SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Prison officials say a San Quentin State Prison inmate has died of natural causes while awaiting execution for a Riverside County murder.

The state corrections department said Monday that James Van Pelt died at an outside hospital on Sunday. He was 54.

He was sentenced to death in 2002 for torturing and murdering Frank Aguilar in 1985. He mistakenly thought Aguilar had killed one of his friends.

San Quentin spokesman Lt. Sam Robinson says the investigation had gone cold until Van Pelt was arrested for another crime. Authorities then linked Van Pelt to the 1985 slaying.

The department says 54 condemned inmates have died of natural causes since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, while 13 have been executed.

There are 712 inmates currently on California’s death row.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (28)
  1. zar says:

    Good news for us taxpayers!

  2. bob says:

    nice !
    saved the taxpayers mucy more money

  3. Eldertribe says:

    Classic California, the die on death row, before they are put to death. Our politicians and bureaucrats have made us a laughing stock.
    To think he didn’t get to enjoy the $800,000.00 remodel of the death chamber so that the lighting would be more natural on his last few breaths.

  4. Todd Smith says:

    LOL too funny

  5. Donald says:

    The death penalty is such a joke. California wake up! The death penalty is not a deterrent, it is without a doubt sucking the life out of the budget of California. Most residents don’t know that it costs more than 4 times as much to house a death row inmate than other prisoners. Commute their sentences to life without the possiblilty of parole and save tax payers BILLIONS over the next few years!! Yes that is BILLIONS!

    1. brianator says:

      I don’t care if it is a deterrent nor do I care if it is expensive. It’s punishment and it is justice, and that’s enough for me. Totally worth it.

      P.S. making up arbitrary numbers doesn’t make them true.

    2. Donald Coward says:

      Donald, the real joke is that you suck. When someone in your family gets murdered, you just step over the body and thank your lucky stars that the killer will be given a hotel room with cable tv. Wimp.

    3. tired of waiting says:

      If they would actually USE the death penalty, that wouldn’t be such a problem. As things are now in California it takes over 20 years to exhaust the appeals options. Limit the appeal process to 3 years tops, 2 years for lower courts and 1 year for state Supreme Court. After that, unless there is a problem pull the switch.

  6. Codee14 says:

    9 years too late.. He should have died the day he was sentenced to death.. Jerry he just saved us $50k a year, so stop asking us for a tax increase. Start the death chamber up and we will save the 12 billion a year.. No worries about cutting union salaries then….

    1. Randy Gudgel says:

      The thing about that though…just because you are convicted, doesn’t mean that you are ACTUALLY guilty. There’ve been many many times where someone was on death row for years, and then some new evidence surfaces and it’s found out that the convicted never did the crime.

      I assume you believe that it’s better to end someone’s life “just in case” they are guilty.

      1. BigRed53 says:

        Many years ago I too beleived in the death penalty for certain crimes but no longer. You are correct Randy – DNA and other advancements have proven that there have been innocent men executed. I live by the “law” of eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, blood for blood but if EVEN ONE innocent person is put to death then the law is flawed and should not be used.

    2. thomas wilburn says:

      nice math skills there Codee…let’s see, hmmm $12B divided by $50k means you would need 240,000 death row inmates put to death to make that kinda savings

  7. Rick Taylor says:

    Why do we have 712 people awaiting executuin? We should send our prison officials to Huntsville TX where they cook them within four years. However, sine we have so much revenue in the state coffers lets’ increase the 50K a year expense to 100K a year. We certainy do not want them to feel like they are being mistreated or shortchaned

  8. R Barnes says:

    Who cares I don”t

  9. Pat says:

    The reason why we have 712 inmates on death row is because we have the liberal, most over turned 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The reason it costs more to house a death row inmate is because of all the money the attorneys suck out of the state by filing continuances.

    1. sohappymike says:

      yours is the first answer that hits the mark so far .attornies making millions on these people,what a system ! But not for much longer our system is colapsing before our very eyes !!

  10. non says:

    Yeah, those desired to die need to die now. Oh, don’t chamber them. Just torture them until they slowly die and make a video and broadcast on the internet and TV let the potential criminals to see if they want to go through something like this.

    1. ernest johnson says:

      Ya make execution public hang em or shoot em in front of the public instead hading them behind wall on death row so they can retire there. Calif. Death penitily is a JOKE, IF THE INJECTION METHOD is to hard on them then just shoot em , but in front of the public

  11. joe black says:

    california death row is a retirement center

  12. CANY says:


  13. DiverDown says:

    CA should follow the lead of TX, VA, and FL. They get it done

  14. rory mchale says:

    Your an Idiot! The numbers do matter it costs 90,000 more a year per inmate! Whats the difference of keeping them in jail For Life without the possibility of parole? The fact is that we spend more on the appeals process and the housing of death row inmates then we do life without possibility of parole. No one has been paroled off of life without possibility of parole the death penalty hasn’t been proven as a deterrent so whats the purpose? BTW has anyone thought that if we spent less on prison systems every year that maybe we could educate the youth so that they dont commit crimes (its sad when we spend more money on the justice system then we do in education). The person that wrote the comment before mine needs more education so I won’t blame him for his ignorance.

  15. Tapestry says:

    We treat our senior citizens like they are 2nd class citizens; some do not eat 3 meals a day, have free out patient medical care nor do they always have access to libraries, exercise, television or moies because they are on such limited income. But the prisoners get all these things and more for free.
    I don’t see prisons as a dettterent to crime, which was their original intent,or did someone forget to tell the state that was the purpose of a prison?

  16. Bob says:

    one 22 cal bullet the day after the death penalty comes down sounds good to me,,
    but of course all the whining , bleeding hearts and lawyers would have a fit

  17. bbwoof says:

    Eithr eliminate the death penalty or execute prisoners within a year after they’ve been sentenced to death. 20 or more years on death row is stupid

  18. alpha2 says:

    i would rather continue the execution even if he is already dead!!!!

  19. Elaine says:

    People, I live in a country where the Death Penalty was abolished, this was done by our government without any input from the citizens, no referendum, nothing. Since the abolishment of the Death Penalty our country has dived into absolute anarchy, a life means nothing, people are killed daily for their cellphones or just R10 which in dollars is $3!!!! Children are killed and thrown away, it is absolutely unbelievable the way crime has escallated

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