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Jury recommends death for man who brutally murdered wife, 2 kids, and niece in family home

Salvator Vasquez-Olivo (Sacramento Police Dept.) and victims (KCRA screenshots)

Salvator Vasquez-Olivo (Sacramento Police Dept.) and victims (KCRA screenshots)

A California jury this week found that a 62-year-old man who brutally killed four members of his own family inside of the home they shared together should be executed for his crimes.

Jurors on Friday returned a verdict of death for Salvador Vasquez-Oliva for the 2017 slayings of his wife, 45-year-old Angelique Vasquez; their two young children, 14-year-old Mia and 11-year-old Alvin Vasquez; and his niece, 21-year-old Ashley Coleman, authorities announced.

According to a press release from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the same jury on May 1 convicted Vasquez-Oliva on four counts of first-degree murder along with allegations of personal use of a deadly weapon and the special circumstance of committing multiple murders.

Prosecutors in the criminal complaint said that Vasquez-Oliva on March 22, 2017, was acting with “malice aforethought” when he bludgeoned his wife and two children to death using a “blunt force instrument.” The then-56-year-old Vasquez-Oliva used a knife to stab Coleman to death, per the complaint.

The four victims were discovered inside of the home Vasquez-Oliva shared with his wife and kids on 35th Avenue in South Land Park. Officers with the Sacramento Police Department responded to the home after another family member requested a welfare check at the address. All four victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Several hours after the bodies were discovered, law enforcement authorities in San Francisco located Vasquez-Oliva in the Bay Area and took him into custody.

Vasquez-Oliva, who was a technician in California’s Employment Development Department for more than a decade at the time of the murders, confessed to the killings while speaking to a family member in San Francisco, according to a report from The Sacramento Bee. That family member then reportedly notified authorities as to his whereabouts. Vasquez-Oliva was reportedly arrested about 90 miles away from where the killings took place.

The quadruple murder shocked the normally quiet Sacramento community, with neighbors widely saying they never saw signs that anything was amiss with the family.

Don Sherrill, whose home shared a back fence with the victims’ house, said he and his wife, Joanne Sherrill, often heard the children playing in the backyard or using an inflatable pool.

“The young kids really enjoyed the backyard and swimming in the summertime,” Joanne Sherrill reportedly told the Bee in the days after the killings.

Vasquez-Oliva is currently scheduled to appear before Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet on Aug. 25 for his formal sentencing.

Despite the jury’s verdict for death, it is unlikely that Vasquez-Oliva will be executed anytime soon, if ever. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order in 2019 placing a moratorium on executions in the state and granting reprieves to the 737 inmates that were then on death row.

“Three out of four nations in the world know better and are doing better, they have abolished the death penalty. It’s time California joined those ranks,” Newsom said following the order.

A court-ordered moratorium on capital punishment had been in place in California since 2006 after a judge declared the state’s lethal injection process to be unconstitutional. While a new protocol was under review, Newsom’s 2019 order withdrew that protocol proposal.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.