Douglas Belt – the man sentenced to death for a 2002 decapitation murder at a west Wichita apartment complex – has died of natural causes, the state and a prosecutor who handled Belt’s capital murder case said Thursday.
Belt, a 54-year-old inmate at El Dorado Correctional Facility, was pronounced dead by facility medical staff at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, said Adam Pfannenstiel, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, who prosecuted Belt’s case with former Assistant District Attorney Barry Disney, said Thursday that Belt had been suffering from a long-term illness.
The call came Wednesday evening saying Belt was dead, he said.
“His health had been in decline the last few months, and so it did not come as a surprise,” Bennett said.
“I knew that he was not expected to live much longer.”
Belt’s exact cause of death has not been released. As with all inmate deaths, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has been notified under state law, Pfannenstiel said in an email. Further details were not immediately available.
Belt was awaiting execution in solitary confinement. He was one of 10 Kansas inmates on death row before he died.
He was sentenced to death in Sedgwick County after being convicted in 2004 of capital murder in the death of 43-year-old Lucille Gallegos. Her body was found in a vacant apartment where she worked as a housekeeper. She had been sexually assaulted and decapitated.
DNA evidence played a key role in Belt’s conviction, Bennett said. According to an Eagle article in 2007, a spot of blood on a balcony railing tied Belt to the attack on Gallegos. Tests showed both Belt and Gallegos’ DNA in the mix.