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Home invasion suspect pleads not guilty to four slayings

November 30, 2010 |  3:05 pm

Home-invasions A 53-year-old Harbor Gateway man has pleaded not guilty to allegedly killing four people during three  home invasion robberies.

John Wesley Ewell entered his plea before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz, who agreed to delay a preliminary hearing in the case.

Authorities allege that Ewell cased neighborhoods in Hawthorne and Harbor Gateway, pretending to be a utility worker to gain entry to homes. Surveillance tape shows a man carrying a briefcase entering one of the homes.

Ewell was arrested Oct. 23 in connection with the killing of a couple in Hawthorne during a robbery. Leamon Turnage, 69, and his wife, Robyn, 57, were found strangled in their home a day earlier.

Prosecutors allege that Ewell bound and gagged the couple before taking jewelry and other valuables.

Ewell was also charged with the Sept. 24 killing of Hanna Morcos, 80, in Hawthorne and the Oct. 13 killing of Denice Roberts, 53, two doors down from Ewell's home.

Authorities said they connected Ewell to the crimes in part because he used the Turnages' ATM card to buy gasoline at a local Shell station. Security tapes from the station helped identify him.

Deputies also found that Ewell sold rings from the victims to a pawn shop near a hospital where he been treated for a medical condition.

Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives also found a copy of a Los Angeles Times story announcing the arrest of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer in his car along, with a Bible and receipts from the pawn shop.

Ewell, who is a licensed cosmetologist, is scheduled to return to court Jan. 4.

-- Richard Winton

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Photo: John Wesley Ewell appeared for arraignment in the courtroom of Judge Keith L. Schwartz at the West District Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.  Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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