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First Orange County inmate dies of COVID-19 as jail system suffers second surge

A 68-year-old Louisiana man awaiting trial in a cold-case homicide has become the first Orange County jail inmate to die of complications from COVID-19, sheriff’s officials announced Friday.

Eddie Lee Anderson of River Ridge, Louisiana, died at 5 a.m. Friday, Dec. 18, after he was taken early this week from the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange to a local hospital. Anderson was arrested in 2019 with help from the Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force for suspicion of killing Leslie Penrod Harris in 1976.

Harris was found strangled near the now-shuttered El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. She had recently moved to Orange County, and was out having dinner with her husband the night before she was killed, Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. She left a Costa Mesa restaurant alone at about 8:30 p.m. and never came back.

Experts reexamined evidence collected more than 40 years ago and identified Anderson as the suspect. He was a U.S. Marine at the time of the killing and lived near the restaurant where she was last seen.

Swabs collected in 1976 containing DNA evidence were analyzed in 1997, and again in 2016, but no matches were identified. Then, in 2019, the task force working with the FBI utilized recent developments in genealogy techniques to identify Anderson as a person of interest.

Anderson provided a sample of his DNA to investigators, who then traveled to New Orleans to interview him. He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder.

Anderson tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week, and was transferred to a local hospital on Dec. 13. In all, 1,260 Orange County Jail inmates have tested positive. An Orange County Superior Court judge has order Sheriff Don Barnes to cut the county jail population in half

Anderson’s death will be investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Source: Orange County Register

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