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Missing Woman Found Safe in Her Car : Rescue: Police say she spent at least two days inside awaiting her husband's return after they ran out of gas. The man suffers from Alzheimer's disease and couldn't remember wife's location.

November 08, 1994|TIMOTHY WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WOODLAND HILLS — A disabled 79-year-old woman, whose husband left her in their car then forgot where he parked, was found safe Monday after spending at least two days waiting for her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, Los Angeles police said.

Iris Larzabal, who recently underwent hip surgery and is unable to walk, was hospitalized for dehydration after police, responding to a neighbor's call, found the car parked about two blocks from the Promenade and Topanga Plaza shopping malls.

In all, she spent more than three days in the car--the first day and a half with her 88-year-old husband, police said.

"She didn't eat, she didn't get out of the car as far as we know," said LAPD Missing Persons Detective Alex Valadez. "But she is in good health, a little dehydrated, but just fine."

The couple's ordeal began Thursday evening, when Jose and Iris Larzabal drove from their North Hollywood home to eat dinner at a restaurant near the intersection of Victory and Topanga Canyon boulevards, Valadez said.

On the way home, their car ran out of gas near Erwin Street and Canoga Avenue--about three blocks from where they ate, police said.

Rather than risk getting lost in the dark, the couple decided to spend the night in their car, a 1980 Toyota Corolla, Valadez said.

Jose Larzabal told police that on Friday morning, he ventured out to look for gas and return with medication for his wife, but became disoriented and got lost, investigators said.

But Iris Larzabal told police that the couple had spent two days in the car together before her husband left to get help on Saturday morning, authorities said.

"There is a discrepancy in their stories that we haven't worked out yet," Valadez said.

Jose Larzabal told police that a motorist spotted him about noon on Friday near the intersection of Topanga Canyon and Parthenia Street--about 4 1/2 miles from his car. The stranger gave him a ride to his North Hollywood home, Valadez said.

"He was really frustrated with himself, blaming himself for what happened because he couldn't remember the way back," said his granddaughter, Marie Rajabi.

Rajabi said her grandfather speaks only Spanish and was in an area of the West Valley with relatively few Spanish-speakers.

"Nobody was paying much attention to him," she said.

Meanwhile, the couple's family had been searching for them since Thursday night. When Jose Larzabal returned home without his wife, they phoned police, Valadez said.

Throughout the weekend, police in helicopters and squad cars searched areas of Woodland Hills and Canoga Park, authorities said.

But officers had no luck.

Finally, on Monday morning, someone phoned police and asked them to check on a woman who had been sitting in a car for at least a day, Valadez said.

Iris Larzabal's ordeal ended at about 9:45 a.m. when Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics took her to a Kaiser Foundation hospital in Woodland Hills, where she was reunited with her family--except for her husband.

"He refused to come," explained Rajabi. "He's cleaning up like a little demon because the house is messy and he thinks she'll be mad at him when she comes home."

Both Larzabals are doing fine, Rajabi said.

"I just can't praise police enough for the work they did on this," said Rajabi. "She's a tough cookie. It's a nice ending to what could have been a sad story."

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