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Woman, 75, Found 2 Days After Being Raped, Beaten

Times Staff Writer

A 75-year-old woman living alone in an area beset by gang and drug problems was raped and severely beaten, then lay in her Canoga Park home for nearly two days before a neighbor heard her calls for help, police said Tuesday.

The victim, whose jaw was broken and eyes were swollen shut from the beating, had also suffered a heart attack before she was found about 5:30 p.m. Monday, police said. She is in serious but stable condition at Northridge Hospital Medical Center.

Police said no arrests had been made in the attack, which apparently occurred Saturday night or early Sunday. The woman has no phone in her home and was unable to call police.

“She was severely traumatized and injured and unable to get out to get help,” said Los Angeles Police Lt. William Gaida, head of detectives at the West Valley Division. “But she was able to crawl to the back door and call out. She was there for a long period of time before a neighbor heard her and investigated.”

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Police said the victim has lived in the home on Variel Street about 20 years. Since her husband’s death six years ago, she has lived alone.

Woman Became Reclusive

In recent years, according to police, the neighborhood south of Sherman Way has increasingly become a spot where many gang members live and hang out, and the woman became reclusive because she was financially unable to move from the area.

“About the only time people saw her was when she went out to go to the store,” Gaida said.

Police said gang members and transients often loitered in the unfenced yard behind her small house to sleep and use drugs. The back of her home is marked with graffiti. However, police declined to say whether any gang members are suspected in the attack.

Police noted that the garage on the victim’s property appeared to have been recently inhabited, and detectives are investigating whether the woman had possibly rented it or been intimidated into allowing people to live there.

“In recent years, numerous drug-related arrests have been made in that area,” Gaida said. “She apparently didn’t have the financial means to move away and was intimidated to the point that she felt she had to put up with it. She was either too embarrassed or afraid to complain to police. She may have been concerned about retribution.

‘Who Can She Turn To?’

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“It’s a sad situation. Here is an elderly woman with no family. Who can she turn to? She can turn to the police, but we can’t be there all the time,” Gaida said.

Residents said that gang and drug problems in the area have been on the increase in recent years and that the victim’s home was often a gathering point for hoodlums.

“I don’t know whether it was through intimidation or not, but there always seemed to be thugs on her property,” said one neighbor, who spoke on the condition that she would not be identified. “It is not surprising to hear what happened.”

Although police said the victim did not report the problems on her property, she was well known to West Valley Division patrol officers who often made arrests in the area and attempted to keep gang members and drug abusers off her property.

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Detective Ted Barnes, who formerly was assigned to a patrol unit in the Canoga Park area, said he knew the woman because of frequent stops behind her home.

“I don’t know how many times I ran people out of there,” Barnes said of the woman’s property. “For years, I tried to keep them out of there. I talked to her about it and she said she didn’t want them there, but didn’t know what to do. She was just a frail, elderly lady.”


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