A California prisoner is accused of beheading his cellmate in an attack officials described as “heinous”.
Jaime Osuna allegedly mutilated, killed and beheaded Luis Romero at Corcoran State Prison on 9 March, in an overnight murder. He is accused of removing several of Romero’s body parts with a sharp metal object which was wrapped in string and attached to a handle.
Officials say it is unclear how long the victim remained alive during the torture.
“We do believe that (Romero) was conscious during at least a portion of the time,” Phil Esbenshade, a district attorney, said. “This is the most gruesome case that I have seen in terms of heinousness in the slaying.”
Prison guards found Romero’s body in his cell at around 7.30 am. An autopsy report concluded that the 44-year-old had bled to death after suffering “multiple sharp force trauma injuries”. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is investigating the killing but officials will not provide details about how inmates in the prison were supervised overnight.
On Thursday Osuna pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges, during a court appearance. The charges include special provisions which could lead to the death penalty, including one specifying that the murder was “was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity.”
The 31-year-old is also charged with torture, mayhem and weapons possession. The torture charge alleges that he acted “with the intent to cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion and for a sadistic purpose.” Osuna was imprisoned in 2017, without the possibility of parole, after pleading guilty to killing a 37-year-old woman in a motel in 2011. Romero was also serving a life sentence for a killing. Officials said Osuna had been transferred to a prison for inmates needing mental health care in Stockton, California.
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