A group of day laborers said they were hired to help move trash bags containing body parts out of a Tarzana home at the center of a murder investigation.
In an exclusive interview with NBC4 on Friday, the workers told a chilling story of being hired Tuesday afternoon by Samuel Haskell, the man jailed on suspicion of murder.
The workers said they were paid $500 to haul away three large trash bags from inside the garage at Haskell’s home on Coldstream Terrace in Tarzana, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. He told the workers the bags were full of rocks. But once they picked up the bags, they said it felt like there was meat inside.
“When we picked up the bags, we could tell they weren’t rocks,” one of the workers said in Spanish. He did not want to be identified.
The men described the bags as soft and soggy, each weighing about 50 pounds.
They said something didn’t feel right, so they stopped their truck a block away to look inside the bags.
“I started seeing body parts, a belly button,” the worker said. “I was astonished. Of course, I felt bad. We had been tricked.”
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They drove back to Haskell’s home, left the bags on the driveway and returned the money.
The worker said they told Haskell they didn’t want to be involved, and Haskell tried to pass the body parts off as Halloween props.
The men said they drove immediately to the police, but were turned away from two law enforcement stations when they tried to report what they saw. First, from the California Highway Patrol station on De Soto, where the men said they were directed to the Los Angeles Police Department. Then from the LAPD Topanga Station, they were told to leave and call 911 from the courtyard.
The men said they feared for their lives.
“God was watching over us,” the worker said.
Haskell, 35, was arrested at a mall in Topanga on Wednesday after the dismembered torso of a woman was found in what police said was one of those bags. NBC4 was first to report that it was discovered by someone rummaging through a trash bin in an Encino parking lot.
Police then searched Haskell’s home. Law enforcement sources told the I-Team a lot of blood and evidence was found inside that suggests the scene of a murder.
Haskell’s wife and her parents remained missing. They were identified as:
- Mei Haskell
- Gaoshan Li, age 72. He was described as 5-foot, 6-inches tall and about 140 pounds
- YanXiang Wang, age 64. She was described as 5-foot, 4-inches tall and about 135 pounds
Police said three elementary-aged children who live in the home on Clearstream were safe and under the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
On Friday, the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide detectives were searching trash bins in alleys close to where the remains were found. They were assisted by a cadaver-sniffing dog from the Los Angeles City Fire Department.
As of Friday, Sam Haskell had not been charged. He was expected to make an initial court appearance Monday.
Gustavo Barrios contributed to this report.