Twin brothers who allegedly robbed and stabbed a 62-year-old woman in South L.A. in December are each facing a capital murder charge for the crime. During a news conference this week, police revealed that Kenyata and Keishon Blake, 18, have each been charged with two counts of second-degree robbery (with special circumstances) and one count of murder. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty for each teen.
The victim, Maria Elena Rivas-Lomeli, was a seamstress who had just gotten off a bus on a Monday evening after her shift was over. The 62-year-old went to a supermarket and purchased groceries in preparation for the upcoming Christmas holiday. While she was walking home at approximately 6:30 p.m., she was attacked with what police say were multiple weapons and stabbed from behind. Rivas-Lomeli was transported to a hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.
When police began to investigate her murder, they reviewed security footage from the grocery store which showed the victim paying for her groceries with money kept in a large wallet in her purse. Neither the groceries nor the purse were discovered at the scene of the attack, which was approximately three blocks from the victim’s home.
Detective Robert Lait of the LAPD said that Rivas-Lomeli was a popular figure in the community who was “very loved.” The victim’s employer put up a reward to find the person or persons responsible for her murder, and a memorial sprang up near the spot she was killed. According to the detective, “a lot of concerned people” called in and offered help, which he described as “instrumental.”
The family of the victim was hit especially hard by her murder, which happened just two days prior to Christmas. In an interview with CBS2, a nephew of Rivas’, Misael Contreras, described the family as being “at the bottom of the floor.” Although Rivas herself had not had children, her nephew said that she had raised them for 20 years and had been like a mother to himself and his brother. What made the loss especially hard to take, said Contreras, is that she died not from natural causes or from illness, but was murdered.
Los Angeles police suspect the brothers were also involved in a Jan. 23 robbery in Mid-City outside of a liquor store in which the victim was not murdered and suffered only minor injuries. Detective Sal LaBarbera said that even though the Blake twins were just 18, they both had criminal histories which included assaults and robberies. He added that the public should be relieved that, as of their arrest on Monday, “these two thugs” are behind bars. Bail of $1 million has been set for both.
Detective Lait described the victims of both crimes as middle-aged or older. Both were walking by themselves when the attacks occurred. Lait asked the public to notify police if the twins look familiar, as there are a number of robberies which have occurred in the area for which no suspects have been identified. The detective assured those assembled that they are “looking into” every one of the unsolved robberies. In addition, he asked anyone who has been robbed themselves to please call the police.
By Jennifer Pfalz