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Inmate charged with murder of sex offender cellmate

6-2-2016 Tennessee:

A Shelby County Corrections Center inmate has been charged with first-degree murder after officials said he killed his cellmate.

Daniel Smith, 36, is serving a five-year sentence for aggravated burglary and theft of property. Now, he faces even more prison time.

SCSO and Shelby County Corrections said the inmate died Tuesday after an argument with his cellmate.

“We’re interviewing inmates and staff to ensure there’s a thorough review of what occurred,” Director of the Shelby County Division of Corrections Bill Gupton said.

Officials originally thought the inmate’s death was a suicide, but because of his injuries, investigators now consider the death a homicide.

"He had some cuts around his head and neck, but we didn't look at those because once we called the fire department, they immediately called the Sheriff's Office," Gupton said.

Sheriff's investigators questioned Nelson's cellmate, Daniel Smith, and determined Nelson's death was a homicide.

"It wasn't until they brought the inmate downtown and questioned him that they got information that suggested this should be investigated as a homicide," Gupton said.

Nelson and Smith were housed in the J unit, maximum security for inmates who misbehave.

Leonard Nelson, 22, was found dead in his cell just after 11:30 p.m. by corrections officers.

Nelson's family told WMC Action News 5 two years ago that he was mentally deficient.

"He's mentally retarded. He's mentally retarded. He's got the mind of an 8-year-old child," Alice Thomas, Nelson's aunt, said two years ago.

Gupton said the prison had no information that Nelson needed special treatment. He said inmates are assessed, including a mental health evaluation, when they come to the corrections center and housed in special units if needed.

Nelson was serving a four year sentence for aggravated burglary and sexual exploitation of a minor. Investigators said he had video of two children simulating sexual acts on his phone and you can hear Nelson's voice telling the children what to do.

"Let me give my sincere condolences to the family of the victim," Gupton said.

Investigators have not released what, if any, weapon was used in the killing of Nelson. But, they said his injuries indicated he did not commit suicide.

Smith is being housed in a cell by himself. ..Source.. by Janice Broach

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