The mystery of who killed 13-year-old Nicolette Hayes at her home in Pomona continued Monday as the Los Angeles County coroner's office reported the one thing already known: The girl was stabbed to death.
Authorities released no other information on the slaying of the teenager, who performed in a dance troupe and had just joined a church choir. Coroner's office spokesman Scott Carrier said the case has been placed on a "security hold" by Pomona police, allowing him to reveal only the cause of death.
Nicolette was found dead by her mother, Denise Williams, shortly after midnight Saturday, police said.
Williams told police she left home Friday night, leaving Nicolette and two younger children alone in the house in the 1100 block of North Dudley Street. When she returned several hours later, police said, she found the body of her daughter on a bedroom floor. The other children were unharmed.
Pomona Police Det. Louie Hernandez said Monday that Nicolette's family members are not suspects. "I've talked to them and they're good people," he said.
Investigators analyzed fingerprints and checked lists of convicted sex offenders living in the area, hoping to find the killer, Hernandez said.
Friends who knew her could think of no reason anyone would want to harm Nicolette. "She was a nice girl," said Myeishia Reed, a classmate at Marshall Middle School. "She never caused trouble. She never got into fights."
Nicolette was walking home from school with tears in her eyes the last time Myeishia saw her. The girl was upset because she had been caught talking in class and was placed on detention. As punishment, Nicolette told her friend, she was given such chores as helping clean the cafeteria.
It was unusual for Nicolette to get into trouble, said many of her friends. She was a quiet girl, and her popularity at the school was growing.
Nicolette was a member of her school's Step-Steppers squad, which stomped and clapped rhythmically at shows in the fashion of black fraternities and sororities.
The squad assembled to practice Saturday, and some of the girls noticed that Nicolette was missing. About that time, an adult told them the sad news.
"We just fell on the floor crying," said Myeishia, a team member. "We were close. There were 30 of us . . . 29 now."
At the Shield of Faith Christian Center in Pomona, Nicolette had joined the adult choir. She was preparing for her first appearance by attending several mandatory practice sessions, said co-Pastor Marty Alexander.
Neighbors mourned the loss of a girl they said was quiet and courteous. They wonder whether a murderer is stalking the area.
"It just scares me," said next-door neighbor Teresa Schrum. "The police won't tell me if we have reason to be afraid."
She said that despite some gang feuds, her neighborhood of 27 years has been a safe place to raise children.
At Nicolette's home, neighbors dropped roses on the doorstep.
A few blocks away, Christine Riply said she was devastated when she heard that the girl she tutored after school was dead.
"She was such a good kid," she said. "She was just a baby. She hadn't even gotten a start on life yet."