crimesider

John Wesley Ewell Charged with Four Home Invasion Murders in Suburban L.A.

In this photo released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010, shows murder victims, Leamon Turnage,69, and his 57-year-old wife Robyn Turnage. Los Angeles County sheriff's officials have arrested a man they believe killed the elderly couple during a home invasion robbery in suburban Hawthorne.
AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
L.A. County Man Charged with Four Counts of Murder in String on Home Invasions, Neighbors in Shock
Murder victims Leamon Turnage, 69, and his 57-year-old wife Robyn Turnage. (AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has named John Wesley Ewell as the man they believe responsible for a string of home invasion murders over the past month - and no one is more surprised than his neighbors.

Ewell, 53, was originally arrested Oct. 23 in connection with the Oct. 21 murders of 69-year-old Leamon Turnage and his wife, Robyn, whose bodies were found in their ransacked Hawthorne, Calif. home 15 miles from Los Angeles, after detectives were able to trace charges on the couple's credit cards back to Ewell.

On Wednesday prosecutors charged Ewell with two more home invasion killings, including the robbery and murder of Denise Roberts, 53, who lived two doors down from Ewell, in Harbor Gateway, Calif., about 17 miles from L.A.

Now residents of the tight-knit community are in a state of shock over the allegations against the guy they always turned to when they needed something fixed, The Los Angeles Times reported.

"Everyone is very surprised. His wife is devastated," neighbor Sheila Spinks told the paper. "It is a shock to everybody that knows him. This seems way out of his character."

Investigators believe that on Sept. 24 Ewell also broke into the home of Hanna Morcos, 80, and attacked, bound and gagged him as his wife slept. Morcos died of a heart attack and the coroner deemed his death a homicide stemming partly from the home invasion.

Detectives believe that Ewell posed as a utility repairman to get into the Turnage home where he bound, beat and gagged the couple, then killed them. Deputies also found property from the four victims in his possession, according to prosecutors.

Ewell now faces four counts of murder with special circumstances, four robbery counts and a charge of receiving stolen property.

He remains jailed without bail, and prosecutors had not decided whether to seek the death penalty, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.