Lesbian couple murderer found dead in cell
A man convicted of killing a lesbian couple was found dead in his single-person cell on death row in Oregon, USA.
The Oregon Department of Correction initially reported the news in a release on Friday (October 26) saying the cause of death was yet to be determined, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation clarified in a later statement the 50-year-old inmate had “died of natural causes.”
The inmate was sentenced to death in Oregon for the murder of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill in Medford in 1997 but his sentence was reduced to life in prison in 2011 after he was diagnosed as “delusional and unable to aid in his appeals,” as local news outlet Mail Tribune reported at the time.
He remained on death row for a separate conviction, having confessed to the first-degree murder of Scott George in California in 1995, whom he murdered two months before he killed the lesbian couple in December that year.
He robbed, gagged and tied up the couple, before shooting both women in the head.
Ellis and Abdill’s bodies were found three days later in the back of Ellis’ pickup truck.
The couple had been together for 12 years at the time of their death.
Ellis and Abdill were vocal gay rights activists and their deaths shook the local LGBT+ community.
Acremant was arrested in for the couple’s murder less than two weeks afterwards in Stockton, California.
He confessed to killing the pair, saying his main motivation was robbery.
However, he told journalists at the time that he had found out the the couple were lesbians, adding that this “made it easier” for him to kill them, reports San Francisco Chronicle.
Melinda Paras, the then executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reportedly wrote to Janet Reno, who was attorney general at the time, calling on the Department of Justice to help the local police with their investigation.
Paras noted the department’s guidelines, which states that any crime caused by “in whole or in part” by bias should be treated as a hate crime.
“Given the public visibility of the two women as lesbian activists, . . . the gay and lesbian community, locally and nationally, is very much upset and disturbed by these murders,” Paras wrote at the time, according to San Francisco Chronicle.
Hate crime legislation in the US did not explicitly include acts against LGBT+ people until the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law by the then president Barack Obama in 2009.
Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old student, was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998 in a suspected anti-gay hate crime.
Shepard’s parents became LGBT+ activists after their son’s death, lobbying for better anti-discrimination laws in the US.
Shepard was finally laid to rest more than 20 years after his death at Washington National Cathedral on Friday (October 26).