Cause of Compton Student's Death Is Still a Mystery : Investigation: 'It seems like very, very poor police work' to Compton Mayor Walter Tucker as officials, unable to find evidence of a crime, shelve the case.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The mysterious death of Lina Aldridge, the 19-year-old Compton College honors student whose body was found in the trunk of her car three months ago, apparently will remain a mystery.

Police in San Diego, where Aldridge's body was discovered, ended their active investigation of the case Monday after the county coroner's office was unable to establish the cause of her death.

"We never close an unresolved case," San Diego Police Sgt. Ed Petrick said. "But this puts us in a bad position as far as our investigation goes because we can't show there was a crime."

The San Diego County coroner's office, which spent 12 weeks conducting sophisticated pathological and toxicological tests in the case, found no traces of any kind of drugs in Aldridge's body. Investigators also failed to uncover evidence of foul play.

Dr. David Lodge, the deputy coroner, said such tests frequently prove inconclusive.

"We often get situations where a person's death cannot be determined, and this is one of them, apparently," Lodge said. "We have not been able to determine the cause of death."

Members of Aldridge's family, who initially insisted the the college sophomore was murdered, had no comment Monday on the decision.

But Compton Mayor Walter R. Tucker, a friend and neighbor who served as the Aldridge family spokesman after Lina Aldridge's body was discovered, called the decision "irresponsible."

"It seems like very, very poor police work to not be able to determine the cause of her death," Tucker said. "I can't understand it. It just seems bizarre in this day and age that such a thing could happen. . . . What they need is a good detective on the case."

Aldridge's partially decomposed body was found in the trunk of her gray Toyota Corolla, illegally parked on the side of a busy downtown San Diego street, on July 28. Roy Williams, 24, a Compton College basketball star and fellow student who was the last person seen with her, was arrested by police. But he was released after 24 hours because of what police said was a lack of evidence.

Police said Williams initially told them that Aldridge had overdosed on cocaine after the two had driven to San Diego following a school function. The San Diego coroner's office found no trace of cocaine or other drugs in her system, however, and police treated the case as a possible murder until all of their leads were exhausted.

"It's not only frustrating for us; it's frustrating for her family when you can't label a cause of death," San Diego Homicide Detective Bill Nulton said in the early days of the investigation. "Obviously, she was put (in the trunk) by somebody."

In Compton, where both were known as high achievers, news of Aldridge's death and Williams' arrest came as a shocking blow. Aldridge, a member of a well-to-do family, was an ambitious and popular student who had set her sights on a law career after an earlier arrest for cocaine possession. Williams, who spent his early years on Compton's meanest streets, had won a scholarship to Idaho State University and had high hopes of playing professional basketball.

Pam Wilde, the information director at Compton College, said students were obsessed with the mystery behind Aldridge's death at first. "Everyone was waiting to hear something," she said. "But it's been quiet recently. I'm surprised that we didn't hear before now."

Williams could not be reached for comment Monday. But Detective Gilbert Cross of the Compton Police Department, who worked with San Diego authorities on the case and who interviewed Williams extensively, said Williams had been informed of the disposition of the case.

The basketball center did not move on to Idaho State University this fall as expected. Glenn Alford, the school's athletic department spokesman, said Williams' scholarship was withdrawn because he lacked the number of college credits needed to transfer.

Wilde said he has been frequently seen lately on the Compton College campus.

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