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Prosecutors decline to charge man held in killing of 1-year-old Autumn Johnson

Los Angeles County prosecutors on Wednesday declined to file charges against a 23-year-old man arrested earlier this week on suspicion of killing 1-year-old Autumn Johnson in Compton, a district attorney's spokeswoman said.

Prosecutors have "asked for further investigation from the investigative agency," spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in an email. Ardalani said the office would not comment further.

Ray Howard Patterson was taken into custody Monday in Compton by sheriff's investigators. Authorities said detectives suspected him of being the gunman in the child's killing, which drew widespread outrage. He was released Wednesday evening.

Sheriff's officials said in a statement that the homicide investigation is continuing.

"Detectives believe there are community members who can help solve this tragic, senseless murder of a baby," the statement said.

On Feb. 9 about 7 p.m., a man walked up to a converted garage in Compton and opened fire, striking the child in her crib. Also present was the child's mother, who was not injured. 

The man then got into a blue Chevrolet Impala, which drove away. Authorities were looking for two men, a driver and a shooter.

Deputies called to the scene rushed Autumn to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood in a patrol car, where she was pronounced dead.

Los Angeles County, the FBI and the city of Compton have offered a combined $75,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Autumn's killer.

Sheriff's Capt. Steve Katz, who oversees the homicide unit, said earlier this week that investigators were still gathering evidence and trying to determine a motive for the shooting.

On Saturday, funeral services were held for Autumn, described as an outgoing child who had just learned to walk.

Her mother, Blanche Wandick, who was preparing a bottle for Autumn when she was shot, told mourners that she missed her baby.

“It's just so hard,” Wandick said. “I feel like my life is over. I wish it would have been me instead of her. She was my future, my firstborn.”

Sheriff's officials urged anyone with information about the killing to contact detectives at (323) 890-5500 or call the anonymous tip line, (800) 222-8477.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

For more crime news, follow @nicolesantacruz on Twitter.

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UPDATE

6:53 p.m.: This story was updated to add a statement by the Sheriff's Department and that Patterson was released from custody.

This story was first published at 2:39 p.m.

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