By Chris Zoukis

Prison officials at the medium security California State Prison, Solano have offered little explanation for their apparently lackadaisical investigation into the gruesome murder and disembowelment of a 24 year old man whose body was not found stuffed in a trash can until nearly 15 hours after prisoners in his cellblock were locked down in response to a brawl that took place on May 4, 2015.

The body of Nicholas Anthony Rodriguez, 24, was found in the trash can in a shower stall a few doors down from his cell around 9:30 pm, during a search of the prison initiated after Rodriguez was not found in his cell at the 4:30 pm count. The body of the Oakland native, who was serving an eight year robbery sentence, had been nearly sawed in half, and, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Associated Press, was missing most of its abdominal and chest organs.

Notwithstanding the lockdown security procedures in place for the medium security prison in Vacaville, prison officials could not offer a public explanation as to why it took so long to locate Rodriguez’s body, or how he was killed. The autopsy report revealed that Rodriguez had died from blows to the head.  He had multiple skull fractures, cuts and other wounds, and was dead before being eviscerated.  Rodriguez’s missing organs are “still part of the investigation,” according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Terry Thorton. While no one has been charged in the murder, Rodriguez’s former cellmate, a 46 year old man serving a life sentence for murder, was placed in segregation and is the only suspect, according to Thorton.

Prison officials have still not determined whether the brawl, which injured three prisoners and a guard, was staged in connection with the slaying. The president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Chuck Alexander, said,

“It’s difficult to cover every contingency with the limited staff we have.”

Rodriguez’s mother, Maria Rodriguez, said that she has been provided no details about her son’s murder. “They’re gonna tell me in two or three weeks, but right now we don’t got nothing.” She said that she had not seen the autopsy report.

The Solano murder is one of more than 160 killings that have taken place in the last 15 years in California prisons, which has one of the highest prisoner homicide rates in the country.

This article recently appeared in Prison Legal News in November.

 

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).