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UPDATE: Burned body found in Castaic not that of missing teen

Murder victim identified as Los Angeles man dumped in Castaic

Posted: September 11, 2013 9:38 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2013 9:38 p.m.

The body of a man found burning near Castaic Lake last week was not that of a missing Orange County teenager who disappeared in the area Aug. 30, a homicide detective said Wednesday.

“The guy was killed in South Central (Los Angeles) and the suspects went looking for a place to dump the body,” said Detective Eddie Brown of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau.

“They were just looking for a chance to get off the highway and they were not even familiar with the area,” he said of the victim’s killers.

Still missing was 19-year-old Bryce Laspisa, a student at a Sacramento-area college, who was driving from Northern California to Laguna Niguel, where his parents live, when he went missing on Aug. 30.

Laspisa has been the subject of an intense hunt after his car was found tumbled down a ravine near a road leading to Castaic Lake’s main boat ramp. The search continued Wednesday with no concrete results.

The burned victim was identified as Lamondre Deon Miles, a 35-year old resident of South Los Angeles. His body was found Sept. 4 by firefighters just off Lake Hughes Road near Castaic Lake, prompting a murder investigation that Brown said he headed.

Detectives said he was shot multiple times inthe upper torso and was dead before being driven to Castaic and set afire.

On Friday, Brown and his team served a search warrant and arrested three people in South Los Angeles in connection with the murder and with the dumping of the murder victim’s body, he said.

A man and a woman who are brother and sister are charged with murder, and the sister’s boyfriend is charged with accessory to murder and arson, Brown said.

Dispute over money

The murder suspects were identified Wednesday as Joanna Amezcua, 23, and her brother, 22-year old Luis Amezcua, both from South Los Angeles. They were charged with one count each of murder on Tuesday. Bail was set at $1 million.

A third suspect, 33-year old Javier Vega, also from South Los Angeles and described as Joanna Amezcua’s boyfriend, was charged Tuesday with accessory to murder and arson. His bail was set at $575,000.

Investigators said the motive appeared to be a dispute over money allegedly owed by the victim to the suspects The murder has nothing to do with the Laspisa disappearance. Brown said.

“The problem for us was that the coroner could not identify the body,” Brown said of delays in releasing information about the body.

“Our department was working on the understanding that we knew right away we were dealing with two families,” he said. “On one hand, we had a missing guy who was a white male. On the other hand, we knew we had a black male.

“But we couldn’t let any information out until we confirmed the identity of the body,” he said.

For family, friends and volunteers still searching for Laspisa, the news only reaffirmed hopes that the teen was still alive.

Multiple sightings

The challenge for searchers Wednesday became trying to follow up on possible leads and to sidestep unfounded sightings — of which there were several.

On Wednesday morning, volunteers were buoyed with news of a possible sighting of Laspisa near a Valencia shopping center, the missing boy’s uncle said.

“There was a possible sighting (Tuesday) afternoon at The Habit Burger Grill in Valencia on McBean Parkway,” Brian David said. David, brother of Laspisa’s mother, is coordinating search information from his home in Illinois.

He urged searchers to check out the Valencia neighborhood around Granary Square where The Habit Burger is located. But the search also continued Wednesday at Castaic Lake, joined by both volunteers and the Parks Bureau of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

By mid-afternoon, searchers were told Laspisa had been spotted in Stevenson Ranch, answering to the name of Jeremy, said searcher Debra Sweetland who has helped in the hunt every day this week.

Searchers also heard from a Metrolink rider that a young man matching Laspisa’s description was spotted on the train near Burbank carrying a large, “very used” skateboard.

In addition, at least four searchers made the journey to Buttonwillow on Wednesday where Laspisa ran out of gas on his trip south, Sweetland said. The missing young man spent 12 hours in Buttonwillow on Aug. 29 before continuing his journey home.

The searches yielded no definite leads, officials said.
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