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L.A. slaying, kidnapping might be tied to narcotics dealers, LAPD says

October 15, 2009 | 11:01 am

Los Angeles police detectives are searching for a woman they believe may have been kidnapped by narcotics dealers who shot to death her boyfriend in East Hollywood.

Jose Manuel Zaragosa, 35, was shot multiple times at close range Oct. 3 after being beaten, authorities said.

Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Pat Gannon said his car was found miles away in the San Fernando Valley where he and girlfriend Melissa Silvia Aguilar were last seen. While classifying Aguilar as a missing person, detectives suspect she may have been abducted in a Mexican-style narcotics murder-kidnapping.

"There have been no ransom demands,” Gannon told The Times. "It has been more than 10 days without any word." 

Robbery Homicide Division detectives were brought into the case because it might be tied to Latino American drug cartel violence, but officials stressed that it also remains possible cartels were not involved.

"At this point, we don’t know exactly who is responsible," Gannon  said.”We don’t [know] where she is at this point. She could be in Mexico."

 Detectives believe the couple was grabbed in the San Fernando Valley, where they were meeting friends.

Aguilar is described as a Honduran native in her early 20s ,and her only contact with authorities was with immigration officials in Minnesota. Zaragosa, a Mexican national, used several other names including Saul Ayala and Jesus Sanchez, according to coroner’s officials.

Investigators say Zaragosa has a history of deportations.

Mexican-style drug hits are not unheard of in Los Angeles but remain rare. A young man who ferried drugs for an Eastside drug gang was gunned down in a Bentley last December on the 101 Freeway. Records obtained by The Times showed police are investigating it as a Mexican drug cartel killing.

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

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