Benson sentenced to death for the 1986 murder of 24-year-old Laura Camargo of Nipomo and her three children 

SAN QUENTIN — On Tuesday, Jun. 1, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported that Condemned inmate Richard Allen Benson was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison on Monday, May 31 at 5:27 a.m.

Correctional officers entered the cell, performed CPR, and summoned an ambulance. Benson was pronounced deceased at 6:03 a.m. by a paramedic. Benson did not have a cellmate. The Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division will determine his cause of death; however, foul play is not suspected.

Benson, 74, was sentenced to death in Santa Barbara County (change of venue from San Luis Obispo County) on Apr. 30, 1987, for four counts of first-degree murder for the 1986 deaths of 24-year-old Laura Camargo of Nipomo and the sexual assault and murder of her three children (2,3 and 4).


Benson’s two sentences for lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years of age and arson of an inhabited structure were stayed pending the carrying out of the death sentence.

Benson was admitted onto California’s death row thirty-four years ago on May 1, 1987.

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said in a statement following the news.

“Richard Allen Benson personified the worst of the worst criminals,” Dow stated. “He committed the most horrific crimes in our community that I could ever imagine. Nothing, including his death in prison, will ever begin to diminish the pain and suffering that he inflicted on the young children, their mother, and their family. My heart goes out to the surviving family, Mary Einert (mother and grandmother), and especially to the one child who was not at home on the day her family was brutally murdered.”

There are currently 703 people on California’s death row. More information about capital punishment in California can be found by visiting