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Samantha Runnion
Born July 26, 1996(1996-07-26)
Died July 15, 2002 (aged 5)
Riverside County, California

Samantha Bree Runnion (July 26, 1996 - July 15, 2002) was an American murder victim. She was born in Massachusetts and was a resident 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 body was found the next day by two men who were hang gliding off the mountainside near Ortega Highway in Riverside County, California. The autopsy revealed that she died from compression. A sample of his DNA was found under her fingernail.

The suspect, a Lake Elsinore, California, man named Alejandro Avila, was convicted of 1st degree murder with special circumstances in May 2005. His DNA matched that found on Samantha's body, and a sample of her own 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 had resided there and he had been previously acquitted of molesting her daughter and niece. On May 16, 2005, the jury recommended that he receive the death penalty. On July 22, 2005, the judge in the case formally sentenced Avila to death.

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.

External references

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