Report: Simulated Death Pictures Found in Home of Photographer
TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) _ A photographer pleaded innocent Monday to a charge of murdering a model found buried in the mountains, and authorities were trying to contact other women who posed for him in chilling death pictures.
Dozens of photographs of women found in Charles Rathbun’s Hollywood home clearly portray death, although no blood or weapons were shown. Police were attempting to contact all the models to make sure they are all right, the Daily Breeze of Torrance reported.
``We may be looking at a serial killer,″ the paper quoted a source as saying.
Rathbun, 38, was arraigned Monday on a charge of murder. He pleaded innocent and bail was set at $1 million.
The shackled defendant, bandaged on both wrists after a suicide attempt with a razor blade in jail, listened intently as Municipal Court Judge Benjamin Aranda asked if he understood the proceedings.
``I understand,″ Rathbun said softly.
A Jan. 5 hearing was ordered. The judge granted defense requests that Rathbun be permitted to shower, shave and make phone calls.
Rathbun’s attorney, Mark Werksman, told reporters he didn’t believe his client was suicidal right now and that Rathbun still claims Sobek’s death was an accident.
``We have a very serious and difficult case and it’s a tragedy no matter how it turns out,″ Werksman said.
Deputy District Attorney Stephen R. Kay, who co-prosecuted Charles Manson, will prosecute Rathbun. He said he would decide later whether to seek the death penalty.
Linda Sobek, a former Los Angeles Raiders cheerleader, vanished Nov. 16 while on a modeling assignment. Family and friends said she had worked with Rathbun before.
Rathbun was arrested Wednesday after trying to shoot himself at his home. On Friday, he led investigators to Sobek’s body, buried in a shallow grave in the Angeles National Forest.
He said she died accidentally when he struck her with a sport utility vehicle while trying to show her how to drive it in ``doughnuts,″ a series of tight spins.
The Daily Breeze, however, said Sobek was apparently asphyxiated.
``At the present time, that report is premature,″ said Craig Harvey, a coroner’s office spokesman.
Wayne Willett, attorney for the Sobek family, also said he had heard indirectly from the Sheriff’s Department that she died from asphyxiation. ``I don’t know how the asphyxiation was accomplished,″ he said.
Coroner’s office officials earlier had discounted Rathbun’s claim that Sobek was struck by a vehicle, but said Monday autopsy results would take two weeks.
The Police Department in Hermosa Beach, where Sobek lived, referred reporters to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which was leading the homicide investigation. Deputy Gabe Ramirez said there was no information on the newspaper’s report.
Investigators were particularly seeking a link to the 1992 death of another model, Kimberly Pandelios, whose body was discarded in Angeles National Forest, the source told the Daily Breeze.
Investigators also were checking files stored on a computer seized from Rathbun’s home, the newspaper said.
Rathbun has relatives in Ohio, Michigan and other states and detectives were checking to see if there were any unsolved killings in those areas, as well as locations he may have visited as a photographer, the Daily Breeze said.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday that Rathbun was charged with rape in Ohio in June 1979 but was acquitted eight months later.
Rathbun specialized in car magazine and calendar photos.
He also has done photography work for General Motors Corp. ``We have used him as a freelancer,″ GM spokesman Gerald Holmes said Monday in Detroit.