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Car of missing Hemet man found near LAX

August 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A car belonging to a Hemet-area man believed to have been killed by a former inmate was found today in a long-term parking lot near Los Angeles International Airport, but the man was still missing, a Riverside County sheriff's sergeant said. Edward Clayton Andrews, 80, was last seen May 31 leaving his home in unincorporated Valle Vista near Hemet.

Thomas Jeffrey Brooks, 39, of San Diego, was arrested Aug. 6 in La Jolla on suspicion of murdering Andrews, whose bank accounts had been drained of more than $92,000, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Two men, one of whom was believed to have been Andrews, were caught on surveillance cameras withdrawing money from Brooks' accounts on ATM machines and using his credit cards to buy electronics and other merchandise.

Brooks and Andrews apparently met through a prison pen-pal program while Brooks was an inmate in an Adelanto lockup, said sheriff's spokesman Jerry Franchville. Brooks allegedly gained Andrews' trust and became a part-time caretaker for the older man.

This morning, 18 deputies and investigators from Hemet searched about 20 parking lots at LAX, looking for Andrews' gray Saturn Ion with paper plates, Kurylowicz said.

"Part of our investigation led us to believe (LAX) is where the suspect took the vehicle and possibly the victim," said sheriff's Sgt. David Kurylowicz. "When I first got there and saw the vastness of it, I thought, oh my god, we'll never find it. It took about an hour and 40 minutes. It was amazing and a relief to find it so quickly."

"We don't have a body yet," he added. "There was nothing outwardly suspicious about the vehicle, but we will have it processed forensically."

Andrews was last seen about 11 a.m. on May 31, leaving his mobile home in the 42000 block of Florida Avenue in unincorporated Valle Vista. He was reported missing June 4 by family members.

Since then, more than $92,000 has been withdrawn from Andrews' bank accounts by someone caught on security video using his bank card at ATMs around the region.

Two men were caught on video using Andrews' credit card to buy items at a Target store in Lake Forest and, on June 17, they bought a big-screen TV at a Wal-Mart, also in Lake Forest, Franchville said.

One of the men is believed to be Brooks, who is also believed to be the man caught on video withdrawing cash from Andrews' bank account at ATM machines in Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties, deputies said.

Brooks was arrested in connection with the ATM withdrawals by the Inland Regional Apprehension Team, which is made up of FBI agents, sheriff's deputies, and Riverside and San Bernardino police.

After being questioning, Brooks was booked on suspicion of murder, deputies said.

Authorities did not say what may have happened to Andrews and provided no information on the man seen with Brooks.

Kurylowicz said Andrews lived alone in the mobile home park, and that his neighbors said he was a "very literate, articulate man."

"There were no signs of a struggle or foul play inside or around the residence," he added.

"He lived by himself," Franchville said. "He was pretty lonely. He was just out there looking for some friends. It's just unfortunate," that the people he met victimized him.

Brooks was being held without bail in the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on a charge of homicide and on a federal fugitive from justice warrant, Franchville said.

 

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