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Woman Questioned in Slaying of 14-Year-Old

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As coroner’s officials revealed that 14-year-old Kali Manley was strangled, authorities said Wednesday they were questioning the murder suspect’s mother-in-law in connection with the 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 would not discuss their suspicions about how the woman, Mona Campbell, might figure into the case.

Manley disappeared after a night of partying with Alvarez on Dec. 19. A massive weeklong search through the Ojai Valley for the Oak View teenager turned up nothing.

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Then, on Dec. 26, Alvarez, in jail on unrelated charges, agreed to lead investigators to the girl’s remains in an icy drainage pipe in Pine Mountain.

Alvarez was arrested Sunday at Campbell’s Fulton Street home in Ojai, a place where Alvarez spent countless hours even after his wife, Brooke Campbell, moved out and filed for a restraining order. Brooke Campbell alleged that her husband tried to rape her.

From her living room, Mona Campbell looked on as police took her son-in-law into custody, a source familiar with the case said. Regan took pains to say authorities are “not saying she was an accomplice. We just want to make sure there really isn’t anyone else out there who may have been involved.”

Mona Campbell, a part-time Ojai trolley driver for the past four years, and her daughter could not be reached Wednesday for comment. Friends and relatives have said the women are not staying at their homes because of attention from the news media.

Friends and family members described the relationship between Mona Campbell and her son-in-law as unusually close, even after her daughter alleged Alvarez had become violent with her. “None of us understood why she allowed him around,” said Manley’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.”

Alvarez has yet to be charged with Manley’s death, though authorities say they expect to book him on suspicion of murder soon. The delay, they said, is so detectives can gather more evidence for prosecutors.

Regan said the process has been slowed 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,” he said. “They aren’t coming forward with the information that we think they have.”

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