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Rio Ulvaeus Died In Custody At Santa Barbara County Main Jail

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Inmate Rio Ulvaeus (Full Name: Rio Favorite Ulvaeus) Died of Suspected Opioid Overdose At Santa Barbara County Main Jail’s Inmate Reception Center

SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA (May 27, 2023) – An inmate identified as Rio Ulvaeus has died from a suspected opioid overdose at Santa Barbara County Main Jail’s Inmate Reception Center.

Santa Barbara County officials are saying that the inmate was arrested the day prior. Rio Ulvaeus was found unresponsive at the jail’s Inmate Reception Center during a welfare check.

Three rounds of Narcan were administered and CPR was performed. An external defibrillator was also used to kick-start his heart, but he was not able to be revived.  

A preliminary investigation revealed that Rio Ulvaeus’ likely cause of death was the result of an opioid overdose. This tragedy comes as Santa Barbara County has experienced a sharp spike in fentanyl related deaths.

A full investigation into the incident remains ongoing at this time.

Liability For Santa Barbara County Inmate Deaths

There are standards that jails must follow to keep their inmates safe. But these guidelines are not always followed. As a consequence, many people die in custody before they are ever even formally convicted of a crime. According to NPR, “A total of 1,200 persons died in local jails in 2019 — up 5% from 2018. The mortality rate for people incarcerated but not convicted “hit an all-time high.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics says almost 77% of the 1,200 people who died in local jails in 2019 were not convicted of a crime at the time of their death.” There are a number of steps that jails should take to keep inmates in their care safe.

  • Inmates should get a health screening before being admitted.
  • Correctional officers should perform periodic welfare checks on inmates.
  • Correctional officers should be trained to understand when inmates are in medical distress.

Inmates have a constitutional right to receive reasonably adequate healthcare. Failing to give them adequate care is a violation of their right to equal protection and due process. When a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of an inmate, this could form the basis of a negligence claim. For example, correctional officers may have failed to help an inmate experiencing an opioid overdose.

This is exactly what happened in The Estate of Bernard Victorianne v. County of San Diego. A 28-year-old man was arrested for driving under the influence. As he was being booked into jail, he revealed to a nurse that he swallowed a bag of meth. The nurse informed officers that he needed prompt medical care. But instead of getting him medical care, he was put into a jail cell where he later died of an overdose. The county eventually settled with the family in a wrongful death claim. There are a number of steps that should be taken after any in custody death.

  • Eye witnesses should be interviewed.
  • Surveillance footage should be sought.
  • Medical records should be preserved.
  • An experienced wrongful death attorney should be consulted.

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the most difficult thing that most people will ever go through. Sadly, though, it is common for jails to not be transparent about in custody deaths. This compounds the grief and pain that families are already going through. The family of any person that dies in custody may be able to get answers and some measure of accountability through a civil claim. Damages in a civil claim can help cover many of the costs that come with the sudden loss of a loved one.

Investigating Inmate Deaths At Santa Barbara County Main Jail

We at Carrillo Law Firm, LLP extend our deepest condolences to the family of Rio Ulvaeus. Any person that may have more information about what happened should reach out to investigators. It is our sincere hope that county officials will take measures to stem the tide of opiods and illicit drugs that are pouring into county jails.

Do you need more information about an in custody death at the Santa Barbara County Main Jail? Our team of wrongful death attorneys are here to answer any questions that you may have. We care deeply that the constitutional rights of inmates are properly recognized and protected. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any incident we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 626-799-9375.



Michael works on high-profile cases that have garnered national media attention. His practice today focuses on child sexual abuse cases, police misconduct cases, catastrophic injuries and other wrongful death matters. He is a passionate advocate for his clients including the countless child sexual abuse victims he currently represents.