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Mistake Allows Murder Suspect to Walk Away

January 08, 1987|GABE FUENTES | Times Staff Writer

A case of mistaken identity led to the inadvertent release Wednesday of a murder suspect from Van Nuys Municipal Court, authorities said.

Police were searching for Manuel Antonio Rodriguez, 23, a transient who was dressed only in a pair of blue pants when he was set free from a holding cell where he was awaiting arraignment on a murder charge, Los Angeles Police Detective Robert Womack said. Rodriguez and another man are accused of killing an unidentified transient Monday.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies released Rodriguez about noon after mistaking him for another man whom a judge had ordered released, Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Bailey said.

Deputies discovered the mistake at 3:45 p.m. when they sought to take Rodriguez to court for his arraignment, Bailey said.

Investigators had few clues to the whereabouts of Rodriguez, who told police he is a native of Durango, Mexico, Womack said.

The U. S. Border Patrol has been told to watch for Rodriguez because his flight to Mexico "is a strong possibility," Detective Lyle Mayer said.

Rodriguez and Antonio Gonzalez, 23, were arrested Monday, hours after an unidentified man was fatally beaten during an argument among transients about sleeping arrangements in an abandoned home in Van Nuys, police said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed murder charges Wednesday against Rodriguez and Gonzalez.

When he was released, Rodriguez was wearing blue trousers, without shoes or a shirt, and had a bandage on his right hand from an injury he suffered while beating the other transient, police said.

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