Women on Death Row in California

Central California Women's Facility
Central California Women's Facility is the largest female correctional facility in the US, and houses the only State of California death row for women. Wikimedia Commons/California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Oftentimes, the most high profile, media-driven crime cases are committed by men, but there are and have been many women convicted of committing heinous crimes as well. The women profiled here are or have been death row inmates in California penitentiaries, sentenced to be executed for their terrible crimes.​

01
of 20

Maria del Rosio Alfaro

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Rosie Alfaro. Mug Shot

María del Rosio Alfaro was an 18-year-old addict when in June 1990, she entered the home of a friend with the intention of robbing the family to get money for drugs. The only person that was home was her friend's sister, 9-year-old Autumn Wallace.

Autumn recognized Alfaro, so she allowed her inside the Anaheim home when she asked to use the bathroom. Once inside, Alfaro stabbed Autumn over 50 times and left her dying on the bathroom floor. She then went around grabbing things that she could exchange or sell for drugs.

Confession

Fingerprint evidence led investigators to Alfaro and she eventually confessed to murdering Autumn, saying that she did it because she knew the child recognized her as her sister's friend.

Always insisting that she did the murder by herself, Alfaro changed her story during her trial and pointed the finger at someone named Beto. It took two juries to decide on a sentence. The first jury wanted the identity of the Beto before deciding a sentence. The second jury didn't buy the story about Beto at all and sentenced Alfaro to death.

02
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Dora Buenrostro

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Dora Buenrostro. Mug Shot

Dora Buenrostro, from San Jacinto, California, was 34 years old when she murdered her three children in an attempt to get even with her ex-husband.

On October 25, 1994, Buenrostro stabbed her 4-year-old daughter, Deidra, to death with a knife and a ballpoint pen, while they were in the car traveling to her ex-husband's home. Two days later she murdered her two other children, Susana, 9, and Vicente, 8, by plunging a knife into their necks as they slept.

She then tried to frame her ex-husband by telling the police that Deidra had been with him the week that she was murdered and that her ex-husband came to her apartment with a knife on the night the two other children were killed. She told police that the children were asleep when, fearing for her life, she fled the apartment.

Deidra's body was later found at an abandoned post office. Part of the knife blade was still in her neck, and she was still strapped into her car seat.

Buenrostro was found guilty after 90 minutes of deliberation. She was sentenced to death on October 2, 1998. 

03
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Socorro "Cora" Caro

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Socorro Caro. Mug Shot

Socorro "Cora" Caro was sentenced to death in Ventura County, California on April 5, 2002, for shooting to death her three sons, Xavier Jr., 11, Michael, 8, and Christopher, 5, in the head at close range, while they were asleep. She then shot herself in the head in an attempted suicide.  A fourth infant son was unharmed.

According to prosecutors, Socorro Caro methodically planned and executed the murder of the boys as an act of revenge against her husband, Dr. Xavier Caro, who she blamed for their failing marriage. 

Dr. Xavier Caro and several other witnesses testified that prior to the November 2, 1999 murders of the boys; Socorro Caro had inflicted several injuries to her husband on eight occasions, including seriously injuring his eye. 

Describing himself as a victim of domestic violence, Dr.Caro testified that on the night of the murders the couple had argued over how to discipline one of the boys. He then left to go work for a few hours at his clinic. When he returned home at around 11 p.m. he found his wife and the bodies of the children.

Court testimony showed that the Caros' marriage began falling apart after Socorro became the office manager at her husband's medical clinic and secretly took money from the clinic and gave it to her aging parents.

The jury deliberated for five days before returning the guilty verdict and recommending the death penalty. 

04
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Celeste Carrington

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Celeste Simone Carrington. Mug Shot

Celeste Carrington was 32 years old when she was sent to California's death row for the execution-style murders of a man and a woman during two separate burglaries and the attempted murder of a third victim during another burglary.

In 1992, Carrington had been employed as a janitor for several companies before being fired for theft. After leaving her position she failed to return several keys to the companies where she had worked.

On January 17, 1992, Carrington broke into one of the companies, a car dealership, and among other items, she stole a .357 magnum revolver and some bullets.

On January 26, 1992, using a key, she broke into another company and armed with the 357 magnum revolver she encountered a janitorial cleaner, Victor Esparza, who was working. After a brief exchange, Carrington robbed then shot and killed Esparza.

She later told investigators that she had intended to kill Esparza and felt powerful and excited by the experience.

On March 11, 1992, Carrington again used a key to enter another company where she had previously worked as a janitor. Armed with the revolver, she shot and killed Caroline Gleason, who was on her knees, begging Carrington to put away the gun. Carrington then stole around $700 and Gleason's car.

On March 16, 1992, she broke into a doctor's office by using a key she had when she worked in janitorial services at the office. During the robbery, she encountered Dr. Allan Marks, who she shot three times before fleeing the building. Marks survived and later testified against Carrington.

05
of 20

Cynthia Lynn Coffman

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Cynthia Coffman. Mug Shot

Cynthia Lynn Coffman was 23 when she was sentenced to death for kidnapping, sodomizing, robbing and murdering Corinna Novis in San Bernardino County and Lynel Murray in Orange County in 1986. 

Coffman and her husband, James Gregory "Folsom Wolf" Marlow were both convicted and sentenced to death for the murders that occurred during a crime spree from October-November 1986.

Coffman later claimed that she was a victim of abuse and that Marlow brainwashed, beat, and starved her in order to get her to participate in the crimes.

She was the first women to receive a death sentence in California since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

06
of 20

Kerry Lyn Dalton

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Kerry Lyn Dalton. Mug Shot

On June 26, 1988, Kerry Lyn Dalton's ex-roommate, Irene Melanie May, was tortured and murdered by Dalton and two others. It was believed that May had stolen some items from Dalton.

While tied to a chair, Dalton injected battery acid into May with a syringe. Co-defendant Sheryl Baker hit May with a cast iron frying pan and Baker and another co-defendant, Mark Tompkins, then stabbed May to death. Later, Tompkins and a fourth individual, who was only identified as "George," cut up and disposed of May's body, which was never found.

On November 13, 1992, Dalton, Tompkins and Baker were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Baker pled guilty to second-degree murder, and Tompkins pled guilty to first-degree murder. At Dalton's trial, which began in early 1995, Baker was a prosecution witness. Tompkins did not testify, but the prosecution presented statements by him through the testimony of one of his cellmates.

On February 24, 1995, the jury found Dalton guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and murder and she was sentenced to die on May 23, 1995. 

07
of 20

Susan Eubanks

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Susan Eubanks. Mug Shot

On October 26, 1997, Susan Eubanks and her live-in boyfriend, Rene Dodson, were drinking and watching a Chargers game at a local bar when they began to argue. When they returned home, Dodson said he was ending the relationship and tried to leave, but Eubanks took his car keys and slashed his tires.

Dodson contacted police and asked if they would accompany him to the house so that he could get his belongings. After Dodson and the police left, Eubanks wrote five suicide letters to family members, Dodson and her estranged husband, Eric Eubanks. She then shot her four sons, ages 4 to 14, then shot herself in the stomach.

Earlier in the day, Dodson told Eric Eubanks that Susan had threatened to kill the boys. Later when he received a text from Susan with the words, "Say goodbye," he contacted the police and asked that they do a welfare check.

The police went to Eubanks home and heard sobbing coming from inside. There they found Eubanks with gunshot wounds to her stomach along with four of her sons who had had all been shot. One of the boys was still alive but died later at the hospital. A fifth boy, Eubank's 5-year-old nephew, was unharmed.

It was determined that Eubanks had shot the boys in the head multiple times and had to reload the gun to finish the job.

Prosecutors claim that Eubanks murdered the boys out of rage.

After two hours of deliberation, a jury found Eubanks guilty and she was sentenced to death in San Marcos, California, on October 13, 1999.

08
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Veronica Gonzales

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Veronica Gonzales. Mug Shot

Genny Rojas was four years old when she went to live with her aunt and uncle, Ivan and Veronica Gonzales, and their six children. Genny's mother had gone to rehab and her father was in prison for child molestation. Six months later Genny was dead.

According to court testimony, Genny was tortured by the methamphetamine-addicted Gonzales couple for months. She was beaten, hung on a hook inside a closet, starved, forced to live inside of a box, forced into hot baths, and burned multiple times with a hairdryer.

On July 21, 1995, Genny died after being forced into a tub of water that was so hot that her skin was burned off in several areas of her body. According to autopsy reports, it took up to two hours for the child to slowly burn to death.

The Gonzales couple of found guilty of torture and murder and both received the death sentence.  They were the first couple to receive the death sentence in California.

09
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Maureen McDermott

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Maureen McDermott. Mug Shot

Maureen McDermott was convicted of ordering the 1985 murder of Stephen Eldridge for financial gain. The two co-owned a Van Nuys home and McDermott held a $100,000 life insurance policy on Eldridge.

According to court transcripts, in early 1985, McDermott's relationship with Eldridge deteriorated. Eldridge complained about the unkempt condition of the house and about McDermott's pets. McDermott was upset about Eldridge's treatment of her pets and his plans to sell his interest in the house. 

In late February 1985, McDermott asked Jimmy Luna, a co-worker and personal friend, to kill Eldridge in exchange for $50,000. 

McDermott told Luna to carve the word "gay" on the body with a knife or cut off Eldridge's penis so that it would look like a "homosexual" murder and police would take less of an interest in solving the case.

In March 1985, Luna and a friend, Marvin Lee, went to Eldridge's home and attacked him when he answered the door. Luna hit him with a bedpost, but failed to kill him, and fled the scene after Eldridge managed to escape.

Over the next few weeks, McDermott and Luna exchanged several phone calls. On April 28, 1985, Luna, Lee and Lee's brother Dondell, returned to Eldridge's home, gaining entry through a front bedroom window which had been left open for them by McDermott. 

When Eldridge returned home later that evening, Luna stabbed him 44 times, killing him, and then, following McDermott's orders, he cut off the victim's penis.

On July 2, 1985, Luna was arrested for the first-degree murder of Eldridge. In August 1985, McDermott was also arrested. She was charged with attempted murder and murder and special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and lying in wait. 

Marvin and Dondell Lee were granted immunity for the murder of Eldridge in exchange for their confessions and truthful testimony. Luna also entered into a plea agreement under which he pled guilty to first-degree murder and agreed to testify truthfully in the prosecution of the defendant.

A jury convicted Maureen McDermott of one count of murder and one count of attempted murder. The jury found true special circumstance allegations that the murder was carried out for financial gain and by means of lying in wait. McDermott was sentenced to death.

10
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Valerie Martin

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Valerie Martin. Mug Shot

In February of 2003, William Whiteside, 61, was living in his mobile home with Valerie Martin, 36, Martin's son, 17-year-old Ronald Ray Kupsch III, Kupsch’s pregnant girlfriend, Jessica Buchanan and Kupsch’s friend, 28-year-old ex-con Christopher Lee Kennedy. 

Whiteside and Martin met each other at their place of employment, the Antelope Valley Hospital. 

On February 27, 2003, Martin, Kupsch, Buchanan, Kennedy, and their friend Bradley Zoda were at Whiteside's trailer when Martin mentioned that she owed a drug dealer three hundred dollars. After discussing ways to get the money it was decided that they would steal it from Whiteside by mugging him in the parking lot when he left work that night.

Around 9 p.m., Martin drove Kennedy, Zoda, and Kupsch to the hospital, but decided it was too risky because of possible witnesses. Martin came up with another plan and dropped the three off at a friend's house and then called Whiteside and asked him to pick them up on his way home from work.

When Whiteside arrived, Kupsch, Kennedy, and Zoda, who were all high on methamphetamine, got into his car and immediately attacked him, beating him until he was unconscious. They put him into the trunk of the car and drove around, looking for a good place to stop.

During the drive, Whiteside tried twice to escape from the trunk but was beaten back both times.

Once parked, Kupsch called Martin and told her where they were and asked her to bring gasoline. When she arrived with the gasoline, Kennedy took it and poured it all over the car and Kupsch lit it on fire.

Authorities found the burned up car the following day, but Whiteside's remains were not discovered until March 10 after Whiteside's ex-wife had reported him as missing. A forensic team searched the burned-out vehicle and discovered Whiteside's remains, much of which had been burned to ashes.

An autopsy determined that Whiteside had died from smoke inhalation and bodily burns and that he had head injuries which he would have died from had he not been burned to death. 

Valerie Martin was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery, kidnapping, and murder. Kennedy and Kupsch received life sentences, without the possibility of parole. Brad Zoda, who was 14-year-old at the time, testified for the state against Martin, Kennedy, and Kupsch.

11
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Michelle Lyn Michaud

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Michelle Michaud. Mug Shot

Michelle Michaud and her (then) boyfriend James Daveggio were convicted and given death sentences for kidnapping, sexually torturing, and murdering 22-year-old Vanessa Lei Samson.

The couple outfitted the back of their Dodge Caravan into a torture chamber with hooks and rope designed to restrain their victims.

On December 2, 1997, Vanessa Samson was walking down a Pleasanton, California street when Michaud drove up beside her and Daveggio pulled her into the van. Michaud continued to drive around while Daveggio forced Samson to wear a ball gag while he sexually tortured her for hours.

The couple then tied a nylon rope around her neck and each pulled on one end, together strangling Samson to death.

Going Hunting

According to prosecutors, for three months Michaud and Daveggio drove around "hunting," a term Michaud used, for young women to kidnap. They sexually assaulted six women including Michaud's young daughter, her friend, and Daveggio's 16-year-old daughter.

During sentencing, Judge Larry Goodman described the torture and murder of Vanessa Samson as being, “vile, cruel, senseless, depraved, brutal, evil, and vicious.”

12
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Tanya Jamie Nelson

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Tanya Nelson. Mug Shot

Tanya Nelson was 45 years old and the mother of four children when she was sentenced to death in Orange County after being convicted of murdering fortune teller Ha Smith, 52, and her 23-year-old daughter Anita Vo.

According to court testimony, Nelson's accomplice Phillipe Zamora testified that Nelson wanted Smith to die because she felt cheated when Smith predicted that her business would be successful if she moved it to North Carolina.

Nelson, who had been a long-time client of Smith's, followed the advice and moved, but instead of finding success, she ended up losing her home. She was also angry when Smith would not tell her that she would be reunited with her ex-lover.

She convinced Zamora to go with her from North Carolina to Westminster, California with the purpose of killing Smith in exchange for introducing him to several possible gay sex partners.

On April 21, 2005, Zamora testified that the two of them met with Ha "Jade" Smith and her daughter Anita Vo. Nelson then stabbed Vo to death and Zamora stabbed Smith to death.

The pair then searched the house for expensive jewelry Smith was known for wearing, credit cards and other items of value. Zamora then went to Walmart and purchased white paint which they used to cover their victim's heads and hands.

Nelson was arrested five weeks later after it discovered that she had an appointment with Smith on the day of the murders and that she had used Smith's and Vo's credit cards.

Zamora received a sentence of 25 years to life.

Nelson, who has always insisted that she is innocent, received the death sentence.

13
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Sandi Nieves

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Sandi Nieves. Mug Shot

On June 30, 1998, Sandi Nieves told her five children that they were going to have a slumber party and all sleep in the kitchen of their Santa Clarita home. Tucked into sleeping bags, the children fell asleep, but then woke up choking on smoke. 

Jaqlene and Kristl Folden, 5 and 7, and Rashel and Nikolet Folden-Nieves, 11 and 12, died of smoke inhalation. David Nieves, who was 14 at the time, was able to escape the house and survived. He later testified that Nieves refused to let the children leave the burning house, telling them to stay in the kitchen.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Nieves used the gas oven to asphyxiate the children, then used gasoline to ignite a fire.

Battle With the Ex-Husband

Prosecutors believe that Nieves actions were motivated by revenge against the men in her life. In the weeks prior to the murders, Nieves boyfriend had ended their relationship and she and her ex-husband were fighting over child support.

Nieves was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and arson and was sentenced to death.

14
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Angelina Rodriguez

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Angelina Rodriguez. Mug Shot

Angelina and Frank Rodriguez met in February 2000 and were married in April of the same year. By September 9, 2000, Frank Rodriguez was dead and Angelina was awaiting $250,000 from his life insurance. But there was a holdup. Until a coroner determined Frank's cause of death, the insurance money would not be released.

To help speed up the process, Angelina called an investigator and reported that she had received an anonymous phone call with a tip that her husband had died as a result of antifreeze poisoning. It was later determined that she never received such a call.

But Angelina was right. Frank did die from antifreeze poisoning. According to a toxicology report, Frank had received massive quantities of green antifreeze four to six hours before his death.

Angelina was arrested and charged with murdering Frank within weeks after his death.

Prosecutors believe that she poured green antifreeze into Frank's green Gatorade and it was her third attempt to do away with him since she had taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy on him.

They alleged that first, ​she tried to kill Frank by feeding him oleander plants which are highly poisonous. Then she allegedly left the gas cap off the dryer and went away to visit a friend, but Frank discovered the leak.

During her trial, ​she was found guilty of threatening a witness who was a friend who was scheduled to testify that Angelina had discussed murdering her husband as a solution to her marital and financial problems.

There was also her history of gaining money from various lawsuits she had filed against companies. In six years she had earned $286,000 in settlements. 

She sued a fast-food restaurant for sexual harassment, then Target for negligence after she slipped and fell in a store, but the biggest payoff was from the Gerber Company when her daughter choked and died on a pacifier and from the $50,000 life insurance policy she had taken out on the child.

After Frank's death, an investigation into the death of her 13-month-old baby was reopened and it is now believed that Angelina murdered her child by removing the protective guard on the pacifier and shoving it down her daughter's throat so that she could sue the manufacturer for money.

Death Sentence

Angelina Rodriguez was found guilty of the murder of Frank Rodriguez, age 41, by poisoning him with oleander and antifreeze. She was sentenced to death on January 12, 2004, and resentenced on November 1, 2010. On February 20, 2014, the California Supreme Court upheld the sentence of death for Angelina Rodriguez.

15
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Brooke Marie Rottiers

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Brooke Rottiers. Mug Shot

Brooke Marie Rottiers, 30, of Corona, was convicted on June 23, 2010, of two counts of first-degree murder committed during the course of a robbery of 22-year Marvin Gabriel and 28-year-old Milton Chavez. She was sentenced to death.

According to court testimony, Gabriel and Chaves met Rottiers (nickname "Crazy") and co-defendant Francine Epps when they went to have a few drinks after work.

Rottiers offered to have sex with the two men in exchange for money. She told them to follow her and Epps to her motel room at the National Inn in Corona. Also living there was Omar Tyree Hutchinson, who was​ a drug dealer.

When the two men entered the motel room, Epps held them at gunpoint while Rottier and Hutchinson stripped, robbed and beat the men.

They then hog-tied the men with electrical cords and bras and stuffed panties and other cloth items into their mouths, covered their noses and mouths with tape, and placed plastic bags over their heads.

While the men were suffocating, Rottiers, Epps, and Hutchinson entertained themselves by doing drugs. They then disposed of the bodies in the trunk of a car which they left parked on a dirt road.

Brooke Rottiers, the mother of four children, two of which were allegedly in the motel room during the murders, is believed to have masterminded the murders. She would often brag that she would lure men with the promise of sex for cash, but then would rob them instead.

16
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Mary Ellen Samuels

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Mary Ellen Samuels. Mug Shot

Mary Ellen Samuels was found guilty of arranging the murders of her husband and of her husband's killer.

According to testimony, Samuels hired James Bernstein, 27, to murder her estranged husband, 40-year-old Robert Samuels for insurance money and for full ownership of a Subway sandwich shop that they co-owned.

Robert Samuels was in the process of divorcing his wife after three years of unsuccessfully trying to reconcile the marriage.

Bernstein was a known drug dealer and one of two fiancés of Samuels' daughter, Nicole. He allegedly was instrumental in hiring the hitman to kill Robert Samuels on December 8, 1988. Samuels was found at his home in Northridge, California, bludgeoned and shot to death.

A month after Samuels was murdered, Bernstein took out a $25,000 life insurance policy and named Nicole as the only benefactor.

Concerned that Bernstein was going to talk to police, Mary Ellen Samuels then arranged for the murder of Bernstein who was strangled to death in June 1989, by Paul Edwin Gaul and Darrell Ray Edwards.

Gaul and Edwards testified against Samuels in exchange for sentences of 15 to life.

The Green Widow

Samuels was dubbed the "green widow" by police and prosecutors when it was discovered that within the year after her husband's death and prior to her arrest, she spent more than $500,000 that she had inherited from his insurance policies and the sale of the Subway restaurant.

During the court proceedings, prosecutors showed jurors a photograph of Samuels taken within months after her husband's death. She was laying on a hotel bed, covered in $20,000 worth of $100 dollar bills.

A jury convicted Mary Ellen Samuels of the first-degree murders of Robert Samuels and James Bernstein, soliciting the murders of Robert Samuels and James Bernstein, and conspiring to murder Robert Samuels and James Bernstein. 

The jury returned a death verdict for each murder.

17
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Cathy Lynn Sarinana

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Cathy Lynn Sarinana. Mug Shot

Cathy Lynn Sarinana was 29 years old when in 2007 she and her husband Raul Sarinana were found guilty of torturing to death their 11-year-old nephew, Ricky Morales.

Brothers Conrad and Ricky Morales were sent to live with Raul and Cathy Sarinana in Randle, Washington, after their mother, Raul Sarinana's sister, was sent to jail on felony charges in Los Angeles County.

Authorities believe that the boys began being abused shortly after they began living with the Sarinanas.

The Murder of Ricky Morales

According to police, on Christmas 2005, Raul Sarinana confessed to forcing Ricky to clean the bathroom after he was feeling ill and did not want to eat the Christmas meal that Cathy Sarinana had prepared. 

Raul kicked the boy repeatedly in anger because he did not feel that Ricky was being diligent in cleaning the bathroom. He then locked the boy in a closet and stomped on him when he tried to get out.

Ricky was found dead in the closet several hours later.

An autopsy revealed that Ricky died from massive internal injuries.

According to the pretrial brief submitted by Riverside County deputy medical examiner Dr. Mark Fajardo, "Scars on Ricky's body (were) consistent with being whipped with an electrical cord or similar instrument. Ricky's scrotum was damaged with a penetrating laceration, and his scrotal sac was severely damaged... 

There were multiple scars to Ricky's scalp, primarily centered on the back of his head."

"Finally, there were multiple circular injuries consistent with cigarette burns located throughout Ricky's body that were determined to be at least several weeks, if not several months, old." 

Conrad Morales Also Found Dead

Around September 2005, the boy's mother, Rosa Morales, told the Sarinanas that she was ready for the boys to come home, but Raul told her that he could not afford the airfare. When Morales pushed the subject again in October, Raul told her that 13-year-old Conrad had run away with an older gay lover.

Both the Sarinanas told social workers another story - that Conrad was living with relatives in another state.

During the investigation into Ricky's death, detectives discovered Conrad Morales body encased inside a trash can filled with concrete placed outside the couple's Corona home. 

Raul later admitted that Conrad died around August 22, 2005, after he disciplined the boy. The couple brought his body with them when they moved from Washington to California.

Mental Torment?

Separate juries heard the cases against Raul and Cathy Sarinana.

Cathy Lynn's lawyer, Patrick Rosetti, argued that Cathy was an abused wife and was mentally tormented and went along with her husband out of fear for her two children.

Witnesses stated that they saw Raul hit and choke Cathy, but other witnesses also saw both Cathy and Raul abuse Ricky and said that Cathy treated Ricky like a slave, ordering him to clean up after her and her two children. 

Police also said that neighbors noticed that Ricky began to get thin while the rest of the family continued to look well nourished.

Death Sentence

Raul and Cathy Sarinana were both sentenced to death.

18
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Janeen Marie Snyder

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Janeen Snyder. Mug Shot

Janeen Snyder was 21 years old when on April 17, 2001, she and her lover, 45-year-old Michael Thornton, kidnapped, tortured, sexually abused and murdered 16-year-old Michelle Curran.

Both Snyder and Thornton were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Janeen Snyder and Michael Thornton first met in 1996 when Snyder, who was friends with Thornton's daughter, moved into their home. The two unlikely lovers quickly formed a bond, one that included a lot of drugs and sadistic sex with unwilling young girls.

The Murder of Michelle Curran

On April 4, 2001, in Las Vegas, Nevada, 16-year-old Michelle Curran was kidnapped by Snyder and Thornton while she was on her way to school.

Over the next three weeks,​ Curran was held captive and sexually abused and raped by the couple. Then on April 17, 2001, they trespassed onto a horse ranch in Rubidoux, California, found a storage shed that was used to store horse equipment, tied Curran hands and feet, strapped her to harnesses, violated her again, and then Snyder shot her in the forehead.

The owner of the property discovered Thornton and Snyder in the shed and the police apprehended them as they were fleeing the scene. They were charged with breaking and entering but held on a million dollar bond because of an excess of blood that was found in the shed.

Michelle Curran's body was found stuffed into a horse trailer by the property owner five days later. Thornton and Snyder were charged with kidnapping, sexual ​assault, and murder.

Other Victims

During their trial, two witnesses for the prosecution testified about being kidnapped and raped by Snyder and Thornton. According to their testimony, the young girls at different times were lured by Snyder to Thornton, held against their will, given continuous dosages of methamphetamine, sexually abused and that their lives were threatened. 

A detective for the San Bernardino County sheriff's department also testified that in March 2000, she interviewed a 14-year-old girl who said she had been held captive for over a month by Thornton and Snyder and that she was afraid that they would kill her if she tried to escape. The young girl thought that she had been sexually assaulted when they gave her heavy drugs which included methamphetamine and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Jesse Kay Peters

During the trial's penalty phase, a psychiatric expert who interviewed Snyder testified that she had confessed to the murder of 14-year-old Jesse Kay Peters.

Jesse Peters was the only daughter of Cheryl Peters, a hair stylist that worked for Thornton in his hair salon.

According to the witness, Snyder told her that on March 29, 1996, in Glendale, California, she lured Jesse Peters out of her house and into Thornton's car. 

They took her to Thornton's house and Snyder watched as Thornton handcuffed Peters to a bed and raped her. He then drowned Peters in a bathtub before dismembering her remains and dumping them off Dana Point.

Thornton's ex-wife testified that she overheard Thornton talking about dismembering a young girl and throwing her remains into the ocean.

Thornton and Snyder have not been charged in connection with Peters' case.

19
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Catherine Thompson

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Catherine Thompson. Mug Shot

Catherine Thompson was found guilty of the June 14, 1990, murder of her husband of ten years, Melvin Johnson. The motive was a $500,000 life insurance policy that Thompson wanted to get her hands on.

According to police records, on June 14, 1990, police received a 9-1-1 call from Catherine Thompson stating that she was picking up her husband from his auto transmission shop and heard what sounded like backfire coming from a car, then she saw someone running from the shop.

When the police arrived they found Melvin Thompson inside his shop, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Catherine Thompson told them that her husband kept a lot of cash and his Rolex watch in the shop, both which appeared to have been stolen.

At first, the police thought the crime was related to the "Rolex Robber" who was a thief that was stealing expensive Rolex watches around the Beverly Hills area. But a shop owner next door to Melvin's shop saw a suspicious looking man get into a car around the same time as the shooting and he was able to provide investigators with the license plate number.

Police traced it to a rental agency and retrieved the name and address of the person that rented it. That led them to Phillip Conrad Sanders who turned out to not only know Catherine, but the two had been involved together in an alleged shady real estate deal.

Police arrested Phillip Conrad Sanders on suspicion of murder, his wife Carolyn, and her son, Robert Lewis Jones, for suspicion of being an accessory to murder.

Phillip Sanders was found guilty of murder and received a life sentence. His wife was also found guilty and received six years and 14 months and her son, who police believe drove the getaway car received eleven years.

Phillip Sanders fingered Catherine Thompson as the mastermind of her husband's murder. Although there was no direct evidence presented by prosecutors that proved that she was involved, the jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to death.

20
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Manling Tsang Williams

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Manling Tsang Williams. Mug Shot

Manling Tsang Williams was 32 when she was convicted in 2010 of killing her 27-year-old husband, Neal, and sons, Ian, 3, and Devon, 7 in August 2007. It wasn't until January 19, 2012, that she was sentenced to death.

A Growing Family

The following year they bought a condo in Rowland Heights and in 2003 Ian, their second son was born.

For the most part, Manling appeared to be a loving mother and wife, although not the best housekeeper, but she was a working mom. She had been working as a waitress at the Marie Callender's in the City of Industry.

Neal was a devoted father and also worked hard at his insurance job, often spending time working the job at home on his computer.

The Crime

Then in 2007, Manling reunited with an old high school flame through MySpace and the two began having an affair. Then strangely, in June 2007, Manling began telling friends about a nightmare that she kept having of Neal suffocating the children then killing himself.

On August 7, 2007, Devon and Ian ate some pizza and went quickly to bed. As they fell asleep, Manling put on rubber gloves, went into the boy's room and suffocated both boys.
She then got on her computer and checked out MySpace, in particular, her boyfriend's profile page, then headed out to meet friends for drinks.

When she returned home Neal was asleep. She got a samurai sword and began slashing and stabbing Neal, cutting him 97 times as he fought back, his hands getting gouged as he held them up trying to defend himself from the deadly blows. In the end, he begged her to get him help, but she chose to let him die.

The Cover Up

She then posted a suicide note, making it appear as if it was from Neal, blaming himself for killing the children and then committing suicide. She cleaned off the blood, gathered up her bloody clothing and disposed of it.

Once that was finished, she ran outside and began screaming and a crowd of neighbors quickly formed. At first, Manling said she couldn't sleep and had been out for a drive when she returned home and found her husband. But when police arrived, she changed her story. She said she had been at the grocery store.

She went to the police station and for hours cried and sniffled, asking the investigators if Neal and the kids were OK. She stuck to her story about finding the bodies until one of the detectives told her about a bloody cigarette box that they discovered in her car.

It was at that moment that Manling realized that her alibi was a washout and she broke down and confessed to the murders.

A Judge's Reflections

In 2010 Manling Tsang Williams' court case began. She was not only charged with the three counts of first-degree murder and also of the special circumstances of multiple murders and lying in wait, which made it a death penalty case.

Finding her guilty was not challenging for the jury. It took them only eight hours on all counts, including the special circumstances. However, when it came to sentencing Manling Williams, the jury could not agree on life or death.

She had to face a second penalty phase jury and this time there was no deadlock. The jury recommended the death penalty.

Judge Robert Martinez agreed with the jury and on January 12, 2012, he sentenced Williams to death, but not without voicing his opinion on her crimes.

"The evidence is compelling that the defendant, for selfish reasons, murdered her own two children," Martinez said.

He referred to the motivation behind the murders as, "narcissistic, selfish and adolescent," and said that had she wished to abandon her children, there were several family members who would have cared for them.

In his final words to Williams, Martinez said, "It is not for me to forgive because the ones in the position to forgive are not with us. I hope your families find peace."

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Montaldo, Charles. "Women on Death Row in California." ThoughtCo, Apr. 19, 2018, thoughtco.com/women-on-death-row-in-california-973502. Montaldo, Charles. (2018, April 19). Women on Death Row in California. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-on-death-row-in-california-973502 Montaldo, Charles. "Women on Death Row in California." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-on-death-row-in-california-973502 (accessed May 24, 2018).