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Man is accused in deaths 11 years apart

Police investigating a December homicide tie him to one in 1996.

January 25, 2008|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

A Signal Hill man recently arrested on suspicion of fatally stabbing his boss has also been charged with an 11-year-old homicide for which he once was arrested but never convicted.

Jeffrey Keith Means, 42, was charged this week with stabbing Ronald Henry, 67, in his Long Beach apartment Dec. 19.

During the investigation, detectives discovered that Means had been arrested on suspicion of fatally bludgeoning Hal Shaw, 48, in Whittier in 1996. But the district attorney's office never prosecuted the case because of an apparent lack of evidence.

Now investigators believe that they have enough evidence to convict him in Shaw's death, so he also has been charged in that case. If found guilty in the killings, he could face the death penalty.

Means knew both victims, authorities said. He cooked for Henry's catering company, and fixed cars with Shaw. Means allegedly robbed both victims, said Det. Terri Hubert of the Long Beach Police Department.

She said "some items" were found missing from Henry's first-floor apartment in the 900 block of Dawson Avenue. "There were some similarities in both cases," Hubert said.

Simultaneously investigating a suspect in a new homicide and one that is more than a decade old is "pretty rare," Hubert said. "Had it not been for us basically running into this old case, we may have never known the two were linked."

Several factors pointed to Means as the primary suspect in Shaw's death, said Officer Jason Zuhlke, a spokesman for the Whittier Police Department. He said Means made incriminating statements and argued with Shaw the night before he was found dead.

Means also was the last person seen with Shaw, and some of Shaw's blood was found on Means' shoes, Zuhlke said.

"When the case was presented to the district attorney, they chose to reject it for what they quoted at the time was a lack of evidence," Zuhlke said.

The deputy district attorney for Whittier requested that police further investigate a dozen items, including the results of DNA tests on blood spots on Means' clothing and results of fingerprint evidence, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. But Whittier police never presented the case again to the local prosecutor, Gibbons said.

Instead, police referred the case to Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph Markus in Norwalk.

Markus "evaluated the case and felt the evidence was not sufficient at that time for filing," Gibbons said. "To say that . . . we didn't file a case when it was presented somehow led to other [criminal] action is kind of silly because we asked for additional investigation and it wasn't done."

Whittier police apparently received more conclusive DNA test results in 2000, Gibbons said, but did not resubmit that information to prosecutors.

Zuhlke said Whittier police investigated the case fully, but "regardless of the end result, we are happy that [Means] was brought to justice. We're looking forward to collaborating with the D.A. to get a solid conviction."

Means has a string of prior criminal convictions since 1990, including two strikes for robbery and making criminal threats to a Long Beach police officer, according to legal documents. The prospect of justice after so many years was good news to Shaw's mother, Hubert said. "She's thrilled," she said.

Means has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of robbery, in addition to special-circumstance charges of multiple murder and murder in the commission of a robbery. Means was being held in custody without bail. His arraignment is scheduled Feb. 5 at the Long Beach courthouse.

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susannah.rosenblatt @latimes.com

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