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Charles Berlinghoff dead in apparent hanging at jail

11-4-2011 California:

Charles David Berlinghoff died early today after apparently hanging himself inside Shasta County jail, the Redding Police Department said.

Berlinghoff, 45, accused of disappearing from Redding with his now 16-year-old niece for a month late last year and having repeated sex with her, was charged with 87 felony counts, including felony unlawful detention of a minor, incest and lewd acts with a minor.

Police said a corrections officer at the jail was doing an hourly check at about 12:12 a.m. today and found Berlinghoff hanging from a bed sheet in his cell. Berlinghoff was the only person in the locked cell at the time, Redding police Sgt. Brian Barner said.

Medics at the jail attempted to revive Berlinghoff, who was taken to a Redding hospital and pronounced dead, Barner said.

Redding police were named the lead investigators in the hanging under Shasta County's interagency, officer-involved critical incident protocol, Barner said.

The jail is referring all questions on the hanging to Redding police, a receptionist said this morning.

Investigators interviewed 29 inmates who have had contact with Berlinghoff during the past few days, Barner said, adding that police learned Berlinghoff had been depressed about his current court case.

Sheriff Tom Bosenko said this afternoon Berlinghoff had not exhibited any signs of suicidal behavior and was not under a suicide watch at the jail.

He also said he was unaware of Berlinghoff leaving behind a suicide note, but adding that the investigation is continuing.

Berlinghoff's death comes only five days shy of the one-year anniversary of his much-publicized Nov. 10, 2010 disappearance with his niece.

Berlinghoff, who had been in custody since December of last year, was scheduled to stand trial Jan. 10 in his sex-crime case.

He faced up to 40 years if convicted, Barner said.

A San Bernardino resident who once lived in Red Bluff, Berlinghoff allegedly started a sexual relationship with his niece last fall.

Although the girl's name was widely reported while she was missing last year, the Record Searchlight is now withholding her identity because it has been alleged she is the victim of sex crimes.

Meanwhile, Berlinghoff's brother, Jacob Berlinghoff, 34, declined this morning to discuss his brother's death.

"I have no comment right now," he said. He also said immediate family members did not want to talk about their relative's death.

The twin sister of Charles Blerlinghoff, who lives in Florida, did not reply to an email sent to her by the Record Searchlight asking he she wanted to discuss her brother and his death.

Jacob Berlinghoff himself is slated to begin standing trial on Jan. 24 for allegedly fondling his then-13-year-old daughter three years ago.

His daughter accused him of forcing her to drink hard liquor and touching her bare breast under her shirt, as well as her inner thigh, as punishment for bringing alcohol to school in September 2008.

He faces a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted.

His daughter lodged her allegations against him after she and her uncle were found in San Francisco last year following their disappearance.

He has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him.

Shasta County Senior Public Defender Max Ruffcorn Sr., who represented Charles Berlinghoff in his sex-crime case, could not be reached for comment this morning about his client's death.

But Charles Berlinghoff and Ruffcorn had a rocky relationship with Berlinghoff recently filing federal lawsuit against him and the public defender's office, claiming professional negligence and legal malpractice.

In his lawsuit, Berlinghoff claimed that Ruffcorn had slandered and defamed his character and labeled his defense attorney as a “surrogate prosecutor.”

He also claimed that Ruffcorn had been trying to pressure him into taking a plea bargain “for crimes I am not guilty of and to which he has evidence of my innocence.”

Berlinghoff, who was representing himself in his civil lawsuit, was seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephen Carlton said he learned of Berlinghoff’s death late this morning.

“I’m shocked,” he said. "I'm just shocked. Nobody wants that kind of outcome.”

But Carlton also said he does not believe Berlinghoff’s death will have much of an effect, if any, in the case against Jacob Berlinghoff.

“I can’t see it,” he said.

Deputy District Attorney Curtis Woods, who was handling both cases and learned of Berlinghoff's death around 5:30 a.m., agreed, saying the case against Jacob Berlinghoff would not be affected.

"I don't see why it would," he said.

Berlinghoff's suicide is the second in-custody death at the jail in two days.

Around noon on Friday, an inmate was found unconscious in a single-occupied medical cell and was later pronounced dead at Mercy Medical Center.

But Bosenko said the inmate's death was not an apparent suicide and there were no signs of foul play.

His name has not yet been released, and an autopsy is scheduled to be conducted early next week.

Bosenko said the sheriff's office was investigating that death, noting that he did not ask RPD to investigate because the inmate's death did not appear to be a suicide or a homicide.

Although Berlinghoff was involved in a minor jail fight with another inmate in July, Bosenko said he had no other reports of Berlinghoff causing trouble at the jail while he had been in custody.

He did say, however, that Berlinghoff staged a three-day hunger strike after he was initially arrested and booked into jail last year.

"I don't know what he was protesting," Bosenko said. ..Source.. by Sean Longoria

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