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Suspect May Be in Mexico, Police Say

August 21, 1990|JESSE KATZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man suspected of gunning down an administrator and wounding two others last week at a West Covina vocational school may have kidnaped his estranged girlfriend and fled to Mexico, police said Monday.

Martin Meza, 24, a reputed Duarte gang member and the suspect in last Thursday's shootings at North-West College of Medical & Dental Assistants, was last seen on Saturday as he left a motel in San Bernardino, officers said.

The motel manager saw him with a woman later identified as Lisa Villela, a former nursing student at North-West College and the woman Meza had lived with for several months, said West Covina Police Lt. Clint Collins.

Collins said that after the shootings, Meza had told friends and family that he was planning to flee to Mexico, where he has relatives. Officers in several Mexican cities and Border Patrol stations have been notified, Collins said.

Police believe Meza may have been looking for Villela when he reportedly stormed into the school. At the time, she was thought to be hiding from Meza, who had beaten her in the days before the shooting, according to relatives.

"There's no way of knowing at this point whether she's with him on her own free will or if he's forcing her to be with him," Collins said. "We've been very concerned about her safety from the get-go. Nobody's been able to talk to her."

Meanwhile, classes were canceled Monday at the 200-student college. Young women in starched white uniforms wiped tears from their eyes and exchanged hugs in one classroom as counselors and a priest offered soothing words.

School director Marsha Fuerst said last Friday that one of the wounded victims was a counselor who may have advised Villela, but on Monday declined to elaborate on the impact of the incident.

"It's sort of like when your house burns down and the TV crews show up and point the camera in your face and say, 'So, how do you feel?' " Fuerst said. "How do you feel? We're just trying to let the healing process begin."

Killed in the attack was Carolyn Vasquez, 36, of West Covina, a popular instructor at the college, who had just been promoted to placement director.

Robin Stamford, a 27-year-old counselor from Rancho Cucamonga, was shot in the stomach. On Monday, he was still listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina.

Ronald Lee, 17, a student from Rosemead, was treated at the hospital for a leg wound after Thursday's shooting and released.

School officials said the gunman had appeared in the front doorway of the main classroom building as school was being dismissed for the day.

A student heard him ask who owned a pickup truck parked outside, according to officials, who said the vehicle was registered to Stamford.

Then, the man entered the building and opened fire.

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