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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arrest expected in prison slaying

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Bronson Nunuha

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Arizona police say they are close to making an arrest in the killing of a 26-year-old Hawai'i inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center, a private prison in Arizona where nearly 1,900 Hawai'i inmates are housed.

The prison remains in lockdown following the death Feb. 18.

Arizona police said Bronson Nunuha, who was incarcerated for three counts of second-degree burglary, died from multiple stab wounds. He was assaulted in his cell sometime before 9:30 a.m. Feb. 18, when prison staff found him. He was pronounced dead about 9:57 a.m.

Local police in Eloy, Ariz., where the prison is located, said yesterday they expect to make an arrest soon in connection with the killing, but did not release further details, citing the ongoing investigation.

A Hawai'i team from the Department of Public Safety is also investigating the death.

Clayton Frank, Public Safety Department director, said the team arrived Saturday and will likely remain in Arizona through the week. "There's still a lot of things that need to be untangled," Frank said.

He declined to say what the team had found so far.

The team could make security recommendations for the 1,897-bed prison, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America. Some 1,871 male Hawai'i inmates are at Saguaro, and about 50 more are at a separate CCA prison in Arizona. The state spends about $61 million a year to house inmates on the Mainland because there's not enough space for them in Hawai'i facilities.

Nunuha had been behind bars for about four years.

He was scheduled to return to the Islands in a few months to prepare for his release Oct. 31.

Nunuha is the first Hawai'i inmate killed in a private prison on the Mainland since the state began shipping its inmates out of state 15 years ago. Officials have said his killing may have been gang-related.