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Suspect in couple's slayings held after manhunt

Brent Zubek is charged with assaulting an officer and with a probation violation as the investigation into the Chatsworth killings continues.

August 23, 2011|By Andrew Blankstein, Los Angeles Times
  • Brent Zubek used disguises and changed his appearance while he was being sought by officers, authorities say.
Brent Zubek used disguises and changed his appearance while he was being…

The man who police believe killed a Chatsworth couple and stuffed their bodies into trash bins managed to elude capture for two weeks by donning various disguises, including a wig.

The suspect, Brent Zubek, was arrested early Monday; Los Angeles police said he fired at them as he fled from detectives and was found several hours later on the roof of a building.

During the search, someone set fire to the dead couple's Chatsworth home, where Zubek rented a room. Police and fire officials are still trying to determine who set that blaze, which seriously damaged the residence, and whether it was an attempt to destroy evidence.

Detectives are piecing together how Zubek was able to avoid an extensive LAPD dragnet in the hours after police found the couples' bodies Aug. 12.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that Zubek changed his appearance during that period and used several disguises. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, said Zubek also used disguises years earlier when he was part of bank holdup gang.

The source said he was wearing a wig with dreadlocks at the time he was apprehended.

In the early 1990s, Zubek was one of two Canyon Country men, dubbed the Hole in the Wall Gang, who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a string of Southern California bank robberies.

The nickname stems from the gang's habit of entering the banks through a roof or opening in a wall.

Officials are not sure of the motive in the killing of the couple, whose names have not been released. Officials said they don't know of any problems the couple had with their tenant.

Police tried to arrest Zubek on Aug. 15, acting on a tip that he was at an apartment at Valley Vista and Sepulveda boulevards. But before they were able to call for backup, Zubek sped away in a truck.

Days passed with some promising leads but no sign of Zubek. Then police encountered Zubek after following a vehicle driven by his girlfriend, Amy Harter. About 9:30 p.m. Sunday, they confronted him near Noeline Avenue and Ventura Boulevard.

According to the LAPD, Zubek ran from officers before turning back and firing one shot with a handgun as he scaled a wall.

The detectives called for help and dozens of police, including Metro K-9 officers and the SWAT team, swarmed the location.

At the same time, authorities made phone calls to warn neighbors to stay inside as officers set up a perimeter and searched for Zubek.

About 4:30 a.m. Monday, Zubek was found on a roof of a home in the 4600 block of Libbit Avenue just off Ventura Boulevard. He was shot in the hip as he pulled a gun and pointed it at officers.

No officers were injured in the incident. Zubek was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and a federal probation violation; he was being held without bail. Police said they are still developing evidence in the slayings and have not arrested him in connection with that crime.

Last week, police recovered another gun belonging to Zubek in Sherman Oaks. Both recovered weapons will be tested against unspecified physical evidence found at the Chatsworth crime scene, authorities said.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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