Man beat his cellmate to death inside Cook County jail, prosecutors say

A Cook County jail inmate killed his cellmate in a violent hands-on attack last month, prosecutors said Wednesday. Raymond Montoya, 26, was ordered held without bail on a charge of first-degree murder.

“Two people were in this cell during the time this happened,” said Judge Maryam Ahmad. “One was carried out basically in a body bag with a lot of bruising. One came out with no marks and no sign of injury.”

Montoya was being held on a burglary charge that stemmed from a looting incident during the May 2020 civil uprising. He had been released three times to await trial, but he violated the bail conditions each time, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.

Raymond Montoya | CCSO

His cellmate, Raheem Hatter, 24, had been in jail since November on allegations that he took a loaded handgun inside the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Murphy said Montoya attacked and killed Hatter in a cell they shared at the jail’s Division 8 complex on June 14 between 3:30 and 4:35 a.m.

Another inmate on the tier allegedly told investigators that he heard Hatter screaming for help and yelling, “I’m dying in here,” as Montoya carried out the attack. 

The inmate also claimed to have heard Montoya say, “n*gger dead in there.”

A corrections officer discovered the murder while distributing medications, Murphy said.

When the officer arrived with Montoya’s medication, he found a mattress blocking the cell door’s window and ordered Montoya to take it down.

Montoya peeked his head around the mattress and said he was using the toilet, then looked back into the cell and asked, “Cellie, do you want to take your medication?”

He then told the officer that Hatter was sleeping, Murphy said.

That puzzled the officer because the medication was for Montoya, not his cellmate.

After some more exchanges between the officer and Montoya, the mattress fell to the floor, and the officer could see blood on the floor, the sink broken, and Hatter’s body lying on the floor under a blanket with only his hands and feet visible, Murphy said.

“He killed my brother,” Montoya allegedly told officers as he was being removed from the cell.

A nurse responded to the scene and found Hatter’s body cold to the touch with no pulse. The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled his death a homicide caused by multiple injuries he received in an assault. Murphy said he had ligature marks on his neck, bleeding on the brain, and bruising and swelling.

According to Murphy, jail personnel conducted cell checks every 30 minutes before Hatter was found, and none reported anything unusual before the murder was discovered.

Montoya allegedly told his brother in a recorded phone call one day before the murder that he was “taking my anger out on sh*t.”

On the day after the murder, Murphy said, Montoya told his mother in a recorded call, “I’m gonna say my cellie tried to rape me, and I tried to protect myself, and he slipped and hit his head.”

“I didn’t mean to do what I did,” he allegedly told his brother in a subsequent call. “My cellie tried to rape me, and I had to defend myself. He was hitting me.”

“You probably tried to rape him,” his brother replied, according to Murphy, who said Montoya had no signs of any injuries.

According to Joshua Kutnick, a private defense attorney, Montoya would not necessarily have marks on his body from a sexual assault attempt. He contended that Montoya had a strong case for self-defense in response to the murder charge.

But Judge Ahmad was having none of it.

“I know a little bit about fighting hand to hand and self-defense,” she said. And, she added, she knows how small the jail cells are from her career as a prosecutor.

“This court does not believe self-defense would allow this defendant to be markless under these circumstances.”

“This court is concerned about him posing a threat not only to the community but those in custody,” the judge continued. She then ordered Montoya held without bail.

Montoya’s burglary case started on May 31, 2020, with a break-in at Smoker’s Haven, 9241 South Cicero in Oak Lawn. He is accused of being one of seven people who broke into the store and stole merchandise during the widespread looting that swept the city and suburbs following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

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