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Convicted sex-slayer Charles Hatcher, a drifter who told federal...

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Convicted sex-slayer Charles Hatcher, a drifter who told federal officers he had murdered 16 people in a nomadic tour of the country, was found hanged Friday in his prison cell.

Missouri State Penitentiary warden Bill Armontrout said a guard found Hatcher, 55, hanging from a ventilation duct.

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He said the prisoner had fashioned a rope out of electrical wire and apparently jumped off the toilet.

He said Hatcher had been in a segregation cell since a recent assault on an officer.

Hatcher was convicted of capital murder Sept. 22 in the 1982 sex-slaying of Michelle Steele, 11, of St. Joseph. He was sentenced to life in prison despite his asking the jury for the death penalty.

His arrest for the slaying on Aug. 3, 1982, led to a series of confessions that had police scurrying about the country in attempts to clear up as many as 15 other murders in the past 13 years.

Federal officials said his violent trail stretched from San Franciso to Rock Island, Ill.

Hatcher's confession to the 1978 slaying of Eric Christgen, a 4-year-old St. Joseph boy, led to the release from prison of Melvin Lee Reynolds, who was convicted in 1979 of second-degree murder in the boy's death.

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