by Photo courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

The man who was sent to California’s death row for killing an Otay Mesa mother and her 2-year-old daughter more than 35 years ago died Wednesday morning of natural causes, state officials announced. 

Richard Gonzales Samayoa was found unresponsive early Wednesday morning in his cell in the infirmary at San Quintin State Prison. He was pronounced deceased at 1:35 a.m. at 69 years old. 

His cause of death was not immediately clear, the state agency reported.

He was sentenced to death in San Diego County on June 28, 1988, for two counts of first-degree murder. He was convicted of the 1985 deaths of Nelia Silva and her two-year-old daughter Katherine. 

Samayoa fatally beat Silva and the girl on Dec.18, 1985, who lived across the street from him, with a wrench when they returned from an outing to find him ransacking their Piedra Street home, looking for valuables to steal, according to police and prosecutors.

Samayoa was admitted to death row at San Quentin State Prison on July 2, 1988.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on March 13, 2019, instituting a moratorium on the death penalty in California in the form of a reprieve for all people sentenced to death. The executive order also calls for repealing California’s lethal injection protocol and the immediate closing of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. 

However, the order does not provide for the release of any individual from prison or alter any current conviction or sentence.

There are 675 people on California’s death row as of Dec. 7, 2022, according to the state agency. 

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