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LAPD Mission Division Investigates Two Homicides –Police Ask for Public's Help PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia | Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 29 May 2014 01:35

The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Mission Division is dealing with two separate murders that have rocked the community of Sylmar in recent months.

The most recent one occurred Saturday, May 24, when the body of a man was found inside a burning Lexus around 7:30 p.m., where Harding Street ends on a cul-de-sac adjacent to the 210 Freeway. The victim was later identified as Jose Alberto Martinez, 26, from Berkeley, California.

Martinez was the registered owner of the burned out car that detectives believe was purposely set on fire.

“It appeared the man had bled a great deal, and we think he may have been shot prior to the fire starting,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, commander of the Mission Station’s detective division. “It appears someone wanted to torch the car to destroy evidence.”

“The fire was started to cover the crime, but not to kill him,” Vernon said.

Martinez’ body was found sitting in the front passenger seat of the blue 1993 Lexus that was parked just beneath a pedestrian bridge crossing the 210 Freeway.

“The smell of gasoline was very apparent at the crime scene,” Vernon said. “Much of the car’s insides were destroyed. The car was a total loss.”

Police said Martinez lived in Berkeley, had no criminal record and was issued a California security guard identification card.

LAPD detectives and Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators combed through the car for clues. Canvassing officers interviewed witnesses who reported seeing a person running across the pedestrian bridge just after the fire started.

Reward Offered In a possible “road rage” murder in Sylmar, Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes — along with the LAPD’s Mission Division — has announced a $50,000 reward for information toward solving the case.

On March 14, Sergio Sanchez was driving along the 210 Freeway near Hubbard Street. Detectives believe someone from a passing car or truck fired into Sanchez’s black Mitsubishi Eclipse around 1 a.m.

The 35-year-old Pacoima man tried to drive to safety but died. Passersby found him slumped over on his steering wheel near the Roxford Street off ramp. There were multiple gunshots along the driver’s side, leading detectives to suspect a “road rage” shooting.

“Sergio was not involved in drugs, and did not appear to have a criminal record nor to be affiliated with any gang activity,” said Vernon, during the reward announcement.

“Detectives have exhausted what few leads they had in this case. We’re hoping this [reward] will entice someone to come forward with information about Sergio Sanchez’s murder.”

Traffic along the 210 Freeway was light at the time of the incident, and detectives said they have received few useable clues.

“Sergio was my cousin, but he was more like a brother to me,” said Norma Mora. “He was caring, loyal, and had a warm heart. Losing him this way has had a significant impact on the family. I can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt him. If you know who did this, you don’t have to be afraid; call the LAPD, you can remain anonymous.

“To the person who did this, Sergio’s life was not yours to take,” Mora added.

Vernon said that “Sergio’s family credits him with once saving the life of a young cousin,” and that Sanchez also helped take care of his younger siblings after their mother died.

Investigators have simply run out of tips to follow, Vernon said, and they hope the reward generates more leads to pursue and solve the case.

Fuentes echoed that sentiment.

“Sergio was there for so many people while he was alive, now he needs someone to step up for him in death,” he said. “Sergio was a hardworking man, merely driving home after his shift that fateful night. Whoever shot him should face justice.”

“Whoever did this must know, you cannot come into our neighborhood and commit this crime. It will not be tolerated. The LAPD will catch you,” Fuentes said.

Police ask anyone who was on the 210 Freeway, between the 118 and 5 freeways, around midnight to 1:30 a.m. to come forward and say if they noticed anything strange.

“If there are any kind of passersby who were through this area at the time and noticed the car there, but perhaps didn’t call the police, it might help us establish how long the car had been sitting there,” Vernon said.

Anyone with information on the Jose Alberto Martinez investigation is urged to call Det. Ryan Verna, Mission Homicide Unit, at (818) 838- 9976. Anyone with information on the Sergio Sanchez killing is urged to call Det. Gretchen Schultz, at (818) 838-9951. Anonymous tips can be called into Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477), or by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 May 2014 04:42