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Michigan Residents in Shock Over Slain Teen

April 08, 1990|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michigan legislator Francis Spaniola said Friday the capital community of Lansing, where 18-year-old Holly Suzanne Tarr appeared frequently on the stages of local theaters, has been devastated by her stabbing death this week at an apartment complex in Clairemont.

"There's a lot of tough people who walk the halls of the Legislature here, but I've never seen such an outpouring of kindness and concern," said Spaniola, a close friend of Paul Tarr, Holly's father.

Spaniola said he met the senior Tarr when he flew in from San Diego late Thursday night on the same plane that returned his daughter's body to Michigan.

Spaniola said the death of the aspiring actress--the third young woman to have been stabbed to death in a two-block area since Jan. 12--has been widely reported in the news media in both Lansing and Detroit. Tarr, whose parents are divorced, lived with her mother in nearby Okemos, Mich.

"At the high school, where Holly was a senior, the students are in total shock," Spaniola said. "The theater community, in which she and her father and older sister have been active for years, is in total shock. Everyone has been deeply touched and is trying to show, in any way possible, their concern."

Spaniola and Frank DeWald, Tarr's choral instructor at Okemos High School, said family members and friends are concerned about the emotional state of 18-year-old Tammy Ho. She's described as Holly Tarr's best friend, whom DeWald said had lived with Tarr and her mother for 1 1/2 years.

Ho accompanied Tarr on the spring-break vacation to San Diego to visit Tarr's brother Richard, an engineer in the space systems division of General Dynamics. Ho, a senior at Okemos High School, was with Tarr at the Buena Vista Gardens pool around noon Tuesday when Tarr left, by herself, authorities said, and returned to her brother's apartment for reasons that are still unclear.

Shortly afterward, Elizabeth Langworthy, an 84-year-old neighbor of Richard Tarr's, reported seeing Holly and a man walk to the upstairs apartment. Langworthy has told police that about 20 minutes later she heard a scream. She said Ho showed up and tried to enter the apartment, which was locked.

Richard Williams, a 58-year-old maintenance man, was summoned to the unit at 3410 Cowley Way, and confronted a young black man who wore a red T-shirt and black Levi's, who came toward him with a knife. Witnesses have reported seeing the suspect drive away in a gray, "primer-paint-colored" Pinto.

Police said the probable murder weapon, a knife 8 to 9 inches long, was found near the scene by a 15-year-old boy walking home from school Tuesday afternoon.

San Diego Police Chief Bob Burgreen calls the search for the suspect, thought to be 18 to 20 years old and about 5-foot-8, the department's "top priority." Burgreen has assigned two homicide units to the case full time and has stationed a mobile command unit in the Buena Vista Gardens neighborhood. In all, there are about 20 officers investigating the slayings, with several more officers working part time on the case.

Tiffany Paige Schultz was killed at the adjacent Canyon Ridge complex on Jan. 12. On Feb. 16, 21-year-old Janene Marie Weinhold was slain two blocks away, in a Buena Vista Gardens unit at 3301 Clairemont Drive.

After Tarr's slaying Tuesday, police conceded for the first time that a serial killer may be responsible for all three killings.

Schultz's fiance, who is white, was arrested shortly after her death and held for five days in County Jail. He was released when the district attorney failed to issue a murder complaint. He has not been rearrested.

On Friday, Anza Management Co., which oversees both Canyon Ridge and Buena Vista Gardens, announced that the door locks on the 967 units of Buena Vista Gardens would be changed as soon as possible. A spokeswoman estimated the cost at $20,000.

Because maintenance men and other employees of Buena Vista Gardens have passkeys to all of the units, the management has conceded it's possible that the suspect may have acquired a passkey.

"Our passkey policy is being reviewed," said Suzanne Rosborough, the manager of Buena Vista Gardens.

Frank DeWald, choral instructor at the Michigan high school, said the school's "crisis team" is now "very concerned" about Tammy Ho, who not only lost her best friend but was questioned for hours by investigators as a key witness.

"Tammy's mother moved out of the area over a year ago and wanted Tammy to remain in school," DeWald said. "So she moved in with Holly and her mom. She's not an actual family member, nor is she adopted, but she was like a sister to Holly. They were very, very close. And now we worry that she's very much at risk. She is, after all, at such a vulnerable age. It must have been very rough for Tammy. She saw Holly after she'd died and saw the perpetrator run from the scene."

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