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The family of a slain inmate has sued the Utah Department of Corrections in federal court, claiming the agency was negligent when it housed Julio Guerrero with a known killer in a cell with a broken security button.
Guerrero, 23, was beaten to death during a fight with Mario Alfonso Lucero on Feb. 10, 2015 24 hours after the two had been placed in the same cell.
Court papers say the pair's cell had a broken security alert, leaving Guerrero unable to call for help.
When he was found dead by a prison guard, "there was blood everywhere in the cell, including blood all over Mr. Lucero, Mr. Guerrero, the sink, toilet and bloody hand marks on the security button in the cell," the lawsuit says.
At the time of the fatal episode, prison officials had known the security button was broken for at least two months and failed to fix it, the lawsuit contends.
Furthermore, the prison should never have placed Guerrero and Lucero in the same cell, court papers say, and in doing so "created or increased the danger exposed to Mr. Guerrero."
Filed on Wednesday in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court on behalf of Guerrero's estate and his mother, Hilda Guerrero, the lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, along with attorney fees and other costs.
The lawsuit claims violations of Guerrero's Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendment constitutional rights, including those of due process and protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the state of Utah, the corrections department, and the state prison's warden, Scott Crowther, along with other unnamed prison staff.
A spokesperson said the prison had not been served with lawsuit and, in any case, she could not comment on ongoing litigation.
No hearings are set in the case.
Guerrero was in prison for a parole violation. He had previously served about three years in prison following a 2010 robbery conviction.
At the time of Guerrero's death, Lucero was serving a term of one to 15 years in prison in connection with the 2013 beating death of Jeremy Shawn Olsen, who had intervened in a physical fight between Lucero, his mother and his sister.
Court papers say prior to the 2013 incident, Lucero had also been convicted of crimes related to torturing a woman with a game of Russian roulette at her Salt Lake County home. Lucero served five years of a possible 15-year term and was on parole at the time of Olsen's death.
Lucero also had been charged with crimes associated with an assault on an inmate in his cell while incarcerated at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, documents say.
Officers at the Draper prison were alerted to a fight between Guerrero and Lucero by other inmates.
An autopsy found Guerrero died from "blunt force trauma" to his neck that caused asphyxia, according to the criminal charges filed against Lucero.
In 2015, Lucero pleaded guilty to second-degree felony manslaughter in 3rd District Court, admitting he killed Guerrero during a fight. He was sentenced to a prison term of one to 15 years.