Philanthropist, wife of judge found stabbed to death in her home

Wealthy philanthropist, 86, found stabbed to death in her home near L.A.'s exclusive Hancock Park

A homicide investigation is underway in the tony Los Angeles neighborhood of Windsor Square after an 86-year-old woman described by friends and neighbors as a philanthropist and cat lover was found stabbed to death Monday night inside her home.

The historic, tree-lined neighborhood with grand, multimillion-dollar homes is occasionally used for filming gritty crime dramas. But on Monday night Windsor Square was the setting of a murder mystery that left many residents stunned.

Los Angeles police say 86-year-old Antonia Maria Yager, who lived alone in the 100 block of North Beachwood Drive, was found dead from multiple stab wounds about 7 p.m. in her bedroom. Her body was found by a man who helped take care of her many cats.

Police are still investigating why someone might want to kill the longtime Windsor Square resident. They also haven’t ruled out the possibility that she was a victim of a home-invasion robbery or burglary.

Yager's late husband was prominent Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas C. Yager. He made headlines out of court in 1965 when his new bride of three days fell overboard and presumably drowned while the two were taking a boating trip from Santa Catalina Island to Newport Beach.

On Tuesday, authorities said it was unclear when Antonia Yager was killed. The last time anyone saw her alive was Sunday.

“I am shaking,” said Carolyn Layport, a longtime friend of Yager, adding, "She is going to be missed.”

Neighbors, some pushing strollers or walking their dogs, stopped outside her home as investigators combed the area for evidence Tuesday morning, searching for clues about the stabbing. Police are seeking surveillance footage or any cellphone videos that might point detectives in the right direction. They also planned to interview neighbors to determine if they saw anything unusual.

"People in this neighborhood care about this community," LAPD Lt. John Radtke said."They pay attention to people coming and going, so of course we are interested in anyone who might have seen anything out of the ordinary yesterday or perhaps even the day before."

The neighborhood, which hasn’t had a slaying since 2001, isn’t immune to crime.

Bordered by Hancock Park and Koreatown, the neighborhood has experienced its fair share of auto break-ins and home burglaries, which mostly occur when residents aren’t home.

Monday's discovery left residents in disbelief.

Described as a cat lover, Yager was known to take in neighborhood strays, feeding them and offering up warm mats. “She was our cat lady,” said neighbor Erica Gilbert, who after rescuing a cat called on Yager for help with its care.

As investigators searched her home, they found themselves surrounded by cats. None of the animals was hurt during the incident, police said.

Yager had lived alone since her husband died six years ago, Layport said.

A member of the Assistance League, she and her husband often donated to charity and had even established a foundation in their name.

The home sits on an exposed corner at the intersection of West 1st Street and North Beachwood Drive and was possibly not equipped with an alarm system, Radtke said. 

Yager had many valuables, including fine jewelry. But police said it was unclear whether anything was stolen from the home, Layport said.

The neighbor said she often spent time Yager, who was almost the same age as Layport's mother. Yager had bad knees and used a cane, and friends often worried that she would fall.

“She was a lovely woman,” Layport said. “I respected her almost like a mother figure.”

Anyone with information about the case was urged to call the LAPD's tip line at (213) 382-9470.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

12:25 p.m.: Information on Yager's husband added.

11:33 a.m. Updated throughout with more details.

The original version of this post was published at 8:02 a.m.

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