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Inmate Dies While Awaiting Execution

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An undated file photo of the renovated San Quentin State Prison execution chamber.

An undated file photo of the renovated San Quentin State Prison execution chamber.

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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.)

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