SAN QUENTIN -- A man condemned to death row was found dead in his cell Thursday morning, authorities said.

James Leslie Karis, 61, was pronounced dead at 6:40 a.m. at San Quentin State Prison, where he had been on death row for more than 30 years, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy. Karis did not have a cell mate and was alone in his cell.

Karis was sentenced to death in September 1982 by a Sacramento County jury for the July 8, 1981, rape and murder of Peggy Pennington, 34, and the attempted murder of Patty Vander Dussen, 27.

Authorities said Karis abducted the two during their daily walk around the block of the El Dorado County Welfare Department, where the women worked.

There are 729 people on California's death row.

Reach Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.



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