San Quentin Death Row Inmate Louis Peoples Found Dead in Cell

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SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – On Wednesday, California state corrections officials announced the death of a 58-year-old man convicted of killing four people in Stockton in 1997. Peoples’ cause of death was said to be “asphyxia secondary due to hanging,” according to Annette Letsche, a Marin County Coroner’s Office spokeswoman.

Louis Peoples (PHOTO: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation / AP)

Peoples was convicted in 2000 on 10 felony charges including a bank robbery and four murders. He was found guilty on all counts, however, a jury at his first trial couldn’t settle on a sentencing decision. A new jury unanimously sentenced him to death.

Peoples’ murder spree began in 1997 and lasted two months. After stealing a gun out of an off-duty police officer’s van, he lured a former co-worker at Charter Way Tow, James Loper, to a secluded location near Eight Mile Road before shooting him 9 times. Loper had suspended Peoples from working.

Later, he killed 36-year-old shopkeeper Stephen Chacko after chasing him into a liquor store parking lot. Days later, he shot and killed 49-year-old Jun Gao and 56-year-old Besun Yu in a grocery store in North Stockton. Investigators recovered a scrapbook written by Peoples detailing the crimes.

Peoples’ attorneys say he lost control after he experienced “accumulated rage, [and] a life of insult compounded with methamphetamines.” They addressed his abusive childhood and brain injuries, as well as weighing the morality of capital punishment before a jury.

California’s death row system currently holds 706 inmates. On March 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom enforced a moratorium on death row executions for the remainder of his term as governor, halting all executions.

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