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Pleads Innocent in 2 Girls' Abduction : Slaying Suspect Arraigned

October 16, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Doubled over from gunshot wounds he suffered during his arrest three weeks ago, a transient charged with the kidnaping and murder of a Chatsworth teen-ager and the attempted murder of her friend pleaded not guilty Thursday in San Fernando Municipal Court.

Roland Norman Comtois, 58, was removed from the County Jail infirmary, where he is being held without bail, long enough to whisper his plea on charges stemming from the Sept. 18 abduction in which 14-year-old Wendy Masuhara was killed and her 13-year-old friend was shot and left for dead.

Comtois has been charged with murder, attempted murder, two counts of kidnaping, sodomy by force, forcible oral copulation, a forcible lewd act upon a child and injecting a child with cocaine.

Masuhara and her friend were abducted while they were walking late at night on a quiet street near their homes. Police said an accomplice, Marsha Lynn Erickson, 33, still being sought by police, lured them to a motor home by feigning engine trouble and asking for their help. Comtois, police said, was waiting inside.

The girls were shot in the back of an abandoned station wagon in remote Woolsey Canyon after the 13-year-old was molested, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Sterling E. Norris. She survived and identified Comtois, an ex-convict with a long criminal record, as her assailant, police said.

Police officers captured Comtois on Sept. 22, four days after the abduction. He was shot in the back and leg as he was climbing over a wall in the 2800 block of Newell Street in the Elysian Park area. His whereabouts had been reported by an anonymous phone caller, police said.

Deputy Public Defender Gerald T. Richardson said a preliminary hearing would not be scheduled until Nov. 16 because of Comtois' condition. Comtois underwent seven hours of surgery for his wounds.

"Mr. Comtois is still in a great deal of physical pain," Richardson said. "He could barely talk today."

Second Suspect Sought

Police were still seeking Erickson, described as a drifter with a history of prostitution, burglary and narcotics use. She has been charged with the same crimes as Comtois. Both are eligible for the death penalty because the complaint against them includes four "special circumstances," such as committing a murder during a kidnaping, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Harold S. Lynn.

Los Angeles County Superior Court records show that Comtois, who has a history of drug abuse, was convicted of rape in Massachusetts in 1952. In 1974, he was sentenced to five to 15 years in state prison in California after pleading guilty to selling heroin.

Comtois also served prison terms in California for convictions in 1960 for armed bank robbery and in 1962 for robbery, according to court records.

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates said Erickson had been known to roam the northeast San Fernando Valley. She had been living with Comtois in a motor home recently, Gates said.

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