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Suspect in Shooting Death of Lancaster Man Is Released From Jail

Crime: Investigators say they have insufficient evidence to file charges against Bradley Neill Raville.

May 30, 1996|DAVID R. BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — Although sheriff's deputies say he is still a suspect in the death of a Lancaster man, Thousand Oaks business owner Bradley Neill Raville was released from jail early Wednesday and allowed to return home.

Raville had been in custody since May 21, arrested hours after deputies found Juan Elijio Carranza shot to death in a tow truck Raville owns.

But on Tuesday, prosecutors declined to file formal charges against Raville, the second time in a week that they canceled his arraignment. At 2 o'clock the following morning, Raville was released.

Lt. Larry Robertson of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said investigators had insufficient evidence to proceed with formal charges. He added, however, that Raville is still a suspect in Carranza's death.

The investigation, he said, has been hampered by Raville's refusal to talk with police after making an initial statement at the scene.

"As far as the investigation has revealed thus far, there were only two people present at the time of the shooting, and one of those is dead, and the other is not talking to us on the advice of his attorney," he said. "It makes things difficult."

However, Raville did talk with reporters Wednesday. Seated in the Thousand Oaks office of his attorney, William Stephen Tomasi, Raville said Carranza was an "enforcer" for the Mexican Mafia who was trying to rob him at gunpoint. Raville said he fired his handgun at Carranza in self-defense.

"Either he was going to kill me, or I was going to kill him," Raville said. "I'm fortunate to be alive."

Although Carranza's sister said last week she believed her brother had been working part-time for Raville at his business, Brad's Towing, Raville said Wednesday that Carranza had never worked for him in any capacity.

Raville said he met Carranza a little more than a month ago, introduced through a mutual acquaintance. Carranza bragged to him about killing people and spending much of his adult life in jail, Raville said.

"Just to look at him scared me," Raville said.

Robertson confirmed Wednesday that Carranza had spent time in jail but declined to give further details. He also said he could not confirm or deny Raville's claim that Carranza was connected with the Mexican Mafia.

Although Raville declined to give many details of what the two men were doing together the night of the shooting, he said Carranza demanded money while the two were driving along Skyline Drive in Raville's tow truck and threatened Raville with a gun.

Raville, who said he served in the Marines for a year, had a handgun hidden in the truck as a precaution, he said. As they neared the former office of Brad's Towing on Los Feliz Drive, Raville said he slammed on the brakes, pulled the gun out from under the seat, and shot Carranza, emptying the gun of bullets.

He said he then yelled for neighbors to call police.

Although he told deputies at the scene that the shooting was in self-defense and Carranza was found clutching a gun, investigators suspected Raville of murder because of what they considered to be holes in his story.

Robertson said Raville told officers at first that he did not know Carranza, but later that evening they found Carranza's girlfriend at Raville's house.

Raville denied Wednesday ever telling police that he did not know Carranza. He said he told them that he knew the man only by nickname--"Johnny" or "Chuco."

Carranza's girlfriend, Cynthia Carranza, was arrested at the scene for possession of more than 10 grams of the drug crystal methamphetamine, but was released later in the week.

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