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Killer Takes His Own Life in Prison

October 18, 2006|John Spano | Times Staff Writer

Before his trial, Richard Robert Russo was on a jail suicide watch and tried to take an overdose when the watch was briefly lifted. After he was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced, with no suicide watch in place, he hanged himself.

Had Los Angeles County Superior Court jurors found Russo insane, he would have been sent to a state hospital.

"All of our doctors agreed he was mentally ill, he had a history of depression and of mental illness," Russo's lawyer, Mark Overland, said.

Russo, 51, killed himself Sunday at Wasco State Prison with a "sheet-like" cloth, the Kern County Sheriff's Department said. Prison officials declined to comment.

The former senior vice president at Smith Barney in Pasadena was to begin serving a 55-years-to-life term for the August 2005 shooting death of his wife, Carmen, 42, who was having an affair with a gym trainer.

When Russo was at Los Angeles County Jail and his suicide watch was briefly lifted, he attempted to overdose on medication he had stashed, Overland said.

When he was transferred to the state prison system, his records reflected concern over his mental health, he said.

The lawyer called California's definition of sanity archaic.

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john.spano@latimes.com

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