Body found in Lennox backyard identified as missing homeowner: wife still missing

From City News Service:
LOS ANGELES – A man whose body was found buried in the backyard of an alleged “drug house” in Lennox was identified today by the coroner’s office, while the man’s wife remained missing and a suspect in the case was in custody.
The body of James Daniel Stein, 53, was unearthed Tuesday in the backyard of the home he owned on 112th Street near Inglewood Avenue, according to the coroner’s office.
Marcos Lomeli, 26, was taken into custody about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lancer Motel in the 4300 block of Rosemead Boulevard, said sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker.
Investigators began digging up the yard after the suspect’s former girlfriend told detectives at least one body was buried at the reputed “drug house,” said sheriff’s Lt. Don Slawson.
Stein’s mother reported him missing Dec. 17, and his wife, Gabriela, went missing the next month. Investigators suspect she also could be buried on the property.
The search for her body was suspended early yesterday because of the rainy weather, said sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Thomas.
In addition to being a suspect in Stein’s apparent murder, “the suspect was … also wanted for the alleged false imprisonment, robbery, carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon of an adult victim on Saturday in Lennox,” Parker said.
Lomeli called 911, falsely claiming to be held hostage at the Pico Rivera motel, and “over the ensuing 10 or so minutes, deputies worked to convince the suspect to surrender,” said Parker.
The former girlfriend, Jenny Salazar, was reportedly also arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment.
Slawson told a newspaper he was told that several people who had lived at the house suddenly disappeared from the home about a week ago.
He said Salazar and Lomeli went to the house on Jan. 12 and asked another resident if they could borrow a truck, and when the truck owner asked why, Lomeli said he needed to move a couple of bodies.
He said that when the truck owner said no, they tied him up, but that the man escaped and told authorities what happened.
A neighbor told a TV crew he had been calling the sheriff’s department about problems at the house for years. He said there had been numerous overdose deaths there, but “nothing ever seemed to turn up.”
Lomeli had at least one previous arrest. He was jailed by Culver City police on an unnamed felony charge on Dec. 3, according to Los Angeles County jail records. Lomeli apparently posted the $20,000 bail, but no court information was immediately available. He is currently being held without bail.
In another twist to the case, a fire broke out at the house last night. Neighbors reported seeing smoke and flames coming from the house around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, it was reported.
Sheriff’s deputies reportedly described packrat conditions in the home.
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