Inmate enters plea in assault on corrections officer and killing of transient
The inmate waited for the CO to have her back turned to him when he ran directly at her and grabbed her throat
By Richard Bammer
The Reporter, Vacaville, Calif.
VACAVILLE, Calif. — A Solano County Jail inmate last week pleaded no contest to the 2018 murder of a transient and to the 2020 assault of a female corrections officer and will face 25 years to life in state prison, The Reporter has learned.
Derek Edward Dunlap Jr., 32, who, in advance of his July 24 trial for the killing, appeared July 7 in Department 23 for pre-trial matters and entered no-contest pleas in both cases.
With the pleas, which included a dismissal of an attempted murder charge in the jail assault case, Dunlap did not admit guilt but stated, essentially, he would offer no defense.
Solano County Superior Court Judge John B. Ellis immediately found Dunlap guilty of first-degree murder with premeditation and assault with a deadly weapon with possible great bodily injury for the jail attack. Dunlap received a three-year sentence on the assault charge, with the prison time to run concurrently with the murder sentence, court records show.
Afterward, the judge, who dismissed the balance of charges in the cases, ordered Dunlap to return at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28 for a pre-sentencing report by the Solano County Probation Department and the formal sentencing in the Justice Center in Fairfield.
Dunlap was represented by Fairfield criminal defense lawyer Sal Giambona. Chief Deputy District Attorney Paul D. Sequeira appeared on behalf of the Solano County District Attorney’s Office during the plea-agreement proceeding.
As previously reported, Dunlap was accused of killing Alexander Lind, 28, of Benicia, whose body was found on the morning of Feb. 20, 2018, in the 1200 block of Empire Street in Fairfield. Police said Lind was stabbed several times during a dispute.
In the murder case, Dunlap faced one count of first-degree murder with malice aforethought, with a special allegation of torture. He also faced one charge of brandishing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner. Dunlap also was the subject of an out-of-county warrant out of Santa Cruz County for making a criminal threat.
In the assault case, stemming from a Feb. 8 attack at the Claybank Detention Facility in Fairfield, he faced, besides assault with a deadly weapon, an attempted murder charge; a charge of obstructing a peace officer or emergency medical technician; and assault on a custodial officer, with a Harvey waiver, the latter an agreement by a defendant that any counts dismissed as part of a plea deal can still be considered at sentencing on the remaining counts.
At one point, as the cases wound their way through the county court system, Giambona told Ellis that he harbored “a doubt” about Dunlap’s mental competency.
Ellis then ordered what’s called a “1368 doctor’s report,” or a report by a psychiatrist or psychologist to gauge Dunlap’s mental competency, then suspended further criminal proceedings in the case.
Ellis appointed Dr. Terralyn Renfro, a licensed clinical psychologist in Fairfield, to examine Dunlap and prepare the report.
According to official court records, Ellis, reviewing the doctor’s report, later found Dunlap competent to stand trial in the attempted murder case, with criminal proceedings reinstated.
According to court records from a preliminary hearing, Dunlap on that day was out of his cell pretending to use the phones in the middle of the jail module. He allegedly laid in wait for the corrections officer, described as “petite,” to pass under the stairs that separated the phones from the cells.
Once her back was turned, Dunlap ran directly at her and grabbed her throat before she could see him coming. The defendant got the officer in a chokehold from behind and attempted to choke her. Another custodial officer heard the commotion from upstairs and came running to help her. Using a baton, he was able to get Dunlap to release her.
Dunlap then began to assault that officer. Other correctional officers came running to help and were able to subdue him.
Further testimony from the hearing showed Dunlap was wearing a pair of shoes that he usually did not wear, according to a press statement issued by Solano County District Attorney Krishna A. Abrams. Such shoes are typically worn when inmates intend to fight, she noted.
Dunlap also was found to have a makeshift “body armor and jockstrap” covering his genitals. According to the correctional officers, Abrams pointed out in the press statement, that these are used when an inmate seeks to protect himself from harm during a fight.
Dunlap allegedly was heard by a number of officers to say, “You were lucky you were there. You saved her life,” and “You’re lucky you saved her this time.”
In the 2018 murder case, he was a Fairfield transient at the time he fatally stabbed Lind and was, after legal proceedings, confined for a time to a state hospital.
At the time, Solano County Superior Court Judge Robert Bowers’ decision came after a mental health placement review and an order to show cause.
It also came after Bowers on Jan. 14, 2020, committed Dunlap to the Department of State Hospitals for a maximum term of life.
Court records indicate Giambona, at one point in 2019, also had doubted his client’s ability to understand court proceedings and requested a report under the mental competency statute.
Referred to MHM Services Inc. in Vallejo, a secure facility, Dunlap earlier had faced a mental competency evaluation. A doctor had apparently deemed him competent to stand trial, according to court records.
Court records available online indicated Bowers certified Dunlap’s mental competency on Oct. 26, 2020, and, on Nov. 2, criminal proceedings were reinstated.
Dunlap remains in Solano County Jail without bail.
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