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Police: Inmate Killed in Jessup Prison

Robert Joseph Tunnell's cellmate at Jessup Correctional Institution allegedly killed him, said Maryland State Police.

A Harford County man serving a six-year sentence for a sex offense was found dead in his cell at the Jessup Correctional Institution Wednesday, authorities said. Police believe his cellmate allegedly killed him.

Robert Joseph Tunnell, 21, formerly of Edgewood and Baltimore, was found dead in his cell with signs of trauma to his body and a string around his neck, police said.

While there is a known suspect in the case, charges are pending and police have not released the suspect's name.

Around 2 a.m. Wednesday, a correctional officer making routine rounds arrived at Tunnell's cell and Tunnell's cellmate allegedly said something to the officer that prompted an emergency response from staff, according to a statement from Maryland State Police. It was unclear Thursday what the nature of those statements was.

Tunnell wasn't responding when staff reached him and medical personnel were called. Medics pronounced Tunnell dead at the scene, the news release states.

According to state police, Tunnell's body showed signs of trauma and investigators found what looked like a shoe string around his neck.

The victim's body was taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy to determine the official cause of death.

"It is a murder and there is a suspect who has been identified," state police spokesman Greg Shipley said Thursday.

Charges are pending against Tunnell's cellmate. In the meantime, the suspect remains in custody of the Maryland Division of Correction, according to state police.

The two men were being held in a transitional housing area usually designated for inmates brought in from other institutions or being moved for some reason.

"Tunnell was apparently serving a sentence at the Eastern Correctional Institution in Somerset," Shipley said, "I don't know why he was brought to JCI."

According to court records, Tunnell had a violation of probation hearing in the day before he was killed.

He was serving a six-year sentence after entering an Alford Plea on an attempted second-degree sex offense charge on March 12. An Alford Plea means the defendent acknowledges the state has enough evidence to convict, but maintains his innocence. It qualifies as a finding of guilt.

The underlying charges involved inappropriate contact with a boy, age 14, when Tunnell was 19 years old, according to court documents.

k October 13, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Inappropriate sexual contact with a 14 year old child. Got what he deserved! I agree with Kim. All sexual predators should meet the same fate and save our tax dollars.
dmt November 04, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I don't think he needed to die that way in pain. Death is everyday but murder is unlawful an wrong .....
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Kat Lea January 02, 2013 at 08:17 AM
One thing I realized in my own life is that none of us are without sin. The truth remains that some of us didn't get caught. I am very careful in how I make judgments on others. We all have committed murder by what we have said from our mouths to people period. Our thoughts have been filled with murderous things,so we can't act as though we have arrived. Sin is sin.
Kimbery Willay-Jenkins January 02, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Look at his age at the time of that sexual contact. 19. The boy was 14. What does this mean? Well, if a 18 or 19 year old senior at a high school takes a 14 year old freshman girl to Prom and has sex with her; he would be pegged a "child molester" the same. Look, I get it when a guy is in his 30's and regardless of consent that is always creepy but these cases where someone is 18-19 and the other party is 14 are ones that are not always a case of molestation or perversion. In my high school it was COMMON for senior guys to date freshman girls. Many of the seniors were 18 and freshman girls were anywhere from 13-15 depending on their birthday or the time of school year. By the law that means the bulk of those senior guys who engaged in sexual acts following parties or school dances were all a bunch of pedophiles or molesters that the world should be rid of. But that is not true. I don't know this guy's story and maybe it was a heinous crime of sorts but with his having been 19, the victim being 14 and an Alford plea being submitted tells me it was less of a crime than some would believe. Branding someone a sex offender is extreme so I think all such cases should be examined fully to guarantee we aren't just ruining some guy's life forever or setting him up to be killed in jail because he had sex with someone in high school.

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