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3 Women Found Shot to Death in Apartment

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three young women were found shot to death Sunday in a Wilshire district apartment, Los Angeles police said.

The mother of two of the victims discovered the bodies when she went to the South Orange Drive location to return the daughter of one of the dead women after a weekend outing, sources said.

Investigators at the scene had not identified the victims late Sunday night, although a family member said two were sisters and the third was a friend.

Lee Sterling said two of the women were his stepdaughters, Charlene Fleamon and Ruthie Neal, both in their early 20s. He said his wife, Vicki Sterling, found them lying in the living room of the second-floor rental unit after she discovered its front door unlocked.

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“My wife walked in and they were lying on the floor,” a tearful Sterling told reporters.

Detectives combing the apartment and the area around it did not immediately speculate on the motive for the shooting.

Wilshire Division Capt. William Sweet said investigators had “no comment” on a neighbor’s report that the victims were killed execution style.

The resident said he entered the apartment before authorities arrived and saw that the bodies’ heads were covered and an open suitcase was sitting, empty, nearby.

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The shootings left neighbors stunned and horrified.

Although one resident reported hearing what sounded like gunshots and “a commotion” in the apartment Saturday night between 7:30 and 8 p.m., others said they heard nothing unusual.

Next-door neighbor William J. Franklin said he heard nothing out of the ordinary until 3:45 p.m. Sunday, when Vicki Sterling ran from the apartment.

“She came screaming down the steps, ‘I think my babies are dead!’ ” said Franklin--whose home is about 40 feet away. “She was almost falling down the stairs.”

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Franklin, a 14-year resident of the street who serves as the Neighborhood Watch block captain, said he called 911.

He said one of the victims apparently was a nursing student. “I just thought they were poor girls trying to work their way through college,” Franklin said.

“Nothing like this has ever happened around here before. When they elect the next block captain, I’m giving the job up.”

Another neighbor, Moxie Terrell, said police sealed off the neighborhood, near Pico Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, before bringing in a mobile command post and a crime investigation unit.

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“I’d just told a lady in New Jersey over the Internet that this neighborhood has been a nice, quiet place the 20 years I’ve lived here,” said Terrell, who lives across the street from the shooting scene.

“I called her back tonight and told her it’s not that way anymore.”


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