Venice Canals attacks: Candlelight vigil held for Sarah Alden

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LOS ANGELES — A candlelight vigil was held Thursday evening in memory of Sarah Alden, one of two women who were brutally attacked, sexually assaulted and beaten in attacks that occurred more than two months ago along the Venice Canals.

Alden, 53, had been in a coma since the April 6 attack, and she was declared brain-dead last month. Friends said she was taken off life support on May 24, after her organs were harvested for donation.

The alleged assailant, Anthony Francisco Jones, 29, was arrested in San Diego a few days following the attacks and charged with two counts of forcible rape and one count each of sexual penetration by use of force, mayhem, torture, attempted murder and sodomy by use of force. Following Alden's death, the District Attorney's Office announced that Jones had also been charged with murder.

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"Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the victim's family and friends during this unimaginably tragic time," District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement May 28 announcing the murder charge. "We are committed to seeking justice for both victims of these heinous crimes. The additional murder charge carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, in addition to the life sentences for the crimes previously alleged."

According to the Los Angeles Police Department and prosecutors, the first attack occurred about 10:30 p.m. April 6 in the 2700 block of Strongs Drive, where Alden was approached from behind and struck with a blunt object, leaving Alden unconscious. The suspect similarly attacked another woman about an hour later as she was walking near the Sherman Canal. That woman also suffered severe injuries but survived.

Alden, a Massachusetts resident, was a mother of two sons and was in the process of moving to Venice when the attack occurred.

According to a GoFundMe campaign established to help pay funeral expenses, she was planning to meet two close friends for breakfast on April 7 to tell them she was moving to the Los Angeles area from Massachusetts.

"She was a lover of sunrises on the east coast and sunsets on the west coast," a friend wrote on the page. "Sarah adored her two sons, her animals, and was blessed with a refined eye for vintage jewelry which she sold on roseark.com. At 53 years old, Sarah was looking to start a new chapter in her journey; to walk a new road. Instead, her life was violently taken from her."

The candlelight vigil was set for 7:30 p.m Thursday in the 2600 block of Grand Canal.