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CRIME AND THE ELDERLY OF L.A. : Violence in the Autumn of Life : DORIS OSTERHOLD : 'She Was Kind of Quiet and Reserved . . . Real, Real Nice.'

October 24, 1994|JOHN HURST | Times Staff Writer

The neighborhood children gave her valentines. She was the sweet old woman in the big corner house beside the freeway in Alhambra.

Eighty-year-old Doris Osterhold lived a quiet, ordered life: gardening around the house, dinner with friends a couple times a week and, always, church on Sunday.

So when Osterhold didn't show up at Kingdom Hall for Jehovah's Witness services, her friends became concerned.

Kelly Dossey and his wife decided to check on her.

When they arrived at Osterhold's house about 4:30 p.m., the signs were ominous. Osterhold's bucket and rake were lying in the yard. There was blood on a rock wall leading up to the porch.

Opening the door with a spare key, the Dosseys discovered their friend lying dead on the couch, strangled or smothered.

She had been stripped from the waist down and her blouse was open. Her knees were bloody, apparently from being dragged from her beloved garden into the house.

It couldn't have been much of a struggle. The elderly woman was no bigger than a child, less than 5 feet tall, weighing 80 pounds.

"She was kind of quiet and reserved," Dossey said. "She was not abrasive or talkative. She was real, real nice."

Raised by an overly protective aunt and uncle, Osterhold never married.

Until her retirement, she worked in a newspaper office and lived alone in the old house that her aunt and uncle had left to her.

Osterhold lived modestly, driving a 1956 Chevrolet that a friend kept in running condition for her.

But she was comfortable, always had plenty of food and other necessities and could afford to dine out regularly.

And she had her garden.

Today, her house stands empty, the flowers and shrubs dying.

"Now the plants are dry," said 9-year-old Damian Calderon, who lives next door.

"And she used to take good care. . . . She was always nice and kind," the child added.

There are no suspects in Osterhold's murder.

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