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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Man Charged in Deaths of N. Hollywood Couple

November 29, 2000

VAN NUYS — As tearful survivors of the victims looked on, a 23-year-old Sylmar man was charged Tuesday with the first-degree murders of a elderly couple who owned a popular North Hollywood restaurant.

Israel Cebrera Pulido--who had worked for Sabato "Sabby" Russo and his wife, Eugenia--is also charged with the special circumstances of burglary, robbery, avoiding arrest, torture and multiple murders in connection with the beating and stabbing deaths of the North Hollywood couple, who were both 73.

"This subjects him to the death penalty," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth Barshop.

Because Pulido's arraignment was postponed for a week, he did not have to appear Tuesday inside the Van Nuys courtroom of Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Michael M. Duffey, disappointing the 25 to 30 relatives of the Russos in the audience.

"I want to see his face," said the Russos' daughter, Rosanna Tolino of Studio City, outside the courtroom. "My parents . . . when he came into their house, they had to see his face."

The Russos owned Sabatino's Italian Restaurant and Bakery, a fixture in North Hollywood for nearly 20 years. It is popular with police, boxers from a nearby gym and people from the entertainment industry.

Pulido was part of a work crew that installed a wooden floor early last week at the Russos' home in the 6300 block of Bellaire Avenue, police said. He allegedly returned to the home last Wednesday to rob the Russos, who were later found beaten and stabbed to death.

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