Managers of an office building where a pregnant woman was stabbed to death in an ATM robbery earlier this year have refused pleas from its bank tenant and the local chapter of the National Organization for Women to remove a wall that may have hidden the attack from passersby.
The dispute began shortly after the death of Sherri Foreman, a Toluca Lake woman who was fatally stabbed March 30 after withdrawing $40 from an ATM at the Great Western Bank at Riverside Drive and Woodman Avenue.
Foreman was stabbed by a man who had been loitering there for at least two hours, according to witness accounts and a bank surveillance camera. Foreman's 13-week-old fetus died immediately and Foreman died a day later.
A Van Nuys Municipal Court judge on Wednesday ordered ex-convict Robert Glen Jones, 42, to stand trial on charges of murdering Foreman. Jones, who will be arraigned in Superior Court on Aug. 4, faces the death penalty if convicted of the murder and robbery charges.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Phil Rabichow said the wall in dispute blocks the view of a portion of the bank building's parking lot from passersby on Riverside Drive. But because there are no witnesses to the attack, it is unknown whether Foreman's assailant used the wall for cover.
Nonetheless, Great Western Bank executives in a letter shortly after the attack asked the manager of the eight-story building to trim shrubs, improve parking lot lighting and remove the six-foot-high decorative wall that bears the bank's sign.
Representatives of the San Fernando Valley chapter of NOW had made a similar request.
In a May 14 letter to Great Western, building manager Lawrence Law agreed to cut back shrubbery and improve lighting, but refused to remove the wall. Speaking for owner United Overseas Investment Inc., Law said the wall should not be blamed for the attack.
In a second letter, R. Phillip Altman, Great Western's senior vice president of the retail banking division, asked again that the wall be removed.
Law replied in a June 30 letter: "We are very reluctant to remove the decorative wall unless we have no choice. It has been with the building for 28 years."
That position has frustrated bank officials, who have since agreed to pay for some of the parking lot lights to be operated all night instead of only until midnight.
Law said in a brief telephone interview that negotiations are continuing with the bank over the wall.
Rebecca Wickliff, a Sherman Oaks resident and coordinator of the Valley's NOW chapter, said the organization became involved as a matter of routine.
"We've always been involved with women's safety, especially something that can be so easily resolved," she said.
Wickliff said that if the cost of removing the sign is an obstacle, volunteers would be willing to "take sledgehammers and tear down the wall ourselves."
During the preliminary hearing on the case this week, the accused man's girlfriend testified that he admitted to the killing and several other witnesses identified Jones as the man seen loitering around the bank.
The final evidence presented was an eerie videotape of Foreman, wearing a Houston Oilers hat, making her withdrawal at the bank moments before she was attacked.
The video, which is actually made up of still images shot every two seconds, shows Foreman looking over her left shoulder toward a parking lot where her BMW was parked. She was attacked as she made the short walk from the ATM to her car.