SFPD Homicide Inspector Has 'Fingers Crossed' That Suspect He Nabbed For Unrelated Felony Is Man Behind Fatal SOMA Mugging

Categories: Crime
Helen Canafax
Homicide Inspector Richard Martin told SF Weekly that he's hopeful a man he arrested on May 7 on an outstanding felony warrant could be the mugger police are seeking behind last month's fatal purse snatching of 63-year-old Helen Canafax -- but more witnesses could be needed to prove the allegations.

Canafax was robbed and knocked to the ground by a 35-to-40-year-old black male assailant on April 10, breaking her hip. Earlier this month she died of a pulmonary embolism possibly related to her severe injuries. The San Francisco Medical Examiner has not yet ruled the case a homicide, but Canafax's death resulted in the transfer of the case from the robbery division to Homicide's Martin and John Cleary.

Two days after taking over the case, Martin said he was driving around the vicinity of the mugging -- which took place at 680 Folsom -- with a homeless woman familiar with Canafax, who was known in the community for her generosity toward the poor. The woman pointed out a man she only knew by nickname near the Transbay Terminal that she and other homeless people residing in the area believe to be connected with the robbery. Martin said he took the man into custody, booking him for an outstanding felony warrant -- the nature of which the inspector denied to discuss.

"The homeless people helping us believe the one I grabbed that day is involved," Martin says. "Let me clarify that we do not have enough to charge that individual at this point. I don't know if he's involved -- I have my fingers crossed. But he will be in custody for a long time on these other matters so we will be able to work on this without worrying about him getting out."

Tying the suspect in custody to the robbery -- or not -- could come down to locating more eyewitnesses to the crime. So far, only one person has come forward claiming to have seen the purse-snatching -- and that person was a block away and behind the assailant (though the incident was caught on video). Martin believes that more people ought to have been present on a busy SOMA street at 5:35 p.m. in broad daylight -- and urges them to come forward.

In addition to the assailant, Martin says a second man "aided and abetted" the robber, but did not indicate how. He and Cleary also have identified several other potential suspects by name -- but, obviously, do not wish for those individuals to read about themselves in the media just yet.

"We're working on some leads," Martin says. "I'm hoping we're on the right track, I really am."

Witnesses or anyone else with information are urged to call  Martin or Cleary at (415) 553-1145. The city's confidential tip line can be reached at (415) 575-4444.

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