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OC child killer hangs himself on death row

5-27-2012 California:

One of Orange County's most notorious child killers has hanged himself on death row, the California Department of Corrections has reported.

James Lee Crummel, 68, was found hanging in his cell Sunday afternoon at San Quentin State Prison.

The former Newport Beach resident made headlines in the late '90s when neighbors found out he was a child molester. But that was only a fraction of what he had been accused of across the country.

As neighbors were putting the heat on, police were putting together a case against him in the 1979 kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder of a 13-year-old boy named James Wilfred Trotter.

The Costa Mesa boy disappeared in 1979 while on his way to school.

Eleven years later, Crummel called police as a random citizen (in what police later categorized as a twisted game of cat and mouse) to say he found some charred human bones while hiking off the Ortega Highway in Riverside County.

Police were thrown off because experts initially thought the bones belonged to a girl.

It wasn't until 1996 that another expert concluded the bones belonged to a boy. When Riverside looked for unsolved missing-boy cases, they found Trotter. The Trotter family orthodontist recognized the numbers engraved on the braces found among the remains. In April, DNA identified the bones as Trotter's.

By this time, police had also learned that Crummel lived about a mile from Trotter when the boy disappeared.

And a check of Crummel's past showed a string of violent child molestations spanning 30 years and four states.

He has also been questioned about the 1981 murder of an Anaheim Hills boy and the 1995 disappearance of a Big Bear City boy.

Yet Crummel had been living among unsuspecting neighbors until "Megan's Law," which allows police to notify residents of a "high-risk" sex offender.

Neighbors went into picket mode, trying everything to oust him -- from offering to buy his condo to pressuring the owner to evict him. They celebrated his arrest with champagne.

Also celebrating his arrest was Pima County, Ariz., sheriff's Sgt. Bob Lough, who dogged Crummel for a decade, trying to put him behind bars in the 1967 murder of Frank Clawson, 9. Lough succeeded, but a judge later overturned the case. Crummel was released after serving five years.

Crummel was eventually sent to death for the crime by a Riverside County in July 2004.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 20 inmates have committed suicide, according to the Department of Corrections. Thirteen have been executed. There are 723 offenders on California's death row. ..Source.. by LORI BASHEDA

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