The Los Angeles Police Department announced the arrest of Robert James Spells, 30, in the murder of Deshawnda Sanchez, who was killed in the Chesterfield Square neighborhood of South L.A. in the early morning hours of December 3, 2014.
Sanchez identified as a transgender and was 21 years old when she was killed. At a news conference at the 77th Street Community Police Station, detectives said she called 911 on Dec. 3 for help, telling the dispatcher that she was assaulted and robbed.
Police believe it was moments later when Sanchez was banging on the door of nearby homes that Spells found and shot her multiple times. Sanchez was found on the porch of a home in the 6100 block of Wilton Place.
Commanding Officer Peter Whittingham said the final words heard on the 911 call are what led detectives to apprehending Spells. Detective Supervisor Chris Barling said the two seemed to have some kind of relationship but did not give further details.
The victim’s twin sister, Deshawnda Bradley, told reporters she was grateful for the news of Spells’ arrest.
“We went through hell, crying and everybody heart broken,” said Bradley. When we finally got the call yesterday, it was all breathtaking.”
“She did not deserve this, but now she has justice,” said another sister, Diana Williams.
Prosecutors will have to decide if this case was a hate crime. “In this case it is not clear cut,” Barling said at Thursday’s news conference. “I think hate was used by Mr. Spells in killing Deshawnda.”
According to police, Spells, of Inglewood, is a former member of a gang in South Los Angeles who was on parole for robbery.
The suspect is also being investigated for ties to a human trafficking case. Spells is suspected of sexually assaulting and prostituting an 11-year-old girl. Officer Whittingham said police are still investigating the human trafficking case and that there may be other victims out there.
The case will now go to the District Attorney’s office, which will decide if more charges will be brought against Spells.
Police are asking for help from anyone in the community who can help with the investigation. Anyone with information can call the Criminal Gang Homicide Division at (213) 485-4341.
Hear LAPD Detective Chris Barling describe the murder of Deshawnda Sanchez.