A 38-year-old man was behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of killing a longtime girlfriend with whom he shared two children in South Los Angeles.
Richard Lara was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. He was being held in lieu of $2 million bail, according to sheriff’s jail records.
According to police, Lara and his girlfriend left their apartment in the 9800 block of South Broadway Saturday evening and walked to a neighborhood store. When they finished shopping, the victim returned home first, and when Lara returned, “a dispute between the two turned into a physical altercation which led to the victim’s murder,” police said.
Lara fled before police arrived, but he was arrested Tuesday by members of the LAPD’s Gang and Narcotics Division, police said.
Police did not identify the victim, but relatives identified her to ABC7 as Nicole Santillanes, 38, a mother four — two of them with Lara.
Police said Lara and the victim had been together for about 13 years. Police did not reveal a cause of death, but Santillanes’ family said she had been beaten and stabbed in front of three of her four children, aged 7, 8 and 13. Her fourth child is 20, according to a GoFundMe page established on behalf of the family.
Relatives told Channel 7 that Santillanes and Lara were in a “toxic” on-and-off relationship peppered with domestic violence.
According to the GoFundMe page, Santillanes worked as a nursing assistant “to provide for her children.”
“Our Nicole was a beautiful woman who went above and beyond to give her children a better life,” according to the GoFundMe page, which had raised more than $7,200 as of Wednesday evening.
Anyone with additional information on the case was urged to contact LAPD South Bureau homicide Detectives Mehra Newby or Gabby Salcedo at 323-786-5166. Anonymous tips can be made through Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or at www.lacrimestoppers.org.