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Slayings of 4 at Northridge home look like 'quick kill,' source says

December 3, 2012 |  1:11 pm

The shooting deaths of four people at a Northridge home appeared to be a "quick kill" and detectives are trying to determine whether they were an execution-style slaying.

Three of the victims – a man and two women -- were shot on the walkway on the left side of the home. They were all wearing hooded sweat shirts and were about two feet apart from each other. All three had single bullet wounds to their heads.

“It looked like a quick kill,” said a source familiar with the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

PHOTOS: Four killed in shooting at Northridge home

The woman in the middle was crumpled on her knees, her face in the palms of her hands. “It was almost like she was praying,” said the source.

The other two victims on the walkway were face-down.

Another source said the scene suggested a possible execution-style slaying but stressed detectives have not made that determination yet.

The fourth victim – another man -- was farther away and appeared as if he was trying to run to the backyard when the shootings broke out. He had a single gunshot wound to the neck, according to the source. He was also wearing a hoodie. He was sprawled face-down.

Los Angeles police were still searching Monday for the shooter who killed the two men and two women in Northridge, an incident that shocked a sleepy San Fernando Valley neighborhood.

LAPD said early Monday no arrests had been made in the Sunday shootings. No suspect information has been released; police said Sunday they weren't sure how many suspects they were looking for or what might have prompted the slayings.

Several questions still surrounded the shooting, which occurred about 4:25 a.m. Sunday at a house in the 17400 block of Devonshire Street, authorities said. After receiving a 911 call describing yelling and gunfire, officers went to the home and found the four people  shot dead outside.

The names of the victims have not been released, and the Los Angeles County coroner's office said a security hold had been placed on the case. LAPD Capt. William Hayes said Sunday the female victims were in their 20s; one man was in his mid-30s and the other in his late 40s. Police believe at least some of the victims lived at the residence and may have been related.

Officers searched the property and neighborhood immediately after the shooting, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said, but no weapon was recovered. LAPD later confirmed it had ruled out a murder-suicide scenario.

City Councilman Mitchell Englander, who represents the area and is a reserve LAPD officer, said police believe the slayings weren't a random act. The victims appeared to have been shot at close range, he said.

A woman who lived around the block said she heard loud music hours before the shootings. About 1:30 a.m., the woman said she heard the music and people yelling. She managed to go to sleep an hour later but said the noise hadn't stopped.

"I just figured it was a party that was out of control," the woman said.

Englander said the property was an unlicensed boarding home, but had not been a problem location for police.

That was confirmed by neighbors, who said the rooms appeared to have been rented out to single men who primarily kept to themselves. Nothing stood out, they said, except for some occasional loud music.

Englander said that about a dozen people were believed to have been living in the four- or five-bedroom home in conditions he described as "deplorable." Mattresses and makeshift kitchens were scattered about the house, he said, and one room was accessible only by a window.

Residents described the area as quiet, the kind of neighborhood where people know one another and walk to the nearby grocery store or the synagogue down the street from where the slayings occurred.

The LAPD's Devonshire Division station is a mile away.

"It's usually sleepy-time America," said Richard Rutherford, 58, who was awakened by the gunfire.

The violent crime rate for Northridge falls in the middle of all Los Angeles neighborhoods, but homicide is rare in the community, according to LAPD data analyzed in The Times' Crime L.A. database. In the previous six months, Northridge had one homicide out of the 89 violent crimes reported.

Since 2007, and before Sunday's quadruple homicide, Northridge had 11 homicides, 10 of them south of Nordhoff Street. The location of Sunday's slayings is on the border with Granada Hills, which typically has a much lower violent-crime rate than Northridge.

"How often in this neighborhood do you hear about four dead bodies?" Shane Grady said.

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-- Robert J. Lopez, Andrew Blankstein and Kate Mather

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