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Los Angeles Times, Published June 18 2012

Neighbor says she heard Rodney King sobbing uncontrollably, then a splash

RIALTO, Calif. — The investigation into Rodney King’s sudden and surprising death continued to produce more questions than answers Monday, as detectives tried to solve the mystery of why the avid swimmer was found at the bottom of his swimming pool the day before.

Fleeting clues surfaced from a next-door neighbor, who said she heard the 47-year-old King in his backyard sobbing uncontrollably, apparently after he was up all night, and then a splash.

Detectives with the Rialto Police Department still were investigating that report and other possibilities a day after King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelley, called 911 at 5:25 a.m. PDT after finding King at the bottom of the pool. Kelley told detectives that she was unable to rescue him because she is a poor swimmer.

“Even though we’re investigating this as an accidental drowning, we’re looking into every lead,” Rialto Police Department spokesman Officer David Shephard.

An autopsy on the body of King was conducted Monday morning, although his cause of death will not be made public until the completion of toxicology tests in six to eight weeks, said San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Jodi Miller.

Findings from the autopsy are critical to the investigation, since it may reveal whether King suffered an undiagnosed medical condition that caused him to lose consciousness or if he had been drinking or was under the influence of drugs at the time of the drowning.

There were no “outward signs” of alcohol or drug use that may caused King to fall into the pool, police said. However, investigators on Sunday confiscated what appeared to be marijuana plants from King’s home. Investigators also took a wood-handled pitchfork and hoe into evidence, which Shephard called standard evidence collection.

Police said King’s body showed no signs of trauma, and no traces of blood were found on the concrete pool deck or in the water. He was dressed in swim trunks when police officers pulled him from the water.

On Sunday, Rialto Police Capt. Randy De Anda said suicide also was being investi-gated “as a possibility,” but he discounted it as a routine avenue of inquiry and said there is no evidence that was the cause.

“The information that we are receiving from the fiancee, suicide is probably most likely not a factor in this drowning,” he told reporters.

In the investigation, King’s next-door neighbors had conflicting reports about what may have happened in the hours leading up to his drowning.

One neighbor, Sandra Gardea, 31, said that she heard music playing and a man crying in King’s backyard from about 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. She also heard King’s fiancee trying to coax him back into the house.

“It’s wasn’t like an argument,” Gardea said. “She was just saying, Get in the house. Get in the house.’”

Then there was silence, said Gardea, whose open bedroom window faces King’s house. A few minutes later, Gardea said she heard a splash.

King’s other neighbor, Dee Schnepf, 58, said it was com-monplace for King to take a swim at night or early in the morning, and that “he liked to swim in the dark.”

She was saddened by his death and, like many neighbors, described King as a private, quite person.

“He was so sweet. He’d mow our lawns once a week, and never asked for any money,” Schnepf said. “It’s unbelievable that he’s gone. I feel like he could just walk over at any minute.”