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Intruders Bring Death to a Family’s Modest Home

Times Staff Writer

A wrought-iron screen, dead bolts and a chain could not keep the killers out of the Alvarez home about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

That’s because the three intruders politely knocked first.

Then they forced their way past the opened door--where they beat, robbed and shot to death Liberato Alvarez in front of his wife and two children.

Police are looking for two men and a woman who showed up at the Alvarez’s tiny apartment in Highland Park as Irma Alvarez was making tacos.

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Through an interpreter, Irma Alvarez said no one recognized the intruders who pulled her husband out of bed and started beating his head with a gun handle.

She said she threw her arms around her husband to protect him. The shirt she wore during the attack, covered with his blood, lay crumpled atop a laundry basket filled with clothes belonging to her daughters, Diana, 9, and Michelle, 2.

The robbers, armed with a gun and knives, told the crying children to “shut up,” Alvarez said.

Took Small Items

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The robbers grabbed some small items and fled. A bloodied Alvarez, family members say, started to chase the robbers. The gunman turned and shot. Alvarez, wounded in the chest, collapsed 10 feet from his doorstep.

The thieves took a watch, some cash and a chain. There was little else to steal in the 13- by 15-foot home.

The family slept in a living room furnished only with beds, a particle-board dresser and a portable color TV on a stand.

A police spokesman labeled the incident unusual, even for a high-crime area like Highland Park. “Most robberies are directed toward businesses,” said Officer G. Hancock.

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“It doesn’t seem to be the place you’d want to rob if you wanted large amounts of cash.”

Relatives and friends described Alvarez as a hard-working man who always put his family first and would pitch in when others needed help. They say he worked as a cook at a Glendale restaurant and had just returned from a three-week vacation to Mexico.

“He was nice and good to everybody. No enemies, nothing,” said Martin Moya, his brother-in-law.

Sunday afternoon, Alvarez’s wife of 10 years could barely stand as she sobbed and clutched for the arm of one of more than 20 relatives who stopped by.

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‘Could Happen to Anyone’

“It could happen to any of us. It could happen to anyone,” said Heidi Moya, a niece.

“I was afraid to come outside last night,” said an elderly neighbor who also lives in the 300 block of North Avenue 51. “I was afraid they would shoot me, too. I’ve seen it get worse and worse.”

The woman stuck a $10 bill in a child’s hand and asked her to give it to Mrs. Alvarez. “Her children were always very clean and happy,” she said.

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