SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) – An inmate on death row for gunning down two Riverside County sheriff’s deputies outside his desert home in 1997 has died in a suspected suicide at San Quentin State Prison, officials said Monday.
Timothy Russell, 53, was found unresponsive in his cell late Friday and declared dead at the prison early Saturday, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement.
Russell was held in a solo cell and his death was being investigated as a suicide, the statement said. Officials released no further details on the cause of his death.
Russell was sentenced to death in January, 1999, two years after the ambush killings of the two Riverside County deputies, James Lehmann Jr., 41, and Michael Haugen, 33. Each was survived by a wife and two young children.
The deputies had responded to a domestic violence call at 3 a.m. in the remote desert area between Cabazon and Palm Springs where Russell lived in a trailer. Russell fired on them with an M-1 carbine rifle just after they got out of their patrol cars. Russell’s attorneys said during trial that he had fired shots into the dark to scare deputies so he could flee.
A jury found Russell guilty of murder and special circumstances of lying in wait.
The California Supreme Court heard an appeal but upheld the sentence in 2010. Russell’s attorneys had argued it should be overturned because the amount of time he was hiding, waiting for the deputies, was not enough duration to indicate he was trying to ambush them.
But the justices found that any time period of lying in wait for a killing was sufficient to warrant a death sentence.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.