A prison inmate accused of murdering his cell mate made his initial appearance in court Wednesday.
Steven Crutcher, 32, is charged in Manti’s 6th District Court with first-degree felony aggravated murder for the death of 62-year-old Rolando Cardona-Gueton.
Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel told a judge on Wednesday that his office plans to pursue Crutcher’s alleged crime as a capital case, indicating the death penalty could be sought.
Because of this, Crutcher needs a defense attorney who is certified to handle a capital case. Crutcher will be back in court Nov. 27 for an update on who will be picked to represent him.
Keisel told the Salt Lake Tribune in September that Cardona-Gueton was found on April 20 at the prison in Gunnison "as if he had [hanged] himself."
"Further investigation has led us to conclude that this is not a suicide, but an aggravated homicide," Keisel said at that time.
Keisel would not discuss what evidence led investigators to become suspicious about the death but said a bedsheet that was torn into strips and braided together was used to kill Cardona-Gueton, who had been at the prison since 2011, serving time for theft and drug distribution.
Keisel said the case qualifies as aggravated murder because it happened inside a prison.
Crutcher is serving a sentence of up to life in prison for an aggravated kidnapping conviction in June 2009, according to court records. According to the Associated Press, Crutcher attempted to escape the Iron County jail when he cornered a deputy at the jail and threatened to detonate a bomb if he wasn’t released. It was later discovered that the "bomb" was fashioned from toilet paper rolls, headphone wires and a pencil eraser.
Crutcher was at the Iron County jail in 2009 on suspicion of stealing a car. He pleaded guilty that year to second-degree felony theft by receiving stolen property in Cedar City and was sentenced to another one to 15 years at the prison.
Keisel said Crutcher and Cardona-Gueton had been in a cell together for just a few days before the alleged murder.
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