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Second Suspect In Rolling Hills Estates Mall Murder To Be Released As DA Seeks More Evidence

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Four days after a second suspect was taken into custody in connection with a mysterious murder in Rolling Hills Estates, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said it's sending the investigation back to the sheriff for more evidence.

Two people have been arrested and the second is expected to be released in connection with the murder of 66-year-old Susan Leeds of Rancho Palos Verdes, who was killed at the Promenade on the Peninsula shopping mall on May 3. She was found stabbed with her throat cut in the shopping complex's parking structure.

Cherie Townsend, 39, was arrested in Victorville on Thursday and was being held on $1 million bail. The DA said Monday Townsend is expected to be released as prosecutors seek more evidence in the case, though the L.A. Sheriff's Dept. maintains they have the right suspect.

"Hoping that they get more evidence — that's the right move for the DA to make," criminal defense attorney Alexandra Kazarian told CBS2 News. "They can always still watch the suspect. They can always still keep an eye on them, but not keeping them in custody on a million-dollar bail that they can't make hoping that they get more evidence — that's the right move for the DA to make."

Police initially said Leeds' murder was the result of a random attack with robbery as the motive, a theory about which Kazarian remains skeptical.

"It's a very personal attack. It's stabbing, a throat-slashing. That sounds a lot more personal than just a random attack and a robbery," said Kazarian.

LASD released a statement Monday, which read, in part, "The focus of our investigation has absolutely not changed. The investigation has progressed. It is not unusual for prosecutors to require additional information and we are confident this homicide case is moving forward."

The department said it had received key statements from the Townsend, and they have more evidence that's going for forensic analysis.

A man arrested as a person of interest in the case was eventually released. Police said they were not releasing a photo of Townsend in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation.

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