FLORENCE, AZ - A Mexican citizen illegally in the United States killed a prison cellmate in order to remain in custody, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.
The Sheriff's Office said it 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.
The killing occurred during what was initially reported as a fight between the two men.
However, Sheriff Paul Babeu said 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 in a statement released by his office.
Sheriff's spokesman Tim Gaffney said Venegas-Fernandez doesn't have a lawyer.
Court records indicated that McNaughton was sentenced in federal court in San Diego to 6 and a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to a child pornography charge and that Venegas-Fernandez is a Mexican citizen who was sentenced to eight months in prison for illegally re-entering the country after being deported.
An FBI agent said in court papers that McNaughton shared dozens of photos with the agent through an online image-sharing system and that hundreds of images of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct were found during a search of McNaughton's residence.
A Border Patrol agent said in court papers that Venegas-Fernandez was apprehended shortly after he climbed over the fence on the U.S.-Mexico border a half-mile from the Calixico, Calif., port-of-entry on June 12.
Records indicated that Venegas-Fernandez had been deported to Mexico on Jan. 26, 1998, the agent said.