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Suspect charged in slaying of woman at South L.A. discount store

Eric Atkinson, a 31-year old black man from Los Angeles, faces capital murder and other charges in connection with the killing of a mother of five, authorities said Friday.

Atkinson, 31, is a “reputed gang member,” according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. He also has a history of theft and narcotics-related crimes.

He is scheduled to be arraigned  Tuesday. 

Martha Sanchez, a 39-year old Latina, was working alone at the Happy Bargain discount store Sept. 17 when police allege Atkinson entered about 8:50 p.m., robbed the store of between $200 and $300, and shot Sanchez multiple times.

The store, in the 7400 block of South Broadway, is just two blocks from the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Station.

A customer found Sanchez within 10 minutes and called for help, but she was pronounced dead at a hospital at 9:40 p.m.

LAPD Det. Chris Barling said Atkinson had lived in the area for a "lengthy period of time.”

Atkinson was connected to the shooting using video surveillance footage and information from more than 10 tips from the public. Atkinson was arrested Oct. 9 on a parole violation.

LAPD Lt. Jeff Nolte said Sanchez’s connection to the community had spurred the public to help. She was remembered as kind and helpful.

"She's been at that market for a while," Nolte said.

Sanchez had been working at the market to pay for her eldest daughter, Gabriela,  to attend Fresno State University, where she had recently been accepted.

"Now that's been put on hold because of this coward," Nolte said, referring to Atkinson.

Gabriela Sanchez now plans to attend Pasadena City College. When she was told an arrest had been made in her mother’s case she said she felt relief "and sadness that, unfortunately, it's not a bad dream."

-- Nicole Santa Cruz 

Photo: Gabriela Sanchez (left) and Juan Arevalo (right), daughter and brother of Martha Sanchez, 39, speak at a news conference to announce murder charges filed against Eric Atkinson, 31, of Los Angeles. Credit: Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times

Photo (right): booking photo of Eric Atkinson, Credit: LAPD

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