RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A California Death Row inmate convicted more than 20 years ago of raping and strangling a 78-year-old Palm Springs woman died in a hospital, authorities said Tuesday.
Royce Lyn Scott, 62, succumbed to an undisclosed illness Sunday evening at a medical facility to which he was transferred from San Quentin State Prison. An autopsy was pending to determine the exact cause of death, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Scott had been on Death Row since Sept. 25, 1997, condemned to die for the slaying of Della Morris.
According to court records, Scott was a serial burglar, and on the night of July 9, 1992, he broke into the home shared by the victim and her brother. As the latter slept in his bedroom, the defendant went to Della Morris’ room and attacked her in her bed.
For an unknown period of time, Scott beat, raped and sodomized the senior, ultimately strangling and smothering her, according to court briefs. Her lifeless body was discovered by her brother the following morning.
Scott stole a number of items from the property before fleeing by way of a glass door that had been left unlocked that night.
For the rest of that summer and fall, the defendant went on to perpetrate at least four other burglaries, several of which occurred while the residents were either home or had just returned home. He was apprehended in November 1992 after a break-in during which he confronted two men, who managed to call 911 before the defendant fled the neighborhood.
DNA samples, fingerprints and other forensic evidence collected at the scene of Morris’ murder and from Scott proved he was her killer, court records stated.
A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, rape, sodomy, assault resulting in great bodily injury and special circumstance allegations of killing in the commission of a burglary and sexual assault.
Scott’s motions for retrial were rejected by the California Supreme Court, with the last ruling in 2015.