Condemned man Spencer Brasure, who had lived on San Quentin's death row since 1998, was found dead in his cell of unpublicized causes early Thursday morning, according to prison officials.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that the 49-year-old Brasure was discovered unresponsive in his cell at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, and was pronounced dead about 45 minutes later. The cause of death was not given, as the Mercury News reports. Foul play is not suspected, and an autopsy is being performed.
Brasure was convicted along with two accomplices in the September 7, 1996 torture and murder of Anthony Guest — a 20-year-old man in Hawthorne, California who had once worked as a child actor. The motive, as the Associated Press explains, was that Brasure and friend Billy Davis "thought [Guest] was stealing from them and annoying a female friend."
But there were drugs involved, too. As the podcast California PC 187 explains via court documents, Brasure, Davis, and Guest, as well as a couple of girlfriends, "regularly did methamphetamine together." And Guest's mother reportedly wept in the courtroom while testifying at Brasure's sentencing saying she regretted kicking her son out of her house for his drug use.
The case made plenty of headlines at the time because of the intensity and graphic nature of what Brasure and Davis did to Guest before killing him.
Guest was hog tied by both of the men and repeatedly zapped with a cattle prod. He was gagged after being forced to eat glass and having a broken beer bottle shoved down his throat and his mouth taped shut. The two men took turns bashing Guest in the head and electrocuting him with the electric prod. They then used an an industrial stapler to attach wood to his ears and finally glued his eyes shut.
The pair then drove Guest to a remote campsite in Ventura County where they doused him in gasoline and lit him on fire. A coroner later testified that Guest was likely alive for several hours after that.
In sentencing Brasure in 1998, a judge said that he "displays a depth of depravity which is fortunately quite rare." Davis ended up getting a life sentence, while Brasure was sentenced to death and then languished on death row for over 20 years with hundreds of other condemned inmates as California declined to execute anyone.
Brasure was active in seeking appeals and taking the prison to court for various reasons over the years, as California PC 187 reports. He also reportedly advertised for pen pals, and campaigned against the death penalty.
Brasure's death leaves 731 inmates on death row in California, the CDCR reports. As of March 2019, however, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions for the duration of his administration. The last time California executed an inmate was in 2006, and only 13 have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978.