Royal Hayes, sentenced to death in 1986 by a Stanislaus County jury for a double murder in Santa Cruz, died Tuesday at a hospital, prison officials said.
Hayes, 81, had been on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison for killing San Francisco couple Lauren de Laet and Donald MacVicar amid a $250,000 cocaine sale. The sentence was never carried out.
The cause of Hayes' death is unknown pending an autopsy, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Thursday.
A jury in Santa Cruz County found Hayes guilty of first-degree murder but deadlocked on whether he should be executed or get life in prison without parole. The penalty phase was moved to Stanislaus County.
Hayes was accused of luring de Laet and MacVicar to a remote part of the University of California, Santa Cruz, on Dec. 29, 1981, on the pretense of completing the drug sale. Court records said Hayes told the victims to submit to a search, then shot both in the back of the head. Hayes had dug shallow graves at the site, the prosecution said.
Hayes served as his own attorney in the penalty phase. It took place over 3 1/2 months before Judge Edward Lacy Jr. and a jury in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Hayes came to court with well-researched legal motions, the Modesto Bee reported at the time. But the defendant aimed to show that this and previous crimes resulted from a head injury in a 1960 auto accident that left him with a personality disorder.
"The defendant's life has been a shambles since that accident ...," Hayes said of himself.
The jurors voted for the death sentence on May 29, 1986. Lacy imposed it on Aug. 8, and Hayes was moved 10 days later to Death Row.
After the sentencing, Hayes thanked the court and Stanislaus County bailiffs for treating him with "dignity and courtesy" during the penalty phase, The Bee reported.
California reinstated capital punishment in 1978, but only 13 inmates have been put to death at San Quentin because of the long appeal process.