Sheriff's investigators arrested a second suspect Friday in the bloody Mother's Day slayings at Universal CityWalk, taking into custody the woman companion of a man arrested Thursday on suspicion of murdering his mother and former girlfriend.
Dressed in a pink bathrobe and clutching a pillow to her injured abdomen, Donna K. Lee, 44, of North Hollywood, was quickly wheeled out of a Panorama City hospital, helped into an unmarked police car, given a medical checkup at County-USC hospital and booked at the Sybil Brand women's jail on suspicion of murder.
Lee lived with Paul Carasi, 30, who was arrested Thursday evening at the sheriff's crime laboratory in Downtown Los Angeles immediately after flunking a polygraph test that he volunteered to take, said Sheriff's Deputy Barbara McWilliams.
"We know he was lying to us," McWilliams said. "He was deceptive in answering all of the questions."
Lee and Carasi are suspected in the brutal knife killings of Doris Carasi, 61, and Sonia Salinas, 29, whose throats were cut as they returned to their car late Sunday evening after a Mother's Day dinner at the Country Star restaurant on the Universal CityWalk promenade.
"We believe the two people in custody are the two people who participated in this and that it was an isolated case," McWilliams said.
Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Robinson declined to elaborate on specific evidence that led to the arrests, saying only that the suspects' descriptions of what happened were "very conflicting and very disjointed."
Deputies said no motive had been established for the killings and forensic testing is needed to determine who actually wielded the blade.
Lee phoned for help from a call box on the Hollywood Freeway roughly four miles from CityWalk about 15 minutes after the women were found dead on the top level of a parking structure. Lee was bleeding from cuts to her abdomen and a minor back wound when California Highway Patrol officers arrived.
Sheriff's Sgt. Sam Muniz said investigators believe that Lee stopped alongside the freeway to dump objects that belonged to the victims, including fanny packs belonging to Doris and Paul Carasi, Salinas' purse and a bloody butcher knife that deputies said could have been used in the stabbings.
"She stopped to get rid of the property, but she couldn't drive off because she had locked herself out of her car," Muniz said.
McWilliams said that initially Lee told investigators that she was attacked at the call box, but later changed her story, saying she was attacked at CityWalk. McWilliams added that authorities also believe that Lee sustained her wounds at CityWalk. Earlier in the week, Sheriff Sherman Block said it is possible that Lee's wounds were self-inflicted.
Muniz said Lee told authorities that she went to CityWalk the evening of the killings to see Paul Carasi. "She was there for one reason . . . to be with Paul," Muniz said.
"Donna Lee was on the fifth floor of the parking structure in a red 1992 Beretta," Sheriff's Deputy Britta Tubbs said. "If anybody has seen her there and has any information, they are being asked to contact the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau."
Lee lived with Paul Carasi in the same North Hollywood apartment complex where his mother lived with Salinas and Salinas' 2-year-old son by Carasi. Authorities said Friday that the boy has been placed in the custody of his grandparents.
Paul Carasi, Lee and Salinas all worked together at a Bank of America data-processing center in Downtown Los Angeles.
Neighbors at the complex where they lived said there were tensions between Lee and Doris Carasi.
One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said he saw Doris Carasi hit Lee in the head with a pair of keys during a fight three weeks ago. The man said Doris Carasi was angry that Lee was living with her son.
Neighbors said Doris was disheartened that Paul had left Salinas for Lee. "When her son did something wrong, she felt bad about it," said one close friend who asked not to be named. Lately, the friend said, Doris had been getting closer to Salinas, who had been spending more time with her child and Doris.
Paul Carasi, who suffered cuts to his thumb and arm at the time of the killings, originally told investigators that he was cut after he was attacked from behind by an unknown assailant. He said that he became dazed during the attack and when he regained consciousness, he discovered that his mother and Salinas had been stabbed.
Deputies continued their investigation throughout the week as Carasi made funeral plans, often flanked by friends, including one who described him as being in a state of disbelief over the slayings. But on Thursday, Carasi agreed to meet with sheriff's investigators to take a polygraph test, after which he was arrested.
Sheriff's deputies said the case will be reviewed by the district attorney's office over the weekend and a decision is expected to be made Monday on whether to file charges against Lee and Carasi.
Lee separated from her husband about a year ago and completed moving out of their Norwalk home in February, according to court records on file in Los Angeles.
On April 21, Superior Court Judge H. Ronald Hauptman granted custody of the Lees' two daughters, ages 12 and 16, to her husband, records show. The judge's order stipulated that Paul Carasi not be present when she visited the girls, who did not like him, attached documents show.
In declarations filed during the court case, Donna Lee alleged that her husband beat her, while he contended that she struck the children. The case has been referred to the Los Angeles Department of Children's Services for investigation.
Times staff writers Nicholas Riccardi and Ann W. O'Neill contributed to this article.