4 inmates at 3 California prisons killed in 21 hours; 8 facing charges

Matthew Thornton, Michael Arzaga, James Norton, Charles Garibay, Rafael Navarro, Guillermo Navarro, Rodney Rice, Robert Smith (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Matthew Thornton, Michael Arzaga, James Norton, Charles Garibay, Rafael Navarro, Guillermo Navarro, Rodney Rice, Robert Smith (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

DELANO, Calif. — Four inmates were killed at three state prisons within a 21-hour span, according to officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. All four were serving life sentences for murder. Two of the attacks happened at the same facility.

Below is a brief breakdown of the incidents in the order in which they occurred:

Thursday, April 30
1:30 p.m.
Kern Valley State Prison
Victim: Robert Hargrave
Suspects: Matthew Thornton, Michael Arzaga

Thursday, April 30
4:30 p.m.
California Medical Facility
Victim: Tuc Tran
Suspect: James Norton

Friday, May 1
7:48 a.m.
Kern Valley State Prison
Victim: Robert Beltran
Suspects: Charles Garibay, Rafael Navarro, Guillermo Navarro

Friday, May 1
10:45 a.m.
High Desert State Prison
Victim: 65-year-old Michael Ramadanovic
Suspects: Rodney Rice, Robert Smith

Robert Hargrave stabbed with ‘inmate-manufactured weapon’

Corrections officials said Robert Hargrave, 48, was attacked in the rec yard at Kern Valley State Prison on the afternoon of April 30. According to officials, the suspects, Matthew Thornton, 38, and Michael Arzaga, 47, used “an inmate-manufactured weapon,” and when officers ordered them to stop and they did not comply, chemical agents had to be used.

Hargrave suffered multiple stab wounds to his back, chest and abdomen. He died at the hospital.

He had been in prison since May 1994 — serving life without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder.

Thornton in May 2009 began serving a 14-year sentence for attempted second-degree murder and a five-year enhancement for prior felony conviction of a serious offense.

Arzaga in March 1998 began serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for second-degree murder.

Matthew Thornton and Michael Arzaga (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Matthew Thornton and Michael Arzaga (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Tuc Tran found unresponsive in cell

Tuc Tran, 75, was found unresponsive in his cell with multiple head and face injuries on the afternoon of April 30 at the California Medical Facility prison, officials said.

His cellmate, James Norton, 39, was restrained and removed from the cell as staff attempted life-saving measures on Tran. He was pronounced dead about 20 minutes after officers found him unresponsive.

Corrections officials noted Norton was rehoused into administrative segregation housing following this incident.

Tran in 2015 began serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for second-degree murder.

Norton in 2019 began serving two years for cause of fire of forest land.

Tuc Tran, James Norton (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Tuc Tran, James Norton (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Robert Beltran attacked by 3 inmates with ‘inmate-manufactured weapons’

Robert Beltran, 50, suffered multiple stab wounds to his head, back, chest and abdomen after corrections officials said three inmates began attacking him with “inmate-manufactured weapons as he exited his cell” on Friday morning, May 1.

Officials said chemical agents had to be used on inmates Charles Garibay, Rafael Navarro and Guillermo Navarro after they failed to comply with orders to stop attacking Beltran.

Beltran died at the hospital about two hours after the attack. Investigators recovered four inmate-manufactured weapons at the crime scene

Corrections officials said he had been in prison since 1989 — serving life with the possibility of parole for attempted second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Garibay, 34, in 2007 began serving  a 46-year sentence for assault with a semi-automatic firearm on a peace officer, attempted carjacking and attempted second-degree murder. In 2017, he received a four-year in-prison felony conviction for possession/manufacture of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.

Rafael Navarro, 32, in 2008 began serving a 25-year sentence for second-degree armed robbery with gang enhancements. He also received two in-prison felony convictions: one two-year sentence from Kern County in 2013 for possession of a controlled substance in jail/prison and a four-year sentence from Kern County in 2019 for assault by a prisoner with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Guillermo Navarro, 38, in 2007 began serving life with parole for first-degree murder.

Charles Garibay, Guillermo Navarro, Rafael Navarro (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Charles Garibay, Guillermo Navarro, Rafael Navarro (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Michael Ramadanovic stabbed in rec yard with ‘inmate-manufactured weapons’

Michael Ramadanovic, 65, was attacked in the rec yard at High Desert State Prison on the morning of May 1.

Corrections officials said chemical agents and a warning shot from a Mini-14 rifle had to be used to quell the attack by Rodney Rice and Robert Smith — who used “inmate-manufactured weapons.”

Ramadanovic suffered multiple puncture wounds to his chest, back, head and neck. He was pronounced dead about a half-hour after the attack.

Officers recovered two metal inmate-manufactured weapons.

Ramadanovic in 1988 began serving life without parole for first-degree murder. He also received a six-year sentence in October 2019 for assault with a deadly weapon, an in-prison offense.

Rice, 28, in 2016 began serving three years for evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly, and was serving a 2019 sentence for corporal injury on a victim within seven years of a previous specific conviction, his second strike. Officials noted since 2014, Rice has served time for vehicle theft, possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, battery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Smith, 28, in 2018 began serving two years, eight months for evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly, his second strike. He was also sentenced to serve two years for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, an in-prison offense. In March 2020, officials said he was sentenced for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Rodney Rice and Robert Smith (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Rodney Rice and Robert Smith (PHOTOS: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

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