Race may be behind inmate murder in Sanpete County

- GUNNISON, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - An inmate at the Central Utah Correctional Facility is charged with murdering his former cell mate in a death that may be racially motivated.

Steven Crutcher, 32, is facing the murder charge five months after the death of his cell mate Rolando Cardona-Gueton.

Cardona-Gueton and Crutcher shared a jail cell for less than week and the two did not get along, according to Gunnison Police Chief Trent Halliday.

“They had been in some sort of an argument,” Halliday said. “But it wasn’t anything physical.”

The next morning, Cardona-Gueton was found hanged in a jail cell by from a braided rope made with strips of a bedding sheet. At the time authorities said Cardona-Gueton's death appeared to be suspicious.

“It just didn’t look right,” Halliday said. “The body appeared to be there a lot longer than what the cell mate was reporting.”

Crutcher claimed Cardona-Gueton committed suicide.

But Sanpete County Attorney Brody Keisel is convinced Crutcher is the killer.

“There is some information that’s part of our evidence that leads us to at least have some indication that there may be some racial motivation,” Keisel said.

Keisel would not go into the details of the evidence, but Halliday said they are looking into the possibility of racial motivation as a factor based on the makeup of the prison and the gangs inside.

Cardona-Gueton was of Cuban descent. Crutcher is white.

“This is a disturbing case,” Keisel added. “We’ll move it where the evidence shows and hopefully bring justice.”

Cardona-Gueton was serving time for drug possession. Crutcher is currently in prison for the aggravated kidnapping of a corrections officer during an escape attempt in Iron County.

Keisel said it is too soon to determine if he will seek the death penalty. If he does, Crutcher’s charge will be upgraded to capitol murder.

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