Page One

Police: Body of newspaper photographer found near cemetery

By Ron Harris The Associated Press
Tuesday November 27, 2001

OAKLAND — The body of a missing photographer for the San Jose Mercury News was found Sunday outside a cemetery, police said. 

Luci S. Houston, 43, had been missing for nearly a week. Police said they believe she was murdered, but wouldn’t disclose the cause of death. Houston’s body was found in her car, covered by a tarp, about a mile from her home, police said. 

The Alameda County coroner had not positively identified the body and on Monday referred all calls to police, who did not immediately return calls. 

Police questioned Houston’s estranged husband, but have no suspects, Sgt. Tim Nolan said Sunday. 

“There are obviously a lot of strange things about this case,” he said. “It appears the body was there for a few days.” 

Family members and friends said they had not seen or heard from Houston since Tuesday. She had planned to pick up a friend from Oakland International Airport on Wednesday and to attend a Thanksgiving get-together Thursday, they said. 

Houston was known to be punctual, and friends said she would call people she was assigned to photograph if she was running even five minutes late. 

The Washington, D.C., native worked as a staff photographer at the Mercury News since 1993, and had previously been a staff photographer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. 

Houston’s co-workers spent the first part of Sunday handing out fliers with her picture and a description of the car she had been driving. 

When Jim Gensheimer, a fellow Mercury News photographer, handed a flier to an Oakland police officer, the officer told him that a body had been found near Evergreen Cemetery. Co-workers gathered at the cemetery. 

“It’s just very weird,” Gensheimer said. “I’ve covered a lot of things like this. You never expect it to be a co-worker.” 

Gensheimer had a camera slung around his neck and said he was both mourning and working. 

“I ended up taking some pictures, because I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. 

Gensheimer remembered Houston as someone who frequently sang in the workplace and made sure everyone said “hello” to her.