James Lee Crummel, Molester Who Murdered Costa Mesa Boy, Hangs Himself on Death Row

The state budget got a boost--a drop-in-the-bucket boost--when the lifetime incarceration of James Lee Crummel was cut short Sunday.

The murderer of a 13-year-old Costa Mesa boy hung himself in his San Quentin prison cell, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations announced yesterday.

Crummel, 68, had been on Death Row since 2004, when he was convicted of the 1979 kidnapping, sexual abuse and killing of James Wilfred Trotter, just one young victim authorities suspect Crummel preyed on over the years.

He was convicted of the 1967 murder of a 9-year-old boy in Pima County, Arizona, but a judge later overturned it after Crummel had served five years in prison. He'd also been questioned about 1981 and 1995 murders of boys in Anaheim Hills and Big Bear City respectively.

Much to the chagrin of residents in pre-Megan's Law Newport Beach, "high-risk" sex offender Crummel resided there. Eleven years after Trotter disappeared while walking to school, Crummel posed as a random person in calling police to report finding charred human bones while hiking near Ortega Highway in Riverside County. The bones were later identified as Trotter's.

Crummel's reputation as a sex offender and proximity to Trotter's home--about a mile away from his--led him to be suspected and ultimately convicted of the boy's murder.

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