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1978 killing of Westside executive tied to robbery, LAPD says

August 9, 2011 |  8:50 am

Walter Randolph Peartree, seen at left in 2010 and at right in the 1970s, was linked to a 1978 cold-case slaying through forensic tests.

Los Angeles police say the 1978 slaying of an executive found stabbed to death in his Westside home started as a robbery.

Investigators looking into the cold case announced Monday that an Ohio man had been arrested in the slaying of the executive.

Cold-case Dets. Rick Jackson and Elizabeth Estupinian reviewed the case in 2010 for potential forensic leads such as DNA or fingerprints. In April, scientific testing showed Walter Randolph Peartree, 62, was in the victim's home at the time of the slaying.

Peartree was arrested on the L.A. County murder warrant at 10:30 a.m. at his residence in Delaware, Ohio, according to a statement from the LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division's cold-case unit.

Peartree was taken into custody without incident and could be in an Ohio courtroom as early as Tuesday for an extradition hearing.

Peartree, who is unemployed, is suspected in the April 10, 1978, slaying of 52-year-old James Gentry, who worked as the controller for Paper Mate in Santa Monica, detectives said.

A friend discovered Gentry stabbed to death at his home in the 3100 block of Kelton Avenue. Despite a $5,000 reward, the case quickly went cold.

Peartree, originally from the Newport News, Va., area, has been living in Ohio since the mid-1990s, police said. He had worked for carnivals in several states, but police did not have further details of his employment history.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Walter Randolph Peartree, seen at left in 2010 and at right in the 1970s, was linked to a 1978 cold-case slaying through forensic tests. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

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