Inmate killed in fight at private prison in Florence

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

FLORENCE, Ariz. -- An inmate at a privately run prison in Florence is dead after getting into a fight with his cellmate.

It happened Saturday morning at the Corrections Corporation of America's Florence Correctional Center, a private prison contracted by the U.S. Marshals Service.

According to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, both inmates were from San Diego and were awaiting transfer to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The men arrived at the Florence facility Friday night.

It's not clear what sparked the altercation. Correction officers were conducting an inspection when they spotted Roberto Venegas-Fernandez, 43, assaulting his 55-year-old cellmate, Michael Patrick McNaughton.

"The 43-year-old prisoner ignored repeated verbal commands as he continued to assault the other prisoner," PCSO spokesman Tim Gaffney said in a news release. "Correction officers entered into the cell and subdued the suspect. The victim received immediate medical attention but was pronounced deceased at the scene."

PCSO is investigating the circumstances surrounding this in-custody death.

"There was no known animosity between the men and neither expressed any concern over being housed together when they were processed last night," according to Gaffney.

At this point, the warden of the Florence Correctional Center, Brian Koehn, has not issued a public statement.

PCSO detectives are talking to the suspect, as well as to witnesses and they piece together events leading up to the deadly fight.

CCA's Florence Correctional Center is a medium-security facility with more than 1,800 beds. It houses both male and female inmates and is accredited by the American Correctional Association, the largest international correctional association in the world.

CCA operates 65 facilities throughout the country. Six of them are in Arizona. Two are located in Florence and four are in Eloy.