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Tim Pruitt once said death row could destroy a man’s will to live.
Sentenced to death for the 1992 rape and murder of a 10-year-old Dahlonega girl, Pruitt spent more than 13 years awaiting execution. On Nov. 19, Pruitt tried to hang himself with a bedsheet inside his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
Pruitt, 43, died Sunday from complications from the suicide attempt, officials said. Family members of Pruitt’s victim, Wendy Nicole Vincent, were notified Monday.
"The darkness and despair of death row can swallow you up, destroy your spirit and will to live," Pruitt wrote to the organization Death Row Speaks in 2005.
In the same interview, Pruitt maintained his innocence in the April 10, 1992, murder of Wendy Nicole Vincent. A jury convicted Pruitt of raping, stabbing and slitting the throat of the girl, whose body was discovered by her mother.
Witnesses testified at Pruitt’s 1996 trial that DNA evidence, hairs and fibers at the murder scene were matched to Pruitt. Pruitt’s ex-wife lived next door to the trailer home that the girl shared with her mother. Late one night after a drunken quarrel with his ex-wife, Pruitt broke into Wendy Vincent’s trailer while the girl’s mother was away at work.
He later was seen at a convenience store with blood on his clothes and called a woman late the same night to say he needed to talk to her because he had "done something bad."
During the trial, then-district attorney Albert Taylor told Cherokee County jurors brought in to hear the case that they should ignore any pleas from Pruitt’s family to spare his life, calling him "the face of death" for Wendy Vincent. Taylor told jurors that Pruitt ignored the girl’s cries of pain.
At the time of his death, Pruitt was nearing the final stages of his appeals, said Russ Willard, a spokesman for the Georgia Attorney General’s Office.
Pruitt’s attorneys filed a federal habeas petition Nov. 23, four days after the attempted hanging, Willard said. The petition would have gone to the U.S. District Court, then the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. If Pruitt’s appeals were denied at each level, an execution date would have been set.
Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharmelle Brooks said the apparent suicide attempt occurred Nov. 19 and that Pruitt was later transferred to the Augusta State Medical Prison for treatment. The suicide attempt is "being investigated internally, as is the standard process in these type cases," Brooks said.
Pruitt was at least the second prisoner on Georgia’s death row to kill himself in the past decade. Daniel Colwell, sentenced to death for the murder of a couple in a Walmart parking lot in Americus, hanged himself in his cell in January 2003.
There are currently 106 men and one woman on Georgia’s death row, including one from Lumpkin County and two sentenced to death for Hall County murders.
In 2008, the national average length of time spent on death row prior to execution was 11 and a half years, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In Georgia, 70 death row prisoners have spent more than 12 years awaiting execution, according to state Department of Corrections data.