Hemet man accused of murdering cellmate ordered to stand trial

INDIO, Calif. — A felon in custody on a fugitive from justice warrant who stands accused in the bludgeoning death of his cellmate while being housed at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio last July was ordered yesterday to stand trial for the man’s brutal murder.

The murdered inmate, John Hemmer, 48, of South Dakota, was awaiting trial after being arrested on attempted murder, kidnapping, torture, false imprisonment, and other charges following a domestic violence-related attack at a Desert Hot Springs KOA campground in 2019.

His cellmate, Luke Hanchette, 42, of Hemet, was the only other person in the two-man cell and was soon charged with Hemmer’s murder.


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Hanchette appeared at the Indio Larson Justice Center on Wednesday for the second half of a preliminary hearing that began earlier this month.

During the proceedings, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos found there was sufficient evidence for him to stand trial on the murder charge, as well as a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon – described in court as a metal crutch, during the commission of a felony.

He was ordered to return to court for a post-preliminary hearing arraignment next month, on April 6.

Luke Hanchette was ordered Wednesday to stand trial in the bludgeoning death of his cellmate while being housed in a two-person cell at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio last July. RSO booking photo

At the time of the murder, Hanchette had been in custody following his July 2019 arrest based on a fugitive from justice warrant that alleged an assault resulting in great bodily injury and a prior felony conviction enhancement. No details regarding the incident that led to that arrest by City of Hemet police officers were immediately available.

As reported by RCNS at the time, on July 21, 2021, deputies were conducting a routine security and safety check of the inmates at the Indio jail facility shortly before 8 a.m. when they discovered an unresponsive inmate with “significant injuries” inside a two-man housing unit. A bloody and damaged metal crutch was also found within the cell.

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.

Officials have not said what may have led to the deadly attack.

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Trevor Montgomery, 51, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and operates Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS). Both are stringer organizations, providing breaking news coverage and community interest stories for other mainstream media organizations throughout the two regions they serve.

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.