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LAPD seeks public's help in identifying discount store clerk's killer

October 23, 2013|By Kate Mather

Los Angeles police detectives Wednesday released surveillance video of the man believed to have shot and killed a discount store worker last month and asked for the public's help in identifying him.

Martha Sanchez, a 39-year-old mother of five, was working at a South L.A. Happy Bargain discount store the night of Sept. 17 when authorities said a man walked in, robbed the store and shot Sanchez several times. A customer found Sanchez and called for help, authorities said, but she later died at a hospital.

At a Wednesday news conference at LAPD's 77th Street Station -- just two blocks away from the store -- Det. Eric Crosson said a "person of interest" in the case was in custody on an unrelated charge.

Crosson said investigators hoped additional information from the public would help "either identify or eliminate this person as the suspect in the case."

INTERACTIVE: Homicide Report

Crosson declined to elaborate on the person of interest, but said he was from the area and matched the description of the suspect seen in video footage. He described that suspect as a thin, black man about 6 feet tall and believed to be in his 30s, wearing a long jacket with green on the top and blue at the bottom.

Crosson said investigators believe the man who shot Sanchez lived near the store and was in the area at least 30 minutes before the murder. Investigators also believe "there were people on the street that unknowingly walked right by him," Crosson added.

"We're hoping that they'll come forward now that they know what we're actually looking for," he said.

When asked why police had not released the video footage until more than a month after Sanchez's murder, Crosson said the investigation has "been running its normal course."

"This is the point now where we're ready to seek the public's help in getting some more information on this suspect," he said.

Sanchez's brother also spoke to reporters, growing emotional as he asked the public for help.

"If this person is captured, we'll have some kind of tranquillity and calmness, but more than anything, knowing this person will never be able to do this again," Juan Arevalo said in Spanish.

"We hope -- in the video you saw today -- that someone knows this person and calls police, so we can put this person where they really belong," he continued.

Those who knew Sanchez described her as a kind, helpful woman who spoke often of her family and showed lenience toward customers.

On Wednesday, more than a month after her death, a small memorial of flowers, statues of Jesus and a lighted candle sat on a metal shelf outside the discount store.

"Martha Sanchez, 39" was scrawled on a pink cup. "RIP," two ribbons read.

Above was a flier, with Sanchez's picture and information about the night she was killed.

"REWARD $50,000," it read.

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Twitter: @katemather | Google+
kate.mather@latimes.com

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