Inmate killed to stay in prison, says Pinal Cty. Sheriff's Office

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) -- Arizona authorities say the killing of a prison inmate resulted from his cellmate's desire to remain in custody, not from a fight as initially believed. Investigators say his goal was to make sure he stayed in prison.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office 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

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 pending their transfer to the Bureau of Prisons.

Sheriff Paul Babeu says Venegas-Fernandez told investigators that he choked and stomped McNaughton because he likes it in prison and was afraid of being released since he has nowhere to go.

"Roberto wanted to find a way to stay in jail, so while the victim was sitting on his bed, he choked him until he fell onto the ground, then stomped on his head and continued to choke the victim until he was presumed dead," Babeu said.

According to investigators, Venegas-Fernandez then bit McNaughton in the groin area "to ensure he got 'first degree' murder."

A sheriff's spokesman says Venegas-Fernandez doesn't have a lawyer.

"As an illegal, Roberto Fernandez originally committed a sex crime in the U.S. and was sent to prison. Now, as he is approaching his release from prison and would be deported back to Mexico, he brutally murdered a U.S. citizen to ensure that he's not deported," Babeu said. "This is a sick and heinous crime amid countless other crimes committed by criminal illegals."