Two Southland Death Row Inmates Found Dead This Weekend

Two Southland Death Row Inmates Found Dead This Weekend

News Staff

The deaths of two San Quentin State Prison inmates, including a former Marine sent to death row last month for killing five women in Riverside County and elsewhere in Southern California, are being investigated as probable suicides, state corrections officials reported Monday.

Andrew Urdiales, 54, was found unresponsive in his cell Friday night 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 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.

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 Viejo;

— 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.

In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Urdiales “was a monster who did not deserve to breathe the same air we all enjoy.” He said Urdiales “remained a callous coward until the end as he robbed the victims’ families of the right to be present when the state put him to death.”

Govin was sentenced to death on Dec. 21, 2004, for the killings of a business rival, her son, daughter and mother-in-law in the Hollywood Hills.

His brother, Pravin Govin, 49, was also sentenced to death in September 2005 for 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.

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.