A story for every victim

Update: Jamil Lyles, 17 and Oscar Pelayo, 39

Photo: Jamil Lyles, 17, and his sister. Credit: Kierra HollimanReaders recently contacted the Homicide Report to ask about two unrelated homicides that took place in 2009. Both cases remain unsolved.

On July 29, 2009, Jamil Lyles, a 17-year-old black man, died of complications from gunshot wounds he sustained in Willowbrook, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.

Ten days prior, Lyles was sitting in the backseat of a vehicle about 4:50 a.m. outside a house where a motorcycle club had gathered when a person then walked up and fired into the car, said sheriff's homicide Det. Robert Gray, who is handling the investigation. Lyles had been about to leave the location, Gray said.

According to coroner's records, Lyles was shot several times. No one else in the car was hurt, Gray said.

After the shooting, Lyles’ friends drove him to the site of the former Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, which has not had a trauma emergency room since closing in 2007. The medical facility, which is now an ambulatory clinic open from 8 a.m. to midnight, was unable to treat Lyles. Paramedics were called, and he was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.

Lyles' sister, Kierra Holliman, said her family believed he would recover from his injuries, however eight days after the shooting he went into a coma. Two days later, doctors told Lyles’ family there was no sign of brain activity, Holliman said, and he was pronounced dead.

Gray said no arrests have been made in connection with the case. Although Lyles had no gang affiliation, Gray believes the shooter was a gang-member who was targeting a person sitting in the car with Lyles when he was shot.

Anyone with information about the shooter or details on the incident is asked to contact Det. Gray or Martin Rodriguez at (323) 890-5500.

Three months later, Oscar Pelayo's body was found on Oct. 31 in the Los Angeles River bed near Firestone Boulevard and the 710 Freeway in South Gate, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records. 

Pelayo's homicide did not appear on this report at the time of his death. It was added July 28, 2010, after The Times was contacted about the omission by a victim service representative from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, who had been in contact with his family.

A South Gate police officer was driving to work about 4:50 a.m. when he noticed a car on fire, said sheriff's homicide Det. Phil Guzman, who is handling the investigation.

The officer alerted the Fire Department, who arrived to put out the fire. While they were extinguishing the blaze, fire officials discovered a body in the trunk, Guzman said. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.

Because of the severity of the burns, officials were unable to identify the body in the trunk, Guzman said. Several months later, through DNA identification, investigators determined the victim was Oscar Pelayo, a 39-year-old Latino, of Bell.

The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound, according to the coroner's office. The car in which Pelayo was found was a stolen vehicle, Guzman said.

Investigators have yet to make an arrest in connection with the killing or establish the reason behind it, Guzman said, but it does not appear to be gang-related.

Anyone with information about Pelayo's death is asked to contact Det. Guzman at (323) 890-5500. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

-- Sarah Ardalani

Photo: Jamil Lyles, 17, and his sister. Credit: Kierra Holliman

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