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Utah Prison inmate pleads guilty to killing cellmate in fight
First Published Nov 21 2012 08:31 am • Last Updated Mar 06 2013 11:33 pm

A Utah State Prison inmate has pleaded guilty to killing his cellmate in a fight last year.

Jacob Paul Ecker, 24, pleaded guilty Tuesday in 3rd District Court to a first-degree felony manslaughter charge for the April 27, 2011, beating death of Alfonso Lopez. Prosecutors originally charged Ecker with murder.

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Ecker and Lopez, 27, were friends who had requested to bunk together at the prison. But, according to testimony at a preliminary hearing last year, tensions had been building between them.

Ecker later told detectives that he "let loose" on his friend and punched him twice.

"Once [Lopez] was on the ground, [Ecker’s] rage continued," Unified Police Detective Christine Petty-Brown testified at that preliminary hearing. "He said he was sadistic and he enjoyed seeing Lopez hurt."

According to court documents, Lopez suffered a collapsed lung and a lacerated heart and liver as a result of the attack. He died of "massive internal bleeding."

"Usually when I see something like that it’s a motor vehicle collision ... or blunt force trauma with a baseball bat," assistant medical examiner Pamela Ulmer testified last year. "I [saw] similar heart damage this week in someone who fell five stories."

Ecker was serving a term of up to five years on a number of felony counts stemming from a March 2010 arrest. Police found a hatchet in Ecker’s backpack after he threatened a man’s life at the Salt Lake City Main Library, according to court documents.

He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 15 by Judge Mark Kouris.


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