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Woman Slain for Nickels, Dimes

August 22, 2002|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Detectives searched for three men Wednesday suspected of shooting a woman to death at a La Puente bookkeeping business in a robbery that netted a money collection box for abandoned Nicaraguan children.

The body of Carmen M. Castro, 51, was found about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after neighbors reported hearing gunfire and an eyewitness saw three men running from the office in the 15500 block of Amar Road, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigators said.

"There is no indication she put up any kind of struggle. It was a ruthless murder," said Sheriff's Lt. Daniel Rosenberg.

"It was a robbery. They stole a big container of nickels and dimes for Nicaraguan Children's Relief Foundation on the counter.

"It was clearly marked for the children. It's incredible."

Castro, of Fontana, suffered shots to the upper body. She was alone in the office at the time. "It wasn't the typical establishment for a robbery," Rosenberg said.

The charitable donations were kept in a Plexiglas container with a lock, brimming with coins and bills, and plainly visible to visitors to C. Castro & Associates and passersby.

Rosenberg said he does not know how much money may have been taken. Apparently nothing else was taken, he said.

The three men were last seen heading south on Ballista Avenue on foot, Rosenberg said.

There was no indication of a getaway vehicle, he said.

"We are in shock. We aren't ready to talk," said a co-worker at the Castro family business. Family members reached in Fontana declined to comment.

Eyewitnesses described two of the men leaving the business as 18 to 20 years old, with medium builds, said Deputy Scott Butler.

The third was described as 20 to 22 years old and weighing more than 200 pounds, Butler said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Rosenberg or Dets. Brian Steinwand or Linda Muse at (323) 890-5500.

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