The friends and family of Laurie Myles want the world to see her as they knew her--not just as another anonymous victim of random street violence, but as a devout, loving mother of three who was filled with joy and inner peace.
And so they tearfully gathered--husband Philip Myles and longtime friends such as singer Smokey Robinson--before the news media on Monday at the Church on the Way in Van Nuys.
They were there to defend Myles’ name, and restore the dignity that they say was stripped by an account in The Times that confused her with another woman with a record of petty crimes.
“For the hundreds of people who knew and loved Laurie, we want the thousands who now have a sordid view of her to know who she was,” said Stephen Tavani, who heads a ministry that employed Myles.
His voice sometimes breaking with emotion, Tavani added, “She believed there was hope for the city of L. A. . . . even (for) those who shot her to death, for we would sing and speak to many such as them.”
Tavani criticized The Times for its coverage of the Wednesday evening slaying, which he said stole the slain woman’s dignity the same way the robbers stole her life.
“The two men used a gun. The L. A. Times used a story filled with errors,” said Tavani, who told reporters that he had worked with Myles presenting religious youth concerts for gang members and other troubled teens from some of the worst streets of Los Angeles.
The Times has acknowledged its error. Laura Morgan, a spokeswoman for the newspaper, said in a statement Monday that the paper’s initial story last Friday “contained a mistake about her background” when it reported that Myles had been convicted of minor crimes.
Morgan said the mistake occurred when Times reporters reviewing court documents came upon “a woman with the nearly identical name and birth date” who had been convicted of the crimes.
“Obviously, The Times regrets the error,” Morgan said Monday.
Myles, 34, was shot in the heart in front of her 9-year-old son by one of two men who demanded her purse. She gave up the bag, but the gunman shot her anyway, police say. The robbery occurred as she stopped to pick up a teen-age daughter at a Bible study class.
Robinson, known for hit Motown records such as “Shop Around,” extolled Myles, a longtime friend, as “a wonderful, loving, caring, God-loving woman.” The shaken singer continued, “Surely, I will miss her. I will miss her presence, but I am here today to uphold her dignity. She was a very, very positive force in all our lives.”
With his slain wife’s brothers at his side, Philip Myles paused frequently to dab at his eyes as he urged the two men who robbed and killed her to surrender to police. He also put out a call for all “God-fearing people” on the street and in the jails and prisons to “put your ears to the ground and call in the information to Devonshire police.”
Lt. Kyle Jackson and Detective Tom Broad, of the Los Angeles Police Department, said the Devonshire station has been swamped with calls, but no solid leads had developed Monday. The investigation continues.
“We have one of our best (detective) teams working this case,” Jackson said. “We’re doing the best we can.”
Broad said the Myles killing has stirred a chord in the community. “There is a lot of outrage. You have a woman who is an innocent victim who was in the process of conducting her daily business. . . . She was accosted by two individuals who take her life for the sake of some property. I think the public has the right to be outraged.”
The most difficult, emotional moment came as Tavani recalled how Laurie Myles spent her last day alive, working on one youth concert tour and preparing for another. He had to pause several times to collect himself. Philip Myles wept openly.
“I remember her eyes so full of joy as she excitedly showed us some letters that had come in from some kids whose lives had been touched by the love of Jesus in our concerts,” Tavani said. “I remember all of us commenting on how radiant she looked that day.”
A few hours later, Tavani said, they stood with Philip Myles at her bedside at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. “We prayed together while the hallway became filled with crying children,” he recalled.
A private memorial service is to be held today.
A memorial fund has been established. Checks made out to the Laurie Myles Memorial Fund may be sent to the Church on the Way, 14300 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA. 91405.