RAFU STAFF REPORT
Los Angeles police detectives said on Wednesday they have made progress in their investigation of the murder of a Japanese hotel manager in her seventies, whom witnesses discovered bleeding in the second-floor office of the Chetwood Hotel on Tuesday morning.
Hideko Oyama, 74, had been hotel manager for the past four years. Prior to that, Oyama was manager of the Carver Hotel, a downtown residential hotel, which has since been demolished. She also worked at a tsukemono (Japanese pickles) shop within the former Mitsuwa market.
“The detectives have made tremendous progress in the last 24 hours,” said Lt. Paul Vernon, the commanding officer of the Central Detective Division. “The most important thing for the community to know at this point is we believe the murder was an isolated incident to the hotel.”
Detectives still have no motive for the woman’s murder, but they have developed other leads to focus the case. “As we firm up more specific information we will release it,” Vernon added. “But in the mean time we cannot say any more.”
Police confirmed no gun was involved, but would not provide any further information on the nature of her injuries.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday a hotel resident inquired at the manager’s office and found the elderly woman bleeding on the floor. Paramedics rushed her to the Los Angeles County USC Medical Center where she died a short time later.
Ruth Chin, owner of the Chetwood, described Oyama as a nice person, who walked with a limp and had a handicap placard for her car. The owner had been at the building that day, but wasn’t present when Oyama was found.
“We were quite happy with her,” Chin said.
“It is so rare and all the more tragic to find a woman in her seventies murdered,”said Vernon, who heads up the detective division in downtown. “We have very little information to go on, but we hope someone saw or heard something.”
“The motive in this crime is not immediately apparent,”Vernon said. “But we are fortunate in downtown that people are very forthcoming with tips and information, especially when such an innocent victim is involved.”
This murder is the first of the year in downtown. There were five homicides downtown in 2009, which was the lowest single year in over 20 years. A resident of the Chetwood, who asked not to be named, said that while he was surprised by what had happened, that the neighborhood could be rough. Outside of the CRA boundaries for Little Tokyo, the hotel’s proximity to J-Town make it convenient for Japanese tourists and residents who live there. The Chetwood resident said that there were people of other nationalities residing at the hotel, and that most residents keep to themselves.
The Chetwood Hotel, a small, three-story hotel, is located at 411 E. Fourth Street in the Toy District.
“We rarely, if ever, have calls for police at this hotel,” Lt. Vernon added.
Comments left by Japanese travelers on the popular Japanese travel Web site Chikyu no Arukikata (How to Walk the Earth) said, “I stayed at Chetwood Hotel for 2 nights last year… I didn’t feel it was particularly dangerous, but I saw some homeless people sleeping on the street in front of the store next door.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Central homicide detectives at (213) 972-1254. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crimestoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.”Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.