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A 24-year-old inmate in a Northern California state prison was found nearly sawed in half, his body stuffed in a garbage can in a bathroom near his cell, about 15 hours after a riot broke on prison grounds. When officials discovered his body, most of the victim's abdominal and chest organs were missing. The Oakland man was serving time for a robbery conviction.
The chilling details of Nicolas Anthony Rodriguez's murder at California State Prison, Solano, were revealed when the Associated Press obtained his autopsy report with a public records request.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thorton could not say how the homicide occurred or went unnoticed for several hours because it is still under investigation.
Although no one has been charged, NBC Los Angeles reports that Rodriguez's cellmate, Jesus A. Perez, is the only suspect and has been removed from the prison's general population. Perez, 46, is serving a life sentence for a murder from Los Angeles County.
On May 4, the day a 58-man riot broke out in his building, Rodriguez was not at a 4:30 p.m. head count. The prisoners had been ordered locked in their cells for about 14 and a half hours when his body was discovered around 9:30 p.m that night. Officials are now considering whether the riot was a ruse to distract prison officers while Rodriguez's murder occurred.
"It's very difficult to cover every contingency with the limited staff that we have," said Chuck Taylor, the president of California Correctional Peach Officers Association, the union that represents most prison guards. "This kind of thing at Solano, sad to say I predict it's just a precursor."
Christine Ward, the executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance, said, "It just blows my mind because officers are looking on inmates all the time."
"Unfortunately, she added, "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."
Thorton said this Friday that Rodriguez's missing organs are "still part of the investigation."