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Death May Be Linked to Purse Snatching : Crime: L.A. police are investigating the case as a homicide. A Glendale woman, 78, was found dead in her apartment 13 days after a robbery.

June 07, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles police launched a homicide investigation last week into the death of an elderly Glendale woman after settling a dispute with Glendale police over who had jurisdiction in the case.

Lydia Agnes McCosh was found dead April 16 in her South Central Avenue apartment, and investigators said a coroner's report indicates that her death may be linked to injuries she received in a purse-snatching incident 13 days earlier. Her body was discovered when the apartment manager entered to check on her. She was 78.

The manager, Maria Rodriguez Pinto, 36, told Glendale police that she last saw McCosh alive on April 3, the day McCosh reported that she had been robbed of her purse in downtown Los Angeles. The tenant needed the manager's help to enter the apartment because her keys were in the purse.

Pinto said the elderly woman was holding her left side but told the manager nothing was wrong.

An autopsy determined that McCosh died primarily of heart disease, but her broken arm was found to be a "significant condition that contributed to the death," said Scott Carrier, a Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman. Because the injury may have occurred during the robbery, the case was reclassified as a homicide, he said.

Last week, Los Angeles and Glendale police disagreed initially about who should investigate the death. Glendale police believed that it was a Los Angeles case because that is where the robbery occurred. Los Angeles police believed that McCosh died after she was robbed a second time in Glendale, making it a Glendale case.

But LAPD Cmdr. William Booth said a misunderstanding apparently occurred during his department's first interview with McCosh's landlady. After follow-up interviews, Glendale and Los Angeles investigators concluded that McCosh was robbed once--in Los Angeles.

Booth said the coroner's report indicates McCosh probably died shortly after the robbery.

He said McCosh's death is being investigated by detectives from the LAPD's Central Division. "We're going to handle it as a homicide," Booth said.

The police spokesman said McCosh flagged down an LAPD officer April 3 to report that a man approached her from behind, grabbed her purse and ran off while she was walking near 5th and Spring streets at 5:30 a.m.

"She said she tried to hold on to the purse and couldn't, and she fell to the ground," Booth said.

McCosh told police her shoulder hurt, but she refused medical treatment. Booth said he did not know why McCosh was downtown at that early hour or how she traveled there. She told police the purse contained $150 and her keys.

Her description of the robber was vague, and Booth said no suspect had been identified. He said the only way the robber might be found is if he is arrested for another purse snatching and is tied to the McCosh case.

"There are really no substantial leads right now," he said. "There is a potential, but the solution is not apparent right now."

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