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Burned body was murder witness

A bound corpse found near Castaic wrapped in a rug and set on fire saw Inglewood gang slaying, polic

Posted: September 17, 2009 10:27 p.m.
Updated: September 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Shortly after midnight on May 30, firefighters rolled out to a remote access road near Castaic Lake, expecting to find a burning trash can.

But once they put out the flames, they learned it wasn't a heap of garbage.

It was a man's body - bound, wrapped in a rug and set ablaze just off of Templin Highway, about a 1/4 mile east of Interstate 5.

Just whose body they discovered remained a mystery for months, until investigators recently learned that it belonged to the sole witness of what appeared to be a gang-related fatal shooting in Los Angeles.

Investigators identified the charred body as 23-year-old Los Angeles resident Adrian Alejandro Dimas-Maya.

He had seen the man who gunned down his 18-year-old cousin, Jasson Rafael Estrada, said Inglewood Police Department Detective Loyd Waters. However, he didn't give police a solid description of the killer.

Four days later, Dimas-Maya's smoldering body was found near Castaic.

On May 26 at 7:17 p.m., he and cousin Estrada were walking in a parking lot near the crossing of Prairie Avenue and W. 107th Street when someone fired at them, hitting Estrada several times in the upper torso, Waters said.

Estrada, who Waters said was a suspected gang member, died that night at the Harbor UCLA Hospital.

Dimas-Maya later gave police a description of the shooter.

"He didn't provide any useful information. It was very generic," Waters said, adding that Dimas-Maya described the shooter as a large Hispanic man.

Detectives couldn't contact Dimas-Maya for a couple days after the shooting, and he did not return to the house where he was staying at the time, Waters said.

Investigators then spoke with him once when they returned to the crime scene for further investigation and saw him there, Waters said.

That was the last time detectives spoke with Dimas-Maya, or saw him alive.

Though Dimas-Maya was found tied up and burned, Los Angeles County Coroner officials have not yet determined how, exactly, he died. They're waiting on the results of a June 2 autopsy examination, said Lt. Fred Corral of the coroner's investigative division.

Sheriff's homicide Sgt. Alec MacArthur said detectives at the county agency are investigating why Dimas-Maya died, and whether it is related to Estrada's slaying.

"We have some leads in our investigation that we are actively looking into," MacArthur said. "(The shooting) is potentially a significant part but we don't know that quite yet."

If Dimas-Maya's death was related to his role as a witness, it does not fall in line with regular witness homicide patterns, MacArthur said.

"Typically, if a witness is going to be murdered," MacArthur said, "they've already identified someone."

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