Thursday, December 22, 2011
Skeletal remains found last month in the ocean off the coast of La Jolla are those of a 28-year-old man suspected of fatally shooting a self-employed cabbie during a robbery in a nearby neighborhood seven weeks earlier, authorities reported today.
Ismael Raul Lopez was wanted in connection with the slaying of 68-year-old Mir Sahou, who was gunned down in the 6800 block of La Jolla Scenic Drive North late on the night of Sept. 28.
Several hours after the slaying, a patrol officer found Sahou's stolen cab abandoned on Coast Boulevard, near La Jolla Cove.
In mid-October, San Diego police detectives identified Lopez as the suspected killer of the Afghan native.
Ten days later, a recreational diver saw what appeared to be human bones in an underwater reef about 150 yards offshore from the 200 block of Coast Boulevard, roughly a mile from where Sahou's cab had been ditched, SDPD homicide Lt. Kevin Rooney said. Lifeguards and members of a police dive-rescue team searched for the remains but were unable to locate them.
On Nov. 15, another civilian diver found bones in the ocean in the same general area, recovered them and and turned them over to police, according to Rooney.
Three subsequent dives by public-safety personnel produced additional remains, including part of a skull with a bullet hole in it.
The county Medical Examiner's Office examined the bones, and police technicians extracted DNA from them for identification purposes. On Wednesday, the SDPD Crime Lab determined that the remains were those of the fugitive murder suspect, the lieutenant said.
Due to the state of the bones, it was impossible to determine if the gun that caused the Lopez's head wound was the same one used to kill the taxi driver, Rooney said. Police have not recovered a firearm in the case.
Homicide detectives will continue to work with the medical examiner to determine if Lopez committed suicide or died in some other manner.
Paint-transfer marks on the victim's recovered taxi matched marks on a nearby wooden fence above the ocean, leading investigators to conclude Lopez may have tried to drive the vehicle into the ocean following the murder of Sahou, Rooney said.
Investigators have found no evidence that the alleged killer and the victim had met prior to the night of the slaying, when Sahou presumably picked up Lopez as a fare, the lieutenant said.
Residents of the neighborhood where the slaying occurred reported hearing men loudly arguing in what sounded like a foreign language before gunshots rang out, according to police.