News Releases

NKSP Investigating Death of Incarcerated Person as Homicide

DELANO – North Kern State Prison (NKSP) officials are investigating the death of Juan Villanueva as a homicide after he was found unresponsive in his cell on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

At 8:49 a.m., an officer conducting a security/welfare check of the housing unit approached a cell occupied by Villanueva and incarcerated person Ramon Escobar.  The officer observed Villanueva unresponsive in the cell and immediately summoned for medical response.  Responding staff initiated lifesaving measures, summoned an ambulance and transported Villanueva to the prison’s triage and treatment area.   He was pronounced deceased at 9:03 a.m.

Officials have limited movement on the housing unit where the attack occurred to facilitate the investigation being conducted by NKSP’s Investigative Services Unit, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office and the Kern County Coroner. The Office of the Inspector General was notified and the Kern County Coroner will determine Villanueva’s official cause of death.

Villanueva, 53, was sentenced to CDCR on Oct. 25, 2022 from Los Angeles County to serve a life with parole sentence for aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 years old. He was transported to CDCR custody on Feb. 2, 2023.

Escobar, 51, was sentenced to CDCR on May 6, 2022 from Los Angeles County to serve a life without the possibility of parole sentence for two counts of first-degree murder. He was also sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for three counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted second-degree murder. He was transferred to CDCR custody on Dec. 5, 2022. NKSP opened in April 1993, and is a medium security prison as well as a Reception Center (RC) housing approximately 3,500 inmates. The general population portion of the institution focuses on providing educational/vocational opportunities to the population. The RC currently processes incoming persons throughout counties in California within a 90-day period compiling criminal records and sentence histories to determine classification score and institutional placement.

Ramon Escobar BU7017
Ramon Escobar BU7017
Juan Vilanueva BT2123
Juan Vilanueva BT2123


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