News Releases

Inmate Death at California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran Being Investigated as a Homicide

CORCORAN– Officials at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran (CSATF/SP) are investigating an inmate death as a homicide.

Michael Benjamin Burch, 67, was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday, January 31. He was pronounced deceased by prison medical officials and transported to the King’s County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy. The Coroner’s Office ruled the death a homicide Tuesday evening.

Officials from the prison and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office have named Burch’s cellmate, inmate Robert Vargas Salas, 54, as the suspect in the case. Inmate Salas has been placed in the administrative segregation unit while the investigation continues.

Burch was received from Los Angeles County on February 3, 2011, and was serving a 675-year sentence for lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, oral copulation with a child under 14, and rape with force/violence.

Salas was received on August 10, 1977, from Ventura County. He is serving a life-term for first-degree murder.

CSATF/SP is a multi-mission institution that houses 5,981 inmates and employs more than 1,800 people. Opened in 1997, the institution houses minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security male inmates and provides substance-abuse treatment programs, academic and vocational education, and re-entry and self-help programs to prepare inmates for their reintegration into society.

For more information about CSATF/SP, visit CDCR’s website at

February 1, 2012
Contact: Lupe Cartagena
(559) 992-7154