A woman and her boyfriend who were possibly motivated by greed were facing a murder charge Wednesday following their arrests in the killing of a woman found beaten and shot in a vehicle in South Los Angeles in 2006, shortly after the victim inherited hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nicole Chapple, 42, and Tyranda McDaniels, 49, are suspected in the killing 12 years ago of 35-year-old Taja Jones. Detectives said Chapple worked as a babysitter for Jones and had become aware of Jones' recent inheritance.
On April 20, 2006, Jones left her job at a mortgage company in the 3200 block of Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica, but failed to pick up her 14-year-old son later in the day as expected.
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Her body was found five days later in a bluish-green four-dour 1995 Oldsmobile 88 that had been parked in a South Los Angeles neighborhood since roughly the time Jones went missing. The front windshield had been bashed in, and her body was found in the back seat. She had been beaten and shot, according to the coroner's office.
Jones and her brother had inherited about $1 million from their mother, who had died the previous September. Co-workers said the last time they saw Jones, she was heading to a bank after discovering that much of her share of the inheritance had disappeared from her account.
Los Angeles police Detective Bertha Durazo said Chapple and McDaniels might have been seeking money from Jones, but detectives released few details about the case.
"That's the primary motive that we're looking at right now," Durazo said. "There may be some additional information that is discovered as we continue."
Chapple had been a person of interest in the case for years, Durazo said.
Chapple was arrested Nov. 15 and is being held without bail at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, according to sheriff's inmate records. She was arrested near her Fontana home, police said.
McDaniels is currently incarcerated on an unrelated matter.
McDaniel and Chapple are each charged with one count of murder, along with the special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. Arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 7 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
A $50,000 reward had been offered by the Los Angeles City Council for information leading to whoever killed Jones, and in October 2006, detectives and the woman's brother, Woodrow Hart, passed out flyers seeking clues from the public.
On Wednesday, a family friend was among several who thanked detectives for their work on the case.
"What a blessing before Thanksgiving," Salandra Montgomery said.
"Taja, you can rest now, you can rest in peace. Justice will be served...We all loved you and carry you in our hearts. You are never forgotten."