A convicted sex offender who killed a previously convicted murderer in a downtown Riverside jail cell pleaded guilty today to first-degree murder and was immediately sentenced to 75 years to life in state prison.
Rodney Ronald Sanchez, 61, admitted the murder count, as well as four prior strikes during his arraignment at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta.
Sanchez dismissed his public defender and entered the guilty plea while appearing before Superior Court Judge Albert Wojcik. The plea was made directly to the judge, without input or objection from the District Attorney's Office.
Kiefer imposed the sentence required by law.
Sanchez was arrested inside the Robert Presley Detention Center on Sept. 6 following a sheriff's investigation into the death of his cellmate, 41-year-old Kaushal Niroula.
According to sheriff's Sgt. Richard Carroll, about 2:30 that afternoon, correctional deputies were alerted to an "unresponsive inmate" in one of the cells.
Deputies and medical staff found Niroula unconscious and attempted life-saving measures, which county fire paramedics took over a short time later, Carroll said. However, the inmate was pronounced dead at the scene.
Central Homicide Unit detectives assumed the investigation and quickly identified Sanchez as the perpetrator, the sergeant said.
A possible motive, and the specific means by which the deadly assault occurred, were not disclosed.
Sanchez had been originally jailed more than five years ago, and since that time, he has been awaiting trial on multiple charges of repeatedly sexually assaulting a Riverside area girl under 14 years old in 2009 and 2010, according to court records.
That case has not been disposed, and it was not immediately clear whether the D.A.'s office intended to drop those charges or press ahead with prosecution, which would require the defendant to remain held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
He has prior convictions for forcible sodomy of a child, robbery, kidnapping, failing to register as a sex offender, vandalism and resisting arrest.
Niroula was convicted with three other men in 2012 of the financially motivated slaying four years earlier of a wealthy Palm Springs retiree.
However, like several of his co-defendants, he was granted a retrial due to alleged judicial misconduct in his first trial.
He was slated to appear for a pretrial conference over a week ago. However, the judge in his case dismissed all counts and voided the trial calendar after confirming he was deceased.