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New York man arrested in 1982 Koreatown killing

LAPD cold-case detectives use DNA evidence to tie the suspect to the stabbing of a 63-year-old woman, who also was sexually assaulted.

November 21, 2009|By Richard Winton

More than 27 years after Hazel Hughes was found stabbed to death in her Koreatown apartment, Los Angeles Police Department cold-case detectives have arrested a New York man in the slaying, police said.

Victor Alvarez, 53, was charged Friday with capital murder after detectives arrested him outside a Harlem methadone clinic in New York and flew him back to California three weeks ago.

A DNA sample taken surreptitiously from him before his arrest connects him to the Aug. 16, 1982, killing, said LAPD Det. Rod Amador.

"This cold case became hot when the DNA sample recovered from the crime scene matched the sample taken from Alvarez," said LAPD Capt. Kevin McClure.

Alvarez is accused of killing Hughes, 63, after sexually assaulting the woman during a burglary at her apartment building on 4th Street near Vermont Avenue.

Because of the other alleged crimes, prosecutors could choose to pursue the death penalty.

Hughes was one of two women whose bodies were found inside the apartment building within 10 hours of each other.

LAPD Cmdr. Pat Gannon said Alvarez also is suspected in the killing of the other woman, Cordelia Ferguson, 65. The LAPD crime lab is continuing to work on DNA evidence gathered in that stabbing.

Detectives said Alvarez lived on the third floor of the same apartment complex. During the first investigation, his fingerprint was found in Hughes' first-floor apartment. He also had been named in a prowler complaint before the killings. But those pieces of evidence weren't considered strong enough to make an arrest, Gannon said.

When Amador and his partner, Corey Farell, reexamined the case in May, they came across Alvarez's name and learned that DNA gathered from Hughes' killing had been uploaded to the state DNA database.

Alvarez was convicted on a separate manslaughter charge shortly after the Koreatown killings and sent to prison. After his release, he moved to New York.

Amador said that when he was arrested, Alvarez "denied any involvement in the case."

Investigators believe the crime was committed during a burglary spree. "We believe he committed burglaries at the apartment complex to pay for drugs," Amador said.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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