Los Alamitos Real Estate Agent Last Seen Alive Monday : Businesswoman's Death a Murder, Police Say

Times Staff Writer

A popular and successful real estate agent found dead in her Los Alamitos home may have been sexually assaulted before being murdered, possibly by strangulation, police said Friday.

Los Alamitos Police Lt. Orville Lewis said an autopsy conducted Friday by the county coroner's office revealed that Marjorie Elaine Deeble, 55, died of asphyxiation. The autopsy failed to determine exactly when she died, but Deeble was last seen alive Monday, Lewis said.

As they grieved Friday, Deeble's co-workers at the Los Alamitos office of Great Western Real Estate remembered the woman they called "Marge" as their top saleswoman for 1985, a cheerful colleague who gave away new business to rookies in the branch office to help them get a start.

'Made People Happy'

"You know . . . she sat in a chair by my desk (Monday), and we talked about her being the top sales agent of the month," said Becky Ioule, Deeble's office manager.

"We were in the process of writing a press release. . . . She was very well-known in the community and active in a lot of different clubs and her church. . . . She just made people happy; she was just never ever down," Ioule said.

Because Deeble hadn't appeared for work since Monday, her friends called Los Alamitos police at 3:45 p.m. Thursday to have them check. Officers arrived a short time later and found Deeble dead in the bedroom of her apartment in the 3600 block of Green Street.

The front door was "slightly open," Lewis said, but there was no sign of forced entry. It was not determined immediately whether anything was missing from the home--about a mile from Los Alamitos Race Course--where the victim lived alone, Lewis said.

"There was some evidence that the victim had been sexually assaulted," Lewis said. He did not elaborate. And he would not discuss whether it appeared that Deeble had struggled with her assailant.

Deeble was active in the Soroptimist Club, a civic organization for professional women, and the Church of Religious Science, as well as other organizations, Ioule said. The office manager said Deeble, whom she described as a small, attractive woman, was a "home economist," adding that she believed Deeble had taught home economics at one time, either at Cal State Long Beach or a local community college.

University officials could not be reached to confirm that information late Friday.

'Her Customers Loved Her'

Deeble's supervisor and co-workers said Friday that she will be missed by her office friends and her customers.

Deeble, who "got into real estate almost seven years ago exactly," sold residential property in the Long Beach area and parts of Orange County, Ioule said. "She's won trips for the amount of her sales. She was just tremendous at it. Her customers loved her."

Colleagues swapped memories of the ways Deeble helped people to whom she sold homes, such as the time she carried her own barbecue to somebody else's house because they had no cooking equipment.

"She was a very lovely person," said a male co-worker.

According to Lewis, Deeble is survived by her former husband, their daughter and two sons.

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