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Women Hunted in Suffocation : Slaying Suspects Moved to County to Help Sister

Times Staff Writer

Two sisters sought in the death of a boyfriend found stuffed in a closet had come to Orange County recently from Kansas City to help a third sister, whose baby had been taken away from her by authorities and who was about to be evicted, police said Thursday.

The two sisters are also on probation in Kansas City for minor crimes, including failure to appear in court and writing bad checks, said Gary Mata, a Santa Ana police homicide investigator.

Investigators believe that Stephanie Renee Vick, 27, and Sonya Lee Vick, 33, allegedly tied up Stephanie’s 42-year-old boyfriend on June 9, wrapped his head in bed linen and left him in a closet in the third sister’s house in the 1700 block of West Richland Street in Santa Ana, Mata said. The man died of suffocation.

According to information police received, the sisters traveled to Santa Ana from the Midwest to help Sheryl Vick, 34, whose new baby had been placed under court supervision, Mata said. She was also facing eviction.

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Stephanie Vick had come to Santa Ana from Kansas City about a month before the occurrence, and shortly thereafter her boyfriend, Antonio Ariza, also arrived and moved into the house, Mata said. Sonya Vick had arrived three months earlier, he said.

Sheryl Vick told police that she had been at the home when an argument broke out between her two sisters and Ariza, Mata said.

Sheryl Vick left in the middle of the argument because she had appointments, Mata said, but she returned later in the day. Her two sisters were still home when she returned, Mata said. He declined to elaborate further. He said Sheryl Vick was cooperating in the investigation.

Ariza’s limbs were tied with television cable, wire and rope, and his head was wrapped in bed linens, making him appear mummy-like, Mata said. Sheryl Vick found the body five days later in the closet.

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Police said that Ariza, who was 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed 160 pounds, died of suffocation. Bruises were found on the body, Mata said. Authorities have not been able to determine the exactly when Ariza died.

Police had been called to the house several times to investigate arguments, Mata said. Ariza, a Panamanian native who was once a maintenance worker in Orange County, had been convicted of three counts of driving under the influence in 1987, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records. He had relatives in the area, Mata said.

Police have issued a special warrant that will reach authorities nationwide and in some foreign countries, Mata said. They also have been in contact with police in Kansas City, where relatives of the women live.

According to the DMV, Stephanie Vick lived in Kansas City as of 1985 but had lived in Santa Ana several years earlier. Records also showed that Sonya Vick had listed an apartment in Tustin as her permanent address as of March, 1988. Police have no indication that any of the sisters were employed, Mata said.

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