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Slaying Suspect Eludes Police

April 13, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police on Friday continued searching for a man they believe killed a wealthy former schoolteacher and burned her body in the desert.

Richard Eugene DeLyle, 56, of Torrance is wanted in the slaying of his girlfriend, Sarah Hart, 60, whose body was found in February on a remote stretch of road north of Big Bear, Torrance police said.

Hart's family contacted police earlier this month because they hadn't heard from the woman since late January.

Hart was known to travel often and had spent three weeks in Hawaii with friends in January. But relatives became alarmed when they began receiving e-mails under her name canceling planned outings.

Police established that one e-mail, canceling a line-dancing trip, was sent after her death.

Hart owned a house in Running Springs, so Torrance officers contacted the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

On Feb. 3, deputies responding to reports of a fire in an area off California 18 known as Cactus Flats discovered a badly burned body. Dental records later identified the victim as Hart.

Police believe Hart was killed elsewhere before her body was dumped and burned in the desert. The cause of death was not disclosed.

DeLyle, a tour guide for a Chicago-based company, has used Hart's credit cards to obtain cash, police said.

On April 6, they said, surveillance cameras caught DeLyle making an electronic withdrawal at a bank in Mission Viejo.

Police said DeLyle had borrowed a substantial sum from Hart, who they said had more than $1 million in a savings account.

DeLyle does not have access to that account and has no apparent legal claim to the money, police said, but they believe money was the motive in Hart's death.

They came to that conclusion "because of the way he's been using her finances," said Sgt. Rod Irvine.

Police said DeLyle had lived in Torrance for a number of years, but they were having trouble locating anyone who knew him.

DeLyle may be driving a 1999 white Ford Ranger pickup truck with California license plates 6A56139.

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