A story for every victim

Carlos Villavicencio, 25

Carlos Villavicencio (2007-08-18)

Carlos Villavicencio, 25, a Latino man, was shot in the torso sometime before Aug. 18. His body was found that day wrapped in plastic garbage bags in a carport at 25917 Narbonne Ave. in Lomita. His time of death was listed as 6 p.m. Aug. 18.

Dispatch: "No Angel, but No Less a Victim" [Originally published Sept. 9, 2007]

Shipe, left, and Ferguson, right.Sheriff's Det. Jonas Shipe crafted his pitch carefully.

He stuck to the basics: He told reporters how the victim's decomposed body was found in a plastic bag, how he may have been a soccer player in Van Nuys. And yes, that he had a criminal history.

Shipe didn't think it necessary to add that the victim was also an illegal immigrant. "You don't want to dirty him up too bad," he said. "People won't care about it."

His efforts were wasted. Reporters passed on the story anyway.

And the killer of Carlos Villavicencio is still out there.

The problem is commonplace. Many, if not most, urban homicide victims have some criminal baggage. A few are even suspected killers themselves. Public and media interest in such cases is minimal. Yet the killers are no less dangerous, and the victims no less dead.

Detectives trying to get attention for such cases walk a hard road. But Shipe, and partner Angus Ferguson, kept trying. They contacted the Homicide Report after failing with other news outlets.


They said Villavicencio was shot. His body was found some days after his death in an apartment carport at 25917 Narbonne Ave. in Lomita on Aug. 18. Residents smelled something, and told the manager.

Shipe and Ferguson were left with little to go on, except the chilling realization that somewhere out there is a calculating murderer who sealed his victim in plastic.

To find that killer, they first need to figure out who exactly Villavicencio was.

As with many illegal immigrants, Villavicencio's existence was documented only by his police rap sheet--a potpourri of drug and property crimes.

He had given police a medley of AKAs and birthdates. Was he really Carlos Villavicencio, Hispanic male, age 25? Shipe and Ferguson don't really know. They don't know where he lived, what country he was from, who knew him, what places he frequented.

For that, they need help from the public.

Somebody must have known him. He did not sneak around selling meth and stealing cars all the time, they said: Sometimes he played soccer. (They know because he was arrested once as he was driving to a game in Van Nuys in a stolen car. And they have one police mug shot where he is wearing a soccer uniform.)

Shipe and Ferguson know Villavicencio is not the kind of victim whose death gets attention. Homicides that get covered by the media outlets in Los Angeles are more likely to involve children, honor students struck by a random bullet, white middle-class people killed in places where few homicides usually occur.

That is, press interest gravitates away from the epicenter of homicide and toward the margins--like covering earthquakes in Topeka, or hurricanes in Spokane.

But a detective can't just give up. Villavicencio "is the kind of victim no one cares about--probably flopping in a room with 10 other people, going from place to place, selling dope, stealing cars," Ferguson said. But "there is a killer.... He will kill someone innocent next time."

Photo: Above, Shipe, left, and Ferguson make their pitch. They are at (323) 890-5543 or (323) 890-5545.

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