Northern California inmate fatally stabbed by fellow prisoner with handmade weapon, officials say

Pelican Bay State Prison outside Crescent City.
Pelican Bay State Prison outside Crescent City. MCT file

An inmate stabbed a fellow prisoner to death with a handmade weapon Monday at Pelican Bay State Prison, authorities said.

A 57-year old inmate at the facility near Crescent City who began serving his 13-year sentence in April was attacked by Justin Knuth, 34, a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation news release said.

Officers responded when Knuth attacked his fellow inmate in a recreation yard at 1:13 p.m., the release said. An officer discharged a warning shot from a mini rifle to stop the attack. Staff attempted life-saving efforts on the victim, but he was pronounced dead from multiple stab wounds at 1:30 p.m., authorities said.

Knuth began serving a five-year sentence in 2016 for burglary and domestic violence-related charges committed in San Diego County, the news release said. He has since received two additional sentences for in-prison charges in San Bernardino County, adding four years to his incarceration. The offenses include possessing and/or manufacturing a deadly weapon and battery of a non-prisoner, the release said.

The victim was serving a 13-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter committed in Sacramento County, his “second strike,” the Department of Corrections said.

The Office of the Inspector General was notified and Knuth was put into solitary confinement pending investigation into the attack, the department said.

Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County is located off Highway 101, approximately 12 miles south of the Oregon-California border. It houses 2,651 minimum-, medium-, and maximum-security inmates.