Death penalty appeal hearing set in case of SCV mom who murdered daughters

Court gavel
Signal File Photo.

The California Superior Court has scheduled to hear arguments for an appeal next month in the case of a Santa Clarita woman who was sentenced to death in 2000 after a murder-suicide in July 1998 that resulted in the death of her four daughters. 

Sandi Dawn Nieves was found guilty on July 27, 2000, at the age of 36 on four counts of first-degree murder of her children: Jaqlene Folden, 5; Kristl Folden, 7; Rashel Folden-Nieves, 11; and Nikolet Folden-Nieves, 12, who all died of smoke inhalation. Their bodies were found lying on the kitchen floor of their home on Cherry Creek Drive in what appeared to be a slumber party.

She was also convicted of arson and the attempted murder of her son David, who survived the blaze at age 14 and testified against her. Special circumstance charges jurors agreed on included lying in wait and multiple murders. 

The case is set to be argued on Feb. 2 in San Francisco, according to the California Supreme Court’s website. Attorneys for the plaintiff did not immediately return requests for comment. 

“We will know more after the court issues its opinion within 90 days of Feb. 2,” Nieve’s attorney, Amitai Schwartz, who was appointed to represent her for the direct appeal in 2006, said of the case via email Monday. 

Prosecutors said Nieves deliberately started the fire by pouring gasoline through her rented home and locking doors and windows in an attempt to kill herself and her children to spite her two ex-husbands, while public defenders countered that the mother was not “legally conscious” during the incident. 

“She killed her four children and attempted to kill the fifth. Justice has now been served,” prosecutor Ken Barshop said at the time of the conviction. 

She was sentenced to death in October 2000 after a trial that lasted just more than three months. Nieves has been among the several hundred people on California’s death row.

Gov. Gavin Newsom placed in March 2019 a temporary pause on the death penalty as long as he is governor, however, only voters can repeal the death penalty. California has the largest death row population in the Western Hemisphere — one in four people on death row in the nation are in California, according to the Office of the Governor. 

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