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Condemned Inmate Brett Pensinger Dies of Natural Causes

SAN QUENTIN — Condemned inmate Brett Pensinger died at 9:56 p.m. on Thursday, May 2 of natural causes at an outside hospital. He had been on California’s death row since Sept. 28, 1982.

Pensinger, 56, was sentenced to death in San Bernardino County in September 1982 for the kidnapping and murder of five-month-old Michelle Melander. In 1981, Pensinger, then 19, kidnapped the girl and her brother, Michael, after drinking with their parents in an Arizona bar. The brother was dropped off and unharmed, but the infant girl was found murdered and mutilated.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 80 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 26 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, one was executed in Virginia, 11 have died from other causes and six – including Pensinger – are pending a cause of death. There are currently 735 offenders on California’s death row.


May 3, 2019

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