Parolee Lost by System Sought in Killing of Bride-to-Be

Posted on September 20, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

AOLnews.com
Tori Richards, Contributor
September 20, 2010
LOS ANGELES (Sept. 20) — A twice-deported ex-convict never showed up for a meeting with his parole officer yet wasn’t reported missing for a month. Now Omar Armando Loera is wanted in connection with the stabbing death here of a woman on the day she had been shopping for her wedding dress.

Police also say the suspect set her home on fire after she was killed.

Loera, who has a lengthy rap sheet going back 12 years, was released into the community after his latest prison stint, in February, when federal immigration authorities determined he was a U.S. citizen after all, Los Angeles police Lt. Alan Hamilton told AOL News.

This image provided by the Los Angeles Police Department shows Omar Armando Loera, who has been identified as a suspect in the killing of a North Hollywood woman who was found burned to death inside her Valley Village home.

LAPD/AP
Los Angeles police have identified Omar Armando Loera as a suspect in the killing of a North Hollywood woman who was found stabbed in her Valley Village apartment, which was set on fire.

He has remained a fugitive ever since, popping up on law enforcement’s radar only last week when it linked him by DNA to the July 24 murder of Cheree Osmanhodzic.

By state law, released inmates have 24 hours to report to a parole officer. If they don’t, the officer is required to flag the violator in a law enforcement database for arrest. Loera never showed up, and the data weren’t entered for a month, Los Angeles radio station KFI640 reported.

In addition, Loera’s parole agent was located in Los Angeles, but Loera was released from custody in central California, hundreds of miles away.

He eventually made his way to Los Angeles, where Osmanhodzic was killed. Osmanhodzic was stabbed in her Los Angeles bedroom by an assailant who then set the home on fire. Her fiance, Adam Culvey, returned home in time to see a man burst out of the front door and chased the suspect five blocks, but wasn’t able to catch him, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Osmanhodzic had been shopping for wedding dresses that day, and Culvey was at the grocery store when the crime occurred. On Sept. 15 Loera was charged with murder, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and arson. Authorities theorize that Loera stabbed Osmanhodzic to death and then set her apartment on fire to cover his tracks.

In a sickening twist, police revealed at a press conference that Loera shares the same birthday as Osmanhodzic. Both are 34. They news caused anguish to Osmanhodzic’s mother, Gail Cameron, who sobbed upon learning this.

“I can’t believe someone so beautiful and precious and someone so evil and mean can have the same birthday,” she said in a televised interview with CBS2.

“She was to be married in two weeks, and now this is not happening — it is the most devastating thing in the world,” Cameron said. “Until this man is caught and justice is served, I will have no peace, no closure.”

According to police, Loera was arrested in 1998 for carrying 48 pounds of marijuana over the U.S.-Mexican border. He was convicted in 2000 and later deported. He came back to California and was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in a Fresno knife attack and was deported again in 2001. In 2004 he was convicted of sexual battery and released in 2005. In 2008 he was convicted of armed robbery and was paroled last February. He hasn’t been seen by law enforcement since.

On Sept. 17, police had a tip that he was holed up in the hills above Hollywood. It didn’t pan out.

“It’s likely that he hasn’t traveled far because he doesn’t have the resources or family support to do that,” Hamilton told AOL News. “But who knows? He could be in Mexico sitting on a beach.”

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, could not say why Loera had been deported twice.

“We conducted an exhaustive review of the case and determined that Mr. Loera is a U.S. citizen,” Kice said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate about the basis for prior immigration enforcement actions that took place more than a decade ago, but if ICE has information that an individual may be a U.S. citizen, that issue needs to be thoroughly investigated, as it was in this case.”

KFI reported that a source claiming to be an immigration officer e-mailed the radio station, stating that inmates would often claim to be illegal aliens so they could get out of prison faster, bypassing the parole system. Ten years ago, these claims were rarely investigated as they are today.

Still, the Los Angeles Police Department officers’ union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, places much of the blame on the state Department of Corrections, which supervises the Parole Division. Gordon Hinkle, a DOC spokesman, was trying to determine at press time why Loera was paroled in a different county and not reported in the system until a month later, as reported by KFI.

Other notable incidents of absent parole supervision include Phillip Garrido, who is accused of abducting Jaycee Dugard, 11, and holding her captive for 18 years in his backyard. Agents rarely visited his house and at one point learned of Dugard but accepted Garrido’s assertion that she was his niece, according to a report by the California attorney general’s office.

Then there was John Gardner, the confessed killer of San Diego teen Chelsea King. He was on parole for a 2000 molestation and violated numerous terms of his release that were not discovered until after King’s death.

“It’s not surprising,” said LAPPL spokesman Eric Rose regarding Loera’s parole supervision. “The parole department keeps falling down on the job, not properly supervising parolees. They have a history of releasing people early and not tracking them. The DOC has done a miserable job of supervising parolees.”

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