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Two Utah State Prison inmates were charged Wednesday in separate homicides of other inmates.
Mario Alfonso Lucero, 33, was charged with first-degree felony murder in the February 10 strangulation death of his cellmate, Julio Guerrero, 23. Lucero had moved into Guerrero's cell one day earlier, charges state. After another inmate reported there was "an issue" in their cell, prison officials found Guerrero had suffered "blunt force trauma" sustained long enough to cause asphyxia, according to charges. Lucero suffered minor injuries in what prison officials described as a fight between the two cellmates. No one else was in the cell, charges state.
Lucero was serving a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for beating a man to death in St. George in 2013. Guerrero was in prison after he allegedly violated parole following about three years in prison for a 2010 robbery.
In a separate, unrelated case, Samuel Jacob Wise, 26, was charged Wednesday in the death of 25-year-old Christopher Lucas.
Wise and Lucas had cells next to each other and, on Sept. 13, 2014, the two got into argument about Lucas "making too much noise early in the morning," according to charges. When the cell doors opened for recreation time, Wise immediately went into Lucas' cell and a fight broke out.
The cells were locked down and one of the officers saw Wise straddling and punching Lucas, according to the charges. The officer ordered Wise to stop and emptied an entire can of pepper spray at him when he didn't, the charges add.
A second officer arrived and saw Wise "deploying knee strikes" to Lucas' head.
"[The officer] did not see Mr. Lucas fight back and heard Mr. Lucas ask for help," the charges read. The second officer also deployed his entire can of pepper spray at Wise, again to no effect.
A sergeant arrived and saw Wise hitting Lucas' head and face, while Lucas tried to cover his head with arms and repeatedly said, "I give up," according to the charges. The sergeant sprayed Wise in the face twice, but "Wise wiped [the pepper spray] from his face and continued the assault."
A second sergeant also used pepper spray on Wise, who only stopped assaulting Lucas after a sergeant fired 14 pepper balls at his back, investigators wrote.
Lucas was removed from the cell and collapsed. A medical team tried to save his life and an ambulance took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A medical examiner determined Lucas died of cardiopulmonary arrest "following physical altercation and pepper spray exposure."
Wise told investigators he heard Lucas say he couldn't breathe during the fight, and that when "he got the advantage over Mr. Lucas he was not going to back up," according to the charges.
Four Department of Correction officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave, but returned to work after about two weeks following an initial investigation that determined the use of force to stop the assault was appropriate.
Wise was charged with homicide by assault and assault by a prisoner, both third-degree felonies carrying potential zero-to-five-year prison terms. He is presently serving zero to five years for convictions in 2013 of aggravated assault and assault on a health care provider, stemming from a fight in Milford. During 2013, Wise was also convicted of attempted damage to a jail and trying to possess or use a controlled substance, according to court records.
Lucas had been at the prison since June 19, 2009, when he was sentenced to a one-to-15-year term for forcible sexual abuse. While at the prison, Lucas was convicted of breaking a fire sprinkler head, and assaulting and seriously injuring another prisoner in 2011.