Hemet inmate accused of murdering cellmate at Riverside County jail

INDIO, Calif., — Authorities say a Hemet man who was being held in custody at a Riverside County jail in Indio on a fugitive from justice warrant was re-arrested on a new charge of murder after another man was found critically injured – and later died – inside a cell the pair were sharing. 

The deceased inmate, since identified as John Hemmer, 48, of South Dakota, was awaiting trial after being arrested on kidnapping, torture, attempted murder, false imprisonment and other charges following a violent domestic violence related incident at a Desert Hot Springs KOA campground back in 2019.

His alleged attacker, Luke Hanchette, 42, of Hemet, was also arrested in 2019 by Hemet Police Department on a fugitive from justice warrant alleging assault resulting in great bodily injury and a prior conviction enhancement.


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At around 7:45 a.m., staff members at Indio’s John Benoit Detention Center (JBDC) were conducting a routine safety check of the inmates when they located an unresponsive inmate inside a housing unit and summoned additional staff to the cell, Riverside Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit Sergeant Ben Ramirez has since said of the fatal incident.

Additional staff responded and found the inmate had sustained “significant traumatic injuries,” the Sergeant described.

Luke Hanchette, 42, of Hemet, has been charged with beating his cellmate to death inside a Riverside County jail housing unit in Indio. RSO photo

Although deputies and other jail staff members immediately began life-saving measures, which were later continued by paramedics, Hemmer succumbed to his injuries and passed away inside the housing unit.

The cell was secured as a crime scene and investigators from Correctional Investigations Bureau and Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit responded and assumed the investigation.

Investigators quickly identified Hanchette as the man who fatally attacked Hemmer and arrested him for murder, according to Ramirez; who said he remains housed at JBDC.

No further details have been released and the Sheriff’s investigation is continuing.

SEE RELATED: Man faces attempted murder, kidnap, torture, other charges after DHS incident

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to call Investigator Button with the Central Homicide Unit at (951) 955-2777. Callers can refer to incident file number IC212020002 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s Homicide Tipline online form.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.