A 90-year-old tenant at The Shores apartment complex has died just days after a homeless man broke into her apartment while she was sleeping. A neighbor, who just happens to be a retired Los Angeles police officer and defense attorney, interrupted the break-in when he heard banging in the middle of the night.

“She was scared to death,” said Mike McCowan, in an interview with the Daily Press shorty before attending Florence Kaufman’s funeral Thursday.

Officers responded quickly to McCowan’s 9-1-1 call early Saturday morning, pulling up to The Shore around 5 a.m., Jan 13, according to police records of the evening. Lt. Saul Rodriguez says they found the suspect, Anthony Aikin, walking around the property when they arrived.

Rodriguez said Aikin told police he had indeed entered Kaufman’s apartment, but said it was because he heard someone calling for help. He did not take anything. Rodriguez said he might have been hallucinating. McCowan believes Aikin may be crazy.

“The guy was yelling and running back and forth by the time I saw him,” McCowan said. A loud banging on his neighbor’s door had awoken him in the middle of the night. The 84-year-old former cop looked through his peephole and immediately called the police when he saw the man busting through the widow’s door.

Once help was on the way, McCowan went to get his gun. While the former officer owns a few firearms, he discovered that night he was out of bullets. He reached for a golf club instead before walking into the hall and confronting the man.

“I’m so upset about this because I knew I saved her life but to see that this carried on and killed her hurts me a lot,” McCowan said. At 90-years-old, Kaufman slept through the break-in and had no idea what happened until McCowan and detectives filled her in. McCowan said she became more and more distraught over what happened in the following days. While the two neighbors had always been friendly, they became close in the days leading up to her death.

“I would always say ‘hi’ to her. We knew each other,” McCowan said, “but after that night she was with me all the time. She was frightened. She thought I saved her life but she was still frightened.”

“She was scared to death,” McCowan repeated.

McCowan, who notably served as Sirhan Sirhan’s defense attorney after the Kennedy assassination, has been deeply impacted by the break-in and Kaufman’s subsequent death. He says he plans to visit Aikin in jail with one of Kaufman’s children to tell him she died.

“He murdered her,” McCowan said. “He killed her with his actions. I know he’s crazy.”

The District Attorney referred the case back to the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office and did not file any charges. The City Attorney did not return the Daily Press’s inquiries on the status of the case by press time.

Lt. Rodriguez said detectives did not know about the victim’s death until the phone call from the Daily Press to verify the incident but said he would tell investigators and prosecutors. He said it’s not clear how Kaufman’s death would impact Aikin’s case.

Connecting the dots between the two “would be very, very difficult,” Rodriguez said.

Kaufman lived at The Shore with her late husband, Bill, for decades, according to Daily Press columnist Jack Neworth who knows the family well. Neworth said the couple maintained a college scholarship fund in honor of their son who was a teacher and died from AIDS after he was infected by a blood transfusion.

The Shore is a luxury apartment building with 24 hour concierge service. Management did not return the Daily Press’s request for comment.

 

kate@www.smdp.com

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press