By Zane Hill and Camila Castellanos
Outlook Valley Sun
It will likely be months before a Pasadena man arrives in Los Angeles County to appear on charges that he stabbed and killed a Glendale woman in the La Cañada High School parking lot last month and then left her body in the park across the street.
Adrian Robert Casey, 26, remains in the custody of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico after being arrested near Albuquerque on Thanksgiving Day. Officials here expect to take custody of him next year, since delays typically are the case for suspects held in other states.
“Unless he waives extradition,” Bill Grisafe, a special services lieutenant with the Pasadena Police Department, told the Outlook Valley Sun.
Meanwhile, Casey was charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office last week with murder. Authorities believe he fatally stabbed Elena Ledford, 49, in the LCHS parking lot, sometime late on Nov. 23 or early the next day.
A jogger in Hahamongna Park, across the street in Pasadena city limits, found Ledford’s body in the park at 7:52 a.m. Nov. 24. Police said she had multiple stab wounds, which the county coroner’s office confirmed were the cause of death.
Though the apparent homicide occurred when the campus was closed for Thanksgiving break, LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal sent out a letter to the school community to inform members of what occurred and assuage any concerns regarding safety on campus.
“We wish to reiterate and reassure our school community of the thorough and effective safety and security protocols in place at LCHS for all students and staff,” he wrote. “It is also important to share again the reassurance that PPD has given to us that this tragic event does not involve LCHS or LCUSD community members, past or present.”
After Ledford’s body was found, LCHS staff members closely partnered with the PPD, lending video footage captured by on-campus cameras that led police to develop important leads and the location of the alleged murder in the northern portion of the parking lot.
The school has reported instances in the past of people crossing over from the park to the sidewalk in front of the school, and on occasion a person with apparent mental illness has screamed obscenities, but LCHS has never had “issues” with homeless people on campus or other security-related matters, Cartnal said in a phone interview. The school, despite being closed to in-person student learning, is open as a work site to teachers and employees, a few specified learning pod groups and landscaping crews. Also, playing fields have been open for conditioning for athletes and partnering sports organizations. That means the campus is typically occupied from 5:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., he noted.
“It’s hardly business as usual but we’ve got lots of sets of eyes here on campus,” he said, adding that campus security is also still conducting its rounds.
Meanwhile, PPD’s Grisafe said that after confirming the victim was Ledford, detectives identified multiple persons of interest and, eventually, Casey as a suspect. Detectives said Casey and Ledford had a “familiar relationship,” though Grisafe declined to elaborate, citing the active investigation.
Ledford was a program manager for Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena.
“Once we discovered the decedent’s identity, things unfolded rather quickly,” he added.
According to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Casey was found inside his vehicle parked off a highway just outside of Albuquerque at 2:23 a.m. Nov. 26. Deputies said that when they approached the vehicle, Casey covered his face with a blanket and refused to speak with them.
A check of the vehicle’s license plate indicated that Pasadena police had flagged the vehicle in connection with Ledford’s killing. After around two hours of communication and other “high-risk stop tactics,” the deputies coaxed Casey out of the vehicle and arrested him.
The vehicle was sealed and towed for investigation, and Pasadena detectives traveled to New Mexico to join the probe. Those detectives located, among other pieces of potential evidence, the knife they believe was used to kill Ledford.
“Our deputies did a great job peacefully taking this dangerous criminal into custody,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.
For now, deputies are holding Casey on a probation violation while the extradition question is worked out. According to the D.A.’s office, Casey is presently serving three years of probation after pleading no contest to a felony count of resisting arrest that stemmed from an April 6, 2019, incident involving the Covina Police Department.
Casey also served 177 days in jail for that conviction.
Ricardo Santiago, a public information officer for the D.A.’s office, added that Casey awaits a Jan. 5 pretrial hearing for an Aug. 31 arrest for alleged trespassing, a misdemeanor, by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Walnut Substation.
Grisafe said Pasadena detectives believe they have their man and don’t expect additional arrests.
“There’s no indication of any other individuals at this point,” he said. “It looks like the suspect we have in custody is solely responsible for the murder.”
Those with additional information are asked to call PPD at (626) 744-4241.
Union Station Homeless Services has organized a Go Fund Me Page for Ledford, who leaves behind a 14-year-old daughter; as of Wednesday, the effort had raised $40,085. For more information, visit