A 42-year-old Serra Mesa woman was in custody without bail Friday on suspicion of murdering her 79-year-old mother and ditching the body on the Barona Indian Reservation, and possible accomplices may be arrested in the future, police said Friday morning. Police confirmed that the body was that of Mehria Mansury, who had been reported missing.
Ghazal "Gazelle" Ybarra Mansury was booked on suspicion of first- degree murder into the Las Colinas Detention Center in Santee at 9:36 p.m. Thursday, according to San Diego County sheriff's online jail records.
Homicide detectives planned to meet with the District Attorney's Office on Monday to recommend she be charged, SDPD Lt. Jorge Duran said in a news conference this morning.
"Early on, information from family indicated that they suspected foul play," Duran said, noting that extended family members directed detectives to look at the victim's daughter, who has a criminal past related to theft.
"We considered her a person of interest from the onset," he said.
Within hours of a body being found underneath a tree on the Barona Indian Reservation near Ramona, the suspect was seen Wednesday evening being escorted by police from the Amulet Street home she shares with her mother. She told reporters at the scene she was not under arrest as she walked unrestrained to a waiting unmarked vehicle.
She was later released, then arrested late Thursday afternoon as she and her 57-year-old boyfriend, Lucio Moreno, exited a friend's house in City Heights. SDPD homicide Lt. Jorge Duran said Moreno was questioned at police headquarters but not arrested. He remained, however, a "person of interest" in the case, according to the lieutenant.
A third person identified as a visitor to the Mansury home was taken into custody at the residence on Thursday in connection with an unrelated arrest warrant. Citing the ongoing investigation, Duran said the person was female but declined to identify her further or say what the arrest warrant was for.
"There may be further suspects that may be arrested at some point," Duran said without elaboration.
An autopsy performed Thursday determined that the body found on Barona was that of Mansury's missing mother, Mehria Mansury. The condition of the body made it impossible to identify her on sight, Duran said, noting she was positively identified through fingerprints.
San Diego police late Thursday officially reclassified their missing person case as a homicide.
The body was found in the vicinity of San Vicente Oaks Road and Wildcat Canyon Road about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday by a sheriff's search-and-rescue team, according to the Sheriff's Department. Duran said the body was found face down and bore signs of animal activity.
"The case was initially investigated by the Adult Missing Person's Unit," Duran said. "During the course of the investigation, several area searches were conducted and numerous leads were pursued. Recent developments have led investigators to classify the case as a homicide."
Extended family members reported the victim missing on Sept. 25, saying they had not heard from her since about 5 p.m. Sept. 23, Duran said in a statement.
The motive was unclear. Ghazal Mansury has a criminal past for theft, and a woman who lives across the street from the Mansurys told U-T San Diego that she often overheard arguments between the mother and daughter.
Neighbor Denise Lattizzori, 79, said she last saw the victim in front of her home a day or two before she disappeared.
"She was mad, walking by her flowers, and she said, 'I am not going to pay for that,"' Lattizzori said of the victim, a widow whose husband died about 10 years ago. Lattizzori said the victim appeared to be talking to someone who was out of view.
According to U-T San Diego, San Diego Superior Court records showed the suspect was previously charged with two counts of burglary -- one involving a house and the other, a Jack in the Box --- one count of acquiring an access card and three counts of petty theft for using an access card/account information.
She pleaded guilty on Oct. 22, 2010, to the Jack in the Box burglary in exchange for the other charges being dropped and was placed on three years probation. She was also ordered to serve 30 days of public service and to pay nearly $1,700 in restitution.
Moreno, the suspect's boyfriend, also has a criminal past involving possession of controlled substances and possession of a loaded handgun, NBC 7/39 reported.
Lattizzori said Mehria Mansury had lived in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion in 1979 and told stories about how she and her husband once had a large home with servants.
"It's just so sad," Lattizzori said.
-City News Service