SACRAMENTO (AP) — Two condemned multiple murderers, including a convicted serial killer, apparently committed suicide within hours of each other on the nation’s largest death row, according to California officials on Monday.
Corrections officials found Andrew Urdiales, 54, unresponsive during a security check at San Quentin State Prison late Friday, and he was pronounced dead early Saturday, according to a statement.
He was sentenced to death on Oct. 5 by an Orange County jury for killing five women in California, and previously faced the death penalty for three murders in Illinois.
The California victims were Robbin Brandley, 23, who was attacked as she walked to her car following a concert on Jan. 18, 1986, at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo; Maryann Wells, 31, on Sept. 25, 1988, in San Diego; Julie McGhee, 29, on July 17, 1988, in Cathedral City; Tammie Erwin, 20, on April 16, 1989, in Palm Springs; and Denise Maney, 32, on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs. The murders occurred while he was stationed at various U.S. Marine Corps facilities in Southern California.
He previously was convicted of killing Cassie Corum, 21, and Lori Uylaki, 25, both from Hammond, Illinois; and Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago, in the mid-1990s and was sentenced to death there in 2004. Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan commuted his sentence to life in prison in 2011 after capital punishment was outlawed in that state.
He had been on California’s death row since Oct. 12. While his cause of death is awaiting the results of an autopsy, officials said his death is being investigated as a suicide. He was alone in his cell in the “adjustment center,” the first place condemned inmates are housed after arriving at death row.
Separately, authorities say they found Virendra Govin, 51, unresponsive alone in his cell in a different death row housing unit late Sunday. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
Govin was sentenced in December 2004 for committing four Los Angeles County murders, then setting the victims’ family home on fire.
The victims were Gita Kumar, 42; Plara Kumar, 18: Tulsi Kumar, 16; and Sitaben Patel, 63. Govin, his brother Pravin Govin, and Carlos Amador, then set the Kumars’ home on fire. Govin arrived on death row in January 2005. His brother, Pravin, has been on death row since September 2005.
Officials said that while his death is also being investigated as a suicide, there is no indication that his and Urdiales’ deaths are related.
California has not executed anyone since 2006 and inmates are far more likely to die from suicide or old age.
Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 79 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 25 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, one was executed in Missouri, and one was executed in Virginia.
There currently are 740 offenders on California’s death row.
While suicides are not uncommon, the pair of deaths comes weeks after a rare slaying.
Officials said Jonathan Fajardo, 30, was fatally stabbed Oct. 5 in a recreational yard. Fellow inmate Luis Rodriguez, 34, is considered the suspect, but investigators were trying to determine a motive and how he obtained or was able to make the weapon.