LYNWOOD (CBSLA) — A woman named as the suspect in the murder of a retired nurse at a Rolling Hills Estates mall has been released and District Attorney’s Office held off on filing a case against her, pending further investigation.
Cherie Townsend, 39, was covered with a blanket as she walked out of a women’s detention facility in Lynwood Tuesday morning, accompanied by a man and two women who wore hoodies over their heads. She was released at about 6:30 a.m. but did not leave the facility for about an hour.
She is suspected in the death of Susan Leeds of Rancho Palos Verdes, who was found stabbed and with her throat cut in her Mercedes SUV, which was parked in the garage of the Promenade of the Peninsula in Rolling Hills Estates.
“Appalling. Disturbing. Putting a murderer back out on the streets is terrifying, but at the same note, the DA wants to cross their Ts and dot their Is,” said Ben Leeds, the stepson of Susan Leeds. He said he believed the sheriff’s department had enough to convict Townsend when they arrested her.
Townsend had been jailed on $2 million bail. She’s also the second person to be arrested, then released, in the case – the morning after Leeds’ death, a transient who matched the description of a man captured on surveillance video right around the time of the murder was taken into custody. He was not charged in the case, but arrested later on an unrelated charge.
The sheriff’s department said it was not unusual for prosecutors to request additional information.
“The focus of our investigation has absolutely not changed. The investigation has progressed,” according to the sheriff’s department.
Some have remained skeptical of the notion the attack on Leeds was a random robbery turned deadly.
“It doesn’t seem random. Who knows? Maybe it was a professional hit job, I don’t know,” said Jennifer Cody, a Palos Verdes Estates resident and former employee of the DA’s office.
“So, it’s still surprising to me that there are no witnesses that have come forth,” said local Suprya Mathur. “Secondly, with the latest suspect, it doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense.”
Ben Leeds said Tuesday his late step-mother lived 65 years with diabetes, and he believes she was trying to hold on the insulin in her purse when she was killed.
“I truly believe that it was a robbery,” said Leeds. “I truly believe that it was an opportune location with not good light, with an area that isn’t well-secured.”