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LAPD detectives suspect drug dealers in woman's disappearance

Melissa Silvia Aguilar, whose boyfriend was fatally shot in East Hollywood, has been missing for almost two weeks.

October 16, 2009|Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Los Angeles police detectives are searching for a woman they believe may have been kidnapped by narcotics dealers who shot to death her boyfriend in East Hollywood.

Jose Manuel Zaragosa, 35, was shot multiple times at close range Oct. 3 after being beaten, authorities said.

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Pat Gannon said Zaragosa's car was found miles away in the San Fernando Valley, where he and girlfriend Melissa Silvia Aguilar were last seen. While classifying Aguilar as a missing person, detectives suspect she may have been abducted in a Mexican-style narcotics killing-kidnapping.

"There have been no ransom demands," Gannon told The Times. "It has been more than 10 days without any word."

Robbery-Homicide Division detectives were brought on to the case because it might be tied to drug cartel violence, but officials stressed that it also remains possible cartels were not involved.

"At this point, we don't know exactly who is responsible," Gannon said. "We don't [know] where she is at this point. She could be in Mexico."

Detectives believe the couple were grabbed in the San Fernando Valley, where they were meeting friends.

Aguilar is described as a Honduran native in her early 20s, and her only contact with authorities was with immigration officials in Minnesota. Zaragosa, a Mexican national, used several other names, including Saul Ayala and Jesus Sanchez, according to coroner's officials.

Investigators say Zaragosa had a history of deportations.

Mexican-style drug hits are not unheard of in Los Angeles, but they remain rare.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein

@latimes.com

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