A man on death row for fatally stabbing a black transient in a racially motivated attack near a Palm Springs restaurant has died from what state officials said Wednesday appear to be complications of the coronavirus, which has infected about one-third of San Quentin prison inmates.
David John Reed, 60, died Tuesday at an outside hospital, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. State officials said “an exact cause of death has not yet been determined,” but Reed was being treated for apparent COVID-19 complications.
San Quentin prison has had a rash of coronavirus cases, and at least six inmates are believed to have died from the illness. The outbreak has raised questions about the handling of the virus in the state’s prison population, and on Monday, the correctional system’s top medical officer was fired.
Earlier Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted a decision to transfer more than 100 inmates in May from a prison in Chino, where hundreds of coronavirus cases had been confirmed. As many as one-third of prisoners at San Quentin have now tested positive for the virus, according to various reports.
Reed was convicted Sept. 8, 2011, of first-degree murder in the death of Ricky Mosley, and jurors found true a special circumstance allegation that the killing was a hate crime. He was sentenced to death in October of that year.
Mosley’s body was found on March 9, 2004, near Billy Reed’s restaurant in the 1800 block of North Palm Canyon Drive. In a recorded interview, Reed told police detectives he had staked out the area for about two weeks for a man he believed had sexually assaulted his estranged wife.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Ross said the killing was racially motivated. He showed jurors a photo of Mosley’s stab wound and played the interview of Reed discussing the killing and using a racial epithet to describe the 34-year-old victim.
Ross said Reed waited for two weeks for Mosley to come around the restaurant and then stabbed him through the heart. He broke off the knife handle and hid it and the blade near his mother’s apartment building, the prosecutor said.
About two months later, Reed picked up a woman who was hitchhiking after a fight with her boyfriend, Ross said. Reed drove the woman to his home and pulled out a handgun when they arrived, accidentally shooting himself, he said.
Reed was taken into custody at the hospital, and when taken to jail, asked to speak to a Palm Springs detective for whom he described Mosley’s killing.
He claimed his wife gave him a description of her alleged attacker and took him to where she said she was assaulted. Reed led detectives to the place he hid the knife and handle and described how he stabbed Mosley, who was unarmed, Ross said.
In the same interview, Reed told investigators he doesn’t like black people, according to Ross, who showed jurors photos of Reed’s tattoos, one of which reads “white pride” and another that says “Peckerwood,” a term Ross said is associated with white supremacy.
Reed’s attorney said his client’s wife told her husband that Mosley had “brutally” sexually assaulted her near Toucans Tiki Lounge in Palm Springs.
The judge noted at sentencing that no suspects were identified or evidence found to prove the alleged attack ever occurred, and Reed’s wife did not testify at the trial.