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Girls Safe, Two Women Dead, Suspect Arrested in Missing Models Case

May 19, 1987 GMT

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) _ A man was being held on murder charges today after police rescued two child models, but authorities found the bodies of two women believed to be the girls’ chaperones, the FBI said.

Four FBI agents stormed a trailer late Monday night, and arrested Herbert James Coddington, 28, who was booked for investigation of murder and kidnapping, agent Terry Knowles told a news conference early today.

The models, Alecia Thoma, 14, of Reno, and Monica Berge, 12, of Sparks, had been missing since Saturday and were probably present when the slayings took place, Knowles said.

The victims’ identities were not released, but Knowles said it was ″reasonable″ to assume they were the girls’ escorts, Maybelle Martin, 69, and Dorothy Walsh, 67. The girls are students at Martin’s modeling school in Reno.

The cause of the women’s deaths was not released pending an autopsy.

The two girls were found apparently unharmed but ″scared to death″ in one bedroom and the two bodies in an adjacent bedroom, Knowles said.

Knowles refused to say whether Coddington was armed, but said no shots were fired when agents stormed mobile home.

South Lake Tahoe Police charged Coddington with two counts of murder, the agent said.

The models and their chaperones were reported missing after they failed to return Saturday night to Reno after leaving earlier in the day for Tahoe, for what they thought was a videotaping session with a commercial photographer, police said.

About 50 officers from eight local law enforcement agencies assisted the FBI in the search.

Police said no ransom demands had been made and Knowles said the motive was not known.

Coddington, who apparently had been unemployed for several years, will be arraigned before a U.S. magistrate on federal kidnapping charges, Knowles said.