Suspect in wife’s murder hangs himself in jail

Octavio Vargas-Herrera

An inmate accused of stabbing his wife to death in March killed himself in his Mesa County jail cell Thursday night, according to the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

Octavio Vargas-Herrera, 25, was jailed on a first-degree-murder charge and was slated to head to trial in mid-December. Vargas-Herrera pleaded not guilty July 1.

Authorities allege Vargas-Herrera stabbed his 23-year-old wife, Jeana Ann Vargas, in the neck at their home March 14. Vargas-Herrera admitted slaying his wife in front of their 2-year-old daughter, according to an arrest affidavit.

Vargas-Herrera initially was on a suicide watch when he was booked into Mesa County Jail on March 14, Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. The inmate had since been moved to the jail’s highest security Cedar Pod, reserved for the most violent offenders. Vargas-Herrera hanged himself with a sheet off a sprinkler head while he was alone in his pod, Hilkey said. Video surveillance showed Vargas-Herrera looking out of a window at 11:27 p.m., but a deputy noticed he was unresponsive during another check at 11:54 p.m.

Deputies immediately performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Vargas-Herrera, and emergency responders were called and responded to the scene, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Preliminary reports indicate jail detention staff followed all procedures and protocols before and during the incident, the Sheriff’s Department said.

After the March 14 slaying, Vargas-Herrera dropped his daughter off at his brother’s home, telling him he had killed his wife and was driving to the desert to kill himself, the affidavit said. Police found a bloody knife in his car, which was stuck in the mud on a road in East Orchard Mesa. Police found footprints in the mud that led away from the vehicle.

Vargas-Herrera turned himself in to authorities that night. At that time, Vargas-Herrera told detectives his wife told him she didn’t love him and wanted him to leave. He then admitted he stabbed her multiple times with a knife and slit her throat, the affidavit said.


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