A 31-year-old man with a history of theft and narcotics-related crimes has been arrested in the slaying of Martha Sanchez, a mother of five who was shot and killed while working alone at a South L.A. discount store.

Prosecutors plan to file murder and other charges against Eric Atkinson of Los Angeles, who was  arrested Oct. 9 on a parole violation, police officials announced Friday.

Sanchez, 39, was working at the Happy Bargain discount store about 8:50 p.m. Sept. 17 when the robbery and shooting occurred in the 7400 block of Broadway — just two blocks from the LAPD's 77th Street Station.

Sanchez was working alone when Los Angeles police say Atkinson walked in, robbed the store of between $200 and $300 and shot her multiple times. A customer found Sanchez and called for help, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital at 9:40 p.m.

HOMICIDE REPORT: Track killings in L.A. County

The killing angered those who recalled Sanchez as being kind to customers since working at the store for 18 months.

Her eldest daughter, Gabriela Sanchez, 18, told reporters Friday that the arrest had set the family more at ease.

"The family feels a lot better now, a lot better now that this guy was caught," she said.

Police said they believe they have recovered the handgun used in the shooting, and were not looking for additional suspects.

"We believe he did this by himself," Los Angeles police Det. Chris Barling said, adding that Atkinson had lived in the area for a "lengthy period of time."

Police were able to track Atkinson down using video surveillance footage and information from the more than 10 tips from the public, officials said. 

Los Angeles police Lt. Jeff Nolte said Sanchez's standing in the community had spurred the public to assist investigators.

"She's been at that market for a while," he said.

The mother of five had been working at the market to pay for Gabriela to attend Fresno State University, where she had recently been accepted.

"Now that's been put on hold because of this coward," Nolte said.

For her part, Gabriela Sanchez, who now plans to attend Pasadena City College, said when she was informed of the arrest, she felt relief "and sadness that, unfortunately, it's not a bad dream."


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