‘Sausage King’ Dies in Prison

Times Staff Writer

Five and a half years after he murdered three meat inspectors in his Bay Area processing plant, self-proclaimed “Sausage King” Stuart Alexander died Tuesday morning of undetermined causes in a maximum surveillance hospital cell at San Quentin State Prison, prison officials reported.

Alexander, 44, had been treated repeatedly for mental problems at San Quentin and in the corrections system medical facility at Vacaville since an Oakland jury sentenced him to death row in February, prison spokesman Sgt. Eric Messick said.

On Christmas Eve, Alexander was placed under suicide watch in a special cell that is under constant video surveillance and is visited by guards every 15 minutes. When checked at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Messick said, the burly inmate was still breathing and appeared to be sleeping.


Fifteen minutes later a guard reported that Alexander was “unresponsive” and summoned medical assistance.

Prison officials were at a loss to explain the sudden death of an inmate under what was described as the “highest level of observation” in the prison. The cell’s only furniture is a mattress on the floor.

“At this point we have nothing to suggest suicide,” Messick said. Other than his mental illness, Messick said, Alexander had “no other serious health problems.” Results of an autopsy conducted Tuesday by the Marin County coroner are expected later this week.

The brother of a meat inspector killed in the June 2000 shooting described Alexander’s death as the “final chapter” in a painful ordeal for the families and friends of the slain inspectors. The attack was captured in grisly detail on video surveillance cameras at the Santos Linguisa Factory in San Leandro.

“At long last,” said John Quadros of Fremont, “the victims have some justice. It has been 5 1/2 years since this occurred and we won’t have to wait another 20 to 25 years for the execution.”

Of the 650 inmates on death row, 92 have been awaiting execution for more than 20 years.

Stanley Tookie Williams, the last person to be executed in California, was sentenced to death in 1981.


Alexander’s victims, federal meat inspectors Thomas Quadros, 52, and Jean Hillery, 56, and state inspector William Shaline, 57, were the first agricultural agents killed in the line of duty since meat inspections were enacted nearly a century ago.

Because of previous confrontations with Alexander, a volatile former San Leandro mayoral candidate who believed that he was being unfairly harassed over sanitation standards at his sausage factory, the three inspectors, along with another state inspector who managed to escape, went to the factory in what they thought was a protective group.

The video showed Alexander loading several weapons in his office as the inspectors waited in the factory showroom. Alexander then entered the showroom and opened fire, felling the three inspectors and chasing the fourth, state inspector Earl Willis, down the street.

After Willis escaped, Alexander returned to the showroom and fired more shots into the heads of the prone victims, who were still writhing from their initial wounds.

Overshadowed by the sensational Scott Peterson trial that was occurring at the same time across San Francisco Bay in San Mateo County, Alexander’s capital murder trial played out in relative obscurity in a dingy Alameda County courtroom.

Public defenders who were representing Alexander, a fourth-generation Portuguese sausage maker, portrayed him as mentally disturbed. They produced a psychologist who testified that tests that he administered to Alexander showed “moderate brain impairment.”


Alexander’s mother, Shirley Eckhart, who attended most of the trial, said her son had suffered five concussions.

“He just lost his mind,” Eckhart told reporters at the time. “You can’t even reason with him.”

During the trial one witness, former girlfriend Charlotte Knapp, testified that Alexander had once talked about killing the inspectors and making sausages out of them.

“No one would know,” she said he told her.

After a 21-month trial and capital sentence hearing, the jury ruled that Alexander was responsible for his acts and deserved to die.

Public defender Michael Ogul, a capital punishment opponent who represented Alexander in the trial, said his former client’s mental problems and his death in prison came as no surprise.

“Stuart had serious mental health problems that should have been treated,” Ogul said. “Stuart needed help. Without help, this was inevitable.”