KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man facing nearly 30 years in prison for raping three women who had advertised on Craigslist's former "erotic services" section apparently committed suicide in his Kansas jail cell, sheriff's officials said yesterday.

David Lee Gage, 52, of Wichita, Kan., was found dead at the Sedgwick County Jail early Monday after another inmate who was headed to breakfast looked through the window to Gage's cell and saw his motionless body, said Maj. Glenn Kurtz of the county sheriff's office.

The office did not immediately say how Gage had died except to say that he apparently killed himself.

Gage had pleaded for leniency when he was convicted in May, telling a judge he had health issues and didn't think he had long to live.

Gage had been awaiting transfer to prison, where he was to spend the next three decades after being convicted of seven felony counts, including rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, aggravated robbery and aggravated assault.

Prosecutors accused him of setting up meetings at motels with women he met through the Craigslist classifieds Web site. Once there, he would flash a federal marshal's badge and threaten to arrest them for prostitution if they didn't have sex with him.

Gage had been convicted in 1998 of falsely impersonating a police officer when he tried to use the same approach with someone he thought was a prostitute, but who turned out to be an undercover Wichita police officer.

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based online classified service, announced last month that the "erotic services" section of his Web site would be shut down, replaced with an "adult services" section where posts would be screened. *