SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Two death row inmates convicted of Southern California killings were found dead in their cells at San Quentin State Prison, with both cases being investigated as probable suicides, corrections officials reported Monday.
Andrew Urdiales, 54, was found in his cell Friday about 11:15 p.m., and was pronounced dead a minute after midnight Saturday, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Victor Govin, 51, was found in his cell at 10:15 p.m. Sunday and pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m.
Both inmates were single-celled, according to CDCR Lt. Samuel Robinson. Urdiales had been on death row for less than a month, and Govin since January 2005.
There is no indication that the inmates’ deaths are related, according to corrections officials.
Urdiales, a Marine veteran, was sentenced to death Oct. 5 in Orange County Superior Court for killing five women in Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties between 1986 and 1995.
Jennifer Asbenson, who was attacked by Urdiales but managed to escape, said she has endured nearly daily “nightmares” and years of mental health issues because of her encounter with the serial killer, but she said after all of her research she came to the conclusion that to find peace she needed to forgive her one-time captor.
“I sincerely forgive you,” Asbenson told him in court. “That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the death penalty… I hope you can find God.”
Urdiales was previously sentenced to death in Chicago and Livingston County, Illinois, in two separate trials for murdering three women, but the death penalty was later abolished in Illinois, so he was re-sentenced to life without parole. He was brought to Orange County in 2011 to be tried for the five Southland murders.
Before he was sentenced to death last month, the soft-spoken Urdiales said he wanted to express his “sincere apologies” to jurors, the judge, prosecutors, victims’ families and his own family for having to hear the “gory” details of his crimes.
Urdiales said he felt he was treated more fairly in the California court than the ones in Illinois. He even praised his prosecutors.
To the jurors, he said, “I understand how they voted. If I were a juror on my case I would probably have done the same thing. There’s no hard feelings.”
Urdiales also said of Jennifer Asbenson, who managed to escape his clutches, “I sincerely hope she’s got her life back together. I hope she can put this behind her.”
Urdiales had been seeing a Veterans Administration psychologist in Chicago during his rampage of killings there and the attempted murder of Asbenson, according to trial testimony.
Urdiales was more recently convicted of killing:
- 23-year-old Robbin Brandley, who was attacked as she walked to her
car following a concert on Jan. 18, 1986, at Saddleback College in Mission
- 29-year-old Julie McGhee on July 17, 1988, in Cathedral City;
- 31-year-old Maryann Wells on Sept. 25, 1988, in San Diego;
- 20-year-old Tammie Erwin on April 16, 1989, in Palm Springs; and
- 32-year-old Denise Maney on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs.
Urdiales was previously convicted of killing Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huber, who worked as prostitutes in Illinois in the mid-1990s. Govin was sentenced to death on Dec. 21, 2004, for killing a business rival, her son, daughter and mother-in-law in the Hollywood Hills.
He was convicted of the May 2002 strangulation-arson murders of 42-year-old Gita Kumar, her 18-year-old son Paras, 16-year-old daughter Tulsi and 63-year-old mother-in-law Sitaben Patel.
His brother, Pravin Govin, 49, was also sentenced to death in September 2005. A third co-defendant Carlos M. Amador, 42, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.
Since 1978, when California reinstated capital punishment, 25 condemned inmates have committed suicide, according to the CDCR. There are currently 740 offenders on California’s death row.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)