LA Forensics: The Sandwich Shop Murders
Gathering the Team
The medical examiner, Dr. Christopher Rogers, came in to check and remove the body of Brian Berry for autopsy, while homicide detective Terry Richardson and detective Peggy Moseley took over the scene. The crime looked like an obvious robbery; the officers noted that the cash register was open and the tray empty, with only a few coins left inside. More interesting was the empty floor safe in a room in the back of the store. This indicated to them that the perpetrator had known about its existence and location. That could narrow their suspect pool. The fact that the perp had chosen a shop so close to a police substation suggested either a degree of rash confidence or familiarity with the area.
A security bar placed across the back door had been removed and set aside, an obvious exit. The officers went through the door looking for tracks or other items of evidence and came into an alley. A few yards away lay a plastic Sandwich shop bag that contained a wrapped sandwich. Careful not to touch it, they mapped the scene, inside and out, and let the Scientific Investigation Division take it over for evidence collection.
The SID technicians began dusting everything inside the store for prints, but they knew a public place like this could pose difficulties because so many people have touched things. However, they spotted a partial shoeprint on the counter, going in a direction that indicated someone jumping up to get behind the counter. They photographed this and then carefully made a lift. If they developed a suspect, they could get his shoes and check for a match. They collected several bags of chips that lay on the counter, picked up the dropped sandwich from the alley, and found three scattered shell casings from a .380 semiautomatic handgun, but did not locate a weapon. In addition, they discovered that the alarm system was defunct. Even if James White had pushed the button, it would have done him no good.
Detectives hoped that the critically injured James might be able to give them a description of the perpetrator, so they checked on his progress at Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills.