Michelle Marie Malander, 29
Michelle Marie Malander, a 29-year-old white woman, died Saturday, June 24, after she was stabbed in the 12400 block of Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records.
About 11 p.m. June 22, Hector Lopez, a 31-year-old Latino, knocked on his neighbor’s door and asked the resident to call 911 because Malander, his girlfriend since high school, had been hurt, Los Angeles Police Det. Gabriel Bucknell said.
The neighbor walked to the recreational vehicle that Lopez shared with Malander and found her with her hands clenched in a fetal position and bleeding from the left side of her head. Her eyes were open, but she was unresponsive, Bucknell said.
Malander was taken to a hospital, where she remained until she was pronounced dead at 5:35 p.m. June 24, according to coroner’s records.
At the hospital, Lopez told the staff that Malander fell and hit her head on the floor, which didn’t match her injuries, Bucknell said.
Police investigators interviewed witnesses and determined that Lopez had gotten into an argument with Malander that turned physical before he knocked on his neighbor’s door. Residents heard screaming around 10 p.m.
At the hospital, Malander was found to have fresh bruises and defensive wounds on her wrists and marks on her neck, police said. She also had a fracture on the left side of her skull.
“It looked like she had been kicked, choked,” Bucknell said.
Lopez was taken into custody and interviewed by police, who said he changed his story multiple times.
On June 27, Lopez was charged with one count of murder, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.
He pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Aug. 16, according to court records.
Coroner’s investigators found that Malander had been stabbed in the head, according to the autopsy report.
Lopez and Malander had a history of domestic violence. According to the coroner’s report, hospital records showed an incident in 2008.
Family members said they repeatedly urged Malander to leave Lopez, but she was afraid he would hurt her family and the son the couple shared. The child, who did not live with his parents, is in the care of a relative.
Family and police said that Lopez was controlling and monitored his girlfriend’s activities.
Malander worked at an answering service in Chatsworth and was described as an outgoing employee who was good at cheering others up. She loved Venice Beach, Aztec dancing, animals and listening to music, said her sister, Rachael Johnson.
“She loved so hard,” Johnson said. “The fact that she loved is what killed her.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Valley homicide detectives at (818) 374-9550. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
FOR THE RECORD
11:45 a.m. Aug. 3: An earlier version of this article referred to Bucknell as a police officer. He is a detective.