The son of a Torrance restaurateur remains the prime suspect in the shooting death of his father and wounding of his stepmother, Torrance police said Wednesday, a day after the district attorney’s office said it needs more evidence before it can file criminal charges.
William C. (Billy) Deardorff Jr., 32, was arrested Monday morning on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in connection with the shooting of his father, William Sr., and stepmother, Rosemary (Dee Dee) Deardorff, as the couple slept in the bedroom of their Torrance home Jan. 27.
More Evidence Sought
But the younger Deardorff--who police say has denied involvement in the attack--was released from the Torrance Jail on Wednesday morning after Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin Oghigian said more evidence is needed to charge Billy Deardorff with a crime. Oghigian said he asked detectives to continue their investigation.
Billy Deardorff and his lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The elder Deardorff, 49, and his 44-year-old wife had just returned from a vacation in Acapulco and were in bed at their Elm Street home in central Torrance when one or two intruders entered their bedroom about 2:30 a.m. and fired a total of nine shots, Torrance police said.
Possible Motive Cited
William Deardorff died of several gunshot wounds, but his wife was able to telephone paramedics, and she survived.
Shortly after the shooting, police said, they began to suspect that Billy Deardorff had shot the couple or hired someone to do so.
An affidavit written by a Torrance detective and filed in South Bay Municipal Court to obtain a warrant to search Billy Deardorff’s home cites a possible motive, listing statements by associates that the younger Deardorff wished to run the restaurant himself.
Billy Deardorff was the couple’s principal heir, the affidavit says, and stood to inherit an estate valued at between $6 million and $7 million, including the popular Vince’s Spaghetti Restaurant on Hawthorne Boulevard.
The affidavit also provides details of the killing and the ensuing investigation.
Rosemary Deardorff told police she was awakened at 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 27 by the sound of someone turning the dead bolt on the front door of her home. As heavy footsteps approached the bedroom, the affidavit states, she said she tried to warn her husband: “Bill, I think someone’s in the house.”
Before the couple could respond, Rosemary Deardorff said in the affidavit, she was blinded by one or two flashlights. She said she heard the popping of gunshots and felt a burning sensation as she was hit by several bullets.
She said the flashlight glare and the speed of the attack made it impossible for her to describe her assailant or determine whether there was more than one, police said.
Because the killer walked directly toward the bedroom, he appeared to be familiar with the layout of the house, police Sgt. Jack McDonald said in an interview.
When police arrived, they found a duplicate key still in the front door, McDonald said. Mrs. Deardorff told police that only her stepson had been given a key to the home, the affidavit says.
Said He Returned Key
Deardorff acknowledged that his father had given him a house key but told police that he had returned the key before the attack, McDonald said.
Mrs. Deardorff, whose parents opened Vince’s 16 years ago, said that shortly after the attack she wrote Billy Deardorff out of the family will and changed the locks at the restaurant to keep him out, said police spokesman Ron Traber.
According to the affidavit, several friends and co-workers told police that Billy Deardorff frequently talked about how he would benefit if his father and stepmother died. (Although the affidavit by Detective James Lorentz is a sworn statement, the people interviewed by police were not under oath.)
The affidavit states that Billy Deardorff’s roommate, Fred Borgards, said Deardorff told him, “I wish their plane wouldn’t come back,” when his father and stepmother were away on an earlier trip and that “If they were gone, I could run the restaurant like I want to.”
Deardorff’s barber, David Newhall, said Deardorff told him at least three times about a recurring dream in which “his parents were shot to death,” the affidavit states.
Police said they also collected evidence that Billy Deardorff was living beyond his means in the three months before the shooting.
He took out a $100,000 second mortgage on his home, ostensibly to make home improvements, but instead spent most of the money on a lavish life style, the affidavit states. He bought watches, rings and other expensive gifts for friends, it says.