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30-Year-Old Hate Crime Will Likely Remain Unsolved, Police Say
By Jorge Casuso
July 19, 2021 -- Santa Monica police investigating a hate letter mailed to Latino Samohi families 30 years ago interviewed two potential suspects before exhausting "all known and viable leads," Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said Thursday.
In an update to the City Council, Seabrooks detailed a case that involved a dozen investigators and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the sender, identified as the "Samohi Association for the Advancement of Conservative White Americans."
But the probe into the typed letter -- which calls Mexicans "inferior," "dumb" and "brown animals" -- was hampered by the limited technology of the day, Seabrooks reported.
"Present-day legal and technological developments make the investigative landscape far different than that which existed in 1991," said the report prepared by Seabrooks and Capt. William Heric, who heads the Criminal Investigations Division.
"Provided there was a sufficiency of evidence to secure a search warrant to seize computers and/or printers, a forensic analysis of any computers/printers would also be in order."
It is unclear how many letters were sent, according to the report. Press reports at the time indicated that as many as 800 Latino households received the letter, which was sent using a school district mailing list and a bulk mail permit.
But according to Thursday's update, "only four victims came forward with their letters and were thereby listed in the investigative file.
"The exact number of families that potentially received the letter was not determined."
Investigators interviewed ten potential witnesses and identified four "subjects of interest" before focusing on two possible suspects.
"As the investigation progressed, one subject was interviewed on three occasions," the update said. "The second subject, who was interviewed twice, consented to a search of his personal computer and his bedroom."
The subject "also voluntarily provided computer printer samples for evidentiary comparison against the letter," but there was no match and no evidence was found connecting the subject to the letter.
The two subjects voluntarily provided fingerprint samples, but "there is no indication as to the outcome of that analysis and neither the letters nor any associated forensics reports remain on file," according to the report.
"Given the age of this investigation and the Police Department’s compliance with municipal document retention policies, this is not an unusual circumstance.
"Furthermore, any crime associated with the mailing of this letter is well beyond the statute of limitations thus barring any opportunity for prosecution on the charges," the
Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, who placed the item on the agenda, questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, noting that only four letters were gathered as evidence ("Council to Take Up 30-Year-Old Hate Letter," June 7, 2021).
"When did they determine that the case was closed?" said de la Torre, who had recently graduated from Samohi after serving as student body president when the letter was sent.
"It just doesn't seem like it's a robust investigation with all these investigators."
Still, he hopes the report will result in more attention being paid to Latino issues, and he holds hope the perpetrators will still be identified.
"The good news is we got the police department to report on it," de la Torre said. "And you never know, maybe someone will come forward."
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