California death row inmate Fernando Belmontes has died in prison of unknown causes. Fifty-six-year-old Belmontes had been on death row since 1982 when he was 21 years old.
There are 750 prison inmates on death row in California. Sixteen of these are marked top priority for execution because they had exhausted all appeals to life.
Belmontes was one of these 16 California death row inmates marked as top priority for execution. After series of appeals, his death sentence was commuted in 2003.
But this was overturned and the death sentence reinstated in 2006. He tried again for the last time in 2010 but his death sentence was upheld with no further recourse for him.
Belmontes Committed To Death Row for Several Murders
Belmontes was sentenced to death after killing 19-year-old Steacy McConnell in 1981. It happened after Belmontes and two others broke into the home of McConnell to rob.
The burglary ended in the death of McConnell whom Belmontes bludgeoned to death with an iron dumbell. Belmontes bludgeoned her up to 20 times until he crushed her skull.
Earlier in 1979, Belmontes had assaulted his pregnant girlfriend after he was convicted of participating in the murder of a man.
Belmontes was found dead in his cell earlier this month. Prison officials say he died of unknown causes. They added an autopsy would be conducted to determine the cause of his death.
Several Executions Taken Place in California, Including That of Popular Author
About 13 condemned criminals had been executed in California since 1978. The author Stanley “Tookie” Williams was executed in 2005 on conviction of double murder even though he’d authored several books for youth empowerment.
Another execution was carried out in 2006; this was for Clarence Ray Allen. Allen had spent 23 years on death before his execution for organizing several murders from behind bars while serving life sentence.
Since 1978 in California, 25 prison inmates had died of suicide while 71 others died in prisons from natural causes.