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Autopsy Fails to Reveal Cause of Rape Suspect's Death

November 06, 1996| From Associated Press

NAPA, Calif. — An autopsy Tuesday shed little light on the death of a registered sex offender who was the subject of a nationwide search after allegedly raping a 12-year-old girl in her home last week.

Larry Wayne Cole, 55, was found dead Monday in a vineyard ditch in rural Napa County about an eighth of a mile from his car. There were no weapons, drugs, alcohol or suicide notes at the scene, police said.

The autopsy ruled out homicide and showed no signs of suicide, Napa County coroner's investigator Steve Sprengelmeyer said.

"There were no obvious signs of gunshot wounds, stab wounds, strangulation, anything like that," Sprengelmeyer said. "At this point, the death is being investigated for natural causes."

Sprengelmeyer said it appeared that Cole may have suffered from a preexisting medical condition, although he would not elaborate until toxicology tests are completed in two or three weeks. Those tests also will determine whether Cole's body showed any traces of drugs or alcohol.

Department of Corrections officials said Cole served five years in state prison for rape and resisting arrest in Santa Clara County. He was paroled in 1982, then served a six-year robbery sentence from San Bernardino County and was paroled in 1989.

Police had begun a nationwide hunt for Cole, a Sonoma resident, after the girl identified him from a photo lineup. The junior high school student said a man forced his way into her Petaluma home Friday afternoon, threatened to kill her and raped her.

The attack occurred in the same community where Polly Klaas was abducted from her home during a slumber party in 1993. Richard Allen Davis was sentenced to death for her kidnap and murder.

Mike Patterson, a friend of the rape victim's family, said the girl and her father were pleased with news of Cole's death.

"[The father] had no problem with the concept of him being found dead," Patterson said. "Plus, it makes it easier on his daughter. She won't have to go to court."

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