- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Two inmates have been charged in the death of another inmate at an Arizona prison, while a third inmate was charged in an unrelated killing 27 years ago outside a Phoenix apartment complex.

Court records released Friday say Randy Payton, 26, and Wesley Wailes, 27, were charged with first-degree murder in the July 2014 strangulation death of Gordon E. Lee.

Lee was serving a sentence for child molestation convictions when he was killed at the Lewis prison complex in Buckeye.

In a separate case, Gilbert Balderaz, 43, was charged with second-degree murder in the 1988 death of Robert Gamez, 41.

The Phoenix Police Department said its investigation of Gamez’s death went cold but was reopened in 2011. Investigators said forensic evidence pointed to Balderaz, who was already in prison on an unrelated conviction when he was arrested in Gamez’s death. No motive for the killing has been determined.

All three suspects were arrested Thursday at the prisons, though authorities did not explain the timing of the arrests. It was unclear whether the three inmates have been assigned lawyers.

Authorities determined Lee’s death was caused by someone who strangled him from behind while he was in a prison pod.

Payton is accused of putting Lee in a chokehold that took his life, while investigators say Wailes flushed a toilet so Lee’s calls for help wouldn’t be heard.

Authorities say Payton denied involvement in Lee’s death and said he was sleeping at the time of the killing.

Payton is serving time for third-degree burglary, theft and aggravated assault convictions from Mohave County

Wailes is imprisoned on second-degree murder, aggravated assault and burglary convictions from Maricopa County.

Balderaz is serving time for theft, aggravated assault and child molestation convictions from Maricopa County.


This story has been corrected to show that the killing with which Balderaz is charged occurred outside a Phoenix apartment building, not at a prison.

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