LOCAL L.A. Now

DNA evidence leads to arrest in 1987 killing

A former professional boxer was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder in the 1987 slaying of his manager, Los Angeles police said.

An LAPD-FBI fugitive task force took Exum Speight, 50, into custody at his San Fernando home Wednesday morning, a day after an arrest warrant charging him with murder was filed, police said.

Cold case detectives said DNA ultimately linked Speight to the killing of Douglas Stumler, a 30-year-old Los Angeles County Housing Authority employee who was found dead inside his West L.A. apartment on March 31, 1987. Stumler sidelined as a boxing manager and worked with Speight, even living with him at some point during the mid-1980s, LAPD Det. Rick Jackson said.

Stumler spent March 29, 1987, with a friend and returned to his apartment alone, Jackson said. The friend called later that Sunday night, but Stumler didn’t answer the phone.

Red flags were raised when Stumler — a sports fan and Indiana native — didn’t meet with friends the next day to watch his Hoosiers win the NCAA basketball championship, Jackson said. When he didn’t show up for work Tuesday, his friends grew more concerned.

“They know something’s not right,” he said.

A friend went to Stumler’s apartment with the building manager and found his body.

Jackson said there was evidence of a “pretty violent struggle” that stretched across the apartment. There were “multiple causes of death,” he said, including strangulation and stab wounds.

“It was not a quick thing,” he said.

Speight initially landed on the detectives’ radar, as the boxer and his manager had a “bit of an issue” years before over stolen property, Jackson said. But the connections were circumstantial — investigators were never able to definitively link Speight to the crime.

“Exum Speight’s name came up.… He was looked at back then and focused on as a potential suspect,” Jackson said. “They didn’t have the forensics we now have.”

It wasn’t until 2010 that the LAPD cold case unit was able to reexamine evidence from the case, Jackson said. Two years later, the detectives got a hit: DNA collected from Stumler’s body matched Speight, Jackson said.

Detectives tracked down witnesses — including some located out of state — and began piecing their case together. After a new DNA sample from Speight again matched the evidence from the crime scene, Jackson said, detectives presented their case to prosecutors and the warrant was filed.

Speight — perhaps best known for losing a 1996 bout with current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko — recently worked as a security guard at a Venice Beach marijuana clinic, Jackson said. He was arrested without incident Wednesday and booked on more than $1-million bail.

Jackson said it was gratifying to tell Stumler’s family that an arrest had been made.

“Obviously it doesn’t bring their loved one back, but it gives them answers,” he said. “It’s not necessarily even closure, but at least there’s a solution that they see.”

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kate.matherl@latimes.com

Twitter: @katemather

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