Tuesday’s column

From the notebook …

One of the unique features of the vast Los Angeles County bureaucracy can be found in the Department of Coroner.

Unlike most other California counties, the coroner is not elected and the head medical examiner doesnt report to the Sheriffs Department.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s when Dr. Thomas Noguchi headed the department, that separation sometimes caused local politicians and law enforcement tons of headaches. Noguchi, known as coroner to the stars, did press conferences, held public inquests, and sometimes made rulings that flew in the face of conventional wisdom.

Two, even three decades later, the memory of Noguchi looms large in many ways. Even if nothing (except the retro concrete buildings on North Mission) else is remotely the same.

Theres way more technology, said Ed Winter, a former Arcadia police officer who is now the Department of Coroners assistant chief of operations. You cant just make guesses anymore. Im not saying Noguchi guessed, but we have much more data and much more information now.

Even with all that technology, and all those new forms of information, medical examiners and investigators apparently have been unable to determine how Liya Jessie Lu died, according to prosecutors in the case.

Lu, 31, disappeared in August after being dropped off at her boyfriends home in San Gabriel. Police pleaded for help locating the woman. A couple of weeks later her body was found stuffed into a plastic trash can and covered with kitty litter.

Her boyfriend, Isaac Campbell, 32, became the object of a nationwide manhunt. He turned up hiding out in a low-budget motel on the outskirts of Minneapolis in mid-September. Campbell fought extradition to California and lost.

But, hes been able to stave off arraignment in the case because of the lack of a coroners report, officials said.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Carlos Uranga postponed arraignment in the case until May 6, primarily because of the lack of information.

On Monday, Winter said the coroners report and autopsy results for Lu remain on a security hold. He was unable to discuss the specifics of either. Case watchers will have to hold their collective breath another month to see where this one goes.


Hey readers, I want you to know that I analyze all the e-mails you send as well as cards and letters. Thanks to all of you for some timely tips; you guys are the eyes and ears of the Crime Scene Blog and column on the streets of the SGV and I really appreciate the input.

That said, I must apologize to several of you for my tardiness responding to e-mails. Guess that makes it about time for a New Years resolution.

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