Murder of Samantha Runnion
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2011)|
|Born||Samantha Bree Runnion
July 26, 1996
|Died||July 15, 2002
Riverside County, California
|Cause of death||Murdered|
|Known for||Murder victim|
|Parents||Derek Jackson (father)
Erin Runnion (mother)
Samantha Bree Runnion (July 26, 1996 – July 15, 2002) was a five-year-old American murder victim. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts on July 26, 1996, and her family were residents of Stanton, California.
Kidnapping and murder 
Samantha was kidnapped, sexually abused and strangled by a man who lured her from her front yard by telling her he had lost his dog. Her naked body was found the next day by a passer-by in Cleveland National Forest, 50 miles southeast of Stanton. The autopsy revealed that she died from compression. A sample of the kidnapper's DNA was found under her fingernail.
The suspect, a Lake Elsinore, California, man named Alejandro Avila, was convicted of first degree murder with special circumstances in May 2005. His DNA was found on Samantha's body, and her DNA was found in his car. He was arrested three days after the abduction. Avila had previously been to the condominium complex where Samantha lived, because his ex-girlfriend resided there and he had been previously acquitted of molesting her daughter and niece. On May 16, 2005, the jury recommended he receive the death penalty. On July 22, 2005, Avila was formally sentenced to death. He is incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison on death row.
Her kidnapping and murder occurred during the trial of David Westerfield for the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle van Dam. This led to fears that it would affect his trial, as media coverage of Samantha was inescapable, and her mother blamed Avila’s previous jury for failing to convict him in his previous sexual abuse case. The judge in the Westerfield case told the jury, which was not sequestered, that Samantha’s case was not similar in any way to Danielle’s. Yet both victims were prepubescent girls who lived in Southern California, not even 100 miles apart; both were kidnapped from traditionally safe places; both are believed to be victims of sexual assault; both bodies were found nude in deserted areas along a highway some miles from their homes; both were left on the ground as if they had been posed; and both cases fueled parents' fears about their children's safety and prompted debates on appropriate parenting.
Joyful Child Foundation 
The Joyful Child Foundation was established in her memory. The Joyful Child Foundation—In Memory of Samantha Runnion (TJCF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 after the abduction, molestation and murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion. TJCF is dedicated to raising awareness about child sexual abuse and abduction while facilitating proactive community organizing to give everyone an opportunity to participate in the national movement to stop violent sexual crimes against children.
- THE SAMANTHA RUNNION MURDER CASE
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