A killer condemned to die by an Orange County jury in 1997 for shooting a man to death while stealing money the victim had withdrawn from a bank died Sunday at a hospital outside San Quentin State Prison, officials said.
John Abel, 75, was pronounced dead at 10:25 a.m. Sunday at an outside hospital, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. His cause of death is unknown pending the results of an autopsy; however, foul play is not suspected.
Abel had been in prison since 1992 when he was admitted from Los Angeles County to serve 44 years and eight months for a string of armed robberies. He was also serving a seven-year sentence from Orange County in 1992 for second-degree robbery with the use of a firearm.
On Jan. 4, 1991, Armando Miller was shot at point-blank range at a Tustin bank and the suspect took $20,000 Miller had just withdrawn. The case had remained unsolved until 1995 when Abel was implicated by investigators. An Orange County jury sentenced Abel to death on Sept. 26, 1997, for first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery and lying in wait.
According to the CDCR, there are 728 people on California’s death row. Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, only 15 inmates have been executed (13 in California, one in Missouri and one in Virginia), while 82 have died from natural causes, 27 have committed suicide, 14 have died from other causes and seven — including Abel — are pending a cause of death.