Thirty-year-old Cold Case Solved

February 5, 2007

Los Angeles: Los Angeles Police Cold Case detectives have solved a decades old homicide, bringing bittersweet closure to the victim’s family and the investigators themselves.

During the evening hours of March 18, 1973, George Akopian, 54, of Tarzana, was home with his wife when he was shot and killed by a man who had answered Akopian’s advertisement to sell a stamp collection. Akopian had been heard arguing with the suspect just prior to the shooting. The suspect shot Akopian once in the chest killing him.

The case lingered unsolved until 2005 when cold-case detectives Rick Jackson and Richard Bengston reopened the investigation. They discovered that a fingerprint had been lifted from original evidence recovered at the scene, but it had never been matched to a suspect. The fingerprint was run through LAPD’s updated automated fingerprint system and returned with a hit.

Investigators found the fingerprint belonged to Francis J. Fico, also known as Rodney H. Wallace. Fico had a multi-state criminal history dating back to 1958, including two bank robberies, one in New York in 1969 and the other in Los Angeles in 1973. The west coast robbery occurred just two months after Akopian’s murder. Fico had spent most of his adult life in and out of prison.

Closure has been bittersweet, because Fico died in 1995 from injuries he sustained in a traffic accident in Spokane, Washington, where he was living.

Detective Jackson conceded that, "There is pleasure in closing a case, but the true satisfaction comes from providing justice to the families of victims." In spite of the disappointment of not having the opportunity to hold the suspect accountable for this crime, detectives expressed satisfaction in knowing that they were successful in solving an age-old crime.

Further inquiries can be made to Detective Jackson or Detective Bengston of Robbery Homicide Division, at 213-847-0970. A photograph of Fico is available through Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.