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Maine inmate kills himself

Maine inmate kills himself

THOMASTON, Maine (AP) – A Maine State Prison inmate who was charged in Montana with the death of one of his wives committed suicide by jumping from a third-floor window at the maximum security prison here, officials said Monday.

Dennis Larson, 50, was in a workroom where inmates make crafts when he put duct tape over his mouth, climbed on a bench and jumped out the window at about 8 p.m. Sunday, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Larson’s body hit a wall and tumbled into a courtyard, where he was pronounced dead. A suicide note was found in his cell, McCausland said.

He was serving a 50-year sentence in Maine for killing his third wife by pushing her off a cliff when he was charged three months ago with killing his first wife by pushing her into a creek 25 years ago.

Officials in Montana had hoped to extradite Larson so he could stand trial for murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison.

Larson, who was from Great Falls, Mont., had claimed his wife fell into Prickley Pear Creek, which was swollen with spring runoff, and that her body was carried off in the swift current on June 10, 1975. Her body was never recovered.

Seven years later, after authorities finally ruled Leslee Reynolds Larson dead, her husband collected a $20,000 life insurance policy.

Twelve years after his first wife’s death, Larson was accused of pushing his third wife, Kathy Frost Larson, off an 80-foot cliff in Maine’s Acadia National Park on Oct. 11, 1987.

He originally said she accidentally fell to her death. But after being questioned by Maine State Police in Great Falls, he admitted shoving her off the cliff during an argument.

Larson and Frost had met weeks earlier when she responded to a personal ad. They were married three weeks later and Larson immediately took out a $400,000 insurance policy on his bride.

The similarity between the two cases prompted Montana authorities to reopen their investigation of Leslee Larson’s disappearance.

Dennis Larson admitted to a Montana investigator Sept. 14 that he pushed his wife Leslee into the creek near the town of Wolf Creek on June 19, 1975, and watched her float away in the deep, fast spring runoff, according to a court document.

No trace of her body was ever found.

The affidavit was ordered released by Justice of the Peace Wally Jewell after three news organizations challenged an earlier order to keep it secret. That order was issued by an acting justice of the peace at the request of Lewis and Clark County Attorney Mike McGrath on the day the murder charge was filed.

McGrath argued that disclosing contents of the document could jeopardize Larson’s right to a fair trial.

The Great Falls Tribune, Helena Independent Record and The Associated Press argued that McGrath offered no proof to back up that claim and that keeping the information secret would violate the public’s constitutional right to know what its government was doing.

Copyright © 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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