Relatives of slain woman plead for help in catching killer


Relatives of a 39-year-old mother who was slain in a robbery in South Los Angeles pleaded for the public’s help on Wednesday afternoon in catching the killer.

Martha Sanchez, who has five children, was working at a discount store about 8:50 p.m Tuesday when a man walked in, robbed the store and shot the woman multiple times, authorities said. The attacker ran away.

The slaying, which one detective described as one of the worst he has seen, was blocks from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Station.


INTERACTIVE: Times Homicide Report

At an afternoon news conference, Juan Arevalo held a photo of his slain sister with her husband and children.

Family members said there wasn’t anything that Sanchez wouldn’t do for her children, including working alone at night in a neighborhood that has seen its share of violence in recent years.

Daughter Gabriela Sanchez, 18, fought back tears as she recalled her mother urging her children to focus on school so they could make a better life for themselves.

“She was my role model. She was my best friend,” she said of her mother. “She was everything to me. And now she’s gone.”

Eric Crosson, a detective with the LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division, said investigators have downloaded hours of video, which they are reviewing. He said the gunman appears to be about 30 years old.

Police said Sanchez was alone in the Happy Bargain discount store when the gunman walked in. When asked how much was taken from the store, Crosson replied: “It’s a 99 cent store. How much could it possibly be?”

Capt. Tom McMullen, who commands officers in the area, called the killing senseless.

“We have go to stop this pattern,” he said of the violence.

Since January 2007, at least 264 homicides have been reported within two miles of the store in the 7400 block of Broadway, according to The Times Homicide Report database.

A customer found the the mortally wounded Sanchez and called for help, police said. Paramedics took her to a hospital, where she died.

People who knew Sanchez gathered Wednesday outside the small store. Many said they were saddened and shocked by the slaying of a woman whom they described as kind and helpful toward her customers.

Tina Marie, 34, who lives in Torrance but used to live in the area, said the killing angered her because it occurred not far from LAPD’s 77th Street Station.

“It tells you they’re not afraid of the police or anyone,” Marie said. “They’re heartless and fearless.”

If customers were short on cash, Marie said, Sanchez might let them pay later for items they purchased.

“Oh, my God,” Marie said. She shook her head. “Why would they leave her at the store by herself?”

Jasmine Hernandez, 25, of Los Angeles said she met Sanchez about two years ago, shortly after she was hired as a clerk at the store in the Florence neighborhood.

Hernandez said they often talked about Sanchez’s family.

“She spoke often of her oldest daughter,” Hernandez said. “She was so proud of her because she helped her a lot and was attending college.”

Hernandez said that about two weeks ago, Sanchez invited her to help celebrate her only son’s third birthday.

“This is just sad,” Hernandez said. “She was a very good friend.”


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