Ex-Pendleton Marine found dead in death-row prison cell

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – A former Camp Pendleton Marine who was sentenced to death for a Southern California murder spree was found dead in his death-row cell last Friday, prison authorities confirmed Monday.

Victor Govin, 51, was also found in his cell at 10:15 p.m. Sunday and pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m.

There is no indication that the inmates’ deaths are related, according to corrections officials.

Andrew Urdiales, 54, was awaiting execution for the murders of five women in Southern California. The women were killed in Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties between 1986 and 1995.

Urdiales was sentenced to death Oct. 5 in Orange County Superior Court for 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 sentenced to death in Chicago and Livingston County, Illinois, in two separate trials for murdering Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huber, who worked as prostitutes in that state in the mid-1990s. 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 Southern California 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.

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.

Prison authorities said Urdiales’ death was being investigated as a suicide.