Teen Twins Face Charges in Fatal Christmas Season Purse-Snatch Stabbing

Maria Elena Rivas was attacked as she returned home from buying groceries for Christmas

Twin 18-year-old brothers were charged with capital murder in the fatal purse-snatch stabbing of a 62-year-old seamstress who was on her way home from a Christmas grocery shopping trip.

Kenyata Blake and Keishon Blake were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of second-degree robbery in the Dec. 22 slaying of Maria Elena Rivas, prosecutors said. The criminal complaint also includes a special circumstance allegation of a robbery during the commission of a murder.

They were arrested on Monday.

Rivas was walking home from Ralphs in the Adams-Normandie area when the two brothers allegedly attacked her. Rivas' handbag was stolen, prosecutors said.

The brothers are also accused of robbing a woman on Jan. 23 outside a liquor store in the Mid-City area. The woman in the second case escaped with only minor injuries.

Prosecutors will determine at a later time whether to seek the death penalty.
Shortly after Rivas' death, her nephew, Enrique Contreras, reacted with anger and frustration.

"Why can't the criminals (have) just taken the money?" he said. "Why did they have to take her life?"

At a candlelight vigil three days after Christmas, mourners remembered a woman who "never disrespected anybody."

Rivas, a longtime resident of South Los Angeles, often stopped at the store after riding the bus home from her job.

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