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Family Gets Murder Clue in the Mail : Crime: Police are hoping that the person who returned Rachel Lopez's ID might have information about her killer and will step forward.

September 09, 1993|TOMMY LI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

INDUSTRY — For nearly a year, Maria Lopez of Highland Park has been praying for clues that would explain her 34-year-old daughter's mysterious disappearance and death.

The latest one arrived in the mail two weeks ago with a City of Industry postmark.

Someone--a good Samaritan or maybe someone connected to the killing--anonymously sent a California identification card belonging to the victim, Rachel Lopez.

The single mother of a 13-year-old boy was last seen leaving her Highland Park apartment Oct. 13. Her mutilated torso was found by hikers four days later near Highway 330 in the San Bernardino National Forest, and other body parts were recovered in the area in the following weeks.

The investigation has been at a standstill for lack of new leads.

But detectives think the person who mailed Rachel Lopez's ID might be able to help solve the case. Family members and sheriff's officials are making public appeals asking that person to come forward.

Anyone with information should call Detective Frank Gonzales or Sgt. Pete Ortiz at (909) 387-3589.

"We just want the help, some information," said Maria Lopez, 65. "I only wish somebody would have put something (more in the envelope) or wrote something."

"We don't need no flakes," said the victim's 29-year-old sister, Carol Martin. "We just need somebody who knows the truth, somebody who knows what happened that night."

Gonzales said no fingerprints were found on the card or the envelope. It was addressed to Rachel Lopez's apartment in the 200 block of North Avenue 56.

Because the letter carrier knows the Lopez family, he delivered it instead to the victim's mother, who lives a few blocks away, Gonzales said. Maria Lopez contacted detectives and gave them the unopened envelope.

The letter has a 29-cent "Love" stamp on it.

Gonzales said the sender most likely is someone with a good heart who wanted to return Rachel Lopez's property. But he hasn't ruled out the possibility that the person could be connected to the case.

"There's a real remote possibility that someone associated with her disappearance mailed it back," he said. "Our main objective is . . . to talk to this person about the identification card, where it was found. It could lead to other property belonging to Ms. Lopez."

Meanwhile, Lopez's family members and friends remain optimistic that those responsible for the slaying will be caught.

On the night of her disappearance, Lopez told her son, Anthony, that a friend was driving her to an unspecified market to buy dinner, family members said. Lopez, a sales clerk and part-time beautician, left with her purse and was dressed in a white tank top and blue jeans with sandals. She didn't say who the friend was.

Family members reported her missing to the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division on Oct. 16 after they spoke with Anthony.

"He didn't tell anybody his mother was missing because he was afraid the police would take him away to a foster home," said the boy's aunt, Carol Martin. The boy now lives with Maria Lopez.

"That's very unlike Rachel. She never left her son," Martin said. "She used to go out, I'm not denying that. . . . But she knew where her son was when she wasn't home."

"She didn't have any enemies," added Maria Lopez.

During the next five months, family members and friends distributed more than 800 flyers about Rachel Lopez's disappearance throughout the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys--unaware that San Bernardino County deputies had found a female torso with the name "Lynette" tattooed across the pelvis.

Family members heard about the discovery in March after a television news report was broadcast about the baffling case. They eventually met with detectives and identified the victim as Rachel Lopez. The tattoo is the name of her best friend, Lynette Lucero.

Lucero said the only friends she and Lopez had in San Bernardino County are Rialto residents who have no information about the killing.

For Barth, hell has two forms.

combat experience as an Army artilleryman in Operation Desert Storm.

Twice each day he is placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber where pressurized ox He can self-administer morphine by punching a button, but pain is still his constant ygen is He endures skin grafts and dressing changes. Hundreds of people have offered to his attending surgeon, Dr. Michel Brones. Much of the blood is needed to replace what is lost donate blood, say fire officials.

Barth and 19-year-old Hector (Gabe) Larios of Chino Hills, another fire suppression aide Following Barth's release from the hospital in a few weeks, doctors expect many months of He is continuously fed nutritional supplements "Today," Barth said with determination, "I am getting well."

Yet there is a glimmer of optimism.

At least with fire, Barth said, "you can see it coming."

"She was always a happy person," Lucero recalled. "She always had a smile on her face."

Family members and Lucero have faith that Rachel Lopez's identification card will lead to the miracle they've been praying for.

"We hope to God and we pray every day that they will find this person who did this to her, or somebody will come out and say something if they know about it because it's bad," Martin said. "I don't think anybody deserves to die that way."

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