PIERRE - Death-row inmate Robert Leroy Anderson committed suicide early Sunday morning at the State Penitentiary, according to prison officials.
Anderson, 33, was a convicted kidnapper, rapist and murderer. He was sentenced to death for the disappearances of Piper Streyle of rural Canistota and Larisa Dumansky of Sioux Falls.
Authorities say Anderson was found hanging in his cell in the Sioux Falls prison about 2 a.m. Sunday. Prison staff tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead at a Sioux Falls hospital.
Criminal investigators are probing Anderson's death, which is standard procedure when an inmate dies. An autopsy is planned.
Anderson was among five men sentenced to die by lethal injection in South Dakota. He was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Dumansky on August 27, 1994, and raping, kidnapping and murdering Streyle on July 29, 1996.
Anderson was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for kidnapping Streyle, 28. After a second trial, he was given the death penalty in 1999 for both murders.
Anderson abducted Dumansky, 29, after the night shift at John Morrell & Co. in Sioux Falls, where both worked. Some of her remains were later found near Lake Vermillion.
Streyle's body was never found. She was taken from her home, in front of her two small children, who were not harmed.
Streyle's husband, Vance, who has since remarried, said Sunday that Anderson's suicide puts an end to the quest for his execution.
"My life is not going to change, certainly, due to what he chose to do to himself," Streyle said. "Basically, this is what we were after anyway. It just saved some time and effort."
Anderson's mother, Ruth, had no comment Sunday, and Dumansky's husband, Bill, could not be reached immediately.
Mark Barnett, chief deputy attorney general, said Sunday that Anderson was a serial killer who would have continued abducting young women in the Sioux Falls area if he had not been caught. Anderson had often told friends about his desire to kidnap, rape and kill women.
"This is kind of like reading the last chapter in a bad book," Barnett said Sunday of Anderson's death. "It's over, and I think it's unfortunate.
"As it turns out, his whole life was unfortunate. His family will suffer over this, and other families have suffered in the past."
Barnett was attorney general when Anderson was put on trial and helped prosecute him. The evidence against Anderson was overwhelming, Barnett said.
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Larry Long, state attorney general, said Sunday that Anderson's death will bring closure to the families of his victims. It also assures that others are safe, Long said.
"There's a lot of women who will sleep better knowing that this guy is deceased," the attorney general said. "He was a danger as long as he was alive and had any chance of getting out of prison."
When Anderson first stopped at the Streyle home on July 26, 1996, Vance Streyle opened the door. Apparently surprised that Mrs. Streyle's husband was home, Anderson stammered around and said he was interested in sending his children to a Bible camp operated by the couple. Before leaving, Anderson wrote his name on a piece of paper.
After Mrs. Streyle was abducted, her young daughter, Shaina, then 3, told police that a man in a black vehicle took her mother.
Vance Streyle remembered that Anderson was driving a black vehicle when he had stopped a few days earlier. And although the piece of paper with Anderson's name on it was never found, Vance Streyle recalled his strange visitor's name because it was the same as Streyle's grandfather's name.
Anderson was arrested four days after Mrs. Streyle disappeared.
"Vance remembering the visit and remembering Anderson's name was the critical thing that got us headed on the right track," state attorney general Larry Long said. Long, then chief assistant attorney general, spent three years on the prosecution of Anderson.
"It was an amazing combination of good luck and top-flight police work and input from citizens," Long said of Anderson's capture. "Citizens were coming out of the woodwork to help."
Married twice, Anderson had four children. His first wife divorced him in 1990; his second wife divorced him in 1997.
Anderson's father, LeLand Anderson, 57, committed suicide in December. Authorities say he died from a gunshot wound to the head at his home east of Yankton.
The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld Robert Leroy Anderson's 1997 kidnapping conviction in March of 2000.
An automatic appeal of Anderson's death sentence was argued a year ago in front of the state Supreme Court and a decision was pending.
The remaining men on South Dakota's death row
include Charles Rhines, Donald Moeller, Briley Piper and Elijah Page.