Avila's Ex-fiancee Grapples With Guilt

ByABC News via logo

Aug. 8, 2002 -- As Alejandro Avila, the man charged in the kidnapping and killing of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, gets ready to enter a plea Friday, his former financée says she's looking forward to justice being served.

Lizbeth Veglahn said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that she tried to have Avila jailed years ago for allegedly molesting her own daughter and niece. He was brought to trial but acquitted.

Avila, 27, is charged with murder, kidnapping and two counts of forcible lewd acts on a child in the Runnion case. He is expected to enter a plea at a court hearing Friday.

Veglahn says she's aware that prosecutors will seek the death penalty if Avila is convicted.

"Justice can finally be served not only for my daughter and my niece, but for Samantha," Veglahn said on Good Morning America.

Was Suspect Looking for Veglahn’s Daughter

Samantha was abducted from in front of her Stanton, Calif., apartment complex July 15 as she played with a 5-year-old friend.A man dragged her, kicking and screaming, into his car and drove off. The little girl's nude body was found the next day alongside a mountain highway. Investigators said she had been sexually assaulted and suffocated.

Veglahn says she believes Avila had been looking for her daughter that day. The daughter, now 11, used to live in the complex, just a few doors down from Samantha's family.

"In my opinion, he was going there to look for my daughter. I believe he was obsessed with her," Veglahn said.

Avila was tried a year and a half ago on charges that he molested Veglahn's daughter and niece. According to court documents, Avila allegedly told Veglahn's daughter that "if she told anyone he would kill her mother or her."

There was no physical evidence in that case — just the word of the two girls against Avila's — and he was acquitted.

"I told the jurors they made a mistake," Veglahn said, "and it's only a matter of time before he does it again."

Guilty Feelings

Although she tried to have Avila put behind bars, Veglahn says she hasn't been able to escape feelings of guilt since Samantha's death.

"Everyone keeps telling me that I did everything that I possibly could, but a little girl is gone and no one can bring her back," Veglahn said. "Somehow I feel responsible for that, because maybe I didn't try hard enough."

Veglahn said she broke up with Avila before her daughter accused him of molesting her because he had become violent.

Avila, who is now being held without bail, has denied any involvement in Samantha's killing. He says he was at a mall when she was snatched.

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