Four months after Dave Sterling, who managed rock bands and other entertainers, was shot outside his Los Alamitos office, police still have only two pieces of evidence--a spent shell and cartridge--and no suspects.
It was 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday last May, as Sterling, 36, and his wife, Kathy, were locking the office at 1054 Bloomfield St., when Sterling was shot by someone in the dark.
As his wife punched the combination of an alarm and reached inside to flip off the lights, "we heard what sounded like firecrackers, and Dave jumped up like somebody had thrown a firecracker at his feet," she said. "My first thought was that the band was playing a joke on us."
Although police say only one shot was fired, she said she recalls at least four.
Hit the Alarm Button
He stumbled, yelling at his wife to get inside the office, pushed hard against her back and said, "Call the police," then fell to the ground. She pulled her husband through the door and hit the alarm's panic button. She knew Dave was dying.
In about five minutes, the alarm company called and then summoned police. But Sterling was dead.
Police in Los Alamitos--where the last previous murder had occurred in 1976--were stymied and could find few good leads, let alone suspects. Four months later, they still have only the shell and cartridge.
"There's not a lot of work to be done right now," Lt. Gary Biggerstaff said. "We might as well be trying to find out who the second gunman was in the Kennedy shooting."
Detectives have interviewed about 300 people, including some who served jail time as a result of fraud investigations that Sterling conducted during a stint in police work back East.
Interviewed 'Kiddie Bands'
Biggerstaff said detectives spent a lot of time interviewing musicians who knew Sterling, most of them "kiddie bands, the ones just out of high school," he said. "They haven't cut a record, but they play a lot of high school dances, bars and parties."
The detectives "couldn't find anyone with the slightest motivation to kill him," he said. "His business seemed to be flourishing. Most people stood to gain a lot more if he stayed alive."
The best motive involves revenge, Biggerstaff said, although he would not explain further. Police hope that a $5,000 reward offered by Kathy Sterling will provide some new leads.
"Who knows? Something could turn tomorrow. Maybe this reward will do something," Biggerstaff said. "Maybe some little creep who's financially hungry will crawl out of the woodwork and give us the evidence we need."
Kathy Sterling lives in the East. Police moved her between several county motels for protection in the weeks after the killing. Although they now say they believe that she was not the gunman's target, she still fears for her life.