Los Angeles investigators are baffled by a spree of terrifying home-invasion robberies that have left two victims dead, several others injured and an entire region afraid to answer a knock on the door.
The latest took place last night in West Los Angeles, when a man apparently followed a woman from a gas station to her home on the 12000 block of National Boulveard. The man then was able to force his way into her home where he stabbed her, but made off with just a laptop, according to a report on KTLA TV in Los Angeles.
The robbery was at least the 12th home invasion reported in Los Angeles County since mid-October.
But are the disturbing attacks connected or not? Police can't seem to decide. All they know is that there has been an apparent rise in the incidents of this especially frightening type of crime in the past few months throughout Los Angeles County.
"They're not going unnoticed by law enforcement," Lt. David Oliva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "We coordinate with everyone that may have had some that are similar. Everybody's very cooperative with one another."
Because the crimes have exhibited a variety of characteristics, including varying suspect descriptions and methods used in committing the attacks, it appears unlikely that all of the recent home invasions were committed by the same criminal crew.
"I'm sure one crew isn't doing every one," Oliva said.
On the other hand, earlier this month, detectives felt that they had been able to connect several of the robberies in which victims were tied up at gunpoint while the criminals turned their homes inside-out in search of valuables.
NBC Los Angeles reported that detectives then believed that the same crime ring could have been responsible for up to a dozen such violent break-ins. Police now seem to be backing away from that opinion.
Oliva said that investigators could not determine with any certainty whether the outbreak of similar crimes is the work or several different crews, with some but not all being related, the work of one crew — or whether all of the robberies were stand-alone incidents.
Police did arrest one suspect in a December 16 attack that took place in the Eagle Rock neighborhood in the eastern section of Los Angeles, but they would give no details about the crime itself or the person in custody.
Two men have died in the home invasions. On November 18 in the Silver Lake neighborhood, also on L.A.'s east side, Joseph Gatto, 78, the father of a state assemblyman, was found shot to death in his home, a crime police believe occurred as part of a home invasion robbery.
Just nine days later, in another east-side area, Glassell Park, three criminals described as a teenager, a man in his 20s and woman, knocked on the door at the home of reality-TV director James Marcus Howe, 42, and his wife. The trio then forced their way in and shot both occupants. Howe, who had directed such popular programs as America's Next Top Model and Cake Boss, was killed. His wife survived.
A reward of $75,000 has been offered, KTLA reports, for information leading to the arrest of the suspects, all described as African-American, who fled in a darkly colored Ford Mustang, believed to the vehicle in the picture above.
Home invasion robberies have also hit suburban Los Angeles and L.A. County communities such as Diamond Bar, Sherman Oaks and Covina, among others.