Woman's Dreams of Success End in Apartment Killing

Times Staff Writer

Julie Marie Fenton loved to travel. And she loved clothes, and the old Jaguar she was having fixed up. She wanted a lot, for a 24-year-old, so she worked hard, right up to the night she was killed.

She had graduated from Cal State Fullerton a year ago and she was thinking of studying voice in Italy, where she had just been accepted at a music academy. For now, though, she worked two jobs--days in the office of a Fullerton health club, nights waiting on the crowd at Elmer's Place, a restaurant and bar on State College Boulevard. It was there, her friends think, that she met the man who police believe killed her.

"Julie worked hard for what she wanted," said Brandon Smith, a bartender at Elmer's. "She never missed a shift."

So when she failed to show up for work Saturday afternoon, her friends became concerned. About 9 p.m., another waitress went to her apartment and, with the next-door neighbor, tried the door.

"The lights were on and the stereo was playing softly, but there was no answer," said Roger Kulp, Julie's neighbor. He opened the door, and found Julie partially clad and face-down on the floor. Kulp and the waitress ran back to his apartment to call paramedics. She was already dead, police said.

The coroner's office said the cause of death was unknown, "pending investigation."

Early Sunday, Fullerton police arrested Andrew Lewis McCarter, 29, of Anaheim, on suspicion of killing Fenton, according to Sgt. Al Burks. McCarter remains in Fullerton jail on $250,000 bond.

Arrested After Interview

Police would not say why McCarter was a suspect, or how Julie Fenton died. McCarter was arrested at 5 a.m. at the Fullerton police station after an interview with detectives, Sgt. Danny Becerra said.

But Smith, the bartender, said he told police he saw McCarter's roofing truck parked behind Fenton's apartment on East Commonwealth Avenue in Fullerton about 2:30 Saturday morning. "I was on my way home from work, I drive right past her place on my way," Smith said. "I glanced over to see what's going on, and I noticed Andy's (pickup) truck was there--I laughed, I just shrugged it off. But then, when she didn't come in for work, I started thinking about this truck."

Fenton's neighbor, Kulp, said he didn't see the truck when he went to bed, but "when I woke up again about 3 or 3:30, I noticed a dark, small pick-up truck with a construction rack. The truck was behind the apartment. When I got up and left in the morning, Julie's car was still there, but the truck was gone."

McCarter was a regular at Elmer's, Smith said. But he wasn't a friend of Fenton's, as far as Smith knew. Friday night, after her shift had ended, Fenton sat down to have dinner with the manager and a former employee, Smith said. McCarter came over and sat down with them for "about 10 minutes," said the manager, Ted Marrugi. After dinner, Fenton left the restaurant alone at 11 p.m.

"There was nothing said, no argument between them or anything like that," said Marrugi. "He (McCarter) seemed like a real nice guy." Marrugi said he didn't notice what time McCarter left Elmer's that night.

Took Pride in Her Work

Marrugi described Fenton as "one of the most ambitious persons I've ever met. She took pride in any work she did. She was very caring, she would do her best to build other people's spirits up. She was a great person."

Marrugi said he had heard Fenton talk about the music school in Italy but did not know what her plans were. "She had a beautiful voice. Sometimes she would get up and sing with the bands here."

Her supervisor at Racquetball World said Fenton, who worked in the membership services department, was one of the best employees the club had. "This is a tremendous shock for all of us," said Marcia Chalmers, an assistant manager at the club. "She was very much respected by all of us."

Fenton traveled extensively, Chalmers and Smith said. She spent three months in Europe last summer, and had recently returned from a Club Med vacation--and planned to go again soon, Smith said.

At Cal State Fullerton, where friends said Fenton majored in business, she was an executive board member of her sorority, Delta Zeta, said Christine Maimone, a spokeswoman for the local sorority chapter.

Fenton's parents, who live in Orange County, were unavailable Sunday.

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