SPPD: Investigation continues into puzzling murder of popular Main Street

March 10, 2000
Santa Paula Police Department
Santa Paula Police investigators are continuing to conduct interviews and try to find just who shot and killed a popular Main Street merchant in his store just after midnight on Feb. 27th. Robbery is believed to be behind the shooting death of Leobardo “Mario” Lizarraga, 41, during his well-known habit of returning to his Main Street shop at night to do book work or just relax with some television in the night quiet of the shuttered store.But investigators believe Lizarraga had opened the ornate security gate of Lita’s Clothing - named for his wife - for the person who shot him and then took jewelry from a glass case, leaving the door of the store open as the suspect fled.It was only when his family worried that Lizarraga had not come home that a friend was dispatched to see what was keeping him: the friend discovered the body behind the counter, one of Lizarraga's two guns on the floor beside him. . .the gun was not loaded, and investigators aren't sure if he had grabbed it to defend himself or just knocked it over as he fell after being shot in the head.The security video tapes of neighboring merchants were offered to police so investigators could see what the street activity was when Lizarraga was shot at about 12:15 a.m. on Sunday.Lita's Clothing is located at 962 E. Main St., and was a destination for those shopping for everything from boots to stereo equipment; the store also served as the hub of his other businesses, promoting rodeos throughout Ventura County and musical concerts staged locally and in Mexico. Lizarraga was described as a workaholic by his family and other Main Street merchants used to seeing his van parked out front long after the store had closed.Lizarraga had migrated from Mazatlan, Mexico in 1979 and had opened the Santa Paula store about 16 years ago.
Relatives said Lizarraga had no enemies and owed no debts, was easygoing and generous. . .he was also cautious when in the store after-hours, keeping the lights off and letting in only those he knew who knocked on the door.Lizarraga is survived by his Manuelita, and three children. The family decided he will be buried in Santa Paula which became his true home.

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