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2 Are Arrested in Robbery-Slaying of Store Owner

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A man and a teen-age boy have been arrested in the robbery and slaying last month of the owner of a Beverly Hills gown-rental shop.

Beverly Hills police on Thursday surrounded an Inglewood apartment and ordered Martin Earl Dawson, 25, and an unnamed 15-year-old to surrender. The pair, who apparently shared the apartment, were arrested in connection with the killing and armed robbery of Beverly Hills merchant Sherry Morgan, police said.

The search of the apartment turned up a small-caliber handgun similar to the gun used in Morgan’s slaying, said Beverly Hills Police Lt. Joe Lombardi.

Police said they are pleased that they appear to have solved at least one of the four slayings to have occurred in Beverly Hills in the past four months--an unusually large number for the upscale community, where the homicide rate rarely tops two a year.

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Authorities are still investigating the Oct. 2 killing of vacationing gay rights activist Jon Simmons, 39, of Chicago, who was found dead in a Beverly Hills alleyway, a gunshot wound in his head.

Suspects are also being sought in the Sept. 6 slaying and robbery of an armored car guard in front of a Wilshire Boulevard bank. An Aug. 11 arson is also being investigated as a homicide; the alleged arsonist died in the fire.

Morgan, 45, was fatally shot Dec. 7 in what appears to have been a botched robbery of her Olympic Boulevard shop, Starlit Soiree. Her diamond wedding ring was missing when her body was discovered, but her cash drawer still had money in it.

A man matching Dawson’s description was seen entering Starlit Soiree before Morgan’s death, which occurred between 6:30 and 7 p.m., police say. The same man also went into an adjacent jewelry store, but apparently was not filmed by a security camera there.

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Police said they believe that Dawson was casing the mini-mall before a robbery attempt. They would not comment on which suspect is believed to have shot Morgan in the neck. However, in cases in which a killing occurs during the commission of a felony, all those who took part in the felony can be charged with the death, even if they didn’t pull the trigger.

The arrests have eased the minds of friends and fellow merchants in Beverly Hills Plaza, in the 8900 block of Olympic Boulevard.

“I was really nervous,” said Patty Phillips, a close friend of Morgan’s and owner of Patty’s Presto Pizza on the bottom floor of the mall. “There are so many crimes when people aren’t caught, so it’s nice that the police solved this one with so few clues.”

Police said physical evidence found inside Starlit Soiree links Dawson to the crime, but they would not describe the evidence. They said the juvenile suspect matches the description of a youth seen at the mall near the time of the slaying.

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Said Richard Rothstein, owner of the nearby jewelry store that Dawson allegedly visited: Dawson “was in our store. We’re very happy (police) caught him.”

Police said that Morgan had been preparing to close the store at the time of her death. At 6:30 p.m. she had called her husband to tell him she would be leaving soon for their Westside home. When Morgan did not arrive at 7:30 p.m., her husband, Gordon Giles, called police and asked that they check the store.

Officers found the glass door to the store still open, and Morgan’s body behind the counter.


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