DNA leads to suspect in slayings of La Verne couple

A jailhouse DNA swab has led investigators to the man they believe killed an elderly La Verne couple at their hilltop estate the day after Christmas.

Luke Fabela, 23, had served state prison time and was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft in San Bernardino a few weeks after the slayings, said Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives, who announced the development at a news conference Wednesday.

Fabela remains in custody at a state prison after pleading guilty to the vehicle thefts, while prosecutors decide whether to charge him with murder in the deaths of Shirley Isom, 74, and Armie “Troy” Isom, 89.


Authorities say a DNA sample on file for Fabela matched DNA collected at the scene of the killings.

The killer acted alone and did not know the victims before bludgeoning and stabbing them to death near their front door, said Lt. Dave Coleman.

The Isoms owned a construction business and had reportedly been receiving threats from family members who wanted access to their money. Investigators have not determined a motive, though the crime was not a murder-for-hire, Coleman said.

The 80-acre hilltop estate on Roughrider Road may have simply caught Fabela’s eye, authorities said.

“We don’t know what directed his attention up there, and we may never know,” Coleman said. “If you’re familiar with the house, if you look at it from the freeway, it stands out due to the flowers and everything around the house. It is the focal point of everyone’s attention up there.”

Authorities say Fabela is the same man spotted walking to and from the estate with a duffel bag or backpack the day of the killings. Investigators released a sketch of the suspect in early January, and witnesses have been taken to the state prison to identify him, Coleman said.

Releasing a mug shot of Fabela would jeopardize further witness identifications and other aspects of the investigation, Coleman said.

Fabela has a lengthy record of property crimes, including theft and burglary. He also has a domestic-violence conviction.

He has no fixed residence, having lived with relatives, girlfriends and friends in Claremont, Pomona, Montclair, La Verne, San Bernardino and elsewhere, authorities said.

Twitter: @cindychangLA