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Janitor With Gang Ties Arrested After Student's Body Is Found

May 18, 1997|From the Associated Press

RIO LINDA, Calif. — A high school janitor, a reputed Los Angeles street gang member with "107" tattooed on his forehead, was in custody Saturday after a teen-age girl's body was found in the school's wood shop.

Investigators are trying to determine how Alex Del Thomas, 34, had been able to get a job at the school despite a criminal record that included a stint in Folsom Prison.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said Michelle Montoya, 18, a senior at Rio Linda High School who was to graduate in three weeks, was discovered Friday afternoon after the janitor placed a 911 call.

Montoya, her throat slit, died en route to University Medical Center in Sacramento.

Detectives said Thomas, a substitute janitor who had worked at the school only three days, was taken into custody. Undersheriff Lou Blanas said Thomas, who was on parole after serving a prison term for manslaughter, had been a school district employee for a month.

Blanas described Thomas as a known member of Los Angeles' 107th Street Hoover Crips gang. Thomas hid the "107" tattoo on his forehead with makeup when he applied for work and while on the job, he said.

School district Supt. Sue Leabo said Thomas' employment "followed the normal hiring practices," which includes running the applicant's name, fingerprints and date of birth through the state Justice Department.

It was unclear whether Thomas was hired before the information on his background was sent to the suburban school district, about 10 miles north of Sacramento.

"I feel helpless. But what can you do? I've never been involved in anything like this in all my years working at schools," Leabo said.

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