U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg has announced that a grand jury has returned an indictment charging 37-year-old Romeo Lopez-Hernandez with the first-degree premeditated murder of his cellmate while in the Coleman Federal Correctional Institution. If convicted, Lopez-Hernandez faces a mandatory term of life imprisonment.
According to court records, Lopez-Hernandez was housed in the Special Housing Unit of Coleman FCI in Sumter County when authorities found his cellmate strangled to death. The victim was lying face down and unconscious on his bed with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck and tied to the bedpost. Dark ligature marks were apparent around the victim’s neck, and a medical examiner confirmed that he had died by strangulation.
When interviewed by the FBI, Lopez-Hernandez gave a full confession. He detailed repeatedly strangling the victim in intervals and concealing the body behind a bedsheet so that correctional officers wouldn’t find him until he was sure the victim was dead. According to Lopez-Hernandez, one of his main reasons for killing the victim was to maintain respect from other inmates.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tyrie K. Boyer.