LA Forensics: Where There's Smoke...
Not long after investigators identified Michael Valentine as the man who'd pawned Lon Kim's watch, an anonymous tipster called the Pacific Division. Out on the street, Valentine had been bragging about a recent murder.
"Michael said that he had killed somebody and the guy was supposed to have a lot of money on him, but he wound up having only $41," Barron says.
A second caller told police that the person Valentine had bragged about killing was carrying just $21.
"One of the tips said forty-one, one of the tips said twenty-one," Barron says, "and throughout the case, it's never been resolved whether the actual take of the heinous murder was forty-one or twenty-one dollars."
Detectives went looking for Valentine but couldn't find him. His mother claimed not to know where he was or how to reach him. The cops let her ramble. Finally, Ms. Valentine let something slip. She and Kerry and Kacey Ephriam's mother were sisters, which made Michael, Kerry, and Kacey cousins.
Suddenly, the connection despite the different gang affiliations made sense. The murder of Lon Kim wasn't gang related. It was family related.
Ms. Valentine threw up a lame alibi for her son, but she didn't know how much the detectives already knew, and what she said put her son even closer to the crime.
"The mother's statement was that Michael was drinking beer with his two cousins, Kerry and Kacey, at Kacey's residence," says Pacific Division homicide supervisor Mike DePasquale. "That turns out to be a block away from where the victim's car was recovered."
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