Billy Slagle
Image AP

Ohio murderer Billy Slagle, a death row inmate, was found hanged in his prison cell just days before his scheduled execution.

Slagle was discovered in his cell at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution just after 5 a.m. Sunday and pronounced dead about an hour later, said Jo Ellen Smith, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. He was to have been put to death Tuesday. Smith added that an investigation into Slagle's death was ongoing.

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Slagle had been on death row since 1988 when he was convicted of murder for stabbing a neighbor to death in her house.

He was 18 and already had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse when arrested in the killing of Mari Anne Pope, who was stabbed 17 times with scissors while her children were in the home, according to court records. His family had a long history of alcoholism and domestic abuse, and he spent his teenage years "largely unsupervised by any adult," his attorneys argued in seeking clemency.

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Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty recommended Slagle's sentence to be reduced to life in prison without parole because jurors at the time didn't have the option to consider that sentence and if this had been a case brought today, prosecutors weren't likely to seek the death penalty.

However, all of his appeals were exhausted and Governor John Kasich denied his petition for clemency on July 24.

Slagle spent 24 years on death row. He was due to be transferred from Chillicothe to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Once there, he was slated for execution on Tuesday.

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Ohio has executed 51 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1976. The state also has more than 140 prisoners currently on death row.

An autopsy is scheduled for Monday on the death row inmate found hanging to determine his cause of death.

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