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Man held in death of Samantha Runnion was acquitted in molestation case two years ago
By Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press, 7/20/02
The criminal court case and a stalking complaint by an ex-girlfriend provided the most substantial record of the suspect, Alejandro Avila, who drew little notice from his Lake Elsinore neighbors.
"We'd say 'hi' and 'bye.' That was about it," said Brianna Barber, 26.
"He never talked to anybody," said Daria Gonzalez, 55, who noted that he spent most of his time at his sister's apartment in the same complex, often staying outside past midnight talking with friends.
Avila, 27, was arrested Friday after being detained at his mother's Lake Elsinore apartment in Riverside County, 10 miles from where Samantha's body was found Tuesday, a day after she was snatched from Stanton in Orange County. He wasn't immediately charged.
Avila was identified by authorities as a production line supervisor at a Guidant Corp. plant in Temecula. The company, which makes cardiac and vascular products such as pacemakers and coronary stents, confirmed his employment but had no comment.
In May 1999 an ex-girlfriend with whom Avila had lived filed for a temporary restraining order, accusing Avila of stalking her, according to Riverside County court records.
"He has come to my home! My place of employment. I have asked him to leave me alone," she wrote in her court filing. "The man is stalking me! He follows me around town!"
It was unclear from the documents whether the request was granted.
In February 2000, Avila was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with the 9-year-old daughter of the ex-girlfriend and one count of the same charge involving a second girl, according to trial documents.
A threat was also alleged to have been made by Avila via a cellular telephone call to the mother of the second girl.
Avila, however, was acquitted of the molestation counts and the charge of attempting to prevent or dissuade a potential witness from testifying.
The allegations surfaced in December 1999 when the ex-girlfriend reported her daughter had been molested from January to March. The girl lived with her father in the same complex in Stanton where the Runnion family now lives, but spent alternate weekends with her mother in Riverside County.
The ex-girlfriend's foster brother, Lewis Davis, said Avila had visited the girl in Stanton on several occasions in 1998-99.
The father, who has since moved away, said in a telephone interview that he knew Avila through his ex-wife, but declined to comment further.
The criminal allegations involving the second 9-year-old girl were reported by her father on the same day and involved the same time frame.
In January 2000, Avila told authorities he lived with his girlfriend from 1996 until 1999 and sometimes baby-sat her daughter and the other girl. He said he had no idea why either would level charges, the records showed.
He was arrested that month and posted $50,000 bail.
Avila was represented in that case by attorney John Pozza. His office was closed Friday afternoon and he could not be reached for comment.