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L.A. County Robbery-Slayings of Man, 2 Women May Be Linked

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating whether the death of a West Covina man, whose body was found in a trash dumpster Aug. 18, is linked to the slayings of two San Gabriel Valley women found shot and dumped beside freeways.

Like victims Elizabeth Nisbet and Shirley Denogean, Willie Newton Sams was abducted and shot to death by robbers who took his money, ATM cards and credit cards, authorities said.

The body of the 41-year-old man was discovered in a dumpster at Edgewood Middle School in West Covina, Sheriff’s Deputy Rich Erickson said Thursday.

Sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating Sams’ death “as a definite link” to the other two, Erickson said. No further information about Sams’ death was available Thursday, he said.

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Homicide Detective David Riggs said Sams’ death was among a number of cases under review. “They’re looking at all body dumps in the area to see if they’re connected,” Riggs said.

The murders have led to increased security precautions at the Puente Hills Mall, from which at least one of the victims was abducted.

On Thursday, armed sheriff’s deputies strolled among suburban teen-agers and shoppers at the City of Industry shopping center.

Their presence emphasized the fears that some patrons are feeling.

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“Gee, there’s somebody out there killing people in broad daylight. . . . It could happen anywhere,” said Freida Stewart, whose business takes her regularly to about 10 Southern California malls as a demonstrator for a cabinet shop chain.

The extra security came after Nisbet, 49, of Diamond Bar was abducted from the mall Saturday afternoon while waiting in a car for her husband. Nisbet was found dead less than three hours later with a gunshot wound in her head. Her body was discovered inside the couple’s 1990 Ford Bronco along the San Gabriel River Freeway in Irwindale.

Martin Luther Hospital in Anaheim, where Nisbet worked for 12 years, planned a memorial service for her this morning. Co-workers said the service is as much for them as it is for the woman who was always there for them.

“We’re still in a state of denial,” said Cindy Winner, who was Nisbet’s supervisor. “She was a big part of our hospital.”

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Nisbet worked for many years as the emergency-room secretary, before becoming an emergency medical technician. She was supposed to began duties as a gastroenterology lab technician next month.

“She wore many hats,” Winner said. “There wasn’t anything she couldn’t do.”

The other victim, Denogean, 56, of Claremont, died of multiple gunshot wounds Tuesday afternoon alongside the Pomona Freeway in South El Monte. Her car, a 1980 silver Mercedes-Benz, was found later that day in El Monte.

Denogean’s co-workers said she had left her job at Lynx Golf Inc. in the City of Industry to go shopping, but it was unclear if she had gone to the Puente Hills Mall, which is less than a mile away.

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Sheriff’s investigators Thursday had no suspects and lacked a description of the two men seen fleeing after Denogean’s death, Erickson said. “It’s kind of more of a warning to the public if people notice things around shopping malls or problems with a single woman,” Erickson said.

Clair Griffith, the mall’s general manager, said the measures will “continue as long as necessary.”

Some shoppers appreciated the stepped-up security.

Connie Davis, a resident of nearby Walnut, said she visits the mall about three times a week but was warned by her daughter, “Be careful. You have no business out there.”

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Others were unconcerned.

“It’s daylight and I’m an optimist and I always think it’s going to happen to the other person,” said Wynona Gordon, 55, of Diamond Bar.

Sheriff’s investigators have spoken to Los Angeles detectives about the death of Debra Denise Medlock, 34, of Los Angeles, who was found shot to death Wednesday by the side of the Harbor Freeway near 59th Place in Los Angeles. But Los Angeles Detective Joe Herrera said Medlock’s death bore little resemblance to the deaths of the two others.


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