Lethal drug cocktails and two women left for dead bring L.A. cops back to old rape cases

·11 min read

When men dropped the lifeless bodies of two women outside hospitals, police immediately suspected foul play.

Christy Giles, 24, died that Saturday in November. Her friend, Hilda Cabrales Arzola, was taken off life support a few weeks later, the day before her 27th birthday.

Los Angeles detectives soon figured out that the men, one a small-time actor and the other a hanger-on to Hollywood fringes, had been lying when they claimed to have found the women passed out on a curb. One was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, while the other and a third friend were arrested on suspicion of being accessories to the crime.

But since their arrests in December, the case has grown only more complicated. After reviewing the evidence against the men, prosecutors from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office concluded there wasn't enough to charge them and told police to keep investigating.

The two men arrested as alleged accessories were released from jail. But the man at the center of the case, David Pearce, remains in custody, charged with raping or assaulting four women before he ever met Giles and Cabrales. He is accused of drugging, then assaulting each of the women while they were incapacitated, according to prosecutors' court filings.

That alleged pattern took on heightened importance last week when the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner’s office announced Giles died with several drugs in her system, including gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, which is often referred to as the "date rape drug" because of its use by rapists to knock out their victims.

The coroner's office ruled both Giles' and Cabrales' deaths were homicides, but has not explained its reasoning. Giles died from the combined effects of fentanyl, cocaine, ketamine and GHB, while Cabrales died of organ failure and intoxication from cocaine, the party drug MDMA and possibly other drugs, the coroner found.

Detectives, meanwhile, have been piecing together the hours before the women were left at the hospitals. They seized dozens of electronic devices from the three suspects, believing they may contain videos showing what occurred inside a Pico-Robertson apartment where two of the men lived, according to court records.

An affidavit that a detective wrote in applying for a search warrant offers a detailed look at the men who last saw Giles and Cabrales alive and investigators' search for proof that they were responsible for the women's deaths.

The night of Nov. 12, Giles and Cabrales went to an art studio, where Giles used cocaine and ketamine and smoked marijuana, a friend told police, according to the affidavit written by Los Angeles Police Department Det. Jonathan Vander Lee. From there, they went to an industrial stretch of East L.A., where a rave was being held in a brick building that is usually used to store cars, Vander Lee wrote. They got to the venue at 1:10 a.m.

Surveillance video showed three men — Pearce, Brandt Osborn and Michael Ansbach — arrive about two hours later.

They had come from a lounge in Koreatown, a friend told police. En route to the rave, Pearce pulled out a “large bag” of cocaine and the men all snorted some, the friend said, according to Vander Lee’s affidavit.

Pearce's attorney, who described him in court papers as a “freelance entertainment planner” who lives “paycheck to paycheck,” did not return requests for comment.

Not long after arriving, Pearce met Cabrales, who had become separated from Giles. They posed together for a nightlife photographer roaming the party.

At 4:21 a.m. Cabrales texted Giles: “Do you want coke?”

Giles wrote back that she did. "Where are you?"

"I’m in the kitchen. Let’s do a line.”

A friend of the women told police he saw Pearce give both women what looked like cocaine, Vander Lee wrote.

Video from security cameras showed the two women leave the rave with Pearce, Ansbach and Osborn in Osborn’s Hyundai, Vander Lee wrote. They got to Pearce and Osborn’s second-story apartment on Olympic Boulevard at 5:11 a.m.

Twenty minutes later Giles texted her friend: “Let’s go,” adding a wide-eyed emoji.

“Yes,” Cabrales wrote. “I’ll call an Uber. 10 min away.”

A car pulled up in front of the apartment at 5:45 a.m., then left after waiting five minutes, according to video from security cameras on a nearby building. Detectives believe this was the car that Cabrales had called.

“One glaring fact is that both Giles and Cabrales wanted to leave Pearce’s residence, as is evident by their texts and ordering an Uber,” Vander Lee wrote. “The next time they are seen, they’re dead.”

Between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., downstairs neighbors heard the sounds of “someone in pain and moaning on and off” coming from upstairs, one would tell police.

At 4:19 p.m., cameras recorded Pearce carrying Giles downstairs to where his black Toyota Prius was parked with its license plates removed. He put on more clothes — a hat, mask and hooded sweatshirt — and drove with Osborn to Southern California Medical Center in Culver City. They dropped off Giles a few minutes after 5, claiming to staff they were good Samaritans who had found her “passed out on the curb,” Vander Lee wrote.

The men returned to the apartment and, an hour later, video showed Pearce carrying a “partially clad” Cabrales down the stairs, followed by Osborn, according to the affidavit. They brought the woman to a Kaiser hospital in Mid-City shortly after 7.

Homicide detectives went to Pearce and Osborn’s apartment after midnight. A “visibly nervous” Osborn said he had gone to a “warehouse party” in downtown Los Angeles, went to sleep at 6 a.m. and didn’t wake up until 2 p.m., Vander Lee wrote.

Osborn, a 42-year-old actor, has a few credits in low-budget productions such as “Police Officer” in “A Screenshot to Santa" and "New York Stockbroker” in “Obamaland Part 1: Rise of the Trumpublikans," according to his IMDb profile. He also had a bit part in the popular series “Nurse Jackie. "

“I’m gonna want a lawyer, OK,” Osborn told the detectives, then kept on talking. “We came home and I guess girls came over,” he said. “I went straight to bed, and that is my God to honest truth … two girls.”

Osborn said he didn’t see the women take any drugs. “I didn’t give them anything, OK, I don’t live like that,” he said. When he woke up he saw they weren’t breathing, but “they were making noises,” he said. “I figured give them a couple hours and they’ll come out of it, but it seemed like they were getting progressively worse.”

He didn’t call an ambulance for the women because “we didn’t know them,” he said. He’d never been in this situation before, and he’d tried to do the right thing but panicked, he told the detectives.

They didn’t take Giles and Cabrales to the same hospital because “we didn’t know how that would look,” he said. Osborn could not be reached for comment.

Detectives spoke with Pearce next.

“At the end of the day, I didn’t do anything wrong, and obviously I’m not going to say anything that’s going to incriminate me,” he said, according to Vander Lee. He went on to say that he had “watched, you know, people partaking in things that I had nothing to do with and I just tried to make the situation, you know, right."

“It’s not like there was any, you know, foul play or anything I did,” Pearce said. “I didn’t.” Before he said anything more he wanted to have a lawyer present, he told the detectives.

Pearce, 40, had dealt with police before. In 2014, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, but prosecutors in the Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to bring charges, according to the affidavit.

And in 2020, another woman accused Pearce of rape. A deputy district attorney again chose not to charge him with a crime, writing in an internal memo that there wasn't enough evidence to support the woman's account of being raped while she was passed out.

But after Pearce was arrested in December, the district attorney's office revisited the women's stories. Between their allegations, and the accounts of other women who came forward after his arrest and accused him of sexual assault, Pearce is now charged with three counts of rape and one count of sexual penetration of a foreign object by force.

Pearce has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Jacob Glucksman, attacked the women’s credibility in a bail motion, saying either they had waited years to come forward or that prosecutors had previously rejected their claims. Prosecutors, Glucksman wrote, “appear to have dusted off old files against Mr. Pearce and, in turn, filed very serious offenses against him that carry the possibility of life in prison in an effort to keep Mr. Pearce detained while they continue to investigate the deaths of the two women.”

In one of the alleged encounters, Pearce in 2010 responded to a message that a college student had posted on Craigslist looking for a bedroom to rent, saying he had a cheap room available. When the student came to look at the room, Pearce, whom she described as “very flirty but charming,” offered her a glass of whiskey.

As she drank it on the couch, the room started to spin. When she came to, Pearce was penetrating her with a wine bottle, Deputy Dist. Atty. Catherine Mariano alleged in arguing that his bail, after his arrest in December, should be kept at $3.4 million. The accuser said she fought him off and fled the apartment. Afterward, Pearce sent her text messages threatening to hurt her family, a probation officer wrote.

Another woman told a similar story: After allegedly raping her while she was unconscious, Pearce recited her home address and threatened to hurt her family if she told anyone what he’d done, the probation officer wrote.

A third woman recounted to police being drugged and raped by Pearce after meeting him on Tinder, the dating app. Yet another woman told police she reached out to Pearce for help finding a job after coming across his profile on a networking site, which showed photographs of Pearce posing with “famous people." He raped her while yelling vulgar insults at her, she told authorities.

Pearce and Osborn allowed police to search the apartment. One bed had been stripped of its sheets. In Pearce's room were “numerous trophies for pornography” and memorabilia signed by the disgraced porn star Ron Jeremy, Vander Lee wrote. Police found two digital scales and, inside a shoebox, $20,000 to $30,000 in cash, according to the affidavit.

Four days later, detectives interviewed two actors, who said Osborn had told them he “had the craziest weekend of his life.” They said Osborn told them some girls had come to his apartment to party. “Christy” was in a room by herself and “the other girl was hooking up” with one of his roommates, he said, “like making out or something like that.”

The doctor who performed Giles' and Cabrales’ autopsies noted no sexual or physical trauma, Vander Lee wrote, but nurses who treated Cabrales in the hospital noted slight bleeding and a small abrasion in her vagina.

Osborn told the actors he woke up and went to get a COVID-19 test for his job. When he came back, Pearce said, “I think she’s dead,” referring to Giles. Osborn couldn’t find a pulse on her. “Freaked out” and not wanting to call 911, he said they brought Giles to a hospital in Culver City. Feeling a faint pulse on Cabrales and wanting to avoid suspicion, they took her to a different hospital, he said, according to the affidavit.

Osborn told the actors that during their search police had missed “a bunch of drugs” and one of the women’s phones. He seemed “almost proud,” one of the actors told detectives, recalling Osborn saying, “They didn’t find her phone that we took and so we had to ditch that and then, thank God, they didn’t find like these drugs underneath this money or we would have been in like big trouble.”

Ansbach’s attorney has told detectives there are videos on his client’s phone of Giles and Cabrales using drugs inside the apartment on Olympic Boulevard, the affidavit says.

Detectives got a warrant in January to search phones, tablets, laptops, SD cards, cameras, flash drives, VHS tapes and voice recorders seized from all three men, who investigators suspect may have recorded some of the events leading up to Giles' and Cabrales’ deaths. And based on statements from his alleged victims, Pearce "may have recorded his sexual assaults, drug use and other demeaning behavior toward women," Vander Lee wrote.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.