Tulare County inmate killed his cellmate, officials say

Huan Pedro Mercado, 32.
Huan Pedro Mercado, 32. (Tulare County Sheriff's Office)

A Dinuba man who has been in jail was charged with murder for killing his 71-year-old cellmate.

Huan Pedro Mercado, 32, had been sharing the same cell with Joe Souza of Visalia since Sept. 23.

Though no outward signs of trauma were apparent when the medical staff found Souza dead Oct. 5, the death was ruled suspicious.

An autopsy conducted on Tuesday revealed that he died of blunt force trauma to his head, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Ashley Ritchie said.

Inmates in the same module were interviewed and say they don’t remember a fight or disturbance between Souza and Mercado, Ritchie said. A surveillance also shows inmates walking around the day room with no indication of any issues.

The motive for the alleged murder is still under investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 559-733-6218 or to report anonymously by calling or texting 559-725-4194.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan