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Man who killed Otay Mesa woman, 2-year-old girl in 1985 dies on death row

The man who was sentenced to the death penalty for killing a San Diego mother and her 2-year-old daughter in 1985 died of natural causes Wednesday in San Quentin State Prison, state officials said.

Richard Samayoa, 69, was found unresponsive in his infirmary cell, state prison officials said in a statement Wednesday. He died at 1:13 a.m.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials declined to comment on Samayoa’s health history, citing federal and state health privacy laws.

They said the cause of his death will be determined by the Marin County coroner.

Samayoa had been convicted of two counts of first-degree murder by a San Diego County jury and sentenced to death in 1988 for killing his neighbor, Nelia Silva, 33, and her infant daughter daughter three years earlier, officials said.

According to previous reports, Samayoa admitted to police that he entered the Silva home in Otay Mesa intending to steal something he could sell. He said he was frustrated because he had been unable to find a job. He said he swung a wrench at Silva and hit the child inadvertently.

According to the evidence in Samayoa’s trial, the woman was struck in the face several times, and the child was hit at least three times.

Silva has been on death row for more than three decades. On March 13, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order creating a moratorium on the death penalty in the state, meaning no executions would happen while he is in office.

That does not bar a judge from issuing a sentence of death, nor does it preclude prosecutors from continuing to pursue capital punishment in current cases.

There are 675 people currently on California’s death row.

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