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Cellmate is prime suspect in death of CUCF inmate

CUCF inmate Carlos Hernandez, 24, was pronounced dead after being assaulted by his cellmate.
CUCF inmate Carlos Hernandez, 24, was pronounced dead after being assaulted by his cellmate. – Photo courtesy Department of Corrections
Julio Garza is the principal suspect in the murder investigation.
Julio Garza is the principal suspect in the murder investigation. – Photo courtesy Department of Corrections

 

Cellmate is prime suspect in death of Central Utah Correctional facility inmate

 

By Robert Stevens
Managing editor
9-1-2016

 

GUNNISON—A homicide investigation is under way after an inmate at the Central Utah Correctional Facility was pronounced dead last Friday, Aug. 26 following an assault by his cellmate.

According to Brooke Adams, Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Corrections, corrections officers heard suspicious noises coming from a cell in the Hickory Facility at about 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 25.

Upon investigation, they discovered one of the cell occupants, Carlos-Adrian Javier Hernandez, 24, unconscious on the floor.

Hernandez was removed from the cell along with his cellmate Julio Cesar Garza and, according to Adams, medical staff immediately began tending to the unconscious inmate’s medical needs.

Hernandez was transported to the nearby Gunnison Valley Hospital. From there he was taken via helicopter to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. He was pronounced dead at 12:41 a.m. on Aug. 26.

Investigation in the death of Hernandez is being handled by Gunnison Police Chief Trent Halliday  and the Utah Department of Correction (DOC) Law Enforcement Bureau. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed.

The deceased’s cellmate, Garza, 25, is the principal suspect in the investigation, Adams says. Garza is serving time for aggravated robbery, possession of a prohibited item in a correctional facility and a previous assault while in prison.

Hernandez was serving a 15-to-life sentence for murder and a five-to-life sentence for rape in connection with the death of St. George teenager Keely Amber Hall in 2007.

He was just 14 when the crimes occurred. He was tried as an adult and pleaded guilty. His admission of guilt convinced the St. George prosecutors to drop a first-degree felony charge of aggravated sexual assault.

Hernandez was scheduled to have a hearing before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in January 2027.

According to Adams, the deceased inmate had no known next of kin in the United States. The DOC was asking for help from the public and contacting the government of Mexico in an effort to identify relatives.

A similar case of a CUCF inmate murdering a cellmate occurred a little more than three years ago. Steven Crutcher, 33 at the time, was charged with first-degree felony homicide in the hanging death of Rolando Carona-Tuerton, 62, a native of Cuba who was in prison on drug charges.

Crutcher pleaded guilty to the charge, which carries the death penalty. Since then, he has filed a motion to change his plea. A hearing on the motion is scheduled this Friday. Meanwhile, a trial to determine if the death penalty should be carried out is still scheduled for January, 2017, according to Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel.

Crutcher originally went to prison after being convicted of attempting to kidnap a female officer at the Iron County Jail during an escape attempt.