A death row inmate convicted of abducting and killing a 13-year-old Orange County boy, whose remains were dumped near Lake Elsinore, hanged himself in his prison cell, it was announced today.
James Lee Crummel, 68, was discovered hanging in his cell at San Quentin State Prison shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Crummel, who was the sole occupant of the cell, was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m. The convicted murderer had been housed at the prison since July 15, 2004.
Earlier that year, a Riverside County jury convicted Crummel of the slaying of James "Jamey" Wilfred Trotter and recommended the death penalty. A judge upheld the recommendation, sentencing the Newport Beach man to capital punishment on July 9, 2004.
Authorities said Crummel snatched the boy as he walked to meet his school bus in Costa Mesa on April 19, 1979. The child's remains were discovered on a hiking trail near Lake Elsinore in 1990. The defendant claimed he had stumbled upon the bones and was identified as a prime suspect after investigators delved into his background.
Crummel had prior convictions for child molestation in California and other states going back to the mid-1960s, when he was a teenager. In 1983, he was convicted of killing a 9-year-old Pima County, Ariz., boy more than 15 years earlier, but the conviction was tossed out by a judge who did not believe Crummel had received adequate legal representation.
He remains a suspect in the disappearances of two other boys.
Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 20 death row inmates have committed suicide, 57 have died of natural causes and 13 have been executed, according to the CDCR. Currently, 723 convicts sit on death row.