Police: Fresno murder sparked by dispute over cats, dog

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Police say a murder in Fresno Thursday night was sparked by a dispute over cats and a dog. And when it was over, investigators say the female suspect ran away with two young kids.

Mary Lara was in her front yard near Olive Avenue and 8th Street when officers say another woman walking by with a pit bull stabbed the victim. Investigators say this is a very unusual attack. It began as an argument, then got physical before Lara was stabbed more than a dozen times.

Lara's front yard is home to several cats and a few kittens. Fresno police say she may have been trying to protect her pets Thursday when she got into a fight with a woman who had a dog, two kids and was armed.

"There was an argument between the suspect who had a pit bull, and the pit bull was barking at a neighbor's dog," said Fresno Police Lt. Mark Salazar. "The victim, who had numerous cats, seemed concerned and then they started arguing, and they argued for a while."

Investigators say during the fight, the suspect set the pit bull free. After that, Lara was stabbed repeatedly. Police are trying to figure out if the two had any prior history.

"We don't know if the victim and suspect knew each other. It doesn't look like it right now. But for the suspect to come back, and do that stabbing, it seemed more personal," said Salazar

Neighbors say Lara kept to herself and sometimes had barbecues with her family. Many were stunned to hear what happened to her.

Investigators say a witness who ran to help Lara was also confronted and punched in the face by a man who had pulled up in a car to give the stabbing suspect and kids a ride away from the crime scene.

Officers say the pit bull ran away. And when ambulance crews arrived, Lara did not have a pulse. She died a short time later.

Police believe it's likely the suspect lives in the area. One neighbor said they got the license plate number of the getaway car. So far, police have not recovered a weapon.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.