LA Forensics: The Signature Murders
Luis Garcia's wife, Isabel Rodriquez, had been on a trip at the time of the murder, going to South Carolina with her son and some friends to visit her daughter, who was stationed there in the army. Isabel had been away since April 1. Her husband, who had considered joining her, had instead elected to remain in LA. She had called him several times on April 5 but he had failed to answer the phone. On April 6, she had gotten on a plane to return home. At the connecting airport, she had tried calling again, and still could not reach him.
Arriving in LAX at 2:00 in the afternoon, she called again. He did not pick up, so she called his place of employment and learned that he had not been there for several days. Worried, she got a friend to pick her up. When she arrived at home, she met with her sister and nephew, already at the apartment, then went inside, where she found her husband's body. Her sister had already called the police. Her son gave the same account.
The detectives believed that Isabel exhibited genuine fear and grief over the incident. She had been with Luis for twenty years and was thus able to give investigators details about his background.
Luis Garcia, 58, worked as a tailor, immigrating from El Salvador eighteen years before. He had no enemies, Isabel insisted; he didn't even have many friends because he was a quiet, retiring man. She could think of no one who would do this.
Nevertheless, there was one possible lead. Luis had recently loaned a large sum of money to a relative, about $10,000, so it was possible that he'd pressured the man to have it paid back and the relative had decided to kill him to close the debt. Such motives are not uncommon. Or there might be a drug connection, common to that area of town. However, those leads came to a dead-end and the detectives were left with the probability that the incident was nothing more than a random stranger homicide. Luis's apartment had been selected because it was easy to gain access. In that case, it could be very difficult to pin this crime on someone.
Isabel said that the clothing Luis was wearing — a sweatshirt and thermal long underwear — was what he usually wore to go to bed. Since one of the beds was unmade, it was likely he'd been taking a midday nap when the intruder had entered through the window. Perhaps he'd been awakened by the noise and had confronted the man, resulting in a fatal struggle. Oddly, a shirt and the denim jacket were not his. Apparently, his killer had decided to shed his clothing and take some from the apartment.
Isabel also helped them to determine what had been taken: a couple of rings, a necklace, and about $900 in cash that Luis usually kept in the apartment. One gold ring could be easily identified because the name Luis had been carved onto it.
To get an accurate rendering to show to local pawn shops, the detectives had Isabel sit down with a forensic artist. She described the ring as the artist did a sketch, and once Isabel was satisfied that it looked right, the detectives had copies made and distributed. Then they waited for the evidence from the scene to be processed.