The sidewalk shrines of candles and flowers have been cleared away and the neighborhood anger has cooled. It’s hard to believe how quickly the public moved on after the murders of three Echo Park kids, slain in separate shootings during the last two years. Each of those killings remain unsolved:
* A few days before Christmas 2006, 9-year-old Charupha Wongwisetsiri was slain inside her Angeleno Heights home by a stray bullet fired in a gang attack across the street.
* In July 2007, 15-year-old Michael Lezay was shot and killed in an Echo Park alley off Baxter Street.
* Earlier this year, 13-year-old Anthony Escobar, who had gone to pick lemons from a neighbor’s tree, died after being shot in a driveway on Bonnie Brae Street near Echo Park Lake.
In the Wongwisetsiri case, police know who fired the bullet that killed her. But the shooter was released because he had fired in self defense when shot at from a passing car. Police are going after the suspects who fired those first shots. “I definitely have a lead,” said LAPD homicide detective John Motto. “In fact, that case has been submitted for consideration for filing with the district attorney’s office. It has not been filed yet. Hopefully, that’s coming soon.”
However, in the Escobar murder, which is also being handled by Motto, police have been stumped by a lack of information. “That one, unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of leads or information, and we could use any help that could come from the community.”
The Lezay murder case is also at a “standstill” because of a lack of information, said P. Morris, homicide investigation coordinator for the LAPD’s Northeast division. A $50,000 reward offered late last year by the Los Angeles City Council failed to generate any new leads. “No new information has come to our attention,” he said.
While detectives struggle to make progress, the family and friends of the young victims work at keeping their loved ones’ memories alive. In a video memorial posted on YouTube, a sad, syrupy ballad by a singer known as “1st Lady” plays in the background while fuzzy images show Lezay (also known as “Ghost”) at school, home and a classic car show in Elysian Park. Said one comment: