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Mother-in-Law of Suspect Questioned

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As coroner’s officials revealed that Kali Manley was strangled, authorities said Wednesday that they are questioning the murder suspect’s mother-in-law in connection with the Ojai Valley case.

“We are looking into her actions from Sunday on,” said Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Regan. “We know David [Alvarez] spent a lot of time with her then.”

Authorities, however, remained vague on what connection, if any, Mona Campbell had in the death of the 14-year-old Oak View girl.

“We’re not saying she was an accomplice,” Regan added. “We just want to make sure there really isn’t anyone else out there who may have been involved.”

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No one other than Alvarez, however, is suspected of participating in Manley’s slaying.

“Right now, David Alvarez is the only one we are investigating for Kali Manley’s murder,” Regan said.

Other details regarding how Manley died, including whether the Nordhoff High School freshman was sexually assaulted, have not been released.

Manley disappeared after she was last seen with Alvarez in the early morning hours of Dec. 20.

A massive search involving hundreds of volunteers ended Dec. 26 when Alvarez, in jail on unrelated charges, agreed to lead investigators to the girl’s body, dumped in an icy drainage pipe in Pine Mountain.

Alvarez was arrested Dec. 21 at Campbell’s Fulton Street home in Ojai, a place he spent countless hours even after his wife moved out and filed for a restraining order because her husband allegedly tried to rape her, according to sources.

From her living room, Campbell looked on as police took her son-in-law into custody, said a source, who asked not to be identified.

Campbell, a part-time Ojai trolley driver for the past four years, and her daughter, Brooke, could not be reached Wednesday for comment. Friends and relatives said the women are in seclusion because of the intense media attention the case has drawn.

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Friends and family members described the relationship between Campbell, a divorced mother of two adult children, and her son-in-law as being unusually close, even after Alvarez struck Campbell in 1996.

“None of us understood why she allowed him around,” said Brooke Alvarez’s aunt, Ann Plusko, who was formerly married to Mona Campbell’s brother. " . . . We couldn’t figure it out. Maybe she was worried about the boy.”

Brooke Alvarez, 20, became pregnant with Alvarez’s son when she was 16. She dropped out of Nordhoff High School to have her baby and marry Alvarez, friends said.

The couple eventually moved to San Francisco, where David Alvarez began working for a fast-food restaurant, El Pollo Supremo, owned by his parents. But their relationship began to sour, friends said.

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The couple moved back to Ojai and into the Fulton Street home with Mona Campbell. Neighbors heard frequent fights, and eventually Brooke Alvarez asked that her husband move out. She filed for divorce, but Mona Campbell encouraged her daughter to work things out, friends said.

“Mona told her she needed counseling,” a friend said. “She said she didn’t want to be with David because she wasn’t happy with herself.”

Even after an incident in which Alvarez tried to force his wife into having sex, grabbing her face and slamming her into a bathroom cabinet, according to court documents, Mona Campbell continued to allow Alvarez into her home.

Mona Campbell herself was a victim of Alvarez’s abuse, according to court records. In 1996, he served a 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to battery in connection with the incident.

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“We all thought it was weird,” according to a family friend. “He was always around the mom, even when Brooke wasn’t there. I never understood it, but she always stood up for David.”

Brooke Alvarez moved in with her aunt several weeks ago in an effort to get away from Alvarez, friends said.

“She said she had to move out because the mom kept letting him in,” according to one source. “She kept letting him stay the night.”

Alvarez has yet to be charged with Manley’s death, though authorities say they expect to book him on suspicion of murder any day. Authorities are in no hurry to charge Alvarez because he remains in custody on suspicion of brandishing a weapon and making a terrorist threat against a woman the night Manley disappeared.

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The delay in filing murder charges against Alvarez allows detectives to gather more evidence for prosecutors, Regan said.

The process has been slowed in part, he said, because some of Alvarez’s acquaintances who may have information in the case are not talking.

“We still have a group of people that are being uncooperative in our investigation,” Regan said. “They aren’t coming forward with the information that we think they have.”


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