2 Members of a Tragedy-Scarred Family Murdered

Times Staff Writer

Helen Rainey’s son and daughter went out to buy a pack of cigarettes in the early hours of Thursday morning and never came back.

Two hours later, at 3 a.m., David Rainey, 26, crippled with a bone disease in his legs that had required seven operations, was found stabbed to death in his disabled sports car in a parking lot at Vernon and Orchard avenues, Los Angeles Police Lt. Joseph Freia said.

Nola Duncan, 35, the mother of two teen-age girls and a young son, had been dragged from the car, apparently after a struggle that left blood all over the car seat, taken to an alley a few blocks away, sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death. Her body was found at 10 a.m. in an alley near Vermont Avenue and 48th Street, after a telephone call from residents of the area, police said.

The callers told police that they had heard voices and then had seen a brown-and-yellow car pull away. That is all detectives have to go on, Freia said.


On Thursday evening, Helen Rainey, 63, sat at her dining room table in a small apartment in South Los Angeles going over the double disaster.

“David came to see us last night, and my daughter asked him to take her out because she was longing for a cigarette,” the mother said. “An hour later, they telephoned to say they were having trouble with the carburetor on David’s car, but my daughter said they’d be home soon and not to worry.”

The next she heard was from her other son, Michael.

“He phoned and said: ‘Mom, have you got your clothes on? We have to go to see David. He’s at California Hospital. I don’t think he’s going to live.’ ”


David Rainey was already dead.

‘What Happened?’

“The doctor told me he must have died instantly from a knife wound in the neck,” Helen Rainey said. “I kept asking ‘What happened to my daughter?’ But nobody knew.”

Helen Rainey’s eyes were dry. They had apparently cried all the tears she had, for now. She spoke softly, her words almost inaudible.


“I’m sorry,” she told a reporter. “It’s all a big blur. I guess it was hours later that two detectives came to my house and told me my daughter was dead too. It’s so painful. Two wonderful children in one day.

“Why did God take both these children at the same time?” she asked. “They were so sweet. David had had this tumor since he was 12, but he made the best of it. He could drive with one leg. He couldn’t run around, you know. But he was a big man, 220 pounds, and strong. And he was so sweet, so sweet. . . .”

Helen Rainey is the mother of eight.

“But he (David) and Nola, they were the ones who hugged and kissed me,” she recalled. “They had their own troubles. Nola used to sell insurance, but she’d been ill and had to get along with odd jobs. But they helped me with the rent here. Nola washed and cooked for me.”


The woman paused and thought for a while.

‘They’re Fine Kids’

“Her kids will stay on with me,” she said. “They’re fine kids. The best. There’s Laverne, 16, and Bobby, 5. And Terrevia, 14. She’s a bright one. One of those gifted children in a gifted program. She’s going to be a doctor.

“I know the (teen-age) girls will help me with the other kids. I just adopted two little ones. God made me a strong woman. I’ll have to be now, to bring up those kids.”


Helen Rainey depends heavily on her belief in a higher power.

“He didn’t let me down when my second husband, Walter, died. He was David’s father. He died 25 years ago, right here on Avalon Boulevard. Someone hit him over the head with a steel pipe. They caught the man in Texas, but nothing ever happened to him.”

The woman sighed and paused, again gathering her thoughts before continuing.

“You’ve got to go on, don’t you? Life’s full of troubles. I hope to God they find whoever killed my children.