Pasadena police were struggling Monday to solve a murder mystery that unfolded over the weekend in one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods.
It began with the sound of careening tires on Friday night on San Rafael Avenue, a street lined with regal mansions.
A green-blue Honda pinballed off two mailboxes and a street light, slammed off the west curb and skidded across the street to the east curb before stopping in front of an estate.
When a 42-year-old year Glendale woman driving her Mustang toward the 134 Freeway pulled up to help, the driver jumped out, smashed her window, began repeatedly hitting her in the face and pushed her from her car.
“The victim resisted and fought back, as she had her dog, a young puppy, in the car,” Pasadena Police Cmdr. Paul Gales said Monday. “She pleaded for her car and the life of her dog.”
But the man drove off, dragging her on the street and then leaving her severely battered and bruised on the asphalt, police said.
When officers approached the abandoned Honda, they found two men inside mortally wounded with gunshots.
One man, Francisco Regalado, 21, was dead at the scene, while the other, Joe Malta, 21, succumbed to his wounds at Huntington Memorial Hospital.
A mile or so away, on South Grand Avenue, Pasadena police found the stolen car abandoned, the woman’s puppy safe inside.
Bloodhounds brought in to track the suspect followed the trail south into Highland Park, where it went cold.
Police said Monday they are still trying to put the pieces together.
“All I heard was a crashing sound, and the mailbox was gone, and it took out the light and then another mailbox,” said one woman, who declined to be named. “This isn’t the kind of event you’d expect in this neighborhood.”
She said police went to every home to tell residents what had happened.
If Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena was once dubbed Millionaires’ Row, San Rafael is multimillionaires’ row.
“It is a nice area,” said Gales, adding that it is near Highland Park and provides a shortcut to Los Angeles and the Pasadena Freeway.
“It is not unusual for people to travel along that boulevard,” Gales said.
It is an avenue of high walls, big gates and mansions made famous on the big screen and on television as places such as Batman’s lair Wayne Manor on the 1960s TV show.
The area sits on the western side of the Arroyo and includes pools, tennis courts and even a quality vineyard.
It’s a popular site for movie shoots: Murder there is usually fictional.
Police won’t say if there was a struggle within the Honda that sent it out of control on the perfectly straight 100 and 200 South San Rafael Avenue blocks as it drove southbound. Gales said they know there were three men in the car, but they haven’t ruled out another man being in the Honda.
Malta, of Los Angeles, and Regalado, of Alhambra, had minor criminal histories and were arrested as recently as Oct. 20 in West Hollywood by sheriff’s deputies apparently for failing to appear in court, records show.
Regalado also had a prior drug arrest.
Police describe the carjacking suspect as a stocky male Latino in his 20s, about 5 foot 8 to 5 foot 10, with a shaved head.
The woman remains in serious but stable condition.
A man driving a Range Rover, who declined to be identified, said he came upon one of the dead men, who appeared to have his pants around his ankles.
“Awful mess. I hope they get to the bottom of this,” he said.