- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) Prosecutors said yesterday that they will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, who was dragged away from a playmate by a man who asked for help in finding his puppy.

Alejandro Avila, 27, 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.

"There is no question in my mind that the person who kidnapped, molested and murdered 5-year-old Samantha should face the death penalty," Orange County District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas said. He said he would not consider a plea bargain under any circumstances.

Mr. Avila, who has been jailed without bail, has denied the charges, saying he was at a mall when the girl was snatched.

Samantha was abducted from in front of her home July 15 as she played with a 5-year-old friend. Her nude body was found the next day alongside a mountain highway. Investigators said she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated.

Authorities have said they are certain Mr. Avila, who worked at a plant that makes pacemakers and other medical devices, is the man who abducted the girl.

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