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Condemned inmate Lawrence Bittaker Dies of Natural Causes

SAN QUENTIN – Condemned inmate Lawrence Sigmond Bittaker, 79, died of natural causes at 4 p.m. on Friday, December 13, 2019, at San Quentin State Prison. His cause of death will be determined by the Marin County Coroner.

Between June 24 and Nov. 20, 1979, Bittaker and his crime partner Roy Lewis Norris, 71, kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five teenage girls.

The two were responsible for the June 14, 1979, death of Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, 16; the July 8, 1979, death of Andrea Joy Hall, 18; the Sept. 2, 1979, deaths of Jacqueline Doris Gilliam, 15, and Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13; and the Oct. 31, 1979, death of Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16. The bodies of Schaefer and Hall were never recovered.

Norris pleaded guilty to all counts in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. He cooperated with prosecutors, testified against Bittaker and was sentenced in Los Angeles County on April 28, 1981. Norris has been in state prison since May 8, 1981, serving 45 years to life and is currently housed at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

Bittaker was found guilty by a Los Angeles County jury on all 26 counts against him including five counts of murder, five counts of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, rape, oral copulation, sodomy and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to death on March 22, 1981. He was admitted to California’s death row on March 30, 1981.

Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 82 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 27 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, one was executed in Virginia, 14 have died from other causes and four – including Bittaker – are pending a cause of death. There are currently 729 offenders on California’s death row.

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