Jason Budrow, 40, was standing over his cellmate Roger Kibbe, the serial killer known as the I-5 Strangler, when California prison officials found Kibbe dead.

Jason Budrow, 40, was standing over his cellmate Roger Kibbe, the serial killer known as the I-5 Strangler, when California prison officials found Kibbe dead. Budrow is suspected of Kibbe's death at Mule Creek State Prison. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Prosecutors won’t seek the death penalty for the man accused of strangling Roger Kibbe, the serial killer known as the “I-5 Strangler,” in his prison cell.

Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe said Wednesday he filed formal first-degree murder charges against Kibbe’s cellmate, Jason Budrow, a 40-year-old convicted murderer out of Riverside County.

Riebe said he’d seek life without possibility of parole and forgo a death penalty trial for Budrow.

There hasn’t been an execution in California since 2006, and Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on capital punishment after he was elected in 2018.

At 12:45 a.m. on Feb. 28, a guard conducting a headcount at Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County found Kibbe, 81, lying on the floor of his cell. Budrow was standing over him, prison officials said. An autopsy revealed Kibbe had been strangled.

Budrow, a self-described Satanist and sex offender with a “666” tattoo over his right eyebrow, was convicted in 2011 of strangling his then-girlfriend in Riverside County.

In a letter to The San Jose Mercury News last month, Budrow admitted to killing Kibbe as punishment for the I-5 Strangler’s murders.

“My actions were drafted out with specific intent, cognitive complexity, and were generally more nefarious than a haphazard murder-spat,” Budrow wrote. He later added, “What had started out as my original bare-bones plan of doing a straightforward homicide of a cellmate to obtain my single-cell status evolved into a mission for avenging that youngest girl and all of Roger Kibbe’s other victims.”

Kibbe was first convicted of raping and murdering Darcie Rene Frackenpohl, a 17-year-old runaway from Seattle in 1987, and dumping her body in the mountains south of Lake Tahoe.

He was arrested in 1988 for Frackenpohl’s murder just two days before his sentence was up after being convicted of beating a sex worker at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento.

The woman was able to escape and flag down a passing police officer, who spotted Kibbe throwing a bag out the window when the officer pulled him over.

In the bag was a garrote fashioned out of a pair of dowels and some parachute cord, a pair of scissors, a sex toy, some women’s hair ties and a set of handcuffs, detectives said.

The evidence in the bag proved critical to securing Kibbe’s conviction for Frackenpohl’s murder.

Later, DNA evidence linked Kibbe to two other murders, and he confessed to four more in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty.

His other victims included Lou Ellen Burleigh of Walnut Creek in 1977 and the 1986 murders of Stephanie Brown, 19, of Sacramento; Charmaine Sabrah, 26, a mother of three from Sacramento; Lora Heedrick, 21, of Modesto; Katherine Kelly Quinones, 25, of Sacramento; and Barbara Ann Scott, 29 who was kidnapped in Pittsburg, in Contra Costa County.

Kibbe was dubbed the I-5 Strangler because some of his victims were abducted from their cars and their bodies dumped along highways. He was known for leaving his signature — random cuts on the women’s clothing using scissors.

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