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Runnion Murder: A Capital Case

The Orange County district attorney says he will seek the death penalty against a southern California factory worker charged with kidnapping and murdering 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, a crime which gripped much of the nation with fear and revulsion.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, speaking at a press conference in Santa Ana, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, said he saw no reason to spare 27-year-old Alejandro Avila's life if he is convicted of abducting, molesting and killing Samantha at a trial.

"There is no question in my mind that the person who kidnapped, molested and murdered 5-year-old Samantha should face the death penalty," Rackauckas said, adding that the crimes had outraged her community, the United States and the world.

Avila is charged with murder, kidnapping and two counts of forcible lewd acts on a child. Prosecutors can seek the death penalty under special circumstances included with the charges: that the murder occurred after a kidnapping and the crime involved lewd acts with a child.

Avila is being held without bail at Men's Central Jail in Santa Ana. He has denied the charges, saying he was at a mall when the girl was snatched. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Rackauckas said that before deciding to seek the death penalty against Avila he met with Samantha's mother, defense lawyers and members of his own staff.

Samantha was abducted from the driveway of her home in Stanton, not far from Santa Ana, on July 15 by a man who pretended to be looking for a lost puppy. Her bruised and naked body was found the next day on a lonely stretch of mountain road. Avila was arrested three days later.

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