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Orange County

Avila Moves to Postpone Hearing

October 04, 2002|CHRISTINE HANLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Lake Elsinore man accused of kidnapping and killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion wants to postpone a preliminary hearing that will determine if there is enough evidence to bring him to trial.

Attorneys representing Alejandro Avila filed a motion Thursday asking for a delay of the proceeding, now scheduled for Oct. 11, arguing that they need more time to comb over the 11,000-plus pages of documents provided to date by prosecutors.

Assistant Public Defender Denise Gragg said in her motion that it will take at least six more weeks to analyze DNA samples, cat hairs, tire tracks, shoeprints and other forensic evidence collected in the case.

Gragg argues, without elaborating, that preliminary examinations of the DNA tests "indicate that those results were obtained using processes which violate the Orange County crime lab's own protocols." She did not return calls seeking explanation.

The Orange County district attorney's office responded Thursday by promising to file a brief fiercely opposing any postponement.

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments from both sides Monday.

Avila, 27, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Samantha. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.

Samantha was abducted July 15 as she played with a friend near a row of garages at her Stanton condominium complex. Her body was found the next day along a mountain road between Orange County and the Riverside County community of Lake Elsinore. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

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