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Sharing Tookie’s Day: A Coroner’s Cross Section of December 13 

Thursday, Jan 5 2006
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Stanley Tookie Williams didn’t go alone. On December 13, the same day he died, more than 50 people met with less ceremonious deaths in Los Angeles County. Here are accounts of some of their passings, taken from the annals of the Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner.Michael Edward Baser, 53, was found by his mother in his apartment in Los Angeles. The 350-pound man had a history of epilepsy, sleep apnea, bipolar disorder and obesity. He was last seen alive two days earlier. Lorenzo Martinez Castellanos, 31, was found dead at 6 a.m. after an apparent night of binge drinking. He was face down on a pile of tablecloths at his job in Baldwin Hills. He had minor trauma to his face and neck, but the police don’t suspect foul play. Alexander Harold Cowdrey At 9:25 a.m., an anonymous caller reported the body of 46-year-old Cowdrey lying next to a trash dumpster in a parking lot on Glendale Boulevard. Cowdrey, who had a history of cellulitis, cirrhosis, Hepatitis C and osteomyelitis, was known to sleep in the area. Drug paraphernalia was found nearby. George James Charlebois, 59, was found dead on his couch in his West L.A. apartment. He was a heavy smoker and had a history of heart disease.Patricia Joan Fitzwater, 74, was a passenger in a van that was leaving a hilltop restaurant around 2 p.m. when the van went out of control, crashed through a chainlink fence, rolled down a brush embankment, entered the southbound 405 freeway in Granada Hills and collided with a Nissan truck. She died at the scene.Jean Claude Fournier, 66, who suffered from pulmonary disease, was found dead in a retirement hotel in Long Beach.Ashleigh Olivia Cortez, four months old, died at her Montebello home, a few days after she was taken to an urgent-care facility and diagnosed with a cold and viral infection. No foul play is suspected.Sylvia Langston The 71-year-old Montana native died in the emergency room of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, a day after she complained of vomiting and shortness of breath.Edgar Antonio Lanuza was the victim of a gunshot wound to the head and chest on December 12. The 17-year-old Long Beach resident died the next day at St. Mary Medical Center. Myoung Ho Lee On December 7, Lee, who was in town visiting family and friends, told a relative he had taken more than 200 pills. The 51-year-old visitor from Korea was taken to a Koreatown clinic and to Good Samaritan Hospital, where he died six days later. Oakley Hurl McCoy, 83, had been drinking at his home in West Hills when he got into an argument with a family member. He armed himself and went outdoors, where he had a confrontation with police, who shot him with bean bags. He then shot himself. McCoy was said to have been despondent over financial issues.Caryn Lisa Mandel, 43, was found dead by her sister the day after she had a pain pump surgically placed in her abdomen. After her surgery, the Toluca Lake woman apparently went home, ate, spoke with friends, fell asleep and died. Constance Ann Newman, 55, died from a possible drug overdose. She was found at her Palos Verdes Estate home by her brother, who called 911. Notes were found at the scene. Her death is listed as a suicide.Richard Nathan Ortiz, 18 years old, was the front passenger in a vehicle driving down Mt. Baldy Road when the driver lost control, skidded sideways into a dirt berm, flipped over, struck a large rock and flipped over again before coming to rest on all four wheels. Ortiz died at the scene.Gustavo Chavarria Renteria, 37, who had a history of drug abuse, was found dead on the floor of his bedroom in Compton, with a syringe next to him.Derrick Darron Richard, a 23-year-old African-American male, was sitting in a parked car with another man in Compton when an unknown Latino man pulled up alongside the car and fired numerous rounds from a shotgun, striking both of them. Richard died at the hospital. Maria Rodriguez, 61, died of a heart attack in the hospital the day after she fell down the stairs at her home in Long Beach. Evelyn Trotter, 59, died 24 hours after she was admitted to Kaiser hospital in West Los Angeles and diagnosed with pneumonia. Trotter’s boyfriend died of unknown causes in Northern California the day before she was checked in. At the time, her son was also treated for an upper respiratory infection.Willis George Wilson Jr., a U.S. Air Force veteran, was found dead by a neighbor in his recliner chair at his residence in Long Beach. He was 65.Steven Wu, 44, died on Singapore Airlines Flight 30 en route from Taiwan to Los Angeles. Seven months earlier, he had had a kidney transplant.Betty Lou Woodbury, 72, had been complaining about flulike symptoms for a week before she was found unconscious in her bed by her husband. She was pronounced dead at the scene.A 56-year-old man was found by security guards in an eighth-floor hotel room in downtown Los Angeles. The army veteran, who had a history of heroin abuse, was a regular customer at the hotel. His name hasn’t been released because coroner’s officials are still trying to locate relatives.A 77-year-old man collapsed and died in a bathtub in his room at the Stillwell Hotel in downtown L.A. Investigators found a syringe in the hotel room but detected no record of drug or alcohol abuse. His name hasn’t been released, pending notification of his family.
Reach the writer at cpelisek@laweekly.com

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