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Tiny Fillmore Stunned by Rape, Killing of Woman, 90

September 14, 1989|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Authorities say they still have no suspect and no motive in the rape and killing of a 90-year-old woman in the quiet agricultural city of Fillmore.

Florence Hackney was found strangled to death at 10:55 p.m. Saturday in the home on the 900 block of Central Avenue where she lived alone, surrounded by an 11-acre orange grove. A coroner's autopsy revealed that she had been sexually assaulted.

In the close-knit community of 11,000 where many don't lock their doors at night, the crime has generated emotions of big-city fear and anger.

"Florence was well-known and liked, and everybody's outraged that something like this would happen. Especially among older women living alone, there's now concern," said Noreen Withers, Fillmore's city clerk.

Residents say part of that fear comes from not knowing whether the person who raped and killed Florence Hackney still walks among them.

'Never in Fillmore'

"Stuff like that happens every day in L. A. but not in Fillmore, never in Fillmore. We really are in shock, and people aren't sleeping too well at night," said David Fenska, pastor of Fillmore Bible Church, where Hackney regularly attended Sunday services.

Hackney's daughter Margaret Haskell, who lives a block away, discovered the body when she checked in on her mother after going out to dinner with her husband, said Ventura County Sheriff's Lt. Joe Harwell, who is investigating the case.

At first, Haskell thought that her mother was unconscious and called paramedics. They rushed her to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Harwell said that there was no sign of forced entry into Hackney's home and that there were no valuables missing.

"We haven't found anyone who would have any bad feelings toward her, and we don't know about the motive. We're doing a lot of interviews and we're asking for anyone who knows anything to come forward," Harwell said.

The last killing in Fillmore--a long-range shooting with a .22-caliber rifle--occurred two years ago, Harwell said. In 1976, a 62-year-old woman was found dead, killed by a blow to the head. That case was never solved, Harwell said.

However, "we have nothing to indicate right now that this is anything but an isolated incident," Harwell added.

Some fingerprints were found at the home, although it is too soon to tell whether they belonged to Hackney, another family member or an intruder, Harwell said.

Investigators say they are also studying whether there is any connection between Hackney's death and the burglary of an unoccupied home across the street, which was discovered Monday.

The deceased woman, whose funeral was held Wednesday morning, also left a son, Dick Hackney, who lives in Piru. In addition, she had three grandchildren and at least one great-grandchild, Fenska said.

Hackney had lived for more than 30 years in the home where she was found. After her husband died some years ago, Hackney remained active in the community. She was an independent-minded woman who maneuvered around the small-town streets with a walking cane and a fervent belief in God, according to her pastor.

"She was a very strong woman with a lot of personal and moral strength," said Fenska, who added that Hackney attended a Bible study and prayer class four days before she was found dead.

"People here know each other and watch out for each other," Withers added.

"Who would want to hurt Florence?"

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