Bag of Tricks: The Murder of Roland Kuster
Finally a Break
Small and Thacker hadn't forgotten about the backpack and the name on the envelope inside: David Minor. But they thought they had a viable suspect in Brandon and were sorting through the shopping list of known acquaintances. First they needed to rule out who was actually known to have been in the house the night he died. While searching the car of one of Kuster's friends, detectives found a bloody bandage and chased down that lead. The DNA belonged to the friend and didn't prove anything.
Five days after the murder, detectives had contacted the state parole office regarding Minor and requested a copy of his fingerprints. On June 4 they arrived, but didn't match anything in the house.
Minor had been released from prison just four days before the murder, and had an extensive criminal record dating back to 1969, that included armed robbery, assault, burglary and robbery. He was also a suspect in another murder but never charged.
Detectives continued to look at other potential suspects, but they spent most of July and August trying to track down Minor. What they didn't know — that would've turned around the investigation — is that Minor had been detained by patrol officers about a dozen blocks from the crime scene around the same time detectives arrived at the house. Minor, wearing only bloody boxer shorts, had cuts all over his body and was trespassing on someone's property. The property owners called police.
Minor told the officers that he had been in a fight. The police didn't realize that a murder investigation was underway in the area so they let him go. Officers never put the information in the LAPD database so the detectives had no idea that Minor had been stopped a short distance away. In fact, they didn't learn about it until the end of July. Once they heard about it, they canvassed the area, looking for his discarded clothing but couldn't find it.
"Obviously I was upset. We could've solved this crime much faster. The public would not have been put at risk having someone this vicious at large in the community," Small said.
When Minor checked into a homeless shelter and applied for food stamps in Atlanta, he was flagged on a computer and promptly arrested. Detectives traveled back there to talk to him and get a DNA sample.
"He just asked out of the clear blue, 'Hey are you guys from Hollywood?'" Small said. A highly incriminating statement.
It took three more months before Minor was extradited to California.