Better Dead Than Deported?...Mexican Illegal Murders White Cellmate To Avoid Deportation
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Better Dead Than Deported?...Mexican Illegal Murders White Cellmate To Avoid Deportation

In early 2008, I wrote a very brief blog entry with the somewhat hyperbolic title Better Dead Than Deported?.

An astonishing and grisly crime on November 16, 2013 was grist for an emphatic repeat entry, but apparently none of's writers noticed it at the time, not even Brenda Walker, who nearly always picks up on such things for posting here or at her own blog, Limits To Growth.  (Perhaps our joint missing of this event simply reflects the daily flood of immigration-related reporting these days, quite a difference from a decade ago.) 

Here's the basic story from—surprisingly, given its most-arresting feature—Fox News Latino:

An Arizona inmate was killed behind bars — beaten to death by the man who shared his cell. Authorities say the motive behind the attack was that he was about to be released and deported back to Mexico.

When detectives first arrived at the Florence Correctional Center, they found 55-year-old Michael Patrick McNaughton dead and his cell mate, 43-year-old Roberto Venegas-Fernandez nearby.

Initially, they thought the two were involved in a fight.

"It wasn't what appeared to be a fight at all, but a very deliberate intentional murder," said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Both inmates were being housed at the private prison for sex crimes. They arrived on Friday, November 15th and by Saturday morning, Fernandez had strangled the victim to death.

"This was planned out in an effort to ensure that he would not leave the United States," said Babeu.

According to the sheriff, Fernandez is an undocumented immigrant and was approaching his release date.

"He told our detectives he liked three meals a day. The jail guards were very nice to him and he was afraid that upon his release he would be deported back to Mexico. He wanted to be sure that he wouldn't be deported back to Mexico," said Babeu.

[Arizona Inmate Kills Cell Mate To Stay In Jail And Avoid Deportation, November 27, 2013]

Coverage in Tucson's paper[Pinal Sheriff: Inmate killed cellmate to stay in prison by Veronica Cruz, Arizona Daily Star, November 26, 2013] includes a graphic description of the murder's mechanics.  Access the Star's account if you're into that sort of thing.  Here is its grotesque, but milder, coda:

Venegas-Fernandez also told detectives that after McNaughton was dead he bit him in the groin area, to "ensure he got first degree murder," the [sheriff's press] release said.

So is this literally a case of 'better dead than deported to Mexico'?  Theoretically, at least, it could be: According to Wikipedia, Arizona is one of 32 states that retains the death penalty, and it's one of the five states that employs it most frequently.  

However, Wikipedia adds that fewer than two percent of death-row inmates meet their maker per year.  Thus, even if Venegas-Fernandez gets the sentence he deserves, he might well have to live to 100 to actually see it applied.  Presuming the American republic lasts that much longer, he'd down 60,000+ taxpayer-provided meals between now and then.

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