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Prosecutors Say Couple Bound, and Then Slain

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard and Donna Landau, the Chatsworth couple allegedly slain by a teenage friend of their son’s last week, were roused from their bedroom, individually bound with duct tape and blindfolded before they were shot to death in a hallway and bathroom, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said Friday.

Prosecutors provided new details on the grisly Jan. 2 slayings on the same day that Rickey Smith Jr., 19, a former Chatsworth resident who used to play basketball at the Landau home, was formally charged with two counts of murder.

Smith was also charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting the couple’s 15-year-old son Jonathan, who escaped by pretending to be dead.

Police maintain that the Landaus were killed as Smith and his cousin, an unidentified 17-year-old who is also in custody, were trying to rob the family. Jewelry, pagers, credit cards, cash and checks allegedly were taken from the residence, according to documents filed in Van Nuys Municipal Court.

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In the documents, the D.A.'s office alleges that Smith shot the Landaus with a revolver after Jonathan Landau, whom Smith had ostensibly dropped by to visit, had admitted him into the family’s Owensmouth Avenue home.

Richard Landau, 43, a film industry landscaper, was shot once in the chest and Donna Landau, 39, an airline ticket agent, was shot in the chest and then smothered, Deputy Dist. Atty. Janice Maurizi said.

“The facts will lead to the conclusion that it was a planned attack,” Maurizi said.

If he is convicted on the double-murder charges, Smith is liable for the death penalty because there was more than one victim and the slayings allegedly occurred during a home robbery, according to the D.A’s office.

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In addition to the three murder counts, police have charged Smith with burglary, robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Smith appeared in court briefly Friday for his arraignment. But he was transferred to County Jail without entering a plea after Assistant Public Defender Robert Jason asked for a one-week delay in the proceedings, saying his office needed more time to assign Smith an attorney who specializes in capital cases. Smith was ordered held without bail.

Jonathan Landau has told investigators that Smith arrived at his home around 11 p.m. the night of the slayings for a prearranged visit. Although Jonathan and Smith had not seen each other in the two years since Smith had moved from Chatsworth, Smith allegedly called his old neighborhood friend that day and proposed coming by, police said.

Suspecting nothing amiss, Jonathan Landau let Smith into the house and the two talked briefly, Maurizi said. But after several minutes, Smith went to the front door and admitted his cousin, who had been waiting outside, court documents state. The cousin put on a ski mask before entering the residence, according to the documents.

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“I don’t think it happened immediately. There was some interplay between the two of them before it went bad,” Maurizi said.

Richard and Donna Landau had already gone to bed when Smith arrived, Maurizi said. Their bodies were found bound with duct tape and blindfolded, with Richard Landau’s body found in a hallway and Donna Landau’s in a bathroom, Maurizi said.

After the suspects fled the scene, Jonathan Landau, who had been shot in the thigh, crawled from the house and hid outside, Maurizi said. Jonathan’s older brother, Jason, 18, who was not home at the time of the shootings, found him there after less than an hour and sped him to a friend’s nearby apartment to call police, according to friends of the family.


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