Prosecutors have filed an aggravated murder charge against a Utah State Prison inmate accused of killing his cellmate.
The first-degree felony charge against Athian Kuot Mawien could lead to a possible death sentence.
Mawien, 29, is accused of strangling Mark Helms, 47, inside the cell they shared at the prison's Draper site.
The Nov. 22 slaying sprang from a disagreement and teasing between the men that escalated into a fistfight, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Don Hutson.
After Helm was punched several times in the head, he was strangled with a "ligature made from a laundry bag," according to jail records.
Corrections officers were made aware of the fight after other inmates notified them of a disturbance and an unresponsive inmate. Helms was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the altercation.
Both inmates were housed in a section of the prison typically reserved for sex offenders. They had been cellmates since Nov. 6, according to the prison.
Mawien was convicted in 2004 of two amended charges of attempted aggravated sex assault, a first-degree felony; and forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony. He was sentenced to serve seven years to life in prison.
Helms pleaded guilty in 1998 to child sex abuse and dealing in harmful materials to a minor. He received a suspended prison term and was sentenced to one year in the Davis County Jail. The following year, however, he was charged with 13 additional crimes relating to child sex abuse. He was later sentenced to six years to life in prison.
Mawien made his initial court appearance on the aggravated murder charge Thursday. Once he is arraigned, prosecutors have 60 days to decide whether they will seek the death penalty. ..Source.. by Geoff Liesik, Deseret News