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News Release

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Media Relations

Brand New Cold Case Unit Cracks First Murder

"Brand New Cold Case Unit Cracks First Murder"

 

What:
News Conference

When :
Friday, April 5, 2002
3:30 P.M.

Where:
Rampart Community Police Station (In Front)
2710 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles

Who:
Chief Bernard C. Parks, Robbery-Homicide Division Detectives Rick Jackson and Phil Vannatter

Los Angeles: The newly formed Los Angeles Police Department's Cold Case Homicide Unit of Robbery Homicide Division will hold a news conference to announce that they have solved their first "cold" murder investigation.

On October 13, 1981, Leo Betancourt, the 52 year-old owner of Leo’s Auto Body, and resident of Los Angeles, was shot to death during a robbery. The crime occurred in an alley near his auto body shop at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vendome Street. Mr. Betancourt was shot by a male suspect who then ran. A second suspect drove away in the victim’s vehicle. Although witnesses saw what happened, no suspects were identified. The Rampart Area Homicide Unit handled the initial investigation.

In February of this year, detectives from the Los Angeles Police Cold Case Homicide Unit of Robbery-Homicide Division, began conducting interviews of convicted felons. The purpose of these interviews, find new information on previously unsolved murders. Detectives Rick Jackson and Tim Marcia traveled to a California state prison where they interviewed an inmate whom Detective Jackson had arrested for multiple murders in the early 1980’s. Because of this inmate’s association with a strong criminal element in Los Angeles, Detective Jackson believed that he might have information on unsolved murders. This inmate provided detectives with information on several cases that were unknown to the detectives.

Detective Jackson and Detective Phil Vannatter, best known for his work on the O.J. Simpson case and who recently returned from retirement on the City’s temporary re-hire program, worked together to identify the cases the inmate had discussed. One of the cases was the 1981 unsolved murder of Leo Betancourt.

Detectives Jackson and Vannatter continued to follow-up on additional details in an attempt to corroborate the information received from the inmate. The man known as Alfredo Rodriguez by the inmate was identified by detectives as Alfredo Agrelo.

The Detectives tracked down a Los Angeles Police Department booking photograph of Alfredo Agrelo and noted a very strong resemblance with the composite drawing of the shooter in the Betancourt murder.

The same Modus Operandi (M.O.) was used by the shooting suspect in several crimes following the Betancourt murder. Detectives Jackson and Vannatter met with Leo Betancourt’s widow during their reinvestigation. Mrs. Betancourt looked at a photograph of Agrelo and stated she believed he was one of two men looking for the victim the day before the murder. The original detectives had received information that caused them to believe the two suspects were attempting to rob Mr. Betancourt on the day before he was actually robbed and killed.

Detectives Jackson and Vannatter also located and met with one of the surviving eyewitnesses. This witness positively identified the photograph of Alfredo Agrelo as the suspect. Detectives Jackson and Vannatter then learned Alfredo Agrelo, while awaiting trial in Arizona and extradition to New Jersey, died of natural causes while in custody. He was 55 years old. The original composite drawing used in the Betancourt case and a booking photo of Agrelo will be made available to the media at the press conference.

The second suspect in this case has not been identified. He was only described as a Male Hispanic and fled in the victim’s vehicle. Should anyone have information regarding the identity of the second suspect, please contact the LAPD Cold Case Homicide Unit at 213-847-0970.

This media advisory was prepared by Officer Alex Baez, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.