Suspect in Venice slaying had been held by Culver City police days earlier

In the months before Boneetio Kentro Washington allegedly broke into the home of a pregnant Venice woman and stabbed her to death, the convicted burglar was a familiar face to police.

Washington was a transient, and Culver City police had several contacts with him in 2008 and 2009, mostly for sleeping in abandoned buildings and parking garages.

Then, on Dec. 6, police detained him after a resident alleged that Washington was trying to break into his house. Washington, 22, had been convicted or charged with either trespass or related offenses in three states, and Culver City police immediately apprehended him. They questioned him, photographed him and alerted the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

But because there was little evidence, police said, they decided to release him without an arrest.

Two days later, he allegedly broke into the home of Eun Kang, 38, the owner of a Beverly Hills dry-cleaning business who was four months pregnant with twins. The landlord of the apartment complex, after hearing a scream, peered through a window and saw Washington raping Kang as she cried for help. Washington then allegedly stabbed her to death, ran from the Electric Avenue building and was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department officers.

He is charged with multiple counts of murder and rape. Washington has pleaded not guilty.

Culver City police defend their handling of Washington, saying he was not placed under arrest in December because officials did not have probable cause.

Culver City Police Lt. Craig Bloor said a resident came into the police station about 6:15 a.m. Dec. 6 and reported that a man was trying to break into his nearby home.

The man said Washington had been knocking on his door on Duquesne Avenue and was “possibly turning the doorknob.”

Bloor said officers detained Washington as he walked near the police station. The homeowner identified him as the man trying to enter his home.

Culver City police were aware of Washington’s prior criminal record, Bloor said. But because Washington didn’t actually enter the house, Bloor said they could not arrest him for attempted burglary or trespassing.

“Banging on a door or wiggling a doorknob -- if he did that -- doesn’t equate to a crime,” Bloor said.

The incident in Culver City fit a pattern for Washington, according to court records reviewed by The Times.

Last fall, Washington was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 335 days (time he had already served) and three years’ probation for a similar incident in December 2008.

Serena Peralta was sitting with her two young children in the living room of her Mid-City residence on a December morning in 2008 when a neighbor alerted her that a man was looking in through her apartment window.

She rushed to the back window, overlooking an alleyway, but saw nothing.

“I looked to one side to see if there was anyone going by, and there was nobody there,” Peralta said, according to court records. “So I looked to the other side, and I see him leaning up against the wall.” She said the man, clad in a dark hoodie and holding what appeared to be a revolver, began removing the window screen.

Peralta grabbed her children and fled, calling the police once she arrived at a neighbor’s home. The man stole a handful of women’s underwear before he was chased out of the house by another resident brandishing a sledgehammer.

Washington’s trial in that case was delayed because a doctor testified he was not mentally fit to stand trial. Washington was committed to Patton State Hospital from July 2009 to September 2009, when a doctor declared he was mentally capable of proceeding and Washington made a plea bargain.

At the time of the 2008 burglary, Washington was already on probation for a trespassing conviction and living in a garage. Before that, he was convicted of trespassing and larceny in Rhode Island, where he was born, according to court records.

In 2006, he was charged with breaking and entering and assault in North Carolina, according to a probation report.

Kang’s relatives, reached by phone this week, said they were unaware that Washington had been held by Culver City police two days before she was killed, but they declined to elaborate.

“It’s too late now,” one said. “We just want to forget.”