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Inmate facing execution in O.C. case commits suicide in San Quentin

May 29, 2012 |  1:48 pm

James Crummel listens to the jury deliver its death verdict in 2004. This post has been updated.

An inmate sentenced to death hung himself in his cell at San Quentin State Prison over the weekend, officials announced on Tuesday.

The inmate, James Lee Crummel, 68, is the 20th death row inmate to take his own life since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978.

That’s seven more inmates than the 13 who have been executed, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. An additional 57 inmates have died of natural causes while awaiting execution.

Crummel was sentenced to death for killing 13-year-old James Wilfred Trotter in 1979. Law enforcement officials said Crummel kidnapped the boy on his way to school in Costa Mesa, then sexually abused and killed him.

The boy's body wasn't found for years, and Crummel wasn't sentenced for the crime until 2004. By then, he was already in prison for molesting other boys.

Crummel was one of the first child molesters in Orange County targeted by the sex offender registry created by Megan's Law. 

[Updated 3:00 p.m.: Crummel, who was not on suicide watch, used an extension cord to hang himself from a locker in his cell, said Sam Robinson, a spokesman at San Quentin. Inmates are allowed to have extension cords in certain circumstances to plug in electronics like televisions, Robinson said.

Prison staff found Crummel dead shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday when they were bringing him his meal, Robinson said. They had last spotted him alive 15 minutes earlier when passing by his cell.]


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Photo: James Crummel listens to the jury deliver its death verdict in 2004. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times