Joe Son, an early mixed martial arts fighter who later had a memorable acting role in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, has been identified as a suspect in a death being investigated as a homicide at the Wasco State Prison-Reception Center (WSP-RC) in Wasco, California.
According to a press release issued by the California Department of Corrections on Tuesday night, a WSP-RC inmate whose name has yet to be publicly released pending next of kin was found dead in his cell on Monday, October 10 at about 5:50 pm, and Son, who is also an inmate at the prison, is a suspect.
The 40-year-old Son has only been at the prison for less than one month, having arrived on September 16 after being sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for his part in a Christmas Eve 1990 gang rape.
WSP-RC was likely only a temporary stop for Son, as the prison's primary mission, according to their website, is to provide short-term housing while determining security level for new inmates.
The prison released no information on the dead inmate except that he was 50 years old and had been at the facility for a little over three months after being sentenced to two years in prison for failure to register as a sex offender.
The Son rape case had been cold for nearly 18 years, until he was sentenced to jail time and probation for an unrelated case, and was required to provide a DNA sample as a condition of his guilty plea. That sample was linked to the 1990 rape, and he was arrested on multiple charges relating to the crime in October 2008. He originally faced a sentence of up to 275 years before several charges were dropped due to the statute of limitations, and he eventually received life with possibility of parole.
According to the Orange County district attorney's office that prosecuted the case, Son and co-defendant Santiago Lopez-Gaitan kidnapped a 20-year-old woman who had been walking home with her dog after going to look at Christmas lights, then repeatedly raped her and threatened to kill her before letting her go free. Gaitan was also convicted and sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison.
The 5-foot-4, 220-pound Son was 0-4 in an MMA career that spanned from 1994-2002. He is most remembered for a UFC 4 fight with Keith Hackney, which he lost by choke. In that fight, Son, who claimed to have developed his own fighting system called "Joe-son-do," was beaten after taking a series of punches to the groin, which were not yet outlawed.
Son fought just once in the UFC, and also fought twice in PRIDE. His most mainstream exposure came in movies, and he famously played the role of Dr. Evil's henchman "Random Task" in 1997's Austin Powers.