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Slain O.C. Girl's Mom Begins Drive to Prevent Abductions

Crime: The mother of 5-year-old victim Samantha Runnion releases a brochure providing safety tips that is being sent to schools countywide.

October 10, 2002|MAI TRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The mother of a 5-year-old Stanton girl who was abducted and killed in July unveiled a brochure on kidnapping prevention Wednesday that will be distributed in schools across Orange County.

The brochures "will give our children the ideas to be aware [of] the red flags, like a grown person should never ask you for directions, or help or personal questions about your home life," Erin Runnion said at a news conference with Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona and William Habermehl, county superintendent of schools.

"These are ways predators try to gain access to our children," Runnion added.

"But if our children are aware, they have a better chance of getting out of a situation. It's our duty to watch out for our children, to protect them."

Officials began distributing some of the 500,000 brochures Wednesday to elementary and junior high schools, libraries, police stations and city offices. The Sheriff's Department and the Department of Education paid for the brochures, which cost $25,000. The handout provides tips on avoiding abduction and information on resources available to children and parents.

"We want our children to be aware of their surroundings, not afraid of them. The brochures ... are as much for parents as they are for children," Runnion said.

"And we want to empower our children to have confidence and trust in their instincts. But we must know that it is our responsibility to protect them."

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 Lake Elsinore. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

The suspect, Alejandro Avila, 27, of Lake Elsinore, awaits a preliminary hearing Dec. 2.

After her daughter's murder, Erin Runnion started the Joyful Child Foundation. She said she discovered that most people want to help and be involved in their communities but lack guidance.

"At the very least, let Samantha's example [increase] your awareness," she said.

"Do read these brochures, do talk to your children," she said. "Don't let this be in vain."

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