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Arrests made in killing of five transients in 2008 massacre

January 18, 2012 | 11:19 am


Long Beach police have made arrests in the 2008 shooting deaths of five transients at a homeless encampment off the 405 Freeway.

Details of the arrests were not immediately available, but Lt. Lloyd Cox of the Long Beach Police Department told The Times "persons are in custody for the killings" following extensive investigation.

Police discovered the gruesome scene near the interchange of the 405 and 710 Freeway on Nov. 2, 2008. The victims appeared to be massacred, police said at the time.

An anonymous caller tipped authorities Sunday morning about a slaying in an area near the 1500 block of West Wardlow Road. When Long Beach police arrived, they found two women and three men dead, some with multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said.

The crime scene is east of Santa Fe Avenue near Tanaka Park, on property owned by California that is sandwiched between the 405 Freeway and Kohler Rental Power, a commercial building on the north side of West Wardlow Road that rents diesel generators and other power accessories.

The victims were Vanessa Malaepule, 34; her boyfriend Lorenzo Perez Villacana, 44, who lived at the camp; Katherine Verdun, 24; Hamid "Sammy" Shraifat, 41; and Frederick Neumeier, 53.

Authorities believe all five, including Malaepule, who was an unemployed single mother of six -- ages 8, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16 at the time -- were friends and had been socializing with one another for some time.


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Photo: A woman reacts at the scene where five homeless people were found shot to death on Nov. 2, 2008. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times