crimesider

Cops: Ariz. inmate kills cellmate to stay in prison

Roberto Fernandez allegedly told Pinal County sheriff's deputies he killed his cellmate so he could stay in prison.

Pinal County Sheriff's Office via KPHO

FLORENCE, Ariz. - A Mexican citizen illegally in the United States killed a prison cellmate in order to remain in custody, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

The Sheriff's Office said it is recommending that prosecutors charge 43-year-old Roberto Venegas-Fernandez with first-degree murder in the Nov. 16 killing of 55-year-old Michael Patrick McNaughton.

According to CBS affiliate KPHO, Venegas-Fernandez choked his cellmate to death, stomped his head and bit him in the groin.

Sheriff Paul Babeu said Venegas-Fernandez told investigators that he did it because "he likes it in prison and was afraid of being released, since he has nowhere to go."

Both men were prisoners of the U.S. Marshals Service, which has said they were from the San Diego area and housed at a Corrections Corp. of America prison in Florence, Ariz., pending their transfer to the Bureau of Prisons.

The killing occurred during what was initially reported as a fight between the two men.

Sheriff's spokesman Tim Gaffney said Venegas-Fernandez doesn't have a lawyer.

Court records indicated that McNaughton was sentenced in federal court in San Diego to six-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to a child pornography charge and that Venegas-Fernandez is a Mexican citizen who was sentenced to eight months in prison for illegally re-entering the country after being deported.

A Border Patrol agent said in court papers that Venegas-Fernandez was apprehended shortly after he climbed over the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border a half-mile from the Calixico, Calif., port-of-entry on June 12.

Records indicated that Venegas-Fernandez had been deported to Mexico on Jan. 26, 1998, the agent said.