Woman Held in Lemon Heights Double Killing
Investigators announced Saturday they have arrested a 19-year-old Anaheim woman for the slayings of a controversial entrepreneur and his elderly mother and the burning of their rented mansion in upscale Lemon Heights.
A sheriff’s spokesman identified the suspect as Tynickia Sherikia Thompson. A neighbor described her as friendly but unemployed and in financial trouble. Officials said she had a financial dispute with the slain man and had been at his home the day before he died.
The bodies of John Tyler Hancock, 49, and his mother, Helen B. Hancock, 77, were discovered May 8 when 65 firefighters responded to the million-dollar blaze at 11301 Dannen Drive, a 4,200-square-foot house the mother had leased for $5,000 a month in the posh Lemon Heights community near Tustin.
Investigators found Hancock’s body in the backyard and his mother’s in the kitchen, both severely burned. Autopsies showed they had been shot.
Hancock, a onetime Newport Beach businessman, lived a luxurious life but had served prison time for swindling lenders and was being investigated for credit card fraud. He had been involved in several lawsuits and was on federal probation at the time of the killings.
In a terse statement issued Saturday, sheriff’s investigators said they arrested Thompson about 6 p.m. Friday in a parking lot at Magnolia Avenue and Ball Road in Anaheim. They said she had met Hancock in January and had been at the Lemon Heights house the day before the deaths.
“A financial dispute between John Hancock and Thompson existed and is believed to be the motive in this case,” the statement said. “No other arrests are imminent at this time.”
Investigators said the fire apparently was an attempt to destroy evidence of the killings.
In Anaheim, one neighbor described Thompson as “cute and quiet.” Another said she was “always very friendly to say hi to . . . a really cute girl, very, very sweet.” Voter registration records identify Thompson as a “counter service clerk.”
Until Wednesday, Thompson lived with her mother at Sunset Plaza Apartments on South Dale Street, neighbors said. One neighbor, Kimberly Wakefield, 27, said Thompson’s mother worked two jobs but that Thompson herself was unemployed. They were in financial trouble and had been served with an eviction notice.
Wakefield, who lived a few doors from Thompson, said she had been introduced to John Hancock about six months ago by mutual friends. Wakefield said she introduced Hancock to Thompson during a visit to Wakefield’s apartment in March.
Later, Wakefield said, she noticed that Thompson was driving a car she recognized as belonging to Hancock. Thompson told her it had been given to her by a “boyfriend,” Wakefield said. Wakefield added that Hancock once told her he had given Thompson $200, and she believed he had given Thompson money on other occasions.
A 1995 Ford Mustang belonging to Hancock’s daughter was missing from the Lemon Heights house after the killings and was found four days later abandoned in Long Beach near its boundary with Signal Hill. Its license plates had been removed.
Investigation into Hancock’s background revealed a murky past.
Court documents show a conviction in 1977 for assault, stemming from a marital dispute. That same year he was convicted of price fixing.
In 1988, after he had lived in high style in Newport Beach and Aspen, Colo., ostensibly from profits from his Newport Beach telephone answering service, he was sentenced to three years in prison for swindling his lenders.
At the time of his death, Hancock owned condominiums in Parker, Ariz. Authorities in that state were investigating a complaint that Hancock had used the name and qualifications of one of his tenants to take out an American Express credit card and run up a $40,000 bill.
Two weeks before the killings, investigators from La Paz County, Arizona, assisted by Orange County sheriff’s deputies, served a search warrant on Hancock’s Lemon Heights home in connection with the credit card fraud investigation.
“He is a person who feels the ends justify whatever means are necessary,” said a federal judge sentencing him in 1988. “. . . If he can’t do it by being honest, he’ll do it by being dishonest.”
John and Francilene Kincanon, who live across the street from the house, said the neighborhood was relieved by news of an arrest.
“We just hope they have the right person,” she said. “We sort of had the sense this was related to his financial dealings. Maybe this will put some closure to everything and we can get on with our lives.”
Thompson is being held without bail in Orange County Jail and is scheduled for her first court appearance, an arraignment, on Wednesday.
Times staff writer Greg Hernandez contributed to this report.