San Quentin inmate facing execution dies of unknown causes

Mar 19, 2015 6:36 PM by News Staff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A man awaiting execution for the rape and murder of his 15-year-old stepdaughter has died of unknown causes.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Thursday that 54-year-old Leon Chauncey Cooper died Wednesday at a hospital near San Quentin State Prison, home to the state's death row.

The cause of death is awaiting an autopsy.

He was sentenced to death in 2001 by a Sacramento County jury for the 1998 rape and murder of LaRhonda Johnson, a high school sophomore.

Cooper previously had been convicted in 1996 of sexual battery on Johnson's 18-year-old sister.

Sixty-six condemned inmates have died from natural causes since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978, while 14 have been executed. Another 23 committed suicide.

Death row now holds 752 inmates.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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