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Woman Raped and Murdered After Couple Abducted

December 17, 1989

CARSON, Calif. (AP) _ A couple’s date turned into a nightmare of violence after three men commandeered their car inside a drive-in theater, raped and murdered the woman and viciously beat her boyfriend, authorities said.

Detectives on Saturday found the body of Irene Franco, 20, who was kidnapped at gunpoint with boyfriend Jesus Martinez, 26, from a six-screen complex about 17 miles south of Los Angeles.

″This is an unusually vicious assault,″ said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Dean Scoville.

Martinez, who was left bloodied and bludgeoned in an alley, called authorities from a pay telephone after the men drove off with his girlfriend, Scoville said. No arrests had been made by late Saturday, he added.

They had shouted something like, ″Don’t worry about your girlfriend. we’ll drop her off in a few minutes,″ Scoville recounted.

″They’re animals,″ said Sheriff’s Detective Joe Barnes, adding there wasn’t any indication drugs or gangs were involved.

″That’s the scary part. It can be you and your wife. You and your girlfriend.″

Franco, a Mexican immigrant living in Wilmington, died of a gunshot wound to the back of the head in the Friday night attack, Scoville said.

Martinez, a construction worker from the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena, was bound with electrical cord and severely beaten while the three men took turns sexually assaulting Ms. Franco, authorities said.

A 13-year-old boy playing with a cousin spotted the woman’s badly beaten body at 9 a.m. Saturday in a field several miles from the drive-in.

The murder shocked members of Miss Franco’s parish in the blue-collar suburb of Wilmington, where Father Luis Valbeuna worked to arrange for her relatives in Mexico to come to Los Angeles to make funeral arrangements.

″Nothing makes sense,″ Valbuena said. ″This it the time before Christmas. It has to make you think ’Where are we going?‴

He described Ms. Franco, a regular churchgoer, as ″very beautiful very religious.″

Martinez told authorities that he and Ms. Franco were watching a movie at the theater when a man wielding a chrome pistol walked up to the car and ordered the couple into the back seat as two other men hopped in.

The men tied up the couple and ordered them to keep their heads down, authorities said. The gunmen then drove the car to an alley and beat and raped Ms. Franco as they took turns beating Martinez, using a board they apparently found nearby, Scoville said.

″When they weren’t assaulting the girl they were assaulting (Martinez),″ he said.

The couple’s car was found at a third location, where it had been set afire, Scoville said.

Detectives were trying to locate witnesses from the drive-in, but had been unable to find anyone who saw the assault, Scoville said. Martinez told authorities neither he nor Ms. Franco knew the assailants, Scoville said.

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