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California Woman at Center of Love Triangle Murdered by Her 'Friend'

Police initially honed in on the victim's boyfriend as the primary murder suspect.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Dateline NBC
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Dateline NBC

An alleged love triangle spelled doom for California nurse LaNell Barsock, who met a brutal end on the floor of her Palmdale garage, NBC reported.

Barsock's friend La’Rene Austin found the victim's body and rushed to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, covered in blood, on June 16, 2010, to report the death.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by kat wilcox
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by kat wilcox

Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz described the scene on Dateline. “La’Rene Austin said the horror began when she'd walked barefoot into her friend’s garage and slipped on something wet. A terrible scene began to come into focus,” Mankiewicz noted in the episode "The Breakup."

Officers arrived at the scene and saw that Barsock's head was covered with a black plastic bag, which  detectives Joe Espino and Bob Kenney believed indicated the killer knew Barsock. They reasoned that the attacker used the bag rather than see Barsock while committing the crime.


Barsock's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the back of her head, The U.S. Sun reported. There were no signs of forced entry which further strengthened the investigators' belief that the victim knew the murderer.

Barsock’s live-in boyfriend, Louis Bonheur, quickly became a person of interest in the case. Austin told officials that Barsock and Bonheur were engaged in a confrontation hours before her death. They fought over another man Barsock was allegedly dating, Austin claimed. 

Austin also claimed that she saw Bonheur at the crime scene. Investigators retrieved a letter from Barsock while going through the crime scene. The letter read: "Dear Louis, I am leaving you for another guy that I've been dating. Don't try to find me."

Mankiewicz shared with NBC how investigators found Bonheur's behavior peculiar during the investigation. There was not a shred of anger from his side for being thrust into such a situation, he said. “I would be. Most people would be. He’s not,” Mankiewicz noted.

Austin's statements fell apart when the detectives found surveillance footage featuring Bonheur at an AutoZone in southern Los Angeles, during the murder, The U.S. Sun reported.

Police reportedly realized that Austin may have been trying to misdirect the investigation. The detectives also found that Barsock and Austin reportedly had been romantically involved previously.

Barsock ended the relationship, as she wanted to focus on her relationship with Bonheur. A pair of black gloves and a plastic pitcher were also found at the crime scene. Both items came back with Austin's fingerprints. 


The moment suspicion shifted to Austin, she allegedly packed her bags and fled from the USA. America's Most Wanted covered the case in an episode.

After airing the program, police received tips about Austin's location in Gorda, Belize, and law enforcement officials were able to arrest her on January 25, 2012.

Three years later, in August 2015, she was found guilty of first-degree murder. In the same month, she was given two prison sentences of 25 years to life. Two years later, she appealed the verdict, but the conviction and sentence were upheld by the court of law. 

“It’s a difficult story to tell because you have to start with the story detectives were first told (which they believed), and then the real story,” Mankiewicz told NBC Insider of highlighting the case.

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