Double murder suspect dies in hospital

Ananova, Apr. 21, 2003

A man who was fighting extradition to the United States for the alleged murders of two Mormon missionaries 29 years ago has died.

The Prison Service said Dr Robert Kleasen, 70, died of suspected heart failure.

Kleasen was being held in custody at Belmarsh Prison, south east London. He was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich on April 17.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Whether there is a post mortem is a matter for the coroner. His next of kin have been informed.”

Last August, Kleasen was told there was a case for him to answer regarding the murders of Gary Darley, 20, and Mark Fischer, 19 on October 28, 1974 in Travis County in Texas.

District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London, agreed to a request by the US Government that Kleasen should be sent back to Texas for a retrial for the murders. The decision had to be approved by the Home Secretary.

Mr Workman accepted assurances from the Travis County Authorities that Kleasen would not be executed for the offences, which are punishable by death.

Kleasen was found guilty of murdering Mr Fischer and spent two-and-a-half years on death row in Texas before his conviction was quashed. He was originally acquitted on appeal in 1977 because of an illegal search warrant. He had always denied the charge.

He moved to the UK in 1990 and married pen pal Marie Longley, from Barton-upon-Humber, near Scunthorpe, after serving a sentence for federal firearms violations.

But advances in DNA testing linking him to the scene of the crime prompted US lawyers to seek an extradition. Kleasen’s defence argued there was no guarantee the authorities would not seek the death penalty if he was convicted – breaching extradition laws with the UK.

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