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Man Sought in Beating Death of Disabled Woman

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police on Monday were searching for a Hollywood man suspected of beating a 61-year-old disabled grandmother to death as her daughter and three grandchildren watched.

Dressed in a red-flowered nightgown, Twila Houston was found Saturday evening on the bathroom floor of her modest Hollywood apartment, according to Los Angeles Police Detective Mike McDonagh. Houston, who weighed 200 pounds and walked with a cane, was pronounced dead at the scene from massive head injuries.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 years and this is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen,” McDonagh said.

Police identified Houston’s alleged assailant as her daughter’s boyfriend, Sylvester Lee Reed, 40. He allegedly shoved and hit Houston for “several hours” with a belt and his fists because he apparently thought “she should do more work around the house,” McDonagh said.

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During the continuing beatings, which began at about 1 p.m., Houston’s daughter and three grandsons--ages 12, 10 and 5--were reluctant to intervene out of fear that they, too, would be hurt, according to police.

A 30-year-old man was also present. He told officers that it was “not his business to get involved,” McDonagh said.

Houston’s daughter, Rachel, said in an interview with The Times that Reed allegedly beat her mother because he thought she “was talking crazy to him. And he was drinking . . . wine.”

At one point, Rachel Houston said, Reed ordered her and the grandchildren into the bedroom while the whippings continued. “I tried to stop him,” Rachel Houston said, “but he said, ‘If you don’t shut up I’m going to hit you too.’ ”

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Rachel Houston said Reed ran from the apartment when she telephoned authorities for help. She also suggested that he was too drunk to realize what he was doing.

“He didn’t mean it,” she said. “It’s hard because it is my mother.”

Hollywood Division Detective Juan Valencia said, “We’re looking for him. We want to get him off the streets.”


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