A felon from Hemet is suspected of killing his cellmate at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio, sheriff’s officials said Thursday.
Luke Hanchette, 42, allegedly killed 48-year-old John Leo Hemmer of South Dakota, who was found dead Wednesday in a cell the two shared, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Sgt. Ben Ramirez said correctional deputies doing a routine safety check about 7:40 a.m. found Hemmer unresponsive, and that he appeared to have suffered significant injuries. Despite first responders’ attempts to save him, Hemmer was pronounced dead soon after.
There was no word on a motive, and it was unclear if a weapon was used.
Homicide investigators took over the case, and later arrested Hanchette on suspicion of murder. He remains housed at the Indio jail and had not been charged by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office as of Thursday evening.
Hanchette was in custody on $165,000 bail awaiting trial on an assault on a person causing great bodily injury charge from 2018, court records show. He has prior felony convictions in Riverside County including assault with a deadly weapon.
Hemmer, meanwhile, was awaiting trial on allegations that he physically abused and choked his girlfriend into unconsciousness during a road trip in 2019.
He was charged with nine felonies, including torture, attempted murder, criminal threats and several spousal abuse counts, and faced a potential life sentence if convicted.