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No Leads Yet in Slaying of Zeitsoff's Son : Crime: His body was found last week in the trunk of his BMW outside Greystone Mansion. He had been shot several times.

February 27, 1992|RON RUSSELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BEVERLY HILLS — Friends, family and police are at a loss to explain why anyone would have wanted to kill 17-year-old Justin Zeitsoff, the son of a Malibu city councilwoman, who was shot to death last week.

The teen-ager's body was discovered Friday in the trunk of his gray BMW, abandoned outside the main entrance of the Greystone Mansion, a Beverly Hills landmark that is the former estate of oil scion Edward Doheny Jr.

Investigators said the popular high school senior and son of Malibu Councilwoman Missy Zeitsoff had been shot several times, once in the chest.

"We are pursuing several leads, but as of yet we've not established a motive," Beverly Hills Police Lt. Frank Salcido said Wednesday.

Authorities, who declined to release the identity of the victim until three days after the body was discovered, have provided few details about the slaying.

However, Salcido said that investigators believe that the shooting took place somewhere else and that whoever killed the youth drove the car to the spot where it was abandoned.

Police made the discovery about 8 a.m. Friday after an employee at the elegant, city-owned mansion in the 500 block of Doheny Road reported that the car had been parked there for at least 24 hours, authorities said. The former Doheny estate is frequently used for motion picture and television filming.

The murder stunned residents in Malibu, where the youth had lived with his mother until two months ago, when he moved to West Los Angeles to be with his father, a Century City attorney.

"I would like to think that my son's senseless murder would at least remind people that none of us are invulnerable to the violence around us," a grief-stricken Missy Zeitsoff said.

The councilwoman, who was elected in 1990 when voters approved cityhood for Malibu, is one of three incumbents who face reelection in April.

"You can't imagine the devastation we feel," said Vernon Zeitsoff, the boy's father. "We're at a total loss to explain the brutality that has occurred to my son."

Zeitsoff said he became concerned after his son failed to come home last Wednesday night but wasn't unduly alarmed because of the youth's habit of sometimes spending the night with friends.

However, when his son had not turned up late Thursday, Vernon Zeitsoff called authorities to report him missing.

Family members said Justin Zeitsoff had gone to Woodland Hills on Wednesday to have lunch with his girlfriend, a 17-year-old student at El Camino Real High School, where he had also attended classes last semester.

"He was smiling and laughing and being his normal self," said the girlfriend, who asked not to be identified. "We spent the afternoon together and he left about 6 or 7 that evening and said he would call me as soon as he got home, but I never heard from him."

Vernon Zeitsoff said his son had intended to enroll in another school, closer to his West Los Angeles home, for the spring semester.

Family and friends described Justin Zeitsoff as a handsome and talented youngster who made friends easily.

While in junior high school in Malibu, he had been the fifth-ranked surfer in his age group in the Western United States. He also excelled at baseball and soccer, friends said.

His pencil-and-ink drawings of seascapes and animals were good enough to be displayed in a couple of exhibitions, including one at the Los Angeles County Fair, family members said.

"Everything seemed to come easily for Justin," said Sandy Banducci, a friend and neighbor of Missy Zeitsoff, and whose children grew up together.

The councilwoman said her son had viewed going to live with his father as a chance to experience the world beyond Malibu.

"As it turns out, the world out there proved to be more violent and dangerous than any of us could have imagined," she said.

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