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California sheriff's office under fire for sending away man confessing to murder

SUNNYVALE, CA - APRIL 22: Santa Clara County Sheriff deputies during a protest on April 22, 2003 in Sunnyvale, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SUNNYVALE, CA - APRIL 22: Santa Clara County Sheriff deputies during a protest on April 22, 2003 in Sunnyvale, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)  (Getty Images)

A California deputy was being investigated Thursday after sending away a murder suspect who was trying to surrender — the latest black mark for the troubled jail in Santa Clara County that will be reviewed by a new commission over an in-custody death.

Sheriff Laurie Smith said suspect Hugo Ernesto Castro, 28, tried to turn himself in Monday at the jail by passing a note through a glass window to a civilian employee stating that he knew the location of a dead body in San Jose.

The civilian employee, whose name has not been released, checked for a court-ordered surrender and arrest warrant and found none.

"At no time did Mr. Castro say he was responsible for the dead body or had any involvement in a crime," Smith said in a statement.

Rather than question Castro or arrest him, a deputy on duty at the time directed Castro to leave and turn himself in at the San Jose Police Department instead.

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"If the initial findings are true, then the custody deputy failed to meet the expectations of the department and we'll take appropriate action to deal with the deputy," Smith said, noting the deputy has been reassigned.

The name of the deputy was not released.

Castro went to the police department, turned over the written note and was arrested.

Police say they later found the body of Allesandra Alaine Barlas, 27, on a bed in a downtown San Jose loft apartment, exactly where Castro said it would be.

During an interview, Castro told police the two had been dating and she had agreed to meet with him at the apartment last Friday, according to a written statement from San Jose police detectives.

"Castro admitted to detectives that while in the apartment together he strangled the victim and stabbed her with a knife resulting in her death," according to the statement.

Castro was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody without bail and is due in court Nov. 16.

Cynthia Sumida, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County district attorney, said Castro has been assigned a public defender. A representative from the public defender's office was not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors called for the formation of the 25-member review commission after the death of inmate Michael Tyree at the county's main jail in August.

Three deputies are facing murder charges in the case. In addition, eight correctional deputies have been removed from duty since Tyree was found in his jail cell, bleeding from internal injuries.

The Santa Clara County sheriff's department is investigating as many as 100 use-of-force complaints filed after the death.

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