Valley Woman Fatally Shot in Front of Son : Crime: Laurie Myles, 34, was slain even after she gave robbers her purse. Officials say suspects were apparently following her.
A woman waiting for her daughter at a Bible study class was gunned down in front of her 9-year-old son despite complying with a demand by robbers to give them her purse.
Laurie Myles, 34, of North Hills, was shot once under the left arm at close range as she sat in the front seat of her compact car. The bookkeeper and mother of three died a short time later at Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
“We’re having a prayer meeting and, bingo, something like this happens,” said Charles Casper, a Los Angeles city fire captain who hosted the church gathering. “You wonder what good prayer does.”
Authorities said Myles had apparently stopped at a nearby photocopy store before going to pick up her 17-year-old daughter at a Bible study class when the two suspects began trailing her small white Chevrolet.
Police said that at least one suspect approached the driver’s side of the car and demanded cash. Although the woman quickly complied, one of the men opened fire.
Moments after the 9:10 p.m. shooting, the victim’s son, Joshua Adams, burst into a home in the 8600 block of Louise Avenue, interrupting the study group from nearby Shepherd of the Hills Baptist Church.
“My mother’s been shot!” he cried, collapsing into tears. A dozen people attending the meeting rushed out to find Myles slumped in the front seat of her car, which was parked on the street, blocking the driveway of the home.
Chris Holowaty, the youth pastor and first on the scene, said the passenger door was open and the window had been smashed out of the vehicle’s driver-side door, which was still closed. There were blood stains on the car seat, he said.
“She was just slumped there in the front seat. She wasn’t moving, just very still. Just the way her body was, it wasn’t in a comfortable position. I knew that something was very wrong.”
Dana Martin, the victim’s 17-year-old daughter, had been discussing the meaning of becoming a holy person with eight other teen-agers when Myles pulled up in front of the house.
“Dana had been waiting for her mother and we knew she had arrived, because the dog had started barking,” Holowaty said.
Dana left the living room and then came running hysterically back inside.
Mila Casper, who hosted the weekly discussion meetings with her husband, Charles, rushed back to get a blanket.
“I came out with the blanket but Chris stopped me before I could get to her. He said ‘Don’t go any further. It’s bad.’ ”
As they waited for paramedics, the stunned teen-agers gathered on the front lawn of the Casper home, located in a tree-shaded neighborhood where $500,000 residences perch not far from gritty, blue-collar thoroughfares.
“We assumed the worst, that she was dead,” the 23-year-old Holowaty said. “The kids were crying, embracing each other, trying to console Dana. The boy was very quiet, almost numb. At that point, we were pretty scared of every car that drove by, afraid that these guys might come back.”
Investigators on Thursday had few details on the suspects, whom they described as two young men, one about 19.
The Valley has seen dozens of “follow” crimes since 1988 but only two before the most recent have ended in death, authorities said.
On Thursday, friends came and went from the Myles home in the 9300 block of Woodley Avenue but family members had been asked by police not to make any public statements.
Mila Casper said she had known Laurie Myles for several years, ever since Dana and her daughter, Irene, both became active in the school drill team at Los Angeles Baptist High School.
“She was a beautiful lady who knew the Lord and who was very proud of her daughter,” she said. “We saw each other at games at school and talked about our daughters, how nice it was to have two young Christian girls who were so outgoing.”
Irene has since moved on to the school’s cheerleading team and Dana is now a leader of the drill team, but both have remained friends. And they regularly attended the Bible classes.
Friends said the Myles family were members of The Church On The Way, a Pentecostal church in Van Nuys, but that Dana had been regularly attending the Bible meetings at the Casper home with Irene.
On Thursday, the Valley’s top law enforcement official said carjackings and “follow-home” crimes have been on the rise both in the San Fernando Valley and nationwide at an alarming rate.
“What makes these cases so startling and alarming is the sudden intrusion into people’s regular lives,” said Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Valley bureau. “When in their car, people feel like they’re in a cocoon, protected with family and friends. Then, suddenly, they’re confronted by a hostile attacker. It’s a form of outright street terrorism.”
Kroeker said this most frequent “follow” crime was particularly frustrating for authorities.
“Time after time in prevention seminars, we tell people how to react in a crime such as this. And from what I understand, this woman did everything she was supposed to. She gave up her property without a fight. And then, in an offhanded way, this suspect just kills her.”
Meanwhile, church members have set up a trust for the family, and several said they planned to prepare meals for Phillip Myles and his children for several weeks to come. At the high school where Dana attends, students gathered in prayer Thursday and attended counseling session.
Casper, the host of the Bible group, said Thursday that he was stunned by the death of a woman known as law-abiding and “proud that her children were being raised with the help of the Lord.”
“This kind of thing causes you to think twice,” he said.
“There’s a lot of evil in this world. No place is immune, not even this quiet neighborhood.”
Added Jess Moody, pastor of the 6,000-member Shepherd of the Hills Church: “Not the family of course, but in a way, we all deserved this. We have lowered our standards all around. We have got to have a spiritual awakening in L.A. It’s just terrible that it may take a tragedy like this to inspire it.”
Family friends on Thursday were also concerned for Joshua, who they said is struggling to cope with the sight of his mother being shot even after surrendering her purse.
“The family is very concerned about the safety of the children. They have her address,” a close family friend said of the suspects.
“They have her purse. They know where her house is. God forbid, they could come back.”
John Glionna is a Times staff writer and Scott Glover is a special correspondent. Also contributing to this story were Times staff writer Ann W. O’Neill and Julio Moran and researcher Dennis Clontz.
Chronology of Follow-Home Robberies, Slayings Since 1988
Starting in the late 1980s, the San Fernando Valley has been plagued by a series of “follow-home” robberies in which residents were trailed to their homes and robbed. Police believed that victims were selected for their expensive jewelry and luxury automobiles. More than 40 such crimes were recorded in late 1988 and early 1989 in the West Valley, but after police broke up a ring of suspected robbers in March, 1990, the rash of robberies ended. Then in late 1991, the crimes began again. Since then, more than 20 follow-home robberies have been recorded in the Valley.
Some of them include:
* May 26, 1992: A Woodland Hills woman was robbed in her garage by three men and a teen-ager who had trailed her from a nearby supermarket. The robbers were arrested in the act by members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Investigations Section, who had one of the men under surveillance after his arrest in an earlier follow-home robbery.
* April 6, 1992: A Tarzana businessman was shot to death about 3 a.m. after returning home in a new Mercedes-Benz from a Bell Gardens card club. A Norwalk man was arrested and charged with the crime in August of that year.
* March 11, 1992: A 49-year-old Tarzana woman was robbed of an expensive ring as she stepped from her car at 4:30 p.m. after returning from a grocery store.
* March 10, 1992: A 43-year-old West Hills woman was confronted in her garage by two men who demanded her ring when she returned from a local supermarket at 1:15 p.m.
* Feb. 26, 1992: A Granada Hills art dealer was shot once in an apparent robbery attempt after returning home from a business meeting about 11:30 p.m. Police speculated that the assailant followed the man home and shot him when he resisted. He died seven hours later.
* April 11, 1990: A Los Angeles school district official was shot and slightly wounded by a gunman when he returned to his Tarzana condominium. Detectives say the gunman may have followed the victim’s Mercedes-Benz from an Encino restaurant.
* Feb. 9, 1989: A 37-year-old woman was confronted at noon in the garage of her Benedict Canyon home in the hills south of Sherman Oaks by a robber who took her jewelry and cash.
* Feb. 5, 1989: A 60-year-old Tarzana man was approached in his driveway by a gunman after returning home. Minutes earlier, the man believed he had eluded a car that had been following his Mercedes-Benz on his return from Century City.
* Feb 4, 1989: After arriving at the door of his mother’s North Hollywood home, a 53-year-old Beverly Hills man was approached by an armed man who demanded his Rolex watch. Police believed that the man was followed from his home.
* Jan. 12, 1989: After pulling into the garage of her Encino home, a 33-year-old woman was confronted by a man with a gun. The woman quickly backed out of the garage and sped away in her Mercedes-Benz as the suspect fired several shots after her.
* Dec. 30, 1988: An Encino woman was followed to her home and robbed after leaving a nail salon. The woman told police she believed a car that she thought was following her had turned off.
* Nov. 30, 1988: After returning from a nearby supermarket, a Studio City woman was attacked and robbed of a $30,000 ring and her jaw was fractured.
* Oct. 18, 1988: A 62-year-old Studio City woman was robbed of three rings worth about $36,000 after returning from a shopping center.
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