LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man convicted of murder and sexual assault and who was incarcerated on death row in Nevada for most of his adult life has died after a series of heart attacks. He was 74, prison officials said.
The Clark County coroner’s office said Patrick McKenna died of natural causes, KVVU-TV reported.
McKenna was an inmate at High Desert State Prison and was awaiting capital punishment longer than almost anyone else in the state, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The Nevada Department of Corrections confirmed McKenna died at Spring Valley Hospital on April 19.
“He’s probably the most infamous killer on Nevada’s death row,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said. “And in my opinion, he didn’t get what he deserved.”
McKenna, long considered Nevada’s most dangerous prisoner, was sentenced to death in 1980 for first-degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery with a deadly weapon, authorities said.
He strangled his cellmate, 20-year-old Jack Nobles, at the Clark County jail in 1979 and had been convicted of multiple crimes, prison officials said. The initial murder conviction in the killing of Nobles was reversed twice and his penalty reversed three times before jurors agreed McKenna should be executed by the state, The Review-Journal reported.
His brother Ken McKenna, a retired lawyer who represented his older sibling after the first reversal in the early 1980s, said their mother sent Patrick McKenna to a youth camp where he claims his brother encountered “vicious and vindictive” authority figures.
Retired Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael Cherry, a former public defender, represented McKenna on the rape charges and during his first trial for the Nobles killing. Cherry had asked the jury to spare his life, but he said Wednesday that his client stopped him from presenting mitigating evidence that could have saved him from the death penalty.
“I tried my best for him,” Cherry said. “I knew his background was partially responsible.”