Death for cult leader Michael Ryan came not from lethal injection, but natural causes.
Ryan died on death row at the Tecumseh prison Sunday evening, according to officials with the Department of Correctional Services.
Ryan, first imprisoned in Lincoln, moved to Tecumseh when it opened in 2001 and the state re-located death row there.
Ryan died at a quarter till 8 o’clock Sunday evening. He was 66.
An autopsy will be performed, though no signs of trauma were evident. A grand jury will be impaneled to investigate the death in accordance with state law.
Ryan was sentenced to death in one of the most brutal murders in state history. Ryan led a cult encamped on a farm in southeastern Nebraska which preached about the end of the world.
Ryan tortured and killed 26-year-old James Thimm and 5-year-old Luke Stice in 1985 near Rulo.
Thimm had been beaten, sexually abused, and partially skinned alive over a three-day period.
Investigators say Ryan led about 20 cult members who lived collectively on the farm near Rulo. The group stored weapons in preparation for a final battle pitting good versus evil.
The Nebraska State Supreme Court halted Ryan’s scheduled execution in 2012. A federal judge ruled shortly thereafter the state had not legally obtained the drugs for lethal injection.
The final appeals made by Ryan’s legal team earlier this year had been rejected by both the Nebraska Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.