An inmate at a prison in Northern California was found sawed nearly in two with his abdominal and chest organs removed following a riot in early May, according to records about the grisly incident that were recently made public.
The riot occurred at the medium-security California State Prison, Solano, located in the city of Vacaville, about 40 miles southwest of Sacramento. On May 4, about 15 hours after the riot, guards found the gruesome remains of 24-year-old Nicholas Anthony Rodriguez folded and stuffed into a garbage can in a shower stall a few doors from his cell.
Details about the case were first reported Friday by the Associated Press, which filed a public records request to obtain the autopsy report for Rodriguez, an Oakland man who was serving an eight-year robbery sentence. No one has been charged with killing, and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton told the AP the missing organs are "still part of the investigation." Thornton said Rodriguez's cellmate, a 46-year-old man serving a life sentence for a Los Angeles County murder, is considered the only suspect.
Three prisoners and one correctional officer were injured in the riot, which involved a brawl between 58 inmates in Rodriguez's housing unit. Thornton said an inmate-made weapon was recovered after the melee. Investigators are looking into whether the riot was started as a diversion to allow Rodriguez's murder, or to buy the perpetrators time to move the body. Prison officials failed to notice that Rodriguez was missing until several hours after the riot, and they initially assumed that he had escaped.
More than 160 inmates have been killed in the last 15 years in California prisons, and the state has one of the nation's highest inmate homicide rates.
'We've got the toughest, the baddest, the most violent criminals in our state prison.'
"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."
Chuck Alexander, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union that represents most prison guards, blamed the violence on a 2011 California law that keeps lower-level offenders in county jails, leaving state prisons to hold the most violent criminals, with some dangerous offenders now housed in medium-security facilities. He also cited staffing issues as a factor, and suggested that similar incidents were likely happen again in the future.
"It's very difficult to cover every contingency with the limited staff that we have," Alexander told the AP. "This kind of thing at Solano, sad to say I predict it's just a precursor," he said.
According to the autopsy report, conducted May 27 by the Solano County Sheriff coroner's office, Rodriguez had alcohol in his system and was dead before he was dismembered. He was reportedly killed by blows to the head that left him with a deep, star-shaped wound on his forehead, multiple skull fractures, cuts, and other wounds.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report
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