SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury began deliberating Wednesday in the case of a factory worker accused of kidnapping and killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion (search) in 2002.
The crime occurred amid a series of attacks on children around the nation, prompting widespread outrage and a massive hunt for the killer.
Jurors got the case after Deputy District Attorney David Brent urged them to consider all the evidence, including DNA (search) from the victim found inside the car of defendant Alejandro Avila (search) and his DNA discovered beneath her fingernails.
Jurors went home in the late afternoon without reaching a verdict and were scheduled to return Thursday to resume deliberations.
On Tuesday, the prosecution showed jurors crime scene photos of the nude body of the girl.
Defense lawyer Philip Zalewski countered that the prosecution presented a weak, circumstantial case against Avila, with improperly collected DNA and a timeline that made no sense.
A man who said he was looking for a lost puppy snatched Samantha outside her home on July 15, 2002. Her body was found the following day in mountains some 50 miles away, left on the ground as if it had been posed.
Avila, 30, is charged with kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault and one count of murder. If convicted, jurors will decide in a separate penalty phase whether he should get the death penalty or life in prison without parole.