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A Utah inmate could face the death penalty after pleading guilty Monday to aggravated murder, admitting that he killed his cellmate inside their shared cell at the Gunnison prison in 2013.
Steven Douglas Crutcher, 35, admitted to killing 62-year-old Roland Cardona-Gueton, according to court records.
A three-week-long sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 8, according to Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel.
"The death penalty is still on the table," the head prosecutor said Monday.
Cardona-Gueton's death April 20, 2013, was originally investigated as a suicide. But prosecutors say in court papers that Crutcher penned a letter to Keisel in July that year, confessing that he strangled his cellmate with a ligature.
Keisel wrote in court papers filed last year that Crutcher's letter also contained "racial epithets and white supremacist slang" and the defendant described himself as a "neo-Nazi skinhead." Crutcher also wrote in the letter that he killed his cellmate to get "his bolts," Keisel wrote.
"At trial, the state will argue that 'the bolts' are 'Schutzstaffel bolts,' which white supremacist gang members use to identify themselves," Keisel wrote, apparently referring to tattoos.
Keisel has asked 6th District Judge Wallace Lee in a court filing to take notice that the date of the murder April 20 is Adolf Hitler's birthday.
Defense attorney Edward Brass had asked Lee to keep Crutcher's letters out of a trial, arguing that the confession was coerced because his client has been placed in "restrictive isolation" in the prison for weeks after Cardona-Gueton's death and further said that Crutcher was not given an attorney when he asked for one when initially interviewed as a witness on the day of the death.
But Lee ruled that the letters were admissible. Crutcher's attorneys had been appealing that decision to the Utah Supreme Court, according to court records.
Crtucher's Monday guilty plea is conditional, Keisel said, and if the Utah Supreme Court rules in the defendant's favor, he will be allowed to withdraw his plea.
The alleged killing qualifies as a death-penalty eligible crime because it was committed inside of a prison, according to Keisel.
Keisel said last year that a bedsheet torn into strips and braided together was used to kill Cardona-Gueton, who had been at the prison since 2011, serving time for theft and drug distribution.
The county attorney said the two inmates had shared a cell for just a few days before the murder.
Crutcher is serving a sentence of up to life in prison for an 2009 aggravated kidnapping conviction, according to court records.
According to The Associated Press, Crutcher attempted to escape the Iron County jail in June 2009 by cornering a deputy and threatening to detonate a bomb if he wasn't released. It was later discovered that the "bomb" was fashioned from toilet paper rolls, headphone wires and a pencil eraser.
Crutcher was at the jail at the time on suspicion of stealing a car. He pleaded guilty that year to second-degree felony theft by receiving stolen property in Cedar City and was sentenced to another one to 15 years at the prison.