Five-year-old Samantha Runnion was playing with her friend, Sarah Ahn, outside of her home. A man approached, asking if they had seen his chihuahua. Samantha spoke to him briefly and then he grabbed her and pulled her into his car. Samantha fighting to get free, screamed out to her friend, "Help me! Tell my grandmother!"
Latest DevelopmentsAvila Gets Death Sentence
July 22, 2005
Orange County Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg sentenced Alejandro Avila to death telling the killer he had "forfeited his right to live."
Previous DevelopmentsJury Recommends Death Sentence
May 16, 2005
The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days before deciding to recommend the death penalty for Alejandro Avila.
Defense Pleads for Mercy for Samantha Runnion's Killer
May 11, 2005
The jury began deliberations in the penalty phase of Alejandro Avila after hearing his attorney plead for mercy.
Samantha Runnion's Killer Convicted
April 28, 2005
Alejandro Avila was found guilty of kidnapping, murder and two counts of sexual assault for the murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion.
Jury Hears Closing Arguments in Samantha Runnion Case
April 26, 2005
The jury in the trial of Alejandro Avila saw the crime scene photos for the first time during the prosecution's closing arguments.
Samantha Runnion Trial Nears End
April 20, 2005
The defense rested its case after again trying to attack the DNA evidence presented by the prosecution.
Prosecution Rests in Samantha Runnion Case
April 5, 2005
The prosecution rested its case against Alejandro Avila after a computer expert told the jury about finding child pornography on a computer the defendant used.
Former Victims Testify in Samantha Runnion Case
March 25, 2005
Two young girls testified of being abused by the defendant years earlier and an ex-girlfriend told the jury she ended her relationship with Avila because he wanted to be alone with her young daughter.
Samantha Runnion Trial to Begin
March 21, 2005
After a long series of frustrating delays, the trial of Alejandro Avila is scheduled to begin.
DNA Evidence Okayed in Samantha Runnion Case
Feb. 17, 2005
Judge William Froeberg ruled that prosecutors will be allowed to use DNA evidence in the trial of Alejandro Avila.
DNA Hearing Begins in Samantha Runnion Case
Jan. 12, 2004
DNA experts testified that tissue found under the fingernails of five-year-old Samantha Runnion could not be ruled out as belonging to Alejandro Avila.
DNA Hearing Held in Samantha Runnion Case
Dec. 16, 2004
Evidence taken from under the fingernails of Samantha Runnion could be linked to her accused killer, a crime lab scientist said.
Hearing Delayed in Samantha Runnion Case
Dec. 7, 2004
A pre-trial hearing on DNA testing has been delayed once again, until Dec. 13. Attorneys for Alejandro Avila requested the delay and prosecutors did not object.
Samantha Runnion Case Delayed Again
Nov. 18, 2004
Alejandro Avila requested and received another delay in the case because a defense witness became ill.
DNA Hearing for Avila Rescheduled for Oct. 8
September 11, 2004
The pretrial hearing on the scientific reliability of DNA evidence in the slaying of a 5-year-old Stanton girl was postponed Friday until Oct. 8.
Attorneys Seek Delay In Trial Of Accused Child Killer
September 7, 2004
Attorneys for Avila asked for six more weeks to prepare for a hearing on relatively new DNA techniques.
DNA Hearing Postponed Until July In Samantha Runnion Trial
March 19, 2004
A hearing on whether to allow prosecutors to introduce DNA evidence at the upcoming trial was put off Friday until July 12.
Judge Sets Date For Trial Of Suspected Killer Of Runnion
December 19, 2003
A judge set an April 2004 court date for Avila.
More Delays Expected In Samantha Runnion Murder Case
October 17, 2003
Defense lawyers for Avila say they expect to challenge the admissibility of the prosecution's scientific evidence, which could delay the Jan. 12 trial date.
Suspected Samantha Runnion Killer To Be Tried In January
March 22, 2003
A judge reaffirms that Avila's trial will begin January 12, 2004.
Arraignment Set For Accused Samantha Runnion Killer
December 2, 2002
Avila's legal team had asked that the preliminary hearing be delayed until January for further analysis of DNA tests, but Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseno refused.
Evidence in Avila Case Revealed
Oct. 8, 2002
Prosecutors spoke out for the first time about the evidence they have against kidnapping and murder suspect Alejandro Avila.