SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) — A San Quentin State Prison inmate who spent time on death row for a brutal murder of a 5-month-old girl after a kidnapping in San Bernardino County in 1981 has died of natural causes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

Brett Patrick Pensinger, 56, died around 10 p.m. Thursday at an outside hospital, the CDCR said. The cause of Pensinger’s death was pending a coroner’s review.

Pensinger was sentenced to death in September 1982 for the kidnapping and first-degree murder of Michelle Melander. Pensinger, 19 at the time, was drinking with the girl’s parents and her brother in an Arizona bar in 1981. He dropped off the Michelle’s brother but left with the girl who was
found murdered and mutilated.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s reversal of Pensinger’s death sentence based on improper jury instructions.

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