Calif. community reels after mayor killed, wife released by police

Daniel Crespo, mayor of Bell Gardens, is now dead from a fatal gunshot wound that authorities say was fired by his wife, though she had not been arrested and no charges had been filed Wednesday.

Nick Ut/AP
A police officer stands by the scene of a shooting in Bell Gardens, Calif., Sept. 30. Authorities say Mayor Daniel Crespo, of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, has been shot to death and his wife is in custody.

In the small, modest Los Angeles suburb of Bell Gardens, neighbors of Mayor Daniel Crespo struggled Wednesday to come to terms with how the friendly, outgoing political leader could have been shot to death by his wife of 28 years.

 Daniel Crespo, mayor of Bell Gardens, is now dead from a fatal gunshot wound that authorities say was fired by his wife, though she had not been arrested and no charges had been filed Wednesday.

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said Levette Crespo shot her husband several times Tuesday afternoon after he got into a physical altercation with their 19-year-old son. The mayor, 45, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A message left with Levette Crespo's attorney, Eber Bayona, was not immediately returned, but he announced plans to hold a news conference Thursday.

No one was arrested, and authorities say the investigation is continuing. A message left with Levette Crespo's attorney, Eber Bayona, was not immediately returned.

At the family's home in a modern, well-maintained neighborhood of townhouses, a wreath had been placed on the door.

"He was such an awesome person. He was forever walking around, talking with people, house to house," said a neighbor, retiree Florence Chavez.

Another neighbor, Margarita Rios, said Crespo would help her solve any problem.

"A very good person, very friendly," the 54-year-old nursing assistant said in Spanish, adding she barely knew the mayor's 43-year-old wife.

"She'd leave in the car from the garage. I never saw her. I couldn't even remember her," she said.

A biography on the Bell Gardens website said Crespos were high school sweethearts who married as teenagers in 1986. They also have a grown daughter.

Sheriff's Deputy Crystal Hernandez said authorities believe the two were fighting when their son, Daniel, tried to intervene and got into a struggle with his father. His mother then got a gun and opened fire, Hernandez said.

Bell Gardens, a city of about 43,000, is one of a series of nondescript suburbs southeast of Los Angeles. The 2.5-square mile city is bordered by several other small towns. One is the city of Bell, which became synonymous with municipal corruption after several former officials were convicted of fleecing millions from taxpayers and padding their salaries.

Bell Gardens City Council members serve part time and rotate the mayor's position among themselves.

Crespo, who was elected to the council in 2001, had been a Los Angeles County deputy probation officer for 15 years, according to the city's website. Los Angeles County CEO Bill Fujioka said Crespo had been with the department for more than 20 years.

He had also served on the Bell Gardens Planning Commission.

"When not working or participating in the very time-consuming activities of being an elected official, Mayor Crespo enjoys spending time with his family and being involved in community events, especially those that benefit the youth," his website biography said.

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