Former SLO County man on death row dies in prison

June 1, 2021

Richard Allen Benson


A San Luis Obispo County man who murdered a woman and her three children in Nipomo in 1986, and had been on death row since the following year, died on Memorial Day.

Correctional officers found Richard Allen Benson, 74, unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin Sate Prison at 5:27 a.m. Monday. Officers entered the cell, performed CPR and called for an ambulance. At 6:03 a.m., a paramedic pronounced Benson dead, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Benson did not have a cellmate, and foul play is not suspected. The Marin County coroner will determine Benson’s cause of death.

The condemned SLO County man killed Laura Camargo and her three young children. Benson sexually assaulted Camargo’s two daughters repeatedly before killing them. He also set the family’s home on fire.

Benson’s trial was moved to Santa Barbara County because of the publicity surrounding the case. A Santa Barbara County jury convicted Benson of four counts of first-degree murder, as well as other offenses.

On April 30, 1987, a judge sentenced Benson to death.

The state admitted Benson onto death row on May 1, 1987.


Who says government is inefficient. Only 35 years and likely several million $s to carry out this sentence.


I too remember when this happened and recall being horrified at the brutality and evilness of this mans crimes. Ms. Camargo’s mother and the grandmother of those innocent children has had to live with unspeakable pain and suffering that most of us cannot even imagine for 34 years. I do not think her or anyone’s tragedy should be invalidated with this becoming a discussion on money and cost. I think that with the advances of DNA and if there is no margin of error that a person is guilty and has been sentenced to death, if it is the wishes of the victims family, the death sentence should be carried out. It pains me to think that Mary Einhart has to endure a scab of this magnitude being ripped off her wound. She should have been allowed to watch his sentence carried out if that is what she chose.

Kevin Rice

Camargo’s mother, Mary Einert, tells NBC affiliate KSBW she has barely told anyone about the case in the years since, but she felt she needed to speak out in an attempt to change Governor Newsom’s mind on his death penalty moratorium.

Benson was 39 years old when he killed Einert’s daughter by brutally beating her with a hammer. He suffocated her 23-month-old son and spent the next 30 hours molesting Laura’s young daughters. During the investigation, he told police it was a “molester’s type of heaven.”

“Gavin Newsom has ripped the scab off of my wound and opened it all over again,” said Einert. “He’s giving freedom from their sentence to people who have created tragedy in an enormous amount of people’s lives.”


Average cost per inmate in California is $81,000, x 34 years equals $2,754,000. Just one of the reasons the state continues to look for more money due to this type of waste.


California has approximately 122,000 prisoners. The 700 death row prisoners account for a minuscule 0.006 fraction, so not immediately executing all the death row prisoners is hardly “one of the reasons” the state is looking for more money.

But if you want to talk about the costs of the death penalty, don’t forget that proceeding with the spectacle of an execution ceremony also costs a significant amount, with the automatic appeals and last minute clemency requests.

Taking a step back from that, on average, death penalty trials cost 48% more than trials where the prosecution sought a sentence of life in prison. Furthermore, a 2008 report issued in California stated that total costs of the death penalty system were about $137 million per year, and that implementing reforms to ensure a fair process would cost $232.7 million per year. By contrast, the report found that a system in which life in prison was the maximum penalty would cost only $11.5 million per year. So that’s something to consider if “saving money” is really what you care about.

I’m sure these facts will get downvoted by the mob because they are inconvenient to the pro-death penalty narrative.


34 years on Death Row?! That means instead of legally punishing him for his heinous crimes, instead we offered room and board as well as medical care, all on the taxpayers dime. #$%&!


Death Row worked, it just too 34 years to do it.



Jorge Estrada

Why did we nourish him for 34 years? At least there could have been a job that we pay other countries to perform and likely by their prisoners? Forgiveness can be very difficult, even for the reader of this crime update.


He should of been put to death years ago. I remember those horrific crimes by this sick individual. May he feel perpetual heat of hell forever.


I remember this case. Very sad indeed.