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Obese former death row inmate dies in Ohio

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A convicted Ohio killer who sought to be spared the death penalty because he was obese died Thursday at a Columbus hospital of natural causes, an Ohio prison spokeswoman said.

Ronald Post, 53, who weighed more than 450 pounds, had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last January for the aggravated murder in 1983 of motel desk clerk Helen Vantz during a robbery.

The execution was commuted to life in prison by Ohio Governor John Kasich last December, following a recommendation by a parole board panel. The panel had found numerous omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions by defense attorneys.

Post had previously appealed unsuccessfully to stop his execution on grounds his extreme weight created a substantial risk that he would have a "torturous and lingering death" if executed by lethal injection.

Post died of undisclosed causes Thursday morning at Franklin Medical Center, Ricky Seyfang, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said on Friday. Seyfang said Post's death was "medically expected."

Post had been sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in 1985 for Vantz's murder after entering a plea of no-contest.

Post's lawyers argued that previous counsel should not have advised him to enter a no contest plea without assurances he would not face the death penalty.

Post told the clemency board he never confessed to killing Vantz, as prosecutors portrayed, and had only confessed to driving a man who he said committed the crime to the motel and waiting in a vehicle outside.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Andrew Hay)

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