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Suspect in Tustin Strangling Will Be Extradited to Kansas

February 14, 1996

TUSTIN — A man suspected of strangling a local woman in 1988 and burning her body will be extradited to Kansas to face attempted murder changes in a "very, very similar attack," police said Tuesday.

James Louis Brandon, 45, will be sent to Topeka to answer charges that last year he dragged his then-girlfriend into a garage, doused her with fuel and ignited her, an attack that left the woman with burns over 70% of her body, police said.

That February 1995 attack and the arrest warrant for Brandon caught the eye of Tustin investigators who had recently reopened the case of Rachel Sugarman, a 37-year-old who was strangled eight years ago and found amid the ashes of her Tustin apartment, Police Sgt. Brent Zicarelli said.

Brandon was a neighbor of Sugarman and was among several suspects in her death, but police have not been able to close the case, Zicarelli said.

Witnesses reported seeing Brandon "in and around" the 1988 fire scene, but Brandon denied knowledge of the crime, Zicarelli said.

"We're still working leads in the case, and if we can build further links, we will certainly ask for charges," Zicarelli said.

After seeing the Kansas warrant, Tustin investigators re-interviewed witnesses to the local crime and tracked Brandon to Inglewood, where he was arrested Sunday without incident.

Brandon, listed among Kansas' 10 most wanted fugitives, waived extradition proceedings Tuesday and will be ferried to Topeka in upcoming weeks, authorities said.

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