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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

CA- Cellmate is suspect

The cellmate of a prisoner found dead at DVI is now a homicide suspect.
12-3-2007 California:

Officials at Deuel Vocational Institution are looking into the possibility that a man found dead at the prison Saturday was killed by his cellmate.

Lt. Ray Munoz, spokesman for the prison, said the California Department of Corrections has treated the death of Randy James Rabelos, 28, of Tuolumne County as a homicide. Munoz said the San Joaquin County Coroner reported that Rabelos suffocated after he was hit in the throat.

Investigators have not released the likely cause of the injury, but Munoz said that Rabelos’ cellmate, Rick Henry Kase, 39, of Santa Clara County, has been charged with the homicide under the prison’s administrative regulations. He has yet to be charged with any crime by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.

Munoz said the prison’s nursing staff discovered Rabelos dead at 7:20 a.m. Saturday in the lower bunk of a two-man cell. The nursing staff checked in the cell during its morning rounds of the cell block, when it gives medication to those prisoners who require it.

Both men were in the prison’s special processing unit, a sort of protective custody separate from the general population for new arrivals, some sex offenders, ex-gang members, ex-police officers and some notorious criminals.

Rabelos arrived at the prison on Sept. 7. He had just started serving a three-year term after he was convicted on Sept. 4 in Tuolumne County for one count of lewd acts with a child.

Kase is serving 11 years for felony assault and weapons possession convictions. Munoz said he was in the special processing unit because he has been threatened by gang members.

Eric Hovatter, deputy district attorney from Tuolumne County who prosecuted Rabelos’ case, said Rabelos was convicted of committing a lewd act with a minor after he touched a 10-year-old girl’s breasts. He said the girl was a friend of Rabelos’ girlfriend’s daughter and was at the house for a sleepover when Rabelos reportedly got the girls drunk while the mother was at work.

Hovatter said the case went to trial in June and initially ended up with a 9-3 hung jury, and Rabelos agreed in July to a plea deal on the one count of lewd acts with a child. ..more.. by Bob Brownne call 830-4227 or e-mail


Inmate found dead in Tracy prison cell
Officials investigating incident as possible homicide
12-4-2007 California:

TRACY — An inmate was found dead inside his cell at Deuel Vocational Institution Saturday morning, prison officials said.

Prison staff handing out the morning doses of medication to inmates found Randy James Rabelos, 28, unresponsive in his cell around 7:20 a.m. who appeared to have been dead for a "couple of hours," Lt. Ray Munoz said.

Investigators from the prison, along with the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Justice, are investigating the matter and have questioned Rabelos' cell mate, Rick Henry Kase, 39, from Santa Clara County.

"They were in the cell together for the last 12 hours," Munoz said. "We got started into looking at how Rabelos died and immediately started to look at his cell mate. The case is being investigated as a possible homicide."

According to preliminary findings from the San Joaquin County Coroner's Office, Rabelos appeared to have died from asphyxiation with blunt force trauma. An official cause of death is pending a toxicology report which can take up to six weeks to complete.

Rabelos arrived at DVI in September from Tuolumne County and was serving a three-year sentence as a sex offender, Munoz said.

Kase arrived at the prison a little more than a month ago and is currently serving a term for parole violation, and being a convicted felon in possession of a deadly weapon. ..more.. by Staff Reports


Strange twist in case of slain San Joaquin County inmate

9-28-2008 California:

STOCKTON - If it weren't for the bald tires on a car he was riding in, Rick Henry Kase would likely be a free man today. Instead, he's in a state prison near Tracy facing a murder charge in the gruesome death of his cellmate.

Kase, 40, awaits trial for allegedly killing Randy James Rabelos, 28, of Turlock. They were housed together at Deuel Vocational Institution one December morning when Kase told jailers that his cellmate was dead, according to San Joaquin County Superior Court documents.

The ironic twist in Kase's story came about seven months after he allegedly killed Rabelos when a state appeals court overturned the conviction on a technicality.

In its decision that would have freed Kase from an 11-year sentence for an illegal weapon possession, the court said the arresting officer didn't have the right to pull over the 1980s Toyota Camry driven by another person simply because it had bald tires.

"Come to find out, he never should have been in prison in the first place," San Joaquin County Deputy Public Defender Keith Arthur said in a court hearing Thursday. Outside of court, Arthur declined to comment further on his client's case.

Kase - who has a long criminal history, including five earlier prison stints - faces a life sentence if he is convicted of Rabelos' death. Kase's attorney Thursday rejected a prosecutor's offer to resolve the case before trial if Kase took a sentence of 45 years to life in prison.

Kase's most recent tangle with the law began early last year when he was arrested in the San Jose traffic stop.

San Jose police Officer Macedonio Zuniga testified that he noticed a car's balding tires and made the stop, thinking he would write a fix-it ticket or give the driver a warning for her bald tires.

Then he learned that the passenger with tattoos on his neck - Kase - was on parole and searched the car. The officer found that Kase, whose foot was in a cast, had a cane that concealed a sword. He arrested Kase for possessing an illegal weapon.

Kase pleaded guilty in Santa Clara County Superior Court and got an 11-year sentence because of his long rap sheet. At Deuel, Kase ended up in a cell with Rabelos, a convicted child molester.

In an interview with an investigator, Kase confessed to killing Rabelos, giving details of how he carried out the crime that he is now fighting. Details of the interrogation are in a transcript of a court hearing held last year.

Kase told the investigator that Rabelos would become intoxicated after taking medicine and start shouting. Kase told him to quiet down, and moments later Rabelos again grew loud, court documents said.

Rabelos then disrespected Kase, calling him a gang dropout, and things turned violent, court papers said.

Kase "described punching Randy (Rabelos) in the throat," the investigator said. "He described knowing it was a lethal blow."

Kase said he knew Rabelos' gasps for breath were his last and quickened his cellmate's death. He pulled Rabelos from the top to the bottom bunk, held up his chin and punched Rabelos in the throat four or five more times, court documents said.

He then shoved a towel down Rabelos' throat, Kase told the investigators.

"He said he pinched Randy's nose and said, 'Goodbye, Randy,' " according to court papers, which describe the death as taking less than two minutes.

The last inmate murder at Deuel occurred in 1986, more than two decades ago, said Lt. Gilbert Valenzuela, a spokesman for the medium-security prison.

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Valli Israels said the circumstances surrounding Kase's overturned weapons conviction have no bearing on her murder prosecution against him.

"We still have the tragic death of Randy Rabelos with which he is charged," she said. "I'm sure the family of Mr. Rabelos doesn't sleep any easier. They still miss their son and brother." ..News Source.. by Scott Smith at (209) 546-8296 or

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