Rolling Hills Estates mall murder: 39-year-old woman arrested in stabbing

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. (KABC) -- The suspect arrested in the fatal stabbing of a 66-year-old woman at a Rolling Hills Estates mall was identified as a 39-year-old woman.

The suspect was identified as Cherie Townsend, who was taken into custody in Victorville Thursday morning and booked on suspicion of murder. She is being held on $1 million bail. The motivation behind the brutal murder is suspected to be robbery, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said at a press conference Friday morning.

Investigators believe Townsend and the victim, Susan Leeds, did not know each other, and that Leeds was randomly chosen.

"There were items taken from the scene that lead us to believe it was a robbery, as well as additional follow-up evidence," LASD Capt. Chris Bergner said at the press conference.

McDonnell said investigators have not yet ruled out the possibility of additional suspects, though they do not have any information leading to other suspects at this time.

McDonnell said Leeds had parked her 2016 white Mercedes-Benz SUV on the first floor of the Promenade on the Peninsula's parking structure on May 3. The sheriff said Townsend's vehicle, a gold 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, was also parked on the same floor. He said the murder was likely committed at approximately 12:10 p.m.

The sheriff asked the community to come forward with any information in the case, especially if they were at or near the mall or the parking structure on the day of the crime between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

At the news conference, sheriff's investigators showed surveillance video from the first floor of the mall parking structure on the day of the killing. The grainy footage showed many cars parked near the crime scene, as well as foot and vehicle traffic.

"As of today, we do not have an eye witness to this crime, but we certainly believe there may be one out there," McDonnell said.

If you have any relevant information about this crime, you're urged to contact LASD's Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. You can submit anonymous tips by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).
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