Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

"Maternal Instinct"

Death at the Del Mar

On the night of Aug. 1, 1998, Hironaga called Pati and spun her a tale about two high-rollers willing to pay big bucks for some female companionship. Just past midnight, the two women met the so-called high rollers Murillo and Balignasa on the north end of the strip, at the Del Mar Motel.

"I've been to the Del Mar Motel, as a reporter not as a client," Dominick Dunne said. "The manager ... let me look around. It's a very seedy place. You can tell it's seen a lot of sleazy things."

Although Diana had told Pati they would be there for only a few minutes, she plunked down $30 for three hours and got a key to room No. 6. A couple of hours later, they were still there and Pati smelled at rat.

At 2:30 a.m., she called Dean for help. He told her he had just gotten into a fight. He had a broken nose and couldn't come get her. Dean told her to take a cab. Realizing she was on her own, Pati went into the bathroom. Police later speculated she may have been thinking of climbing out a window, but the bathroom didn't have a window. Pati was trapped.

While Pati was in the bathroom trying to figure out what to do, Diana asked Murillo and Balignasa, "So are you guys going to do this or not?"

When Pati came out, Murillo tried to strangle her. Pati fought like the experienced prostitute she was. Murillo shouted for Balignasa to hand over his belt. Finally, the ex-con choked the life out of Pati Margello.

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