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Guard sergeant held in homeless woman's death

The body was found at the armory in Culver City. Police cite a 'domestic dispute.'

August 31, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

The first homicide in Culver City in two years is turning into a bizarre mystery that involves the body of a woman found inside a California Army National Guard armory.

Police describe the victim as a 29-year-old homeless woman, JoAnn Crystal Harris, who was in the process of being recruited into the Guard when she was bludgeoned to death last Friday inside an armory building.

Detectives allege that the assailant is Staff Sgt. Scott Ansman, 34, who has been charged with first-degree murder.

Culver City Police Lt. Ron Iizuka said Harris and Ansman were in a relationship and the homicide was part of a "domestic dispute."

It was unclear how Ansman met Harris.

But the armory serves as a homeless shelter during the winter. The sources said coroner's officials were trying to determine whether Harris was pregnant when she was killed.

A 15-year veteran of the military, Ansman joined the Guard in November 2002 and had worked as a full-time supply sergeant at the Culver City armory since April 2004, said Lt. Col. Jon Siepmann, director of communications for the California National Guard. Ansman has not been deployed to combat duty.

"This is the first time something like this has happened at a National Guard armory," Siepmann said.

He said Ansman was one of three Guard personnel assigned to the armory but said the facility didn't directly handle recruiting.

"The armory isn't a recruiting station," he said. "But our recruiters work out of the armories, and they typically go to schools and colleges and other places."

Culver City police said Harris had applied to join the California National Guard, though Siepmann said he could provide no details about her status.

Iizuka said Harris had come to the armory that day to see Ansman.

"There was some kind of altercation inside the big room of the armory," he said. "She died from blunt force trauma."

A bat and a knife were recovered by investigators at the scene, Iizuka said. Harris also may have been stabbed, the coroner's office said.

Ansman, who is married and a full-time Guard employee, called 911 to report the killing, Iizuka said.

Ansman was arrested after being interviewed by Culver City detectives.

Law enforcement sources said investigators were continuing to probe whether the killing was planned and whether Ansman was preparing to dump the body.

Ansman is being held in lieu of $1-million bail at Twin Towers Jail in downtown Los Angeles. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.

Little is known about Harris.

One friend said she kept a MySpace page. On that page, "Jo Ann" describes herself as a 29-year-old nurse who enjoys parties, travel, poetry and sunsets at the beach.

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