12.04.2008

TS - Man convicted of wife's murder dies after hanging himself

☛ TS Man convicted of wife's murder dies after hanging himself

Richard Craig Kesser, an inmate who reportedly hanged himself in his cell at the Humboldt County jail early Tuesday morning, has died.

According to information from the Humboldt County Coroner's Office, the 47-year-old inmate was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m. Tuesday, after he had been placed on life support more than 20 hours earlier.

The cause of death in the suicide was ruled asphyxiation due to hanging, said Coroner Frank Jager.

Kesser, Jager said, “was mostly dead by the time they got him into the hospital,” but some lifesaving efforts were restricted as Kesser had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

At 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, a correctional officer found Kesser hanging from a noose made from a bed sheet inside his cell, where he had been housed alone. Kesser was cut down immediately and lifesaving efforts were made, but Jager said Kesser had been deprived of oxygen for too long.

Deputy Coroner Roy Horton said although investigators are not yet certain how long Kesser was hanging in his cell, it must have been “at least three or four minutes.”

An autopsy will be conducted by a forensic pathologist later this week, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office reported.
Kesser was incarcerated in 1992 after a Humboldt County jury found him guilty of first-degree murder -- the result of a successful plot to murder his estranged wife in 1991. That sentence was later overturned and Kesser was returned to the Humboldt County jail on Dec. 5, 2006.

In 2008, a plea agreement was struck between Kesser and the District Attorney's Office. That agreement stipulated that if he truthfully completed the polygraph test, he would receive a second-degree murder sentence, reducing his possible sentence from 25 years to life to 15 years to life.

According to court documents, Kesser, along with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Leahy, hired hit man Stephen Chiara to murder 30-year-old Mary Kesser.

She was stabbed to death in her Fortuna home on Nov. 26, 1991 -- 17 years and six days before her former husband and the self-proclaimed “mastermind” of her murder committed suicide.

During an interview in late November, just weeks before his death, Richard Kesser admitted he was struggling with depression, for which he was taking medication.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Richard Kesser did leave a letter; however, that has not been made public, and no potential motive for the suicide has been released.

Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 12/04/2008 01:15:37 AM PST