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California inmate dies while awaiting execution

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A 61-year-old inmate has died while awaiting execution at San Quentin State Prison.

Prison officials say James Leslie Karis was found unresponsive alone in his cell early Thursday. The cause of death won't be known until an autopsy, but officials say there were no obvious signs of suicide.

Karis was sentenced to death by a Sacramento County jury in 1982 for kidnapping two Placerville women, raping one, and shooting both in the back.

Thirty-four-year-old Peggy Pennington died, but 27-year-old Patty Vander Dussen lived to identify her attacker.

As he was being sentenced, Karis refused to let jurors hear evidence of his abusive childhood that might have spared his life.

Fourteen California inmates have been executed since 1978, while 57 condemned inmates have died from natural causes and 21 committed suicide.

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