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A man who was sentenced to death for murdering his next-door neighbor after she caught him burglarizing her Harbor City home in April 1995 died Saturday from apparent complications related to COVID-19, state prison officials said.

Dewayne Michael Carey, 59, was pronounced dead at an outside hospital, but an exact cause of his death has not been determined, according to a statement released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

He was the fourth death row inmate at San Quentin State Prison to die in less than a week. Officials said two of those inmates — Scott Thomas Erskine, 57, and Manuel Machado Alvarez, 59 — also died at outside hospitals Friday from what appeared to be complications related to coronavirus.

A fifth inmate, Richard Eugene Stitely, 71, who was on death row for murdering a woman after offering her a ride home from a San Fernando Valley bar in 1990 — died June 24 at San Quentin. Authorities said he had the virus, but have not determined whether that caused the man’s death, according to media reports.

Carey — who had been on death row for more than two decades — was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the April 19, 1995, stabbing death of Ernestine Campbell.

In a May 2007 ruling, the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected Carey’s claim that errors were made in his Compton Superior Court trial, including a judge’s decision to let jurors view autopsy photographs depicting the victim’s wounds.

“Defendant left the knife in her chest, and continued burglarizing the home,” Associate Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote on behalf of the court in that ruling.

The woman’s husband returned home to find her dead.

After his arrest several weeks later, Carey initially denied any involvement in the murder and claimed he had been at home watching the O.J. Simpson murder trial on TV on a day when it was not televised, according to the ruling.

Carey, who was living next door with his aunt and uncle, later admitted that he killed the retired nurse and mother of two when she returned home while he was upstairs burglarizing her house.

The woman spoke with Carey for about 10 or 15 minutes, urged him to leave and said she wouldn’t tell his uncle or the police. But Carey didn’t believe her and tied her hands to the staircase railing with an electrical cord, then proceeded to stab her with two knives, Kennard noted on behalf of the panel.

Carey stole $280 from the woman’s purse, along with jewelry, a shotgun and $1,400 in coins and bills from a five-gallon water bottle.

Along with the murder charge, jurors found Carey guilty of first- degree residential robbery and first-degree residential burglary and the special-circumstance allegation of murder in the commission of robbery and burglary.

The panel’s recommendation that Carey be executed for his crime was accepted by the trial judge in December 1996.

He had previously served time in state prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the July 1985 shooting death of a man during a dispute in Los Angeles, as well as possession of a weapon while at Folsom State Prison in March 1987.

–City News Service

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