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Police look for gang leader in woman's death

Gang leader Timothy McGhee was sought in the killing of a woman in 2001 in Atwater Village

A faint cry for "mommy" could be heard at the back of St. Bernard's Catholic Church in Glassell Park last week coming from a 3-year-old boy sitting in the front pew.

Justin Mendoza pointed at the closed grayish-blue casket covered in a beige sheet where his mother, 25-year-old Marjorie Mendoza, lay dead.

Mendoza was killed Nov. 9 in what police believe was a random act of violence by gang members in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles.

One gang member has been arrested as a suspect in Mendoza's murder, and Los Angeles homicide detectives announced Tuesday that they are looking for a second man, Timothy McGhee, 28.

A police bulletin called McGhee the leader of a notorious street gang in northeast Los Angeles.

"Since his release from prison [in May], violent crimes in the Atwater area have skyrocketed," said LAPD Homicide Det. Timothy Neel.

Mendoza was shot as she rode in the passenger seat of a Mitsubishi Montero next to Duane Natividad, her boyfriend.

In addition to Justin, Mendoza and Natividad had two other sons: Mark, 5, and Nathan, 1.

They were driving along the 3100 block of Hollydale Drive in the Atwater Village neighborhood known by locals as "Toonerville," the name of a gang that has long claimed the streets there as turf.

At one minute past midnight Nov. 9, Natividad stopped the SUV along a curb when another car pulled in front. Two men got out of the car and began firing at the SUV, Neel said.

"This took the victims by surprise," Neel said. "There was no verbal dispute between those people. The suspects got out of the car and opened fire on them."

Natividad ducked and was struck once in the right hand. A 16-year-old female friend in the back seat threw herself to the floor and was unharmed.

Natividad backed up the SUV in an attempt to escape the gunfire, but Mendoza was struck multiple times.

Natividad drove her to Glendale Memorial Hospital, where she died.

The next day Eduardo Rodriguez, 22, was arrested on suspicion of Mendoza's murder. On Nov. 14 he pleaded not guilty. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for today.

On the same day Rodriguez pleaded, the district attorney's office issued a murder warrant for McGhee, who goes by the nicknames "Huero" and "Eskimo."

Police described McGhee as 6 feet tall, 190 pounds, with a tattoo on the back of his head showing an eagle holding a snake.

McGhee was imprisoned at the California Institution for Men in Chino on a parole violation before his release in May. He had been convicted on drug charges, according to the district attorney's office.

Homicide detectives warned the public that they consider McGhee to be a violent threat and are seeking information that might lead to his arrest.

"The response from the community has been very minimal," Det. John Berdin said.

Anyone with information on McGhee's whereabouts is asked to call LAPD detectives at (213) 847-4261, or the Northeast Division watch commander at (213) 485-2563.

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