2 Girls Rescued at Scene of Killings : Chaperones Found Slain; S. Lake Tahoe Man Arrested

Associated Press

FBI agents smashed through the door of a mobile home to rescue two terrified teen-age models and arrested a man who had allegedly kidnaped them and killed their chaperones, authorities said Tuesday.

Herbert James Coddington, 28, who had allegedly lured the girls on the pretext of filming an anti-drug video, was booked for investigation of murder and kidnaping, FBI Agent Terry Knowles told reporters.

He said the two girls were found in a bedroom, apparently unharmed, but "scared to death." The two bodies were in green plastic bags on the floor of the adjoining master bedroom.

Models Alecia Thoma, 14, of Reno, and Monica Berge, 12, of Sparks, were not tied up, and "it was a fair assumption" that they were present when the slayings took place, Knowles said.

The girls vanished on Saturday in the company of Maybelle (Mabs) Martin, 69, operator of Showcase Finishing & Modeling School of Reno, and her friend, Dorothy (Dottie) Walsh, 67, also of Reno.

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Department confirmed that the two women were the murder victims. An autopsy was completed, but authorities did not explain the cause of death.

Neighbors said Coddington kept to himself and had little social contact with people living around him. Authorities said they did not know what Coddington's occupation was, saying he apparently was unemployed for several years.

Neighbor Beatrice JeuDeVin said she heard screams about an hour before the raid on the mobile home. "When I took my dogs out, I heard some screams," she said. "It sounded like women."

The two girls and their chaperones were reported missing by their families after they failed to return home in Reno, 60 miles away, Saturday night. The search involving as many as 50 officers centered on the Lake Tahoe area, where eight law enforcement agencies assisted the FBI.

Knowles, in charge of the Sacramento FBI office, said other teen-agers told investigators that a man believed to have been Coddington had approached them over the last two weeks, interviewing them for a video on drug rehabilitation.

He said their description of the man's car led agents to the mobile home, where officers knocked on the door and identified themselves, then burst in when the lights went out. Knowles said Coddington was overpowered immediately. He declined to say whether Coddington was armed at the time of his arrest, but said weapons were found in the mobile home.

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