Death Row inmate from Desert Hot Springs found dead in San Quentin cell

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - A Desert Hot Springs gang member who killed a U.S. Marine and a 17-year-old boy was found dead in his death row cell at San Quentin State Prison, authorities said Thursday.

An autopsy was pending to determine the cause of 40-year-old Emilio Manuel Avalos' death, according to the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

A spokesman for the state agency, Lt. Sam Robinson, said the convicted murderer was pronounced dead about 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Avalos had been on death row since March 5, 2013, two weeks after Indio- based Riverside County Superior Judge James Hawkins imposed capital punishment on the felon for the slayings of 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano in 2001 and 17-year-old Jahi Collins in 1994.

Avalos fatally shot Collins and severely wounded his friend, Bobby Wilson, on the night of Dec. 21, 1994, as the two sat in a park, where they had been socializing with a couple of teenage girls. The location was considered the territory of Avalos' gang, the West Drive Locos, whose members were anti- black.

Collins was black and Wilson white. Both men were shot multiple times. Wilson suffered a paralyzing wound that left him unable to walk.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 2001, Avalos followed Lozano after he visited the residence of the gang member's ex-girlfriend, who had spurned him in favor of Lozano. The young Marine was gunned down by Avalos in his vehicle less than a mile away.

Both shootings went unsolved until 2006, when investigators began amassing evidence with the help of informants, culminating in murder charges and special circumstance allegations against Avalos. He was convicted in the fall of 2012.

Since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1978, 74 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 25 have committed suicide and 13 have been executed, according to the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. Another eight have died from unspecified causes, while three deaths, including Avalos', are unresolved.

The death row inmate population is currently 745.

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