremations was prohibited from storing remains on its premises. Nevertheless, it continued operations and kept remains in the warehouse, which was also prohibited.

The coroner's bureau and county-contracted Grissom's Mortuary recovered the remains March 1. Officials identified five bodies and contacted families, advising them of the investigation.

Family members said calls to Oceanview Cremations' owner, Robert Smith, went unanswered. Many believed their loved ones were cremated or scattered at sea as requested.

No information was available on the unidentified body, though the coroner's office said they came to the funeral home between 2020 and 2021.

Five of the deceased bodies came from Alameda County and the sixth from Sonoma County. The coroner's office took possession of two of the deceased, Grissom's Mortuary took four decedents and the cremated remains.

Grissom's Mortuary has since sorted and alphabetized the cremated remains: 64 are from Alameda County, 23 are from San Francisco, 15 from San Mateo County, 10 from Contra Costa County, nine from Santa Clara County, one from Fresno County, nine from Marin County, two from Napa County, one from Placer County, one from Sacramento County, two from Stanislaus County, three from San Joaquin County, four from Santa Cruz County, two from Solano County, and eight from Sonoma County.

Officials say people who did business with Oceanview Cremations with final arrangements for a loved one between 2013 and 2022 and are uncertain of their remains should contact the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau at 510-382-3000.

-- Bay City News Service

In other news

* An inmate died at an area hospital two days after experiencing a medical emergency at Santa Rita Jail late last month, marking the fourth inmate death thus far in 2023 and prompting critical remarks from local activist groups who've been pushing to improve health and safety conditions at the county jail in Dublin.

Candice "Cody" Vanburen, 33, was booked into Santa Rita Jail around 1:20 p.m. Feb. 27 as a "timeserver" from Valley State Prison-Chowchilla on post-release community supervision, according to Lt. Tya Modeste of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

"During the intake medical screening by Wellpath custodial staff, Vanburen admitted to using a controlled substance before arriving at SRJ. Despite Vanburen's admitted drug use, there was no cause for concern found during the medical and mental health intake process," Modeste said.

After being assigned to a cell as a solo occupant, Vanburen would be found breathing but unresponsive in bed during a wellness check by a jail deputy at 5:20 a.m. Feb. 28, according to Modeste.

Wellpath custodial staff entered emergency medical services protocol and administered five doses of Narcan intranasally and three doses intramuscularly, according to Modeste. Vanburen was transported by paramedics to Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley hospital in Pleasanton and later transferred to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Vanburen was ultimately pronounced dead at Eden hospital at 4:09 p.m. on March 1, according to the lieutenant. Vanburen's next-of-kin was notified and granted visitation.

The circumstances of Vanburen's death remain under investigation, including the cause of death, by the county coroner's bureau. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office will be notified of the final findings, and the report will be sent to the California Attorney General's Office, according to Modeste.

Vanburen's death is the fourth of a Santa Rita inmate since Jan. 17.

A coalition of civil rights organizations in the county, led by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, issued a somber yet scathing statement in reaction to news of Vanburen's death.

"We are heartbroken and enraged to hear of yet another death related to Santa Rita Jail, the deadliest place in Alameda County," they said. "For years, advocates have called out the level of abuse, neglect, death, and cruel punishment inside Santa Rita Jail. We have stood alongside families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and called for transparency, diversion, and accountability -- yet these calls have been met with inaction."

"Alameda County voters hoped the election of Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez would bring meaningful change to SRJ, but the death of Cody and three others in six weeks alone tells us that nothing has changed," they added. "The death of Cody is particularly heartwrenching, as he was coming home and on his way out of Alameda County's murderous carceral system. Enough is enough."

—Jeremy Walsh


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