Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.
QUESTION: Whatever happened to Avelina Luna and the killing of her children?
Submitted by: John, Sacramento
ANSWER: A Sacramento County jury found Avelina Luna guilty of first-degree murder in the asphyxiation deaths of her two elementary school-age daughters at their Natomas home in March 1993.
But the jury subsequently deadlocked 9-3 in favor of insanity on the question of whether Luna was legally sane at the time of the murders.
According to stories in The Bee, a third daughter found Luna lying unconscious on her bed next to the bodies of her daughters, Crystal, 6, and Rachel, 8, who had been strangled. Luna had taken an overdose of blood-pressure medicine, and police said she had left two suicide notes -- one asking for forgiveness from her church and one telling her 16-year-old daughter that she could not live anymore.
Luna's attorney said her mental state had deteriorated since the death of her husband four years earlier.
In a compromise between the prosecutor, who had sought a new sanity trial, and the defense attorney, who had said Luna belonged in a psychiatric facility, she was deemed insane regarding one count of murder and withdrew her not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea on the other count.
She was committed to a state mental institution in 1994. If ever found to have regained her sanity, she would face the remainder of a prison sentence of 25 years to life on the second charge.
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