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Death Row Inmate Arguelles Dies

Death Row Inmate Arguelles Dies

Posted - Nov. 16, 2003 at 2:28 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP/KSL TV) -- A 41-year-old death row inmate who routinely consumed his own waste died of apparent natural causes, just months after his execution was stayed by concerns over his mental state.

Guards at the Utah State Prison took Roberto Arguelles to the infirmary about 2:30 p.m. Saturday after he "didn't seem to be doing very good," warden Clint Friel said.

The officers reported Arguelles' eyes were glassy and he looked pale. They talked to him and asked him if he needed medical attention, but he did not respond, Friel said.

Arguelles stopped breathing shortly after 5 p.m. Friel said efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at 5:27 p.m.

Arguelles' death does not appear to be suspicious or a suicide, even though he has before tried to kill himself, Friel said.

Autopsy results are expected within the next week, said Deputy Peggy Faulkner, the spokeswoman for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's spokeswoman.

Court documents filed by his former attorney, Karen Stam, indicated he had been routinely eating his own feces and foreign objects, such as court documents. In recent court appearances, Arguelles seemed incoherent and complained of multiple injuries to his spine and neck.

Over the past several weeks, Arguelles had made visits to both the prison infirmary and University Hospital, Friel added. Privacy laws prevented prison officials from giving any specific details about Arguelles' health complaints.

Arguelles was on death row for kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering a woman and three teenage girls while on parole in 1992.

"I extend my condolences to his mother and to all the family members of the victims," said his attorney, Ed Brass. "I hope everyone can be at peace now."

For the father of Tuesday Roberts, one of Arguelles' victims, that may not be possible.

"I don't feel satisfied," Wade J. Roberts said. "I wouldn't have felt satisfied if they would have executed him either because it wouldn't have brought my daughter back."

That victim's brother, Jeff Roberts, told KSL's Jill Atwood he believes Arguelles should have been put to death. He's convinced Arguelles got off too easy.

But tonight, Jeff Roberts says they do finally have an ending.

"It used to be (when) we'd see a picture of her, there was always some correlation with Mr. Arguelles. At this point, we can move on," he said.

In February 1992, Arguelles abducted and strangled Margo Bond, 42, a janitor at a junior high school where Arguelles said he had been hunting girls.

In March 1992, Arguelles kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed Stephanie Blundell, 13, and Roberts, 15. He stabbed Roberts' friend Lisa Martinez, 16, more than 40 times. He pleaded guilty to four counts of capital murder.

Bond's remains were found in the Tooele County desert late in 1992, when Arguelles was in prison for a life sentence for molesting two children.

The other three girls had been written off as runaways.

However, in 1996, Arguelles confessed to kidnapping Stephanie Blundell, 13, as she walked from her Magna house to school. He took Lisa Martinez, 16, and Roberts, 15, as they walked to the Valley Fair Mall.

Arguelles then led authorities to where Martinez's and Roberts' bodies were buried at his stepfather's hog farm near Salt Lake City, and to Blundell's grave in American Fork Canyon.

Blundell's older sister, Jennifer Blundell Moss, said her family was "having a really hard time processing" the news of Arguelles' death.

But "it's a relief that it's over," she said. "Now, I think our family has complete closure and we can maybe close this chapter."

Arguelles was scheduled to be executed by firing squad on June 27, but the execution was stayed after Department of Corrections officials questioned Arguelles' mental state and a state court judge ordered a full competency evaluation.

Arguelles' last court-ordered evaluation was in 2000, after he tried to hang himself with a laundry bag and was briefly in a coma. Two psychiatrists and a neuropsychologist determined he was competent.

However, Stam wrote to the Utah Supreme Court in March 2001 that Arguelles "continues to deteriorate mentally, collecting and eating feces regularly."

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that Brass could pursue an appeal in behalf of Arguelles, who did not want it.

Arguelles' death leaves 10 people on Utah's death row.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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