Calif. prison riot may have been dis­trac­tion for grue­some killing

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY PETER HOL­LEY peter.hol­ley@wash­post.com

Ni­cholas An­thony Ro­driguez dis­ap­peared dur­ing a riot in a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia prison in May.

Un­til he was found 15 hours later, of­fi­cials at the medi­um­se­cu­rity Cal­i­for­nia State Prison in Solano as­sumed he had es­caped.

The 24-year-old had ac­tu­ally been killed and his body packed into a garbage can in a shower stall not far from his cell, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press.

The AP learned about the killing from an au­topsy re­port ob­tained through a public records re­quest.

Even more trou­bling, the au­topsy re­port re­veals, was the fact that Ro­driguez’s body had been sawed in half, with much of his ab­dom­i­nal and chest or­gans re­moved, ac­cord­ing to the AP.

More than two months later, in­ves­ti­ga­tors still do not know how the elab­o­rate killing was pulled off or what hap­pened to the vic­tim’s or­gans.

Terry Thorn­ton, a spokes­woman for the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, told the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle that prison of­fi­cials are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the killing as well as the riot that un­folded sev­eral hours be­fore­hand. She told the pa­per that the two events were linked, but she de­clined to give de­tails.

Thorn­ton told the AP that Ro­driguez’s miss­ing or­gans are “still part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the AP: “Ro­driguez had al­co­hol in his sys­tem and was dead be­fore he was evis­cer­ated, killed by blows to the head that left him with a deep star-shaped wound on his fore­head among his mul­ti­ple skull frac­tures, cuts and other wounds, ac­cord­ing to the May 27 au­topsy re­port con­ducted by the Solano County Sher­iff coro­ner’s of­fice.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are ex­plor­ing whether the riot was an elab­o­rate ruse cre­ated to con­ceal the killing, ac­cord­ing to the AP.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult to cover ev­ery con­tin­gency with the lim­ited staff that we have,” said Chuck Alexan­der, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Cor­rec­tional Peace Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents most prison guards.

“This kind of thing at Solano, sad to say, I pre­dict it’s just a pre­cur­sor,” he added.

Author­i­ties have yet to charge any­one with killing Ro­driguez, but they have a sus­pect: Ro­driguez’s 46-year-old cell­mate, Je­sus Perez, ac­cord­ing to the Chron­i­cle. Perez, who is be­ing held in seg­re­ga­tion, is serv­ing a life sen­tence for a mur­der in Los An­ge­les County, the pa­per re­ported.

“It just blows my mind, be­cause of­fi­cers are look­ing in on in­mates all the time,” Chris­tine Ward, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Crime Vic­tims Ac­tion Al­liance, told the AP. “Un­for­tu­nately, we know that there are drugs, there’s al­co­hol, there are weapons. As much as the of­fi­cers can po­lice that, we know we’ve got the tough­est, the bad­dest, the most vi­o­lent crim­i­nals in our state prison and, un­for­tu­nately, some of the most cun­ning pris­on­ers in there, as well. They are go­ing to find ways to do that.”

Cal­i­for­nia has one of the na­tion’s high­est in­mate homi­cide rates, ac­cord­ing to the AP, with more than 160 in­mates killed in 15 years.

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