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Prison murder was over "top dog" status

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - It was business as usual at Post 24- the Minimum Security Unit - at the Department of Corrections Wednesday night.  Lights were turned off at 9pm, as is standard, and a headcount of inmates was conducted every 30 minutes.  But shortly before 11 o'clock, a reported argument ensued between two inmates in a cell in the East Wing. 

A few minutes later, inmate Steven Peredo Albertson approached the Control Room area.  "A couple minutes later Albertson walked out, approached the officer, and told the officer, 'I got into a fight with Feranco and I killed him'," recapped DepCor Director J.B. Palacios.

The victim was identified as 43-year-old Arlen Atienza Feranco, convicted of murder and serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole.  He's been in prison since 1990 and was a repeat offender.

Palacios says based on an interview conducted with Albertson, who is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, the argument stemmed from a power struggle.  "In a prison environment," the director explained, "there is an established hierarchy, and an established pecking order as to who is the bluntly put the top dog.  Inmate Feranco challenged that established hierarchy and that resulted in his death."

Albertson has been incarcerated for more than two decades and has also been in and out of prison over the years.  Palacios says there are no rival gangs that exist in the prison, but the inmates have an established order that Feranco apparently challenged.  "It was more of a direct challenge as to, 'I wanna be the next top dog. I wanna replace you as top dog. I wanna be the guy who calls the shots among the inmates.' It was a challenge in that manner," he said.

Medical Examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola confirms an autopsy was conducted on Feranco today. While he confirms the inmate was beaten, he is waiting on test results to determine if he may have been killed another way, possibly by being strangled to death.

Now although the two inmates were lifers, because of their sentences they were able to attain minimum security classification by getting a review by an adjudication committee, undergoing a psychological evaluation, and completing various behavioral modification programs geared toward rehabilitation.

Albertson was taken into police custody last night.  He is now at Post 2, under special watch in the Segregation Unit.  

Palacios says DepCor officials are also looking to determine if Albertson was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the murder, adding, "Mr. Albertson had emitted an odor of intoxicating liquor while being interviewed. And these are typical like the findings down in Hagatna, of the homemade brew, easily concocted with fruits, a piece of bread and water."

While police conducted their investigation, the other 43 inmates in the unit had to be transferred to other areas at the Mangilao Compound, which included the domes.  They will remain there until police release the scene.

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