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Woman Identified as Suspected Killer in Rolling Hills Estates Stabbing Death

A 39-year-old woman has been arrested and “will be charged with murder” in the stabbing death of 66-year-old Susan Leeds, whose body was found inside her own vehicle in the parking garage of a Rolling Hills Estates mall earlier this month, the Los Angeles County sheriff said Friday.

Surveillance images of both the victim’s and suspect’s vehicles were shown during the news conference in hopes of generating new leads in the case. (Credit: KTLA)

Surveillance images of both the victim’s and suspect’s vehicles were shown during the news conference in hopes of generating new leads in the case. (Credit: KTLA)

The suspect, identified as Cherie Townsend, was taken into custody early Thursday morning in Victorville and was being held on $1 million bail, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said during a morning news conference.

Leeds was stabbed multiple times during the May 3 attack in a parking garage of the Promenade on the Peninsula. Leeds’ body was later found inside her Mercedes-Benz SUV.

Evidence found at the scene led authorities to Townsend, McDonnell said.

Investigators say Leeds was the random victim of a robbery and did not know her attacker.

Surveillance images show the attack occurred about 12:10 p.m. as vehicles and pedestrians were passing through the area.

Investigators released this surveillance photo of Susan Leeds at a Rolling Hills Estates mall on the day she was killed a week after her fatal stabbing in the mall's parking garage, May 10, 2018. (Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Investigators released this surveillance photo of Susan Leeds at a Rolling Hills Estates mall on the day she was killed a week after her fatal stabbing in the mall's parking garage, May 10, 2018. (Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

Family members and authorities, who currently have no eyewitnesses to the killing, are calling for those people to come forward and help with the investigation.

“To see such a sweet, great, innocent woman go through such a horrific death is certainly beyond words,” stepson Ben Leeds said at the news conference. “We ask please step forth and help the community and the family,” he said.

Surveillance images of both the victim’s and suspect’s vehicles were shown during the news conference in hopes of generating new leads in the case.

McDonnell decided not to show a booking photo of Townsend in order to “preserve the integrity of any follow up photo identifications of the suspect.”

Investigators are not ruling out the possibility of other suspects in the case, McDonnell said.

Before Townsend’s arrest, police had detained 62-year-old Jeffrey Leyson in connection with the case.

“Forensic evidence and video surveillance indicated that that person was not involved in this crime,” McDonnell said at the news conference.

Anyone with information about this case was asked to contact the L.A. County Sheriff's Department's homicide bureau at 323-890-5500