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6-16-2009 California:

State prison officials said today they are investigating a possible suicide in the death of a death row inmate who was convicted of murdering and raping a 5-year-old Antioch girl 26 years ago.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton said that Larry Graham, 58, was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison shortly after 6 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 6:45 a.m.

Graham was convicted in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2002 and sentenced to death in 2003 for the murder, rape and sodomy of Angela Bugay, who was abducted from the Antioch apartment complex where her family lived on Nov. 19, 1983. Graham lived in the same complex at the time.

The girl's nude body was found a week later in a shallow grave near the Contra Loma Reservoir south of Antioch. She had been strangled.

Thornton said she could give no details of the Graham's death other than to confirm it is being investigated as a suicide.

Thornton said there are 683 other inmates on death row, with cases in various stages of appeal. Graham's appeal had not yet been heard by the California Supreme Court, the first step in the death penalty appeals process.

The spokeswoman said Graham would be the 17th death row inmate to have committed suicide since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978.

Graham, who had briefly dated the victim's mother, was a suspect in the murder but was not arrested until 1996, when DNA tests linked him to the case.

Graham, a former commercial pilot, was managing an auto repair shop in Concord and had recently moved to the city when he was arrested in 1996. ..Source.. by Julia Cheever

Death-row inmate a possible suicide in San Quentin

6-16-2009 California:

SAN QUENTIN — A convict awaiting execution in the 1983 kidnapping and murder of a 5-year-old Contra Costa County girl was found dead in his death-row cell early Tuesday, officials at San Quentin State Prison said.

The body of 58-year-old Larry Christopher Graham was found unresponsive, prison officials said. The death is being investigated as a suicide.

Graham was sentenced to death in Contra Costa County in 2003 after DNA evidence linked him to the murder of Angela Bugay.

The girl had disappeared Nov. 19, 1983, from her family's Antioch apartment complex. Her body was found a week later in a shallow grave several miles away.

In 1996, DNA technology allowed authorities to link Graham to evidence found on Bugay's body.

Bugay's mother had briefly dated Graham and the child trusted him enough to allow him to take her, authorities said at his sentencing.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Graham's dysfunctional upbringing by an alcoholic mother, and father who had been convicted of child molestation, should keep him from death row.

At the same time Graham was on trial for the Bugay killing, his son, Larry Christopher Graham Jr., was being tried for the murder of Anthony Frank Buccellato, 57, an Antioch man he pushed off a speeding truck into Highway 4 traffic in 2001. Graham Jr., charged with an accomplice, said during his trial that he had beaten Buccellato and was taking him to the hospital when he realized he was already dead, so he pushed him off the truck.

Graham Jr. unsuccessfully argued at trial that he wasn't trying to rob Buccellato but was punishing him for making sexual advances at a teenage girl, who testified that Buccellato was indeed being set up for a robbery.

Graham Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery and sentenced in June 2003 to 26 years, 8 months to life in prison. ..Source.. by Robert Salonga, CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Killer of Antioch girl is found dead in cell

6-16-2009 California:

SAN QUENTIN -- An Antioch man who was sentenced to death in 2003 for raping and strangling a 5-year-old girl two decades earlier was found dead in his cell at San Quentin State Prison this morning, an apparent suicide, officials said.

Guards found Larry Graham, 58, unresponsive at about 6 a.m., and he was pronounced dead 45 minutes later, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She gave no further details.

Graham's victim, Angela Bugay, was kidnapped from her family's Antioch apartment on Nov. 19, 1983. Officers found her nude body a week later buried in a field a few miles away. It was one of a series of baffling and frightening child abductions in the Bay Area during the 1980s.

The crime went unsolved until 1996, when new DNA evidence led to the arrest of Graham. He lived in the same apartment complex as Angela, had briefly dated the girl's mother before the killing and had a history of sexual offenses against children.

A Contra Costa County jury returned a death verdict against Graham in October 2002, after a three-month trial, and then asked the judge for directions to the cemetery where Angela was buried.

Graham was sentenced to death in January 2003. The state Supreme Court had not yet heard his appeal at the time of his death.

Thornton said Graham would be the 17th Death Row inmate to have committed suicide since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978. During that period, she said, 45 condemned prisoners have died of natural causes.

California has executed 13 prisoners under the current capital punishment law, starting in 1992, and has 683 under death sentence. ..Source.. by Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

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