SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 15, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — An inmate at the Utah State Prison was charged Friday in the death of his cellmate.
James Afuakimoana Tamoua, 24, is charged on suspicion of murder, a first-degree felony, in the Sept. 21 death of Reo Watts, 38.
Both Tamoua and Watts were assigned to the prison’s Oquirrh 2 unit, cell 320, a probable cause statement says. At about 10 p.m., guards responded to an emergency call from the cell, and found Watts unresponsive on his bed.
CPR was performed, but Watts was pronounced dead at the scene.
An officer at the scene told investigators that Tamoua had said, “I think I killed him” and “Cuff me up,” the statement says.
“Post Miranda, Tamoua stated, ‘I was sitting by the table with my feet on the stool, got off the table, and was, uh, laying upward. I choked him, flipped him over onto his stomach, put my arm around his neck, and I strangled him to death.”
The medical examiner’s preliminary report found that strangulation was Watts’ cause of death, and his manner of death was homicide.
Tamoua was serving time for theft and failure to stop at the command of law enforcement in 2016. He has been charged several times with causing damage to the jail, and in 2018, was found guilty of attempted assault of a prisoner, downgraded from assault of a prisoner.
Watts’ most recent arrest had followed a July 31 incident after which he faced misdemeanor charges failure to stop at the command of a law enforcement officer, possession or use of a controlled substance, and manufacture/possession of burglary tools; and an infraction charge related to the lack of bicycle lamps and reflectors.
He was also wanted on an existing warrant when he was taken into custody.