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Abortion Clinic Shooter John Salvi Commits Suicide in Prison

November 29, 1996

WALPOLE, Mass. (AP) _ John C. Salvi III, who was convicted of killing two people and wounding five others in a shooting spree on two abortion clinics in 1994, killed himself in prison, his mother said today.

Ann Marie Salvi said she was told this morning that her son had died of asphyxiation. She said he had committed suicide, but didn’t have details.

``I just found out at 6:30 this morning. It was too hard for me,″ Mrs. Salvi said by telephone from her Naples, Fla., home.

Salvi, 24, was found dead in his cell this morning, Department of Correction spokesman Anthony Carnevale said. He said Salvi’s death was under investigation.

``It appears to be a suicide,″ Carnevale said. ``It happened sometime overnight.″ He refused to give details.

Salvi was sentenced to two consecutive life terms March 18 after jurors rejected claims that he was insane and convicted him of murdering two receptionists and wounding five others in the Dec. 30, 1994, rampage.

In July, he was transferred to the state’s maximum security prison in Walpole. Authorities at the prison, formally known as the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction, would not comment on the report.

Mrs. Salvi said she had told prison officials she believed her son was in danger of hurting himself.

``My young John is gone, but there are others who will suffer in prison instead of a mental hospital where they belong,″ she said.

Defense lawyers at the five-week trial said their client was a paranoid schizophrenic who envisioned himself a warrior fighting an anti-Roman-Catholic conspiracy led by the Mafia, Freemasons and the Ku Klux Klan.

But prosecutors argued that Salvi was in control of his senses and deliberately planned his crime. They noted Salvi practiced at a firing range the day before the killings, stocked up on 1,000 deadly hollow-point bullets and even cut his hair after the attack to disguise his appearance.

Salvi, an apprentice hairdresser, walked into the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Boston suburb of Brookline, pulled out a .22-caliber rifle and opened fire. Receptionist Shannon Lowney, 25, was killed and three others were wounded.

Then, he drove two miles to the Preterm Health Services clinic and opened fire again, killing receptionist Lee Ann Nichols, 38, and injuring two others.

``This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!″ Salvi screamed as he shot Nichols, according to witnesses.

Salvi was arrested the day after the killings when he fired at least 23 shots at a Norfolk, Va., abortion clinic.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Massachusetts has no death penalty.

He had faced the possibility of federal charges, which could have brought the death penalty, but U.S. Attorney Donald Stern said after the trial that he would not pursue the case.

Salvi was the third man to be convicted of murdering abortion clinic workers. Paul Hill was sentenced to death for killing a doctor and an escort in 1994 outside a clinic in Pensacola, Fla. Earlier that year, Michael Griffin was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a doctor outside another Pensacola clinic.

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