Isle inmate is killed in Arizona prison


POSTED: Saturday, February 20, 2010

An inmate from Hawaii who would have completed a five-year prison term for burglary on Oct. 31 was killed in an Arizona prison Thursday morning.

Hawaii Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said the Public Safety Department is sending a four-person investigative team today to Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., to look into the death of Bronson Nunuha, 26, of Maui.

The Eloy Police Department has not made any arrests yet, but has been interviewing several inmates, he said yesterday during a news conference.

Cousin Lilynn Nunuha said of Bronson Nunuha's parents: “;They're hurt. They're sad. He was going to be released in 10 more months.

“;We don't actually know what happened,”; she said. “;All we know was there was a fight and he was killed.”;

; Any one or more of the 40 inmates who shared the living unit in which his cell is located could have been involved in Nunuha's death, Frank said. His cellmate was away from the cell at the time, Frank said. But at the time Nunuha was found, the unit was not locked down.

Nunuha's cell door was closed but unlocked when a prison guard making her rounds discovered him unresponsive at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Frank said. The guard immediately deployed an alarm signal and alerted her superiors, and prison medical personnel were summoned to the cell. Emergency personnel also responded but were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, Frank said.

Except for five inmates from Washington state, the remaining prisoners at Saguaro, numbering 1,900, are from Hawaii.

Frank said he has concerns about the death penalty in Arizona, which could affect any of the Hawaii inmates, who could be suspected in Nunuha's death.

Saguaro Correctional Center is a private, multilevel security facility owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America and contracted to house Hawaii state inmates, according to the Department of Public Safety. It is situated halfway between Tucson and Phoenix.

Nunuha was convicted in 2006 on Maui of two counts of second-degree burglary, a Class C felony; one count of attempted second-degree burglary; and third-degree criminal property damage. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

He was also convicted of crimes ranging from petty theft to auto theft.

Police, the Corrections Corporation of America, the Public Safety investigators and the facility will be reviewing surveillance tapes as part of their investigation into the death.