GUNNISON — A prison inmate who made headlines four years ago in a failed jail escape has now been charged with murdering his cellmate.
Steven Crutcher, 32, was charged Wednesday in Manti's 6th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony. The charge leaves open the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted.
On April 20, Rolando Cardona-Gueton, 62, was found dead in his cell at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. Officials weren't sure initially if his death was a homicide or a suicide.
After several months of investigation, Crutcher was charged in Cardona-Gueton's death. A motive for the killing wasn't known Thursday, but Sevier County Attorney Brody Keisel said investigators determined race may have been a factor.
"There's some information out there that does lead us to believe that it may have had racial implications, but I can't be certain about that at this point," he said.
Cardona-Gueton, a native Cuban sentenced for drug possession, had not been Crutcher's cellmate for long before he was strangled to death.
"The weapon, if you will, was constructed out of a bedsheet out of strips that were wove together," Keisel said.
Crutcher was serving a 10-years-to-life sentence for kidnapping an Iron County Jail officer. On July 1, 2009, Crutcher had just finished talking to someone in the jail's visiting area and was walking back to his cell when he grabbed a female corrections officer and pulled her into a port area between the main facility and a secondary lobby. As he grabbed the officer, he pulled a device out from under his shirt that appeared to be a pipe bomb and ordered the officer to open the door.
The escape attempt failed and the realistic-looking bomb turned out to be fake.
Crutcher, from Michigan, was in jail for stealing a car when he kidnapped the officer.
Crutcher remained Thursday in the maximum security unit at the Gunnison prison.
Contributing: Sam Penrod
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