Last week, a 55-year-old man was seriously injured when he was torched as he slept outside a doughnut shop in Norwalk. Two months earlier, Long Beach police said Jacob Timothy Lagarde, 27, threw a lit Molotov cocktail at a man who had been waiting for his father outside a store. Lagarde has since been charged with attempted murder and five other counts.
Los Angeles police are investigating whether Petillo might be tied to any other similar crimes, but at this point detectives don't believe he is, Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
As the number of flowers and candles around the scorched bench grew Thursday, people who knew the victim tried to comprehend why a woman who seemed so benign could be so viciously attacked.
Robert Wyneken, 75, who volunteers at a nearby church that serves meals for the less than fortunate, called Violet the "sweetest lady on the street." He said she was quiet, independent and resourceful.
Wyneken said she supported herself by recycling cans and didn't like to panhandle. He said there were efforts to get her housing and in contact with family, but she wouldn't have it.
"I just think she had something in her life where she wanted to be alone," he said. "She didn't want to be a burden to anybody."
Wyneken, Deol and others said they were deeply troubled by what had happened at the bus stop.
"The guy who did this should spend the rest of his life in jail," Deol said.
Steve Williams, 62, who identified himself as a homeless veteran, said he is aware of the dangers of sleeping on the street but that it's difficult to find space at nearby shelters, especially at this time of year.
"We are all human. No one should be treated like that," he said.