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Police Identify Woman's Body Found in Trash : Crime: The victim was a drifter from Orange County. Her death is the eighth homicide in Torrance this year.

September 16, 1993|GORDON DILLOW | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Torrance police this week identified a woman whose nude body was found in a dumpster at a shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway. The woman, 38-year-old Mary Teresa Chilelli, who police said had no fixed address, had been strangled.

It was the eighth homicide in Torrance so far this year, police said. That compares to four last year.

The body was found Saturday afternoon at the Madison Park shopping center when a man who sometimes checks the shopping center dumpsters for recyclable cans reportedly saw a man in a pickup truck pull up near the dumpsters and, in broad daylight, throw a large plastic garbage bag into one of them. Shortly thereafter, the witness, whose name was not released, ran into a nearby bicycle shop.

"He came in, looking kind of white, and said he wanted me to look in the trash bin," said Marc Taylor, the owner of the shop, Cycle Connection. "As we were going out there he said, 'I think I found a body'. He'd torn the plastic bag open, and I pulled it open some more and said, 'Yeah, that's a body'."

Police said the dumpster was empty except for some leaves and shrubbery--and the body.

There have been no arrests in the case.

"At this time, it's a whodunit," Torrance Police Capt. James Weyant said.

Torrance Police Lt. Wally Murker, commander of the detective division, said the five-foot, 90-pound woman was identified through fingerprints. Murker said Chilelli had several aliases and a criminal record, and had recently been living in Orange County.

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Some acquaintances of the victim were questioned by police, he said, but they are not considered suspects.

Murker said it is not known if the woman was murdered in Torrance or simply dumped there. If the investigation reveals the killing took place outside of the city, Murker said, the case would be transferred to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

The victim's mother, Julia Gatti of Southgate, Mich., said she had not been in frequent contact with her daughter since Chilelli left her hometown of Melrose Park, Ill., two decades ago.

"She was one of those modern girls, she did what she wanted to do," Gatti said. "I always tried my best. She called me sometimes, and all she'd say was 'I love you, I'm doing OK.' The last couple of times she called collect. That's all I can tell you."

Some people who work at the palm tree-lined shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway said they were upset by the discovery of the body.

"A lot of people here were shocked," Barbara Flohr, general manager at the shopping center, said. "It's not the kind of thing you would think would happen here."

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