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Credit Card Purchase Adds Further Mystery to Death

Crime: A well-dressed woman purchased tires posing as Christine Bireley, who died last month.

April 21, 1996

Los Angeles police detectives are looking for a well-dressed, middle-age woman in connection with the mysterious death of a Toluca Lake widow last month.

The woman was seen using Christine Harriet Bireley's credit card to purchase tires at a Los Angeles automotive shop 10 days ago, police said.

Bireley, 79, was found dead of an apparent heart attack March 4 in her Valley Spring Lane home. At first, police thought an intruder frightened the woman to death but took nothing.

However, relatives said a handbag was missing.

A potential key witness is a neighbor who told police he received a call from Bireley on the day she died. Bireley asked him to see if a cable truck was in her driveway, said Ralph Sorrentino. As he walked toward her house with his portable phone, the line went dead. Police said the line was cut.

Near her house, Sorrentino heard Bireley's voice, then several thumps, he said.

"Then it was quiet," he said.

Bireley's death is being investigated as a homicide, police said.

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