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Mother of 4 Fatally Beaten by 2 Women : Crime: Attack in a mall parking lot follows traffic argument. Other shoppers and her child watch in horror. No good Samaritan intervenes.

September 03, 1993|GREG HERNANDEZ and JEFFREY A. PERLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

LA HABRA — As shoppers and one of her own daughters watched, a La Habra mother of four was beaten to death by two women after a traffic argument in a shopping center parking lot Thursday evening.

The suspects, who were in a car stolen earlier in Los Angeles County, remain at large, including the male driver who had gotten out of the car to watch the beating, Sgt. Robert Wyse said .

The victim "tried to get up to run, but they wouldn't let her," said Elsa Martinez, an employee at a hair salon in the strip mall on West La Habra Boulevard at Beach Boulevard. "It was very brutal. It was like men fighting. Nobody tried to stop the fight. . . . I think they were scared because of the man in the car. Maybe he had a gun."

Police Chief Steve Staveley said the woman, identified by her husband as Tina Roxanne Rodriguez, 26, suffered head injuries when one of the women "slammed" her head against the curb.

"It's hard to imagine that in such a busy shopping center someone didn't get involved," Wyse, the police sergeant, said. "Usually there's a good Samaritan in every crowd. I guess that wasn't the case this time."

Asked what onlookers should do in such situations, Wyse said: "It's a loaded question. . . . It depends on the circumstances."

The confrontation occurred about 4:50 p.m., after the stolen car, a black Ford Taurus, license 2VFL651, sped through the parking lot "at a very high rate of speed," Wyse said.

Rodriquez was a passenger in a Buick Regal that stopped to let the Taurus pass.

When the Taurus stopped in front of an exit onto Beach Boulevard, the driver of the Regal tried to go around.

"The Taurus cuts it off," said Wyse, describing what happened next. "The victim gets out of the Regal, and two females get out of the Taurus. Words were exchanged. A physical confrontation began."

Wyse said the two women hit Rodriguez 30 to 35 times. She fell to the ground and hit her head on the pavement, and then one of the attackers "grabs her head and bounces it off the curb."

Mila Ramirez, 46, another employee at a hair salon in the same mall, said she "tried to look for someone to help her. We were looking for someone to give her CPR. She was bleeding in the back of her head. And her eyes were open, and it looked like her neck was broken.

"I just feel real sorry for that lady, because she has four kids," Ramirez said.

Rodriguez's 3-year-old daughter was in the car, along with a friend who had been driving and the friend's child.

Afterward, Rodriguez's daughter was comforted in the hair salon.

"The little girl game in and they took care of her for about an hour," Ramirez said. "She didn't cry. She just sat there as if she was in shock."

Jorge Rodriguez, 25, the victim's husband of five years and the father of the 3-year-old, said through tears outside the police station: "She was just going to the store. I don't know what happened."

Tina Rodriguez's other children are 7, 9 and 11.

Late Thursday, police said, they had found the stolen car and that arrests were imminent.

Police said they were searching for a male, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds, with blond, collar-length hair and a mustache, estimated to be in his 30s. He was wearing jeans and a white T-shirt.

One female suspect was described as about 19, 5-foot-5, 130 pounds, with brown, shoulder-length hair, and the other suspect was described as in her 30s, 5-foot-7, 135 pounds, with long brown hair to the waist.

The victim was pronounced dead at Friendly Hills Regional Medical Center.

Although the victim was black and the attackers were white, police said they were confident that the incident was not racially motivated.

Police said there was no evidence that weapons were used during the attack.

Jennifer Brayton, 24, a checker at the Thrifty drug store in the same shopping center, was stunned by the attack. "It's normally a good area. The most we have is maybe a shoplifter."

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