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UCLA student Brianna Kupfer stabbed 26 times in deadly Hancock Park attack, autopsy shows

A UCLA student working in an upscale Hancock Park furniture store was stabbed 26 times and bled out in a brutal attack in January, her autopsy revealed.

Brianna Kupfer, 24, was working alone on Jan. 13 inside the Croft House furniture store in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue when a man entered the store, attacked her and stabbed her to death, authorities said.

Kupfer received 46 sharp-force injuries in the attack, according to the coroner’s report. Her injuries included 11 stab wounds to her chest, two to her abdomen, one to her pelvis and seven to her arms. She also was sliced in at least 20 places on her body, the autopsy shows.

Her attacker inflicted so many wounds — many of them 5 inches deep — that Kupfer died from exsanguination, according to the autopsy. Her aorta, liver, lungs and stomach were repeatedly penetrated by a sharp blade, a medical examiner said in determining the death was a homicide.

Shawn Laval Smith, a transient man with a history of mental illness and a lengthy criminal record that stretched from coast to coast, was charged with murder and the use of a deadly weapon in Kupfer’s death after a massive manhunt led to his arrest in Pasadena. Police had circulated his photo, and a $250,000 reward was offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

He is currently undergoing mental health evaluations to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.

Kupfer’s killing highlighted growing concerns about a rise in random violent crimes and robberies across Los Angeles.

On the day Kupfer was killed, prosecutors and Los Angeles Police Department detectives say the Pacific Palisades resident had texted a friend about 1:36 p.m. to say she felt uncomfortable about a person who was in the store. The friend did not immediately respond, according to investigators.

About 20 minutes later, a customer who walked into the store found Kupfer on the floor, covered in blood. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Her father, Todd Kupfer, told The Times after the attack that his daughter’s death was “heart-wrenching.” “It’s torn us apart,” he said. “We really don’t know what to do and what steps to take. We just want her life to have more meaning.”

Kupfer was one of four children, all of whom grew up in Los Angeles, her father said. She ran track and was on the dance team at Brentwood High School before heading to the University of Miami.

She was taking online courses for a degree in architecture and design at UCLA, her father said, adding that she loved geometrical patterns, design and drawing. She started working at Croft House because it was a sustainable furniture company and she was passionate about such causes, her father said.

Court records show that Smith had a lengthy and violent criminal record that spanned many years.

At the time of Kupfer’s attack, Smith was out on bond pending a trial in South Carolina on charges of firing a flare gun into a moving vehicle with a child inside in 2019. That proceeding had been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear why his $50,000 bond, in that case, was not revoked because of his prior record in that state.

In 2016, he was arrested in Charleston County, S.C., where he pleaded guilty in 2018 to resisting or assaulting a police officer and was sentenced to time served, according to court records.

In January 2021, Smith vandalized a car in Daly City, Calif., and when officers arrested him, he resisted and bit one of them, according to court records. He was charged in San Mateo County with assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

Smith subsequently pleaded no contest to one felony charge of resisting arrest. In addition to an eight-month jail sentence, Smith was ordered to serve two years of probation.

He served 133 days in jail and was released but failed twice to report to his probation officer, and his probation was revoked in November, San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe said.

A bench warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest, but he vanished from the scene, Wagstaffe said. South Carolina authorities never contacted his office, he said, despite Smith being held in San Mateo County jail for eight months.

Records show that Smith also was arrested in October 2020 in a misdemeanor case in Covina, but the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to file charges. No other details were available about the case.

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