Police Say Man Admits Storage Slayings : Crime: Harnoko Dewantono denies killing a third person whose body was also found in a Northridge locker last summer.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A triple-murder suspect confessed to killing two people and moving their bodies around the San Fernando Valley before stashing them in a Northridge storage facility where they were discovered last summer, Los Angeles police said Friday.

The suspect, Harnoko (Oki) Dewantono, confessed to the two slayings but denied killing a third person--whose body was also found in the storage facility--during interviews with Indonesian authorities, officials said.

Dewantono, arrested last month in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta after fleeing the United States, faces triple-murder charges in Los Angeles for the slayings of his brother, Eri Tri Harto Darmawan, 26, and two business associates, Gina Sutan Aswar, 30, and Suresh Mirchandani, 40, whose bodies were found Aug. 10 at the U-Haul Co. public storage facility in the 18100 block of Parthenia Street.

Los Angeles Police Department Detective Ted Ball, who traveled to Indonesia and was present during the questioning, said Dewantono told a colonel of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police that he bludgeoned Aswar to death after she tried to back out of a business deal and killed his brother in the same manner during an argument.

But Dewantono told police it was his brother who killed Mirchandani during a trip on a Los Angeles freeway, Ball said.

Over the course of eight hours of interviews conducted last Friday and Saturday, Dewantono admitted he later buried Mirchandani in the yard of a Northridge house he was renting. He said he later dug the body up and moved it, along with the corpses of Aswar and Darmawan, to a Sherman Oaks storage facility, Ball said.

Using a hand truck, Dewantono later transferred the bodies to the Northridge storage facility in 1993. Dewantono was captured when he continued to make rent payments after the bodies were found, Ball said.

"His mother mailed one of the payments at his direction because he indicated that was where his younger brother was, and that he needed the money," Ball said. "Well, he was half-true."

His mother told authorities that she sent one check to the storage facility. A second check sent to the same facility was covered with Dewantono's fingerprints, Ball said.

The Los Angeles detectives used the address of Dewantono's mother to find him in Indonesia. The address was printed on her check. They passed the information to authorities in Jakarta, and Indonesian authorities subsequently arrested Dewantono.

It remains unclear whether Indonesian officials will agree to return Dewantono to the United States to stand trial because the two countries lack an extradition treaty. The Los Angeles district attorney's office has formally requested his return and is awaiting a decision from Indonesia.

While in Jakarta, Ball said he and his partner, Detective Ed Ramirez, interviewed about a half-dozen friends and family members of Dewantono who were living in Los Angeles at the time of the slayings but had returned to Indonesia.

"We found out that the suspect for many years had made a living by exploiting many people, including his wife and, later, a girlfriend," Ball said.

The son of a prominent Indonesian family, Dewantono came to the United States in the late 1980s with his girlfriend on a student visa, Ball said. Dewantono initially settled in Kansas, where he attended school, then moved to Pennsylvania before arriving in Los Angeles.

After moving to Los Angeles, Dewantono lived at various times in North Hills, Northridge, Westwood and also Lake Forest in Orange County, Ball said.

Dewantono sold his first victim, Mirchandani, a dry-cleaning business for $100,000 in January, 1991, Ball said. But Mirchandani decided to abandon the business seven months later--even though he still owed Dewantono tens of thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Dewantono told authorities his brother shot and killed Mirchandani in August, 1991. Ball said he does not believe that account.

In the spring of 1992, Dewantono began soliciting Aswar--then living in Indonesia--as a business partner after he had a falling out with his wealthy girlfriend, Ball said.

"He lured (Aswar) to the United States and she came with in excess of $200,000 to invest in one of his business ventures," Ball said. "But it was totally fictitious."

After returning from a trip to Paris in the fall of 1992, Aswar told Dewantono that she was not going to go along with the business deal, Ball said. "He became irate and bludgeoned her to death in Brentwood at a house he rented there," Ball said.

Finally, Dewantono confessed to authorities that it was during an argument in December, 1992, that he bludgeoned his brother to death at an apartment in West Los Angeles, Ball said. The revolver used to shoot Mirchandani has been recovered but the weapons used to kill Aswar and Darmawan have not been found, authorities said.

Reports of the killings and Dewantono's involvement have been carried widely throughout Indonesia, where media and public interest in the slayings is so intense that Ball said he and his partner were forced to switch hotels three times to avoid reporters during their 1 1/2-week stay in Jakarta.

"The press on this is overwhelming," said Ball, who brought back 50 newspapers that carried front-page stories on the killings. "It's a heck of a case."

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