Wednesday, June 10, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A man facing nearly 30 years in prison for raping three women who had advertised on Craigslist’s former “erotic services” section apparently committed suicide in his Kansas jail cell, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.

David Lee Gage, 52, of Wichita, was found dead at the Sedgwick County Jail early Monday after another inmate who was headed to breakfast looked through the window to Gage’s cell and saw his motionless body, said Maj. Glenn Kurtz of the county sheriff’s office.

The office did not immediately say how Gage died except to say that he apparently killed himself.

“There were no warning signals that we found,” Kurtz said. “We’re looking at medical files, we’re looking at records, and there is nothing to indicate a trigger or warning sign that we could have seen.”

Gage had pleaded for leniency when he was convicted in May, telling a judge he had health issues and didn’t think he had long to live. Assistant prosecutor Justin Edwards said Tuesday that Gage “made a big point that he was thinking his life wouldn’t last much longer because of a family history of short life expectancy.”

Gage had been awaiting transfer to prison, where he was to spend the next three decades after being convicted of seven felony counts, including rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, aggravated robbery and aggravated assault.

Prosecutors accused him of setting up meetings at motels with women he met through the Craigslist classifieds Web site. Once there, he would flash a federal marshal’s badge and threaten to arrest them for prostitution if they didn’t have sex with him, according to testimony at his trial.

Gage had been convicted in 1998 of falsely impersonating a police officer when he tried to use the same approach with someone he thought was a prostitute, but who turned out to be an undercover Wichita police officer.

Jim Buckmaster, CEO of the San Francisco-based online classified service, announced last month that the “erotic services” section of his Web site would be shut down, replaced with an “adult services” section where posts would be screened to ensure legality.

Buckmaster had met with attorneys general from Missouri, Illinois and Connecticut over the states’ concerns about ads on Craigslist that solicited illegal sexual activity. Those talks came after the April 14 killing of a New York woman who had advertised on the site.

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