LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For more than 20 years, they have searched for answers. Now, the family of a young father and his daughter who were killed by gang violence in 2001 is one step closer to justice.
Stephen Murphy, 25, and his 2-year-old daughter Kali Murphy were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were both shot during an ongoing gang war they had nothing to do with. But new evidence announced by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Friday may help with their case and other cases that have since gone cold.
Sheriff's homicide Lt. Hugo Reynaga said the spree of violence occurred over two nights, beginning Aug. 7, 2001, when 22-year-old Richard Lawrence was fatally shot in the 2000 block of North Grape Avenue in Compton.
The motive for the killing is believed to have been "an ongoing war at the time'' between a pair of rival street gangs, Reynaga said.
Witnesses provided a basic description of two male suspects in the crime, and sheriff's officials released artist renderings in hopes of generating tips from the public. Reynaga said the suspects were driving a gray Chevrolet Caprice.
The following night, five separate drive-by shootings occurred in what Reynaga said were believed to be retaliation for the killing of Lawrence.
The shootings began in the 13300 block of Largo Avenue, where a victim suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to the head and shoulder, Reynaga said. A short time later, a non-injury shooting occurred in the 2300 block of Lucien Street.
A third shooting then occurred in the 13100 block of Willowbrook Avenue, where Murphy and Kali were fatally shot. Authorities said at the time the pair were visiting the girl's grandmother, and Murphy was getting ready to put his daughter in the back seat of his car when the gunfire erupted. Murphy tried to run into the house, but was shot on the front porch. The girl was struck in the head with a bullet and died at a hospital, sheriff's officials said.
Reynaga said Murphy and his daughter were simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they were an accident to the killers who were out there trying to commit murder.''
Another shooting occurred a short time later in the 2000 block of West 131st Street, where a 15-year-old boy suffered a graze wound to the head, Reynaga said. After that, a sheriff's deputy came under fire, but was not struck, in the 1900 block of North Anzac Avenue.
Sheriff's officials also released composite drawings of the suspects in that string of shootings. Reynaga said the gold Oldsmobile Cutlass the suspects were driving was later seized by deputies, but no arrests have been made.
He said modern DNA testing was now being done on property found inside the car, and it should be completed soon.
"During the current investigation, progress has been made in both cases, which has provided optimism that those responsible for the murders will be identified," said Reynaga. "This includes information obtained from the public as well as anticipated results of current DNA testing that should be completed in the very near future."
Relatives of Stephen and Kali Murphy attended a late-morning news conference Friday to also urge anyone with information to come forward.
"Stephen was an awesome son, a loving father, a loving son, a loving brother,'' one of them told reporters. "Never had any trouble. He always saw the good in everyone. He was not affiliated with any gang members. He worked hard every day. He was a good employee (at Los Angeles International Airport)."
Now - all there is left to do is wait.
"The family would like to thank LASD for all their hard work reopening this case," said family friend Kanika McCall. "Stephen and Kali were at the wrong place at the right time. Unfortunately, we have been waiting over 20 years for this to occur, and we hope justice is brought to us."
City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.