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Report: Battery-filled sock found in Pima County jail cell where inmate was slain
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Report: Battery-filled sock found in Pima County jail cell where inmate was slain

A Sheriff’s Department investigation into an inmate accused of killing his cellmate has revealed that a sock full of batteries was found in the man’s bunk.

Branden Roth, 24, was found dead in his cell at the Pima County jail the morning of April 19, with trauma to his head and face and defensive wounds to his hands, according to Pima County Sheriff Department’s investigative report released Tuesday.

His cellmate, King Yates, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Roth’s death, according to Pima County Superior Court records.

Yates, who was being held on $1 million bond at the time, was already facing second-degree murder charges in the Nov. 20 shooting death of his wife, Cassandra, for which he has an upcoming trial.

Corrections officers found Roth in his cell shortly after 9 a.m., covered in blood, with cuts on his face and head and bruises on his neck. Several guards noted there was a “large amount of blood throughout the floor,” the report said.

The guards immediately called for medical assistance and ordered Yates, who was lying on the bottom bunk with his back to the door, to leave the cell. Yates ignored the first two commands and on the third, “calmly got up, walked out of the cell and stepped outside,” the report said.

“Yates did not have any kind of expression on his face. He did not appear to be upset or scared,” the report said. Inmates who saw Yates being escorted from the unit said he was smiling.

Detectives noted blood spatter on the floor of the cell, the wall, the desk and all over the bunk, including the sheets. While inspecting Yates’ bunk, detectives found a pair of red socks, one balled up inside of the other with batteries inside. The reports do not mentioned how Roth was killed or if a weapon was used.

Roth’s autopsy results are still pending.

Crime scene technicians found blood on the sink and noted what appeared to be blood on Yates’ clothes.

The detective who told Yates that he was under arrest for the slaying wrote in his report, “Yates looked at me and said, ‘Oh yeah’ ... as if he was agreeing with me.”

Inmates who knew or previously shared a cell with Yates said he had a problem with most of the other inmates, initiated fights and paid others to beat up people he had a problem with, the report said.

One inmate, who said he has known Yates since he was 5 years old, said Yates was “not right in the head,” the report said. The inmate told detectives that every time he saw Yates go into a room with someone, he would worry for the person’s safety.

None of the inmates said they heard anything the morning of Roth’s death until corrections officers started calling for help, saying the man was dead.

Roth was in jail awaiting sentencing next month after pleading guilty to a felony count of trafficking in stolen property less than two weeks before, according to court records.

He was facing a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for stealing an engine diagnostic tool worth $10,000 from a Brakemax in Oro Valley. Roth pawned the item days later for $200, records show.

The charges against Roth were dismissed days after his death.

The Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding policies for determining cellmate assignments.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlinschmidt

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