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Two LAPD Officers Fired After Failing To Thoroughly Investigate Woman's Screams
UCLA student Andrea DelVesco, 21, was found dead in a Westwood Apartment that had been set on fire last September. It was later determined that DelVesco had not died due to the fire, but had been stabbed several times prior to the arson. Four LAPD officers had been to DelVesco's apartment building, responding to reports of a woman screaming before the fire, at a time when prosecutors believe the killer was still inside. However, the officers chose to leave after only seven minutes without investigating further. Two of those officers have since been fired, CNN reports.On September 21, 2015, a woman who lived in DelVesco's building in Westwood got up early to take her boyfriend to LAX. That woman, Sarah Muhr, was also a student at UCLA. She returned to the building at about 5:30 a.m. and saw a man running through the stairwell. She entered her own apartment and went to sleep, only to be woken up about 45 minutes later by a woman's screams and a dog barking. She called 9-1-1, and told the dispatcher that the woman who lived below her owned a dog, which could indicate where the noises were coming from. The operator told Muhr that's where she would send the officers when they arrived.
Four officers showed up: Rhoadell Sudduth and his rookie trainee Thomas Montague in one car, and Alisha Williams and her trainee, Erick Tillett, in the other. The officers spoke with Muhr, then looked around the complex. Sudduth even shone his light into DelVesco's bedroom, and observed a bed with no one in it. After seven minutes, the officers decided there was no evidence that a crime had been committed and left. They never even knocked on DelVesco's door.
Unsettled, Muhr remained awake, and at about 7 a.m., heard a loud noise from the apartment below. She looked out the window and saw the man from the stairwell leaping from DelVesco's balcony. Then she saw smoke and called 9-1-1 again.
DelVesco's roommates, who slept through the screams, could not rouse her to escape the fire, which was determined to have begun in her bedroom. When firefighters entered, they discovered DelVesco dead, on top of her bed. She'd been stabbed 19 times, and suffered burns to her hands and face. Her mother said that the burns were so bad that they had to use dental records to identify the body. The coroner determined that DelVesco was likely dead before the blaze, as some of the stab wounds cut carotid arteries. A large amount of blood was found beneath the bed, suggesting that DelVesco was stabbed on the floor, then later placed on the bed. This would explain how officers missed her when they shone a light into the room.
The dog Murh heard barking, a small Chihuahua mix, was found unresponsive near the bed and later euthanized at a veterinarian's office.
Alberto Medina, 23, and Eric Marquez, also 23, were arrested and charged with the murder. Prosecutors believe the pair burgled a nearby apartment, then murdered DelVesco. They also believe that Medina, who they think was the man Muhr saw, was in the apartment while officers were looking around outside.
Though the internal affairs of the LAPD are often kept under wraps, CNN reports that Sudduth and Williams, 21-year and 7-year veterans, respectively, have both been fired. Their attorney, Robert Rico, told CNN that Muhr's call was vague, and that she told officers about an echo in the building that made noises hard to pinpoint. With such little evidence of a crime, he says it seemed unreasonable to knock on doors and wake people up. He also argued that DelVesco was likely dead before the officers arrived, meaning that DelVesco's death could not have been prevented even if the officers had discovered her before the fire.
DelVesco was described as a loving, helpful young woman and a bright student who had many friends. The LAPD has released the following statement, according to CBS Los Angeles.
“The facts and circumstances surrounding the murder of Andrea DelVesco earlier this year was a devastating and unspeakable tragedy for her family, friends, the community and the men and women of the LAPD. We cannot fully comprehend the grief her parents and other loved ones have suffered from their loss and the senior detectives from LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division worked tirelessly to identify and arrest Andrea’s suspected murderers so that they may face justice. As additional details were discovered about the circumstances of the incident, the LAPD took swift action to hold Department personnel accountable for mistakes made in the initial stages of the investigation.
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