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Updated Jun 12, 2012 - 6:05 pm

Inmate in one of Maricopa County’s jails dies


PHOENIX – A Phoenix man arrested on a weapons charge died earlier this
month in one of Maricopa County’s jails _ and the circumstances of his death
have been questioned by people close to him.

A former girlfriend of 40-year-old Raymond Manuel Farinas rejects the
explanation offered by authorities in the June 3 death and believes that bruises
and cuts on his body show that he was physically harmed while in jail.

But Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office, which runs the jails, said in
a written statement there was no physical contact between Farinas and jail
officers or other inmates during his 11 hours in jail.

The sheriff’s office also said medical examiners told investigators that it
appeared Farinas died of natural causes, though autopsy results haven’t yet been
released. The sheriff’s office declined an interview request from The Associated
Press.

Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office,
which is conducting the autopsy, said it’s premature to release any information
about the autopsy.

“The status of his autopsy is pending,” Gerchick said. “We have no further
information at this time about his cause of death.”

Maria Peralta, a former girlfriend Farinas who had two children with him and
remained in contact with him, said she rejects the explanation offered by the
sheriff’s office that Farinas choked while eating a peanut butter sandwich.

Peralta said she saw Farinas’ body at a funeral home and noticed bruises on his
body, scratches on his hands, a black eye on his face and a cut above his nose.

Farinas didn’t appear to have a black eye in his mug shot that was taken when
he was arrested, Peralta said. “You can’t get bruises and scratches on your
face by choking on a sandwich,” Peralta said. “That just can’t happen.”

Peralta said Farinas was arrested on June 3 while traveling in a car with
friends after leaving a bar and taken into custody because someone else in the
car had a gun and drugs. She said Farinas wasn’t carrying the gun but was
arrested because he is a convicted felon who wasn’t supposed to be with people
with guns.

He spent 18 years in prison for armed robbery, drunken driving and escape,
records show.

Critics have long complained about conditions in Arpaio’s jails.

Another man died on Dec. 30 in one of the jails run by the sheriff.

Ernest Atencio, 44, died four days after his family took him off life support
following an altercation with police and jail officers in jail.

The sheriff’s office says Atencio was combative when Phoenix police brought him
to the jail for booking on an assault charge.

Atencio’s family filed a $20 million notice of claim against Phoenix and the
sheriff’s office last week.

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