Crime - Sacto 911

Death row serial killer whose DNA tied him to 1980s Bay slayings found dead in cell

A sexually violent serial killer whose DNA linked him behind bars to a string of Alameda County murders in the 1980s, sending him to death row, was found dead late Thursday in his cell at San Quentin State Prison.

Anthony McKnight was found unresponsive in his cell at 9:30 p.m. Thursday and was pronounced dead nearly 40 minutes later at 10:09 p.m., California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials announced Friday. McKnight was 65.

McKnight was originally sentenced in Alameda County in November 1987 to 63 years in state prison for attempted first-degree murder, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, oral copulation and kidnapping of three women to commit a sex offense, said CDCR officials.

He was nearly a decade into the sentence when Alameda County investigators in 1996 tied his DNA to the murders of five women and girls in 1985, San Francisco television station KPIX reported.

In 1985, McKnight murdered Betty Stuart, 22; Diane Stone; 17; Talita Dixon, 13; Monique Davis, 18; and Beverly Bryant, 24, the CDCR said. An Alameda County jury convicted McKnight and he was sentenced to death on November 17, 2008.

McKnight was a Navy sailor stationed on Treasure Island at the time of the Alameda County killings.

“These victims were not merely murdered, they were butchered,” Alameda Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner said in meting out McKnight’s death sentence, The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time.

An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

Currently, 731 offenders are on California’s death row, say CDCR officials.

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.