Condemned inmate Wilbur Lee Jennings, 73, was pronounced dead yesterday morning, February 11, 2014. He died of natural causes while being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail, where he was awaiting trial for the 1981 murder of 17-year-old Debra Chandler. Chandler’s beaten remains were spotted by a passer-by near a water-filled roadside ditch about 15 miles from her Sacramento home on July 15, 1981. Jenkins was transferred from San Quentin’s Death Row to stand trial in Sacramento County after a suspected DNA match.
Jennings was sentenced to death on November 20, 1986, by a Fresno County jury for the 1984 first-degree murders of Linda Johnson, Olga Cannon and Jacqueline Frazier, and the 1983 second-degree murder of Karen Robinson. He was also convicted of numerous other felonies against these and three other victims, including forcible sexual assaults, robberies, arsons, and kidnapping for robbery. Jennings had been on Death Row since November 25, 1986.
Fresno County deputies nicknamed Jennings the “ditch-bank killer” because his victims were often found in canals or stuffed in irrigation pipes.
Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 63 condemned inmates (including Jennings) have died from natural causes, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, six have died from other causes, and one the cause of death is pending. There are 746 offenders on California’s death row. Most of those offenders are housed at San Quentin. Of those 746, 20 are women, 21 condemned male inmates are either out to court, in medical facilities or in custody in other jurisdictions.