SALEM, Ore. — A man sentenced to death in 1997 for a double murder has died at the age of 50, according to the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC). Although Robert Acremant was serving his sentence on Death Row, execution was not the cause of his death on Friday morning.
"As with all in-custody deaths, the Oregon State Police have been notified and the Medical Examiner will determine cause of death," the DOC said in a statement on Friday.
Acremant was convicted in Jackson County for the kidnapping and murder of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill in 1995 — business and life partners who were committed "activists for gay and lesbian rights," according to former Medford police officer Mike Moran. The double murder stirred fears that the perpetrator was motivated by hate.
However, when authorities captured Acremant in California weeks later, they came to believe that he had "conceived his plot as a robbery to finance his infatuation with a Las Vegas stripper." Acremant did eventually admit that he had known Ellis and Abdill were lesbians, which "was a factor in his actions," according to Moran.
Acremant would stay on Death Row at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem from his sentencing in 1997 until his death on Friday. Although Oregon has maintained the death penalty since 1978, only two inmates have been executed since then.
In 2011, NewsWatch 12 reported that Acremant would no longer face the death penalty for his crimes in Oregon, and his sentence was altered to life in prison without the possibility of early release or parole. The change occurred due to Acremant's diagnosis with mental illness in the early 2000s.
Although DOC mental health professionals considered the possibility that Acremant was faking or exaggerating his symptoms, none of the evaluators came to that conclusion. Under federal law, the mentally ill cannot be given the death penalty.
However, apparently because Acremant still faced the death penalty for crimes he committed while in California, he would never leave Death Row in Salem.