Runnion Defense Rests in Penalty Phase

Attorneys for a man convicted of kidnapping and killing 5-year-old Samantha Runnion (search) rested their case Tuesday in the penalty phase of the trial.

Alejandro Avila (search), 30, was found guilty last month of kidnapping, murder and sexual assault. Following closing arguments, jurors were expected to begin deliberating on whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Three former colleagues of Avila, a factory worker, testified he was a good employee. A forensic clinical psychologist said Avila's father admitted in an interview to beating his son.

Avila, of Lake Elsinore (search), was acquitted of molesting two girls in 2001 in a neighboring county, and authorities said they believe he killed Samantha to avoid another such trial.

Samantha was abducted from outside her home in Stanton on July 15, 2002. Her nude body was found the next day in mountains some 50 miles away, left on the ground as if it had been posed.

The case involving Samantha has attracted widespread attention, including more than 4,000 people who attended her funeral.