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Foul Play Suspected in Death of Woman Whose Skeleton Was Found

Times Staff Writer

Repeated stabbing apparently caused the death of a middle-aged woman whose skeletal remains were discovered while workmen were renovating a house in Venice last month, authorities said Thursday.

Los Angeles homicide detectives said the unidentified woman was buried in the backyard of the home for more than two years. They also revealed that several people who once rented the small, single-family house on Nowita Place are possible suspects in the case.

“There were several occupants of the house during the past 15 years and we are running all of the names (through a law enforcement computer),” Police Lt. Ross Moen said. “They’re all being investigated.”

Drawing to Be Released

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Moen said police will release further findings at a press conference today, when a composite drawing of the woman, who is believed to have been in her 50s or 60s, will be released.

Sketchy details of the case, which was described as “brutal murder” by one official, who asked not to be identified, have already started to emerge.

Coroner’s office spokesman Bob Dambacher confirmed this week that the woman died of multiple stab wounds. Investigators also revealed that a number of personal items that may provide leads in the case have been found at the site where the woman’s bones were uncovered.

“It is definitely a homicide,” Dambacher said. “The object now is to get the woman identified. If we can do that, it will be pretty easy for the police to start backtracking.”

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Anthropologist Aids Police

A police artist has based his sketch of the woman on a plaster cast of her skull. Other details, such as the age of the skeleton, came from Judy Suchey, a California State University, Fullerton, forensic anthropologist who works as a consultant to the coroner’s office.

Dambacher said Suchey determined the woman’s background through a tedious process of measuring and calibrating various parts of the skeleton. “This is a very specialized field,” Dambacher said. “There are only two certified forensic anthropologists in the entire state.”

The skeleton was discovered Dec. 19 when a contractor was digging holes in the ground to reinforce the foundation of the 50-year-old house. Moen said homicide detectives and coroner’s deputies spent the next two days digging up the complete skeleton.

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