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2 arrested in slayings at desert bunker

The suspected shooter wrote darkly of 'killing people at random.'

January 19, 2008|David Kelly | Times Staff Writer

A young man arrested in the deaths of two teenagers at a Mojave Desert bunker had posed with firearms and written darkly on an Internet blogging site of "killing people at random" but had no clear motive for the shootings, authorities said Friday.

Collin Lee McGlaughlin, 18, of West Covina was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of killing Bodhisattva Sherzer-Potter, 16, of Silver Lakes and her boyfriend, Christopher Cody Thompson, 18, of Apple Valley.

A second suspect, David Brian Smith, 19, of Covina, also has been booked on suspicion of murder, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

Sherzer-Potter and Thompson were each shot in the head sometime after 4 a.m. Jan. 5, authorities said. They were the last people remaining at a birthday party at a defunct military installation near Helendale.

Authorities allege that McGlaughlin was the one who shot the teenagers.

"There is no evidence that a robbery took place," said Cindy Beavers, a sheriff's spokeswoman. "The victims were taken into the bunker and they were executed. There was no sign of any struggle or resistance. No property was taken. There is no apparent motive or reason for this."

The killings stunned the high desert community. Both teenagers were good students with no history of problems at home or school. Sherzer-Potter wanted to make movies, and Thompson had recently graduated and was working as a contractor.

Some residents said they were relieved to hear that an arrest had been made because they worried that a killer was roaming free. Others, including the mother of the slain girl, renewed calls to demolish the graffiti-scarred bunker.

"We need to shut this place down," said Leah Sherzer, mother of Bodhisattva Sherzer-Potter. "I understand there are 18 similar locations like this in the desert, and the government must shut them all down immediately."

McGlaughlin and Smith were arrested after an around-the-clock effort by investigators.

Search warrants in Los Angeles and Riverside counties turned up two guns that authorities are testing to see if they were used in the killings.

The suspects were being held without bail and are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in San Bernardino County Superior Court in Barstow.

McGlaughlin kept a chilling MySpace.com blog with photos of himself brandishing a shotgun and pistol. He calls himself an "Equal Opertunity (sic) Merchant of Death." The suspect says he is a student at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, but a spokeswoman for the two-year school said there is no record of him ever being enrolled.

McGlaughlin lists 10 things he believes: No. 1 is "I entered this world screaming and covered in someone else's blood and thats how I intend to leave it."

Others include, "u may be able to outrun me but can u outrun a bullet???" and "I feel that if a person really needs it they should be able to walk down the street with a .357 killing people at random."

The blog was met with intense anger from friends of Sherzer-Potter and Thompson, who blasted it with responses.

"God will make sure you get what you deserve! I hope everyday you wake up and realize what a horrible person you are," one said.

"Why?" said another.

Court records show that Smith, the other suspect, was convicted of vandalism in February 2007, but there is no indication of any jail time.

Most of the 30 or 40 young adults who attended the party where the killings occurred came from Silver Lakes, a tightly knit high desert community between Barstow and Victorville. The deaths have fostered much confusion.

"I think there is an overwhelming sense of what a waste this was. Why would you murder these people? It's such a stupid thing to do," said Rick Piercy, president of the Lewis Center for Educational Research, an Apple Valley charter school that both victims had attended.

Piercy was one of a number of people who called for the bunker's destruction.

"There are a lot of hazards out in the desert, but this [bunker] in particular has such a feeling of depression and evil because of what happened that it must come down," he said.

The Air Force said this week that it hoped to demolish the site by the end of the year. The bunker is part of the old Hawes Auxiliary Field, a training site built during World War II. It has become a hangout for teenagers, target shooters and occasionally criminals. Bullet casings and broken glass litter the site.

Leah Sherzer, a school psychologist, expressed gratitude to the detectives who spent so many hours on the case.

"They have been tireless, and they took it so personally," she said. "The community needs to provide a safe place without booze or drugs where kids can have some independence in a safe environment. My daughter was very protected and watched over and yet this happened to her."

Her voice cracked.

"And nothing is going to bring her back."

--

david.kelly@latimes.com

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