Inmate convicted of murder by kiwi dies in Arizona prison

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- The Arizona Department of Corrections says a female inmate who was convicted of murder has died at the Perryville prison complex in Goodyear.

The department says the death Tuesday of Christina Black, 52, was an apparent suicide.

The department says Black, who was from Orlando, entered the prison system in 1999 after being sentenced in Pinal County to a life term.

According to a short article that ran in The Orlando Sentinel on Feb. 10, 1996, Black, 35 at the time, confessed to killing her grandmother by stuffing a kiwi down her throat during a visit the previous April.

Helen Gerstung, 88, lived in Apache Junction.

Black reportedly told investigators she had acted on a premonition. Gerstung's death originally was attributed to natural causes, but Black called the police months later and confessed to assuage her guilt.

"She said, 'I can't stand the guilt anymore. I killed my grandmother,'" Orange County sheriff's spokesman Carlos Espinosa told The Orlando Sentinel's Christopher Quinn. "The com (communications) center thought she was crazy."

Black told police that she shoved a kiwi fruit down her grandmother's throat, covered her head with a plastic bag and a blanket, and then pinched her nostrils closed to suffocate her.

In the wake of Black's confession, Gerstung's body was exhumed and autopsied in December 1995, eight months after her death. The medical examiner discovered kiwi seeds in her mouth and fruit in her throat.

Black reportedly had a history of mental illness.