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Convicted murderer found dead in Arizona prison

Kenneth W. Thompson, who claimed his Scientology beliefs compelled him to kill two Arizona residents in 2012, was murdered Wednesday in his prison cell.

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. — The convicted killer who attempted to use his Scientology beliefs as a defense for his crimes was found dead Wednesday in his Arizona prison cell.

Kenneth W. Thompson, 38, had been on death row at a Florence prison for violent crimes committed in Yavapai County in 2012. 

A jury convicted Thompson in 2019 of using a hatchet and knife to kill Penelope Edwards, his sister-in-law, and Troy Dunn. He then poured acid on the bodies and then set the victim's Prescott Valley home on fire.

Jurors rejected arguments by Thompson's attorneys that his motive for the slayings was rooted in his upbringing as a Scientologist.

According to the Arizona Republic, Thompson's lawyers argued he was attempting to rescue children under Edwards' care who were undergoing psychiatric care. Because Thompson's Scientology beliefs reject the practice of psychology, his lawyers said he was compelled to save the children. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said Thursday it is investigating Thompson's sudden death as a homicide and has identified two inmates who may be responsible for killing him.

"The Department intends to fully pursue criminal prosecution of anyone found to be responsible in the case," the agency wrote in a statement. 

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