UPDATE: The suspect’s body was located in the forest, dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Authorities Sunday scoured the San Gabriel Mountains north of the San Gabriel Valley in search of a man accused of shooting his lifelong friend to death near the Chantry Flat Recreation Area Friday.
Kevin Pochter, 53, of Huntington Beach is suspected in the shooting death of 55-year-old Dean Ron Albert of Arcadia, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said in a written statement.
“If anyone sees Pochter or knows of his whereabouts they should not take any action, but immediately call 9-1-1,” Hecht said.
“He is an experienced hiker and was last seen hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains above the cities of Arcadia and Monrovia on Saturday evening.”
Albert was found shot to death by a passer-by about 5:20 p.m. Friday on at Santa Anita Canyon Road and Chantry Flats Road, just south of the Chantry Flat Recreation Area in the Angeles National Forest north of Sierra Madre, Coroner’s Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said. He died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and the shooting was ruled a homicide.
Detective Ray Lugo of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau described the suspect and victim as lifelong friends who had attended high school together.
The men had gone up to the forest to meet each other, he said.
“The suspect, Kevin Pochter, seemed extremely upset over… a financial deal,” Lugo said. He declined to give more details on the possible motive.
Shortly after Albert’s body was discovered, his car, a 1993 BMW 740, was found to be missing, Deputy Mark Pope said.
A sheriff’s radio broadcast Saturday advised any deputies who spotted the vehicle to consider the occupants armed and dangerous, and authorities released a public statement describing the vehicle late Friday.
“At approximately 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning, the victim’s car was located in the parking lot of the Mount Wilson Observatory, San Gabriel Mountains,” Hecht said.
Capt. Michael Parker said a witness called authorities after recognizing the vehicle’s description from an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Deputies from the Crescenta Valley, Temple, and San Dimas sheriff’s Stations, along with officers from the Arcadia, Sierra Madre, and Monrovia police departments then launched a massive search for Pochter. Mountain search and rescue teams such as Montrose, Sierra Madre and San Dimas also joined the hunt.
The search focused on the area between the Mount Wilson Observatory and the Chantry Flat Recreation Area, officials said.
After breaking for the night, authorities resumed their search from both ground and air Sunday morning, Hecht said.
“Over 62 square miles of rugged terrain have been searched,” she said Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, deputies kept watch over hiking trails in the area, “informing hikers about the continuing search for murder suspect Kevin Pochter who is armed and dangerous.”
Pochter is described as white, 6 feet tall, 175 pounds, bald, with blue eyes. He was last seen wearing dark clothing.
The search would continue by both ground and air through nightfall, Lugo said.
Searchers would continue working on the ground overnight, he added, however helicopters will be called off and resume searching Monday morning.
PHOTO of Kevin Pochter comes courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department