A story for every victim

Cause of death determinations: January to June 2010

Los Angeles County coroner's officials routinely provide The Times with a weekly list of deaths initially considered to be homicides.

Reporters follow up with the department to obtain additional information about each case and, in some cases, learn that the victim's cause of death has been deferred. This means the final determination on the mode of death is postponed pending additional laboratory tests. The death can later be ruled a homicide, suicide, natural or accident. The results usually are available within six to eight weeks.

The Homicide Report has followed up with the coroner's office on about 30 deferred cases from 2010. Here are the findings in cases during the first six months of 2010:

Julio Olivares, a 34-year-old Latino, died Monday, Jan. 4, at a hospital. He was shot in the chest on July 9, 2009, in Florence and had been a patient at the medical facility for five months. His death was ruled a homicide.

Lisa La Pierre, a 42-year-old white woman, died in a hospital Monday, Jan. 18, more than 15 years after she was shot and paralyzed in West Hollywood. Coroner's officials said La Pierre died from acute pneumonia as a result of her quadriplegia. Her death was deemed a homicide.

Humberto Pichardo, a 42-year-old Latino, died Friday, Jan. 22, more than three years after he suffered a blunt-force injury. Craig Harvey, the chief coroner's investigator, said Pichardo suffered a blow to the head sometime in 2006 and had been living in and out of assisted-care facilities since the incident. Investigators did not know where his injury originally happened, or what caused it. At the time of his death, Pichardo had infected ulcers and died as a result of neglect. His death was ruled a homicide.

Gustavo Rodriguez, a 42-year-old Latino, died Tuesday, Feb. 2, after suffering trauma in Silver Lake. A spokesman for the coroner's office said Rodriguez died from multiple blunt-force injuries. He suffered trauma after falling out of a moving truck during a robbery. His death was ruled an accident.

Harvey Sumpter, an 80-year-old black man, died Friday, Feb. 19, more than four years after he was assaulted at his home in Manchester Square. Coroner's officials ruled Sumpter's death as a homicide. He died because of his head trauma and complications from being in a persistent vegetative state.

Francisca Montes, an 80-year-old Latina, died Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Willowbrook. Coroner's officials said Montes' cause of death was undetermined. She suffered from sepsis and "infected decubitus ulcers," or bed sores, although it is unknown if the conditions caused her death.

Kathleen Morse, an 85-year-old white woman, died Friday, Feb. 26, in Palmdale. Coroner's officials said Morse suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, yet they were unable to conclude whether that caused her death. Her cause of death was ruled undetermined.

Gary Alonso, a 51-year-old white man, died Tuesday, March 16, at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. On Feb. 25, Alonso was struck with either a 2-by-4 or a crowbar, a coroner's official said. Still suffering from pain, Alonso drove himself to the hospital March 1, where he died 15 days later. However, officials said Alonso's death was later ruled natural. He died from multiple system organ failure and advanced liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. He did not die from other physical trauma, officials said.

Daisy Funes, a 30-year-old Latina, died Monday, March 22, in Valley Glen. Authorities saw a man running from a residence, said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the coroner's office. When they entered the location, they found Funes' body. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Officials said Funes' death was ultimately ruled a homicide. She died from multiple traumatic injuries.

Rocky Lopez, a 46-year-old Latino, died Tuesday, March 23, in Pico-Union. Authorities said Lopez and his son were run over by a car in an apparent gang-related attack. Coroner's officials said Lopez's death was ruled a homicide since he died from multiple blunt-force injuries after being struck by the vehicle. Two men have been charged in connection with his death.

Salvador Ramirez Sr., a 46-year-old Latino, died Thursday, March 25, in Covina. Ramirez was found unresponsive by his roommate and pronounced dead at the scene. His death was later ruled an accident, coroner's officials said. He fell at his home and died from blunt-force trauma to the head. Officials said Ramirez was an alcoholic who suffered from cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.

Jacob Gaona, a 1-year-old Latino, died Thursday, April 1, in Westlake. Authorities said Jacob's mother left him in the bathtub. When she returned, she found him submerged and not breathing. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Coroner's officials said Jacob drowned and that because of neglect by the parent his death was ruled a homicide. His mother has been charged with murder and two counts of child abuse.

Darlene Robles, a 17-year-old Latina, died Tuesday, April 6, in Sherman Oaks. Investigators said an unidentified male and female drove Robles in a private vehicle to Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Panorama City. After they dropped her off, they left the facility, officials said, and Robles died a short time later. It is believed she may have been injured during the commission of a robbery. Coroner's officials said Robles' death has been ruled a homicide since she died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Darrel Stanley, a 32-year-old white man, died Tuesday, April 13, in Sawtelle. Ed Winter, a spokesman for the coroner's office, said Stanley was caught shoplifting at a supermarket and was approached and later tackled by a security guard. Stanley became unresponsive and was taken to a hospital, where he died. Coroner's officials said Stanley's death was ultimately ruled a homicide. The official cause of death was listed as traumatic apnea in conjunction with a concussion, alcohol intoxication, an enlarged heart and thyroiditis.

Miguel Heredia, a 16-year-old Latino, died Thursday, April 22, five days after he was shot in Florence-Firestone. The shooting was described as gang-related. Coroner's officials said Heredia's death has been ruled a homicide since he died from a gunshot wound to the left buttocks.

Henrie Washington, a 55-year-old black man, died Monday, May 24, in Long Beach, more than two decades after he was shot and paralyzed in Illinois. Coroner's officials said Washington had several health problems, including cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. They are unable to conclude whether the shooting that resulted in his quadriplegia caused his death. Washington's cause of death was ruled "undetermined."

-- Sarah Ardalani

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