Murder Mystery Involves Former Cleveland Photographer

By RON HARRIS, Associated Press Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The body of a missing newspaper photographer has been found outside a cemetery near her home.

Luci S. Houston, 43, was missing for nearly a week, and her body found Sunday. The Washington, D.C., native started working as a staff photographer for the Mercury News in 1993. Previously, she had been a staff photographer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

Police believe she was murdered, but wouldn't disclose the cause of death. Her body was found in her car Sunday, covered by a tarp, and appeared to have been there for a few days, investigators said.

The Alameda County coroner had not positively identified the body. The office did not return a phone call Monday.

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

Family members and friends said they had not seen or heard from Houston since Nov. 20. She had planned to pick up a friend from Oakland International Airport on Wednesday and attend a Thanksgiving get-together Thursday, they said.

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

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 later gathered there.

"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. I ended up taking some pictures, because I didn't know what else to do."

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)