Southern California breaking news and trends

LAPD seeks help in catching killer of popular Culver City chiropractor Robert Rainey


A screenshot of Dr. Robert Rainey, killed May 31 in his office in Palms.

A well-known chiropractor was found dead in his Venice Boulevard office by a patient yesterday morning, and now police are asking for the public’s help in solving his murder.

Police announced that Dr. Robert Rainey, a 54-year-old Culver City resident, was discovered on the floor of his office with severe head trauma Thursday morning at around 8:15 a.m. A patient coming in for a scheduled appointment found him there.

The murder was especially vicious, police said: Rainey’s jaw was broken and his teeth knocked in. He was rushed to a nearby hospital but pronounced dead soon after.

So far police have few leads. According to CBS, his wallet was missing from the scene, and investigators are considering the possibility that the killing was a robbery gone wrong. CBS also reports that Rainey may have been killed between 7 and 8 a.m. -- just minutes before the patient arrived. 


Long Beach man accused of murdering 9-year-old stepdaughter to cover up sex abuse

Photo courtesy KNBC

Xiomara Fernandez

The story of the 9-year-old girl murdered in Long Beach gets even worse, as authorities now say the man in custody killed her to cover up months of sexual abuse.

According to the L.A. Times, police believe 31-year-old Jacinto Zuniga Trujillo, stepfather to Xiomara Fernandez, stabbed her to death last Saturday, April 28, following several months of sexual abuse. The girl’s body was found in the parking lot of Los Altos United Methodist Church, with a message nearby written in blood.

A witness passing by the grisly scene said she also saw a man there near the girl’s body, suffering from what appeared to be self-inflicted stab wounds. The man was arrested and later identified as Trujillo.

Court filings by the District Attorney’s Office could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Trujillo. District attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Trujillo is also accused of five counts of sexual assault against the child, according to charges filed Tuesday.


Man, 21, charged with murder in February death of Reseda girlfriend 20 years his senior

Van Nuys Superior Court

A 21-year-old man was charged with murder today in connection with the February death of his 41-year-old girlfriend in Reseda, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office announced.

According to prosecutors, James Howard Jr. used a “sharp instrument” to kill Sharilit Matthews on Feb. 2. After that date Matthews’ friends and family were unable to reach her for about a week, and finally alerted police. Officers discovered the woman’s body in the bed of her Reseda apartment, according to wire reports.

Howard, who turns 22 tomorrow, was charged in Van Nuys Superior Court. His bail was set at more than $1 million.

Prosecutors say Howard already had a 2010 robbery conviction. If convicted he faces 26 years to life in prison.


Frank O’Connell freed after judge overturns 27-year-old murder conviction

The case against South Pasadena resident Frank O'Connell was tossed out in the same courtroom where he was convicted 27 years ago.

For 27 years, Frank O’Connell maintained his innocence as he languished in prison for the 1984 shooting death of a man in South Pasadena.

Today O’Connell is out on bail, with his original trial -- the one that put him away for 25 years to life -- thrown out and a second one planned for the coming months. A preliminary hearing has been set for May 18.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that O’Connell, 54, was released Saturday morning after posting a $75,000 bond set by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover -- the same judge who tossed out the conviction against him in late March. In overturning the case, the judge gave prosecutors a new chance to try him -- and set O’Connell’s bail at the original amount set by a judge in 1985.

The bail was posted by Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit group convinced of O’Connell’s innocence and working for his release. The group’s website says it is dedicated to gaining freedom for “those innocent individuals who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the crimes for which they were convicted.”


San Bernardino police say wife, two inmates plotted TV repairman’s murder

San Bernardino Police Department

Laurie Cone

San Bernardino police announced today that they have now arrested three people -- a woman and two paroled inmates -- for allegedly murdering the woman’s husband for financial gain.

Police believe Laurie Cone, 47, hatched a plot to murder her husband John “Jack” Cone, a 64-year-old TV repairman and gun collector, with the help of Gary Gallion, 29, and Shawna Bayless, 39. Cone was found bludgeoned to death in his home on April 3, with his truck and guns stolen.

When the story first broke, Mrs. Cone claimed to have innocently discovered her husband’s body after arriving home with her daughter from a night of gambling. “My husband didn’t deserve this at all,” she said at the time, according to CBS. “They didn’t have to hurt him.”

Now police say it was her that hurt him, along with her co-conspirators, in a plot seemingly lifted from a James Cain story about greedy lowlifes.