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Five shot dead in L.A. County on New Year's Day

Three are killed at holiday parties in Coldwater Canyon and Long Beach, a man is fatally shot by police in Panorama City and a Pomona woman confesses to shooting her husband, officials say.

January 02, 2009|Andrew Blankstein and Nathan Olivarez-Giles

A New Year's burst of violence left at least five people dead Thursday in Los Angeles County, including a man shot outside a "Winter Wonderland" holiday party in the Coldwater Canyon section of Los Angeles.

"It's a really tragic way to start the new year," said Sgt. Duane Leonard of the Pomona Police Department, which reported that a 46-year-old woman had confessed to fatally shooting her husband near the Phillips Ranch neighborhood.

The bloodshed began early, when Long Beach police received a call at 12:40 a.m. for what turned out to be the first homicide of the year -- a 25-year-old man shot outside a New Year's celebration on Gardenia Avenue.

Sarith Em of Long Beach was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said. A woman identified as Vannaly Tim, 24, was shot in the same incident and later died at a hospital, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

A motive for the shootings was not clear and details were not immediately available, said Long Beach Police Officer Jackie Bezart. Many partygoers were in the area and investigators hope witnesses will come forward with information, the officer said.

"This is not the norm" for the city, Bezart said. "It's a new year and we are looking for a new beginning."

The Coldwater Canyon slaying occurred just outside a four-story home in a neighborhood bordering Harvard-Westlake School and St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

The "Winter Wonderland" party was winding down at a tan stucco home in the 3900 block of Avenida del Sol about 4 a.m. when a man, dressed casually in sneakers and a sweat shirt, got out of a sport utility vehicle and walked up to the house.

Several partygoers were still milling around in the street, and the man spoke to at least one of them. After a discussion, the man was shot four or five times at close range, said Lt. Alan Hamilton of the Los Angeles Police Department's North Hollywood Division.

The man, whose identity was not disclosed by police, was found slumped on a curb across the street. Party guests had left before authorities arrived.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. A stream of blood trickled down the street several feet, pooling in a small spot just uphill from the church.

Neighbor Meredith Adams, 69, said she awoke to gunshots at 4 a.m.

"I heard three sharp shots and that's all I know," Adams said. "I told my husband and he said not to worry about it, that it's probably just a New Year's thing."

When Adams and her husband, Lawrence, awoke later in the morning, police and coroner's officials had closed off their street, which is lined with three- and four-story homes.

It was unclear who had organized the party, but the house where the gathering took place was being rented by three men, one of whom was out of town, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.

Police believe one of the residents works in the entertainment industry, but his position was unknown.

Neighbors said a party organizer passed out invitations around the neighborhood, asking visitors to "dress to impress." The invitation advertised a DJ, appetizers and an open bar, but also asked neighbors to call the house if they felt the gathering was getting too loud.

The police source described the party house as filthy and devoid of furniture. "Picture the aftermath of the biggest college party," the source said.

Earlier, Los Angeles police responded to a 911 call about a man firing shots in the air and threatening his family during a holiday party in Panorama City, Lt. John Romero said.

Officers arrived at the home just after 12:30 a.m., surrounded the building and evacuated everyone from the party, Romero said.

After a two-hour search, police spotted a man in a crawl space above a converted garage behind the home, authorities said.

The man was armed, and three officers opened fire, killing him, according to preliminary reports.

Authorities did not release the name of the man, who was believed to be in his early 40s. Romero said a weapon was recovered and the shooting is under investigation.

The Pomona homicide occurred about 3:45 a.m. Adrienne Davidson, 46, told investigators that she shot her husband, Ezra Davidson Jr., also 46, in the upper chest at their home on Trabuco Place, according to Leonard of the Pomona Police Department.

After the shooting, the woman went to a Los Angeles County sheriff's station in Walnut to confess, Leonard said, and described "an ongoing family problem." Leonard had no further details. Adrienne Davidson was transferred to the Pomona police station and arrested on suspicion of murder.

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andrew.blankstein@ latimes.com

nathan.olivarez-giles@ latimes.com

Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II and Rich Connell contributed to this report.

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