Grim details emerge in prison death of sex offender

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Inmates claim Ronald Ferguson had been in the unit only a few hours when he was killed.
Last week, we reported on the bludgeoning death of inmate Ronald Ferguson, a convicted child molester, at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility outside of Canon City.

A fifty-year-old habitual offender serving time for kidnapping and sexual assault on a child, Ferguson was struck repeatedly in the head with a metal bar; his alleged assailant, Kevin Lust, is serving a life sentence for the murders of his wife and ex-fiancee.

Now, inmate sources have come forward with more details that raise questions about general security issues at Territorial and whether Ferguson was being set up for attack. If their reports are correct, Ferguson begged corrections officers to protect him from Lust, given a history of altercations between the two, but was ignored.

"Apparently, these guys got into a fight some 7-8 months ago in the kitchen," one inmate writes. "They were separated and sent to different units."

According to some accounts, Lust vowed to kill Ferguson the next time he saw him. That kind of information typically goes into an offender's file, along with orders to keep the individuals involved housed in separate areas. Inmates claim Ferguson was inexplicably moved into Lust's pod the same day he was killed, when there were other empty cells that could have been used.

But Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti disputes this version. Ferguson and Lust had been in the same pod for months, she says, before the attack took place.

According to the inmates, Ferguson reportedly went to a sergeant on November 18 and asked to be moved to another pod. He was told he'd have to talk to another officer the next day. He didn't live that long.

Although the coroner described the instrument that was used to kill Ferguson as a dumbbell, inmates say that it was "a homemade bar that had a string attached to it so inmate recreation workers could do exercises for their forearms." In other words, it wasn't an authorized piece of equipment "and did not have to be accounted for."

Inmates say violence has increased at Territorial since the Department of Corrections has started housing more high-security inmates in what is supposed to be a medium-security facility. (The latest population report shows 257 "close" inmates at Territorial, or roughly 28 percent of the total.) They complain that the state is double-bunking in small cells, in violation of a 1980 court order, and that up to 96 inmates share three toilets, two urinals and five showers, in violation of health standards. Sanguinetti says the facility recently passed an American Correctional Association accreditation inspection and meets required standards.

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