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'Nobody Cares About a Murder Anymore' : Crime: In little more than four hours on a recent weekday night, six people were killed in Central Los Angeles. Only one was reported by the media.

March 14, 1993|DUKE HELFAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Police arrived at Howard Lindley's Mid-City apartment the night of March 4 to find the 69-year-old letter carrier gagged and handcuffed, with stab wounds to his chest, stomach and jaw. Lindley, who was killed in the suspected robbery, also had been set on fire in his bed, leaving second- and third-degree burns on the insides of his thighs, according to the investigator's report.

Lindley's death was but one of six slayings in Central Los Angeles in just over four hours on that warm Thursday night. Among the other slayings were a man shot in his Crenshaw apartment in a possible drug-related argument, another shot in his car in Watts after an argument at a party and a third gunned down in a South-Central alley in an argument over money.

Yet the grisly Lindley case was the only one reported by the Los Angeles news media.

"Nobody cares about a murder anymore," said Detective Gary Aspinall of the Police Department's South Bureau Homicide Division. "If you see (one) every day in the newspaper or on the TV news, you become hardened. But that doesn't take away from the fact that someone still died."

Detectives said the number of slayings that night was "not uncommon." The only unusual element, they said, was the fact that so many occurred on a weekday, when authorities typically expect one to three in Central Los Angeles.

Authorities say violent crime rises with the temperature. While the average daily high in the two weeks prior to March 4 was 62 degrees, a high of 77 degrees was recorded on that day.

Yet weather cannot begin to explain the entire story that night. Each homicide had its own circumstances, which six teams of investigators are piecing together.

The first killing took place in the 4100 block of Palmwood Drive, about half a mile northwest of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, a neighborhood where wrought-iron fences separate apartment buildings from the street.

At 6:40 p.m., an acquaintance of Cleveland M. Henry, 28, entered the second-floor apartment that Henry shared with his girlfriend.

The two men were in the living room when voices were raised, and a flurry of shots were fired from a handgun, according to the investigator's report. Henry was struck three times in the back and twice each in the neck and head, and died on the floor about 10 minutes later beneath the living room window. Someone picked through Henry's pockets shortly after the shooting, but it is unclear whether anything was taken.

Police have not identified a suspect.

A neighbor in the apartment building who called police said that Henry may have been "hanging out with the wrong people. . . . It could have been drugs (or) a girl. Most of the people who get capped, it's usually (something to do with) drugs. It doesn't mean he was dealing. It just means he was around the wrong people."

At 8 p.m., about seven miles southeast, in Watts, Manuel Diaz was shot to death as he sat in his car outside a party in the 300 block of East 107th Street. Diaz died of chest wounds 21 minutes later at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center.

Police would not disclose details of an argument the 19-year-old Torrance resident had with his killer at the party but said the two likely knew each other. There were two unidentified witnesses to the shooting in the car.

"We feel the two passengers know who (the killer) is but are afraid to tell us," said Lt. Victor Guzman, a supervisor at the South Bureau Homicide Division. "The investigation appears that they were acquainted with one another."

Forty minutes after Diaz was slain, Guillermo Garcia, 20, was shot to death after an argument in the 900 block of East 49th Street, a few doors from his home, according to police and relatives.

Although police said they do not have a suspect, a family member said the gunman and Garcia had been friends in Mexico. But the gunman had accused Garcia of killing his brother, said Lisandro Cedpeda, an 11-year-old cousin.

Lisandro described Garcia as a quiet person: "He was nice to me. He played Nintendo with me. We played basketball together. The person who killed him, his brother (had) died. He was getting revenge. But (Guillermo) was not that type of person."

At 9:55 p.m., Lavern Ware, 57, was struck twice in the left leg during a drive-by shooting at Tam's burger stand at 101st and Figueroa streets. Ware, who police said was an innocent bystander, was released from King-Drew medical center the next day. Police identified the three suspects as gang members.

Willie T. Bogan of South-Central was not so fortunate. At 10:28 p.m., he was killed in an alley near 85th Street and Wadsworth Avenue. Police said the shooting was over a "business dispute" that could have been drug-related. Bogan, who was unemployed, was shot seven times and died at the scene, according to the coroner's report. Detectives would not release the name of a suspect because of the ongoing investigation.

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