2 death row inmates found dead by suicide in Calif. prison

The two suicides are not believed to be related

By Alex Riggins
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — A serial killer and former Camp Pendleton Marine convicted of slaying eight women in two states in the 1980s and ‘90s, including a San Diego woman in 1988, was found dead over the weekend in his cell on death row at San Quentin State Prison in a suspected suicide, officials said Monday.

Andrew Urdiales, 54, was sentenced to death on Oct. 5 and had been on death row since Oct. 12. Correctional officers found him unresponsive in his cell about 11:15 p.m. Friday during a security check.

Urdiales was alone in his cell in the prison’s Adjustment Center, a housing unit for problem prisoners. Correctional officers performed CPR, but Urdiales was pronounced dead at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

“His cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy; however, his death is being investigated as a suicide,” Lt. Samuel Robinson with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

Urdiales was sentenced to death last month by Orange County Judge Gregg Prickett, who affirmed an earlier death penalty decision by an Orange County jury. That same jury had convicted Urdiales in May of five counts of murder in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties, and he’d previously been convicted of three slayings in the Chicago area.

Urdiales killed eight women during a nine-year-spree. He killed four of his victims in Southern California while enlisted in the Marine Corps and stationed at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, according to prosecutors. He killed a fifth California woman after being discharged from the military.

Among his victims was 31-year-old San Diego resident Maryann Wells, who was murdered on Sept. 25, 1988, and dumped in a downtown San Diego alley.

About 23 hours after Urdiales was discovered in the Adjustment Center, a second death row prisoner died of suspected suicide in a different area of the prison.

Virendra Govin, 51, was discovered in his cell in the North Segregation housing unit around 10:15 p.m. on Saturday and pronounced dead 15 minutes later. He and his brother, Pravin Govin, were each sentenced to death for murdering a business rival and three of the rival’s family members in 2004.

The suspected suicides of Govin and Urdiales were not believed to be related, according to prison officials.

Since 1978, when California reinstated the death penalty, 25 death row prisoners have committed suicide and 79 have died of natural causes, prison officials said. There are 740 prisoners on California’s death row.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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