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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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