By Koda Slingluff and William McCurry
FOLSOM – A little more than a month later, mystery and anguish still surround the death of 25-year-old Braydon Lesseos, who was found dead in his cell inside California State Prison, Sacramento on Christmas, 2020.
Now, THE VANGUARD looks back on the tragic death – what has been done, and what needs to be done – in Braydon’s memory.
Braydon’s mother, Shanna, reached out to us exactly a month after his death. “You recently wrote an article about my son’s murder at California State Prison, Sacramento, that occurred on Christmas Day,” she said in an email to us. Christmas Day is also her birthday.
Shanna was close to her son, speaking with him “sometimes 2-3 times a day.” She spoke with him on Christmas Day at 10 a.m.. About three hours later, at 1:15 p.m., he was found unresponsive with multiple stab wounds in his cell.
In his cell with him was his roommate, 26-year-old Jordan Greendahl. There was also an “inmate-manufactured weapon” found on the scene.
Following the death, a prison news release stated that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) had “identified Greendahl as the suspect in the homicide and [he] has been moved to segregated housing pending the investigation.”
“He was stabbed to death by his cellmate of over six months, sometime after that (phone call).” Shanna said.
The suspect, Greendahl, seems to have had a peaceful relationship with Braydon up until the incident. In one of their many phone calls, Braydon even asked his mother to buy Greendahl a book for his birthday in late November– weeks before Braydon’s death.
“He considered his cellmate a friend and trusted him,” Shanna tells us. “I’ve spoken to Jordan Greendahl on the phone and he was respectful and courteous.”
Braydon’s cellblock had been put into quarantine lockdown just days before the incident. While Braydon himself tested negative for coronavirus prior to his autopsy, Greendahl had not.
“After his murder, I’m told by the coroner’s office that Jordan had tested positive during booking but my son tested negative prior to his autopsy,” Shanna says.
Although the news release stated that “CSP-SAC’s Investigative Services Unit is investigating the case and the Office of the Inspector General has been notified,” currently no information is publicly available about the ongoing investigations.
In her message to THE VANGUARD, Shanna said that, “as yet, no formal charges have been filed with the DA’s office because they haven’t received the final investigation report.”
Shanna called her son regularly. In these calls, she noted that officers passed by his cell frequently. She knew this because Braydon would shout “WALKING” on their calls to warn other inmates.
Shanna indicated that, in a 15 minute time frame, guards would pass by twice. This indicates that an officer may have passed by the cell and not properly checked his cell because he was deceased in his cell.
“This is a practice followed in every facility,” she said, regarding how frequently the guards would walk by his cell. “So where were the guards when my 6 foot, 240 pound son was being stabbed repeatedly in his neck and face?”
California State Prison, Sacramento, is not a stranger to guard misconduct.
Just a month before Braydon’s death, two former guards were charged with falsifying records in a federal investigation into the death of an inmate. The same month saw an inmate shot and killed by corrections officers while allegedly trying to kill another inmate.
Shanna shows her emotion and misunderstanding of why there have been no charges filed yet for this brutal murder, saying, “Today marks a month since my son was brutally murdered in his locked cell and I want to know why 1st degree murder charges haven’t been filed.”
The inspector general’s office conducts a bi-annual report on how the CDCR addresses “internal investigations and handling employee discipline cases.” For the most recent of these reports (January through June of 2020) their performance was rated as “poor.”
The inspector general’s office observed that the CDCR’s office of internal affairs habitually delayed “opening administrative investigations concerning an incident until the corresponding criminal investigation was completed,” leading to tediously long investigations and more time between suspicious guard activity and guard dismissal.
There is ongoing misconduct and poor performance of the CDCR in investigative matters.
Meanwhile, Shanna is waiting for her son’s murder charges to even be filed.
And a month later, it seems there are still more questions than there are answers for this grieving mother, whose son was serving an 11-year sentence for a firearm assault conviction in Yolo County that turned out to be a death sentence.
In spite of these obstacles, Shanna is doing her best to honor her son. She left THE VANGUARD with this moving statement–
“I will honor him by trying to prevent others from his struggle and expose any wrongdoings by people inside the prison system who are supposed to be enforcing the law, not turning a blind eye or instigating inmates killing each other and running drugs through the system.”
Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
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