Officials at a state prison in Vacaville aren't exactly sure how an inmate managed to get sawed in half or where his internal organs went under the eye of prison security.
The body of 24-year old Nicholas Anthony Rodriguez was discovered the evening of May 4, stuffed into a trash can in a shower stall near his cell in California State Prison, Solano. Although homicides are not unusual in California's prisons—over 160 inmates have been killed in the last 15 years—Rodriguez's body was found nearly cut in half with most internal organs removed, raising many questions for officials and investigators. Compounding the matter, prisoners were kept on lockdown when Rodriguez's body was discovered, almost fifteen hours after a riot in his cellblock.
The details of the gruesome death were revealed by the Associated Press after a public records request. The only suspect in the case is his cellmate, 46-year old Jesus Perez, a man already serving a life sentence for murder.
A spokesman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told SFGate that the riot prior to the discovery was "linked" to the killing but did not elaborate further.
Officials are trying to piece together the murder, wondering how it could happen in a closed facility under so much surveillance. "Unfortunately, we know that there are drugs, there's alcohol, there are weapons," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance. "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."
The autopsy report determined that Rodriguez had alcohol in his system and was killed with a blow to the head before he was cut open. He had been serving an 8-year sentence for robbery in Alameda County. His mother, Maria Rodriguez of Oakland, was not told any of the details of her son's death by officials.