A man who died the same day he was booked into a San Diego County jail used food to suffocate himself while he was being housed in a unit designed for suicidal inmates, the sheriff's department said.

The inmate, 37-year-old Manuel Cruz, is the fourth to die by suicide in a San Diego County jail this year, according to a report Tuesday by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Deputies conducting a security check found Cruz unresponsive in his cell in downtown's Central Jail on the afternoon of Oct. 2, San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Rich Williams said. Deputies and medical staff unsuccessfully tried to revive Cruz until paramedics arrived, he said.

Cruz was being held alone in a secure cell in the jail's enhanced observation housing because he was known to potentially be suicidal, Williams said. The enhanced housing includes individual cells, more frequent cell checks, nurse visits and video surveillance.

Cruz had been booked into the jail on a warrant for driving under the influence about nine hours before he was found unresponsive, Williams said, adding that Cruz was expected to be released from custody the next day following a court appearance.

A coroner's report found that Cruz died by suicide by asphyxiating on food, said Williams, the lieutenant overseeing the sheriff's homicide unit, which investigates all in-custody deaths.

Cruz's is the fourth suicide by an inmate in the jail system this year, compared with one last year. The other three include 39-year-old Frederick Jefferson, who killed himself on Sept. 1 after he was sentenced to seven years in prison for punching a police officer.

Meanwhile on Monday, corrections officials said two men on California's death row for committing multiple murders apparently committed suicide within days of each other. Andrew Urdiales, sentenced to death on Oct. 5 for killing five women in Southern California, was found unresponsive during a security check at San Quentin State Prison late Friday.

Separately, authorities found Virendra Govin unresponsive alone in his cell in a different death row housing unit late Sunday. Govin was sentenced in December 2004 for committing four Los Angeles County murders.


Information from: The San Diego Union-Tribune, http://www.utsandiego.com