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Transient killed elderly La Verne couple for a cellphone, prosecutors say

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office has charged a transient with capital murder, accusing him of bludgeoning an elderly La Verne couple to death and stealing the wife’s cellphone.

Luke Fabela, 23, was charged in the deaths of Shirley Isom, 74, and Armie “Troy” Isom, 89, the owners of a construction business who were found in their hillside estate on Roughrider Road on Dec. 26, 2014.

In a statement released Wednesday, prosecutors said the couple was killed "for a cell phone." Nothing had been removed from the 80-acre property except Shirley Isom’s cellphone, they said.

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Shirley Isom, who suffered stab wounds and blunt force trauma, died at the scene of what authorities called an extremely bloody attack. Her husband was taken to a hospital, where he died later that day.

Fabela has been charged with two counts of murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders in the commission of a robbery; one count of second-degree robbery; and one count of first-degree residential burglary.

Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty, the district attorney’s office said in a statement released Wednesday.

Authorities said a groundskeeper called police after discovering the couple inside their home. Neighbors told investigators they saw a man in a hoodie walking away from the house shortly before then, carrying a large backpack.

DNA evidence from a jailhouse swab led investigators to Fabela, who had served state prison time and was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft in San Bernardino a few weeks after the slayings. Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives announced in May that DNA had linked Fabela to the case and that he was already in custody in state prison after pleading guilty to the vehicle theft.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Dave Coleman told The Times last year that the Isoms did not know their killer and that they were bludgeoned and stabbed to death near their front door.

Fabela has a lengthy record of property crimes, including theft and burglary, as well as a domestic-violence conviction. He had no fixed residence, having lived with relatives and acquaintances in Claremont, Pomona, Montclair, La Verne, San Bernardino and elsewhere, authorities said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation in the case.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Follow me at @haileybranson / Google+

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Update

2:15 p.m.: This story was updated with additional information from the District Attorney's office. 

This article was originally published at 1:45 p.m.

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