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Police Have Few Clues to Strangling of Messenger

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mark Grinoli, a messenger and motorcycle enthusiast who lived with his parents in Chatsworth, was drawn to the gritty world of the homeless people who live around the intersection of Oxnard Street and Hazeltine Avenue in Van Nuys, according to Los Angeles police.

Last month, the 36-year-old Grinoli entered that street world and never came back: Someone strangled him, dumped him in an alley and set his body afire, police said.

Detectives said Friday that they have made little progress in finding suspects, witnesses or a motive in the slaying of Grinoli, whose charred remains were found early the morning of Feb. 22 behind a bar in the 14000 block of Oxnard Street. His motorcycle was found on a residential street half a block away, police said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles.

Investigators believe Grinoli was strangled and wrapped in some type of garment or cloth before being brought to the alley, where his body was doused with flammable liquid and set ablaze, said Detective Don Tabak of the criminal section unit, which investigates all arson-related murders.

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Grinoli was described by police as a recovering alcoholic who often drank on the street with homeless people in the area. He was last seen alive at a liquor store about 12 hours before his body was discovered, Tabak said. Investigators are trying to gather more information about the last hours of Grinoli’s life and believe witnesses may have seen Grinoli or know something about his death.

“We think somebody knows exactly what happened,” Tabak said.

It is not clear whether Grinoli was robbed, although his leather jacket is missing, Tabak said.

Grinoli, who worked for a motorcycle messenger service, won $20,000 in the state lottery’s Big Spin game in 1988, Tabak said. But detectives do not believe his winnings played a role in the crime because it was known that he had already spent most of the money.

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