Convicted serial killer Andrew Urdiales was found dead today on death row in San Quentin State Prison; the cause of death was suspected suicide. According to ABC 7 News, he “was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin’s Adjustment Center Friday around 11:15 p.m. He was kept in a cell by himself and prison officials say it appears he killed himself.” According to AP News, Urdiales’ had been in that prison for less than one month, after being sentenced to death on October 5 after murdering five women in California, and having previously been charged life in prison for the killing of 3 people in Illinois.
On November 5, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas issued the following press release:
Urdiales was a monster who did not deserve to breathe the same air we all enjoy. He 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. Nevertheless, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will forever remember the courage of Jennifer Asbenson, the lone surviving victim, who testified against her attacker at his trial and the deep grief of the family and friends of the deceased victims Robbin Brandley, Julie McGhee, Mary Ann Wells, Tammie Erwin, Denise Maney, Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum, and Lynn Huber. The only just penalty in his case is death.
Here’s what you need to know about Urdiales:
1. He Was a Former Marine
According to NBC News Los Angeles, Urdiales was discharged from the military in 1991. Desert Sun says that the five murders were committed while he was “stationed at various military facilities.” The San Diego Union Tribune reported that his attorney claimed, as part of his defense, that while he “performed well in the structured environment of the military,” he “did poorly in less-stable conditions.”
2. Urdiales’ Defense Attorney Argued That He Had Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
During Urdiales’ 2011 trial in Orange County, Denise Gragg, his attorney, claimed that his brain scans and psychological tests suggested partial fetal alcohol syndrome. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, she argued that “brain damage combined with a traumatic childhood caused him to have trouble managing his anger and emotions.” Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy concluded, however, that “there was little evidence to prove Urdiales’ childhood was as unhappy as his defense attorneys claimed.” He went on to say that “Urdiales was able to control his anger, but chose to attack his victims because he is sadistic and a misogynist.”
When Urdiales was first charged in Illinois, he was given life without parole, since the death penalty was abolished in Illinois by state lawmakers; once he was convicted in California, the jury recommended he receive the death penalty, according to People.
3. The Only Known Survivor of Urdiales’ Attacks Testified Against Him
Jennifer Asbenson, who was abducted by Urdiales when she was 19 years old and escaped, told the courtroom “I just tried to go somewhere else in my mind. I wanted to die.” According to Inside Edition, Urdiales offered her a ride while she was waiting at a bus stop in 1992; after she accepted, he “drove her to a remote desert location where he tied her with rope and her own bra.”
In 2017, she brought Inside Edition to the place where Urdiales had taken her, sharing that once she managed to free herself from the restraints and the trunk of his car, she “turned and looked and he was chasing [her] down the road with a machete.”
4. He Was Arrested for the Murders After Police Found the Matching Weapon in His Truck
Urdiales got away with his murders for decades, killing 8 women before he was caught. According to Desert Sun, this is the background information on the 5 women he murdered in California: “Robbin Brandley, 23, who was attacked as she walked to her car following a concert on Jan. 18, 1986, at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo; Julie McGhee, 29, on July 17, 1988, in Cathedral City; Maryann Wells, 31, on Sept. 25, 1988, in San Diego; Tammie Erwin, 20, on April 16, 1989, in Palm Springs; and Denise Maney, 32, on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs.” NBC Los Angeles named the Illinois victims as “Laura Uylaki, Cassandra Corum and Lynn Huber, who worked as prostitutes in Illinois in the mid-1990s.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, it wasn’t until 1996 when Urdiales was at all connected to the murders of eight women. He was pulled over by authorities, who found an unauthorized weapon in his car; a year later, they identified it as the murder weapon used to kill the three Illinois women. Once he was arrested in Illinois, he confessed to the California murders.
5. He Thoroughly Documented His Killings
In 1997, The LA Times wrote an article about Urdiales, entitled “The Details, as Much as His Victims, Were the Trophies.” In the article, Lieutenant Ray Griffith is quoted saying “He was very methodical, very calm. I can’t remember what I wore last Friday–I can’t remember the details of my mother’s death–but this guy remembered everything. He sounded like a novelist.” Of Urdiales’ confession to Julie McGhee, in particular, he said “If he didn’t do it. He at least had to be there. He knew how she was dressed, down to the brand of her shoes. He knew where and how he shot her, the ammunition he used, how much he used, the tattoos she wore.”