Sister of Slain Lawyer Offers $10,000 Reward

Times Staff Writer

Frank Saletri, a criminal lawyer who was killed in his Hollywood Hills home in 1982, would have celebrated his 58th birthday this week.

Saletri's sister, June Kirk, has not stopped thinking about the murder, which remains unsolved. "The death of my brother is always on my mind, always," she said.

So this birthday week, Kirk came to Los Angeles from her home in Chandler, Ariz., to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to Saletri's killer or killers.

"I can't let go," the tall, dark-haired woman said in an interview at a Los Angeles motel. It had taken Kirk, who owns a crop-dusting business with her husband, almost 3 1/2 years to raise the $10,000.

"What better way to spend it?" asked Kirk, 52. "I want to know, possibly, hopefully in my lifetime, the who and the why."

Saletri was found shot in the head in his white stucco Primrose Avenue home in July, 1982.

"We don't think the motive was robbery," said Los Angeles police Detective Tony Diaz of the Hollywood Division, because expensive jewelry, watches and other items of value were left untouched.

There were no signs of forced entry, Diaz said. "It is possible he may have known the assailant."

But Diaz doesn't know. "It's still an open, unsolved murder," he said. "It's a case where we didn't get any breaks. Nobody saw it. We didn't get any witnesses. Nobody heard a gun.

"I don't have anything to indicate he was involved in any drugs or gambling, anything like that. He had a lot of friends. Everybody liked him. Nobody hated him."

Saletri, who was not well-known among other local criminal attorneys, had defended a variety of clients, including a 48-year-old stripper who had once performed a well-publicized, one-block "streak" in Hollywood. He appeared to work out of his home, Diaz said.

He was also a part-time producer, director and writer, and was involved in half a dozen films, most of them spoofs of well-known horror stories. The best-known was the 1972 film "Blacula," about a black vampire.

People who knew him described Saletri as a tall, broad-chested, handsome man with a mustache who fancied himself something of a ladies' man. He was divorced, with no children.

He liked to fly single-engine airplanes, was active in the American Legion's Midtowne post and belonged to the Cauliflower Alley Club, a Hollywood social club whose members are predominantly boxers, wrestlers or performers who have played roles as fighters (Sylvester Stallone is a member).

Cauliflower president Mike Mazurki remembered Saletri as a fan of boxing and wrestling, and as one who "loved publicity." Whenever a celebrity came to a club gathering and pictures were taken, he said, "He would get in there."

The commander of the Legion's Midtowne post, John J. Lange, remembered the slain attorney as "a man who would give you the shirt off his back. He would give legal opinions and not charge." Saletri had been elected commander of the post just a few days before he was killed.

Kirk said Saletri had called her a few weeks before his death. "He did not indicate to me any problems, or that he was in fear for his life," she said.

Later, she said, she found out he had ordered the locks changed at his house not long before his murder, and "he had taken out a large insurance policy, leaving his estate as the beneficiary." No will was found, however, she said.

Kirk resisted playing detective, she said, because she suspected the murderer was someone "close to him" and feared asking questions of the wrong person. Saletri had guns in his house, knew karate and had three very protective dogs, so she assumed, she said, "it would have to be someone that he felt comfortable with, or the animals felt comfortable around.

"Even at my brother's funeral, I often wondered if that person was even there."

Kirk put her efforts instead into saving up the reward money and keeping in touch with Hollywood detectives about their investigation, which is catalogued in a file that is now three inches thick. She asked anyone with information to call the Hollywood Division.

"It's worth a shot," Diaz said of Kirk's reward. "Anything we might get is better than what we've got now."

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