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California couple investigated in crime spree, murder of teacher

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A married couple already suspected in a West Coast crime spree that began with a jailbreak in August are under investigation in the stabbing murder of a retired parochial school teacher in central California, authorities said on Thursday.

Darnell Keith Washington, 24, and Tania Washington, 25, are considered persons of interest in last week's murder of Susie Ko at her home in Hercules, California, about 30 miles east of San Francisco, Hercules police spokeswoman Connie Van Putten said.

"We don't know if they knew her," Van Putten said. "They're not yet official suspects."

The Washingtons were arrested near Sea-Tac International Airport near Seattle on Wednesday after a deputy discovered them sleeping in Ko's car, King's County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindi West said. A sawed-off shotgun was found in the car.

Ko, 55, who had lived in her home for 30 years, died of blunt-force head trauma and stab wounds.

The couple is already accused of carrying out a crime spree that began in late August after Darnell Washington broke out of a jail rehabilitation facility in Southern California, San Bernardino County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.

Washington, who was awaiting trial for robbery, "was able to scale a 10-foot-high chain link fence" during an outdoor recreation break, Bachman said, adding that his wife was believed to have been waiting in a nearby vehicle.

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokeswoman said Darnell Washington is suspected of shooting and wounding a sheriff's deputy on September 2 after the deputy approached a suspicious vehicle in the Southern California city of South El Monte.

Following the shooting the couple allegedly carjacked two vehicles in succession to flee the area, the spokesman said.

The Washingtons, who are being held at the King's County Jail, face a bond hearing on Friday.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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