LA Forensics: West Hollywood Hustle
Death of a Designer
Editor's Note: The names of the victims in this story have been changed to protect their identities.
Raymond Bayis' success as a Hollywood clothing designer was evident from his well-appointed home and prosperous lifestyle. He lived in a two-story Spanish-style house in the affluent Wilshire District of Los Angeles and through his shops he provided outfits to some of Hollywood's elite. Having learned his trade making costumes in Las Vegas, his special talent lay in creating elaborate beadwork evening gowns. Although many people knew and liked him, the 57-year-old flamboyant designer lived by himself, having broken up recently with a former companion. So he frequented areas where he could pick up a prostitute; by all accounts, he preferred young Hispanic men.
Those who knew Bayis worried that one day he might encounter someone who would rob him, or worse. Bayis' expensive furnishings, they warned, might tempt those who had little themselves, and who were already lawbreakers by their very trade. But Bayis continued to accept the risk.
It was his brother, Riley, who found his nude body on the morning of September 15, 1989. Riley had noticed both cars gone the day before and had erroneously believed Raymond was away. Instead, he'd been murdered.
Bayis lay face up on the floor in the upstairs master bedroom of his South Tremaine Street home. A colorful silk tie was wound twice around his neck and knotted in a double overhand style under his left ear. Bayis' head was covered with a bathrobe and his genital area with a brown pillow. His arms were at his sides and his hands, bound with another silk tie, were under him. The bathrobe tie lay loosely draped around his left ankle. Blood ran from his ears, nostrils, and mouth, which indicated violent asphyxiation. His blackening tongue protruded from his mouth and his eyes were closed.
Yet a quick glance around indicated that the perpetrator had not been after the expensive art that hung on the walls, or Raymond's antique furnishings or set of displayed china. Nothing of that nature appeared to have been disturbed.
Riley called his sister, who called the LA fire department paramedics, and they responded. Upon finding Bayis dead, they called the police at the Wilshire Station, who involved the Scientific Investigation Division (SID) to come and process the scene.
Given all the signs, it seemed possible that Bayis had died during a sexual liaison with a hustler, especially when investigators found no evidence of a break-in. The windows were all closed. The evidence team collected a pair of blue pants, underwear and a white shirt lay from the floor, presumably belonging to Bayis. Two cigarette butts also lay on the floor at the foot of the bed, and a key-ring with eight keys had been tossed down close by.
Evidence technicians took photographs of the body and the scene, and picked up items ranging from fibers to the cigarette butts, finding many more of the same brands Marlboro and Winston in an ash tray. In another bedroom, which appeared undisturbed, were butts from Benson & Hedges cigarettes. Riley identified this latter brand as the one his brother smoked, and said the others were from someone else. The detectives asked him to check the house to see if he could determine whether anything was missing.
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