California Death Row Inmate Dies in Apparent Suicide

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    FILE - San Quentin State Prison.

    The death row inmate who killed guitarist Elvin Bishop's daughter and four others died of an apparent suicide, California prison officials announced Monday.
     
    Justin Alan Helzer, 41, was found dead Sunday night in his single cell at San Quentin Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

      Corrections Lt. Sam Robinson didn't disclose the exact cause of death, but local media reported Helzer was found hanged. An earlier suicide attempt two years ago had left him blind.
     
    Helzer and his brother Glenn Helzer were sentenced to death in 2005 for the murders, which were planned as part of an extortion plot.
     
    Glenn Helzer was a stock broker seeking to raise money for a religious group he had launched. According to court testimony, he dated 22-year-old Selina Bishop so she would open a checking account for him to deposit money he intended to extort from elderly clients of his. The brothers killed Bishop, her mother and mother's friend along with the clients in 2000. 

    An accomplice, Dawn Godman, testified against the brother in exchange for a prison sentence that didn't include the death penalty. She is serving a 37-year sentence.
     
    Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 58 death row inmates have died from natural causes, 22 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, and six have died from other causes. There are 733 inmates remaining on death row.