The woman's partially clothed body was discovered around 1:45 a.m. Monday in the 14600 block of Calvert Street.
She had severe trauma to her head. A man was spotted running from the apartment complex in the early morning hours and police are now trying to track him down.
Just before noon, workers from the Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner removed the woman's body. Police have not identified the victim, but a friend of hers from her Van Nuys neighborhood said the 53-year-old woman was very outgoing and volunteered her time working with recovered alcoholics,
"She was very nice, she never had an argument with anybody. She used to like to work with charities like her church and Alcoholics Anonymous," the victim's friend, Leonor Raya said through a translator.
Police have not released the woman's identity or how she was killed but said she often shared her apartment with a homeless man. Investigators said that he was the one who found her body in her apartment.
"A roommate of hers had come back home and was outside and a saw a male run past. He went inside and discovered her, and he made telephone calls," said LAPD Detective Rob Bubb.
Detectives say they don't consider the roommate to be a suspect, but they are looking for a man who ran away from the apartment complex. Police don't have a motive for the crime but say it appears the woman knew her killer since her apartment showed no signs of forced entry.
"There were no screams, no other calls that came out in the area. so that's how we were able to determine it was somebody she knew and she had invited him into the location," Bubb explained.
Meanwhile, residents say crime in Van Nuys has been getting worse. Despite that, Reya says that the murder victim was always upbeat. Just Saturday, she showed her neighbors a bouquet of flowers she got from her church for her volunteer efforts.
"The day before yesterday, a vase of very nice flowers arrived. She was very well dressed and very elegant. She told me she had won first prize at her church," recalled Raya.
Police are asking the public for help. If you have any information that could help lead to the killer you're urged to call 1-877-LAPD-24-7.