A murder charge was filed Friday against a felon accused of bludgeoning his cellmate to death at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.
Luke Hanchette, 42, of Hemet is charged with killing 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.
Along with a murder charge, Hanchette faces a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a weapon — a metal crutch — during the commission of felony.
Hanchette, who remains in custody at the Indio jail, is slated to make his initial court appearance at the Larson Justice Center in Indio Friday afternoon.
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 afterward.
There was no word on what provoked the attack.
Hanchette was in custody on $165,000 bail awaiting trial on a 2018 charge of assault on a person causing great bodily injury, 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.
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