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David O'Connor, 51, Detective Who Cracked Many Scams, Dies of Cancer


GLENDALE — As a detective, David O'Connor cracked complicated fraud schemes, worked on a famous 1970s murder case and leaped from a second-story parking structure to escape four robbers.

But the one thing the 27-year former Glendale officer could not solve or overcome was cancer. The 51-year-old O'Connor died Monday at City of Hope hospital in Duarte.

"We really had him for an extra year," O'Connor's son, David Jr., said. "He really fought it out. . . . He maintained his high spirits throughout the whole thing."

"He's not a stranger to anybody," said longtime friend Ed Dorris, 59, of Glendale. "He could talk to rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief and have a rapport with them. Glendale was his world, and he was just an upright detective."

The Lawrence, Mass., native retired last October, police said. He had joined the department in 1965 after leaving the Army, where he served in Korea and Vietnam, family members said. Six years later, O'Connor rose to detective, working robbery-homicide.

One notorious case he worked was the murder of Elissa Teresa Kastin--one of 10 "Hillside Strangler" victims, police said. Kastin's nude body was found Nov. 6, 1977, in a hilly area off Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale. Although O'Connor didn't solve the killings, "his involvement in our case was obviously beneficial," Glendale Lt. Don Meredith said.

Angelo Buono Jr. and Kenneth Bianchi were eventually convicted of the crimes and are in prison.

By the early 1980s, the detective was assigned to frauds. His last supervisor recalled how O'Connor thrived on complex cases.

"He wasn't afraid to go after anybody if they were doing wrong," Sgt. Skip Fitzgerald said. "The thing he taught me was to learn the subject and to stick to a case."

Some of O'Connor's biggest fraud cases included a scam that bilked two airlines out of $300,000 and another one that involved 1,134 victims.

More than a year before his retirement, O'Connor had a run-in with four gunmen who tried to force him into the trunk of his car outside a parking structure near the police station. He jumped from the second story of the structure and escaped from the assailants, who did not know that O'Connor was an officer and stole his car. Family members believe that the feat may have worsened his condition, which was diagnosed as rectal cancer five years ago.

His son David, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, said he will remember his father as a caring man and a romantic.

"He loves his family," he said. "He even bought my mother the dress for her to wear for the funeral. He hid it in her closet."

In addition to his son, O'Connor is survived by his wife, Lillian, and a daughter, Pauline, 28.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Holy Family Church in South Pasadena. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to City of Hope, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte 91010. Attention: Treasury Department.

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