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2 CHARGED IN SILENT PIX KILLING

Two men, including a former business associate, were charged Tuesday with the murder of Laurence Austin, the owner of the Silent Movie Showcase.

James Van Sickle, of Los Angeles, and Christian Rodriguez, of South Gate, Calif., were arrested Saturday and held without bail in conjunction with the murder Jan. 17 of Austin, according to Deputy District Attorney Curtis Hazell, head of the county prosecutor’s major crimes division.

Austin was gunned down in the lobby of his silent movie theater in what was originally believed to be a robbery. A theater employee working at the concession stand was also wounded.

Van Sickle and Rodriguez, the latter thought to be a gunman hired by the former, were both charged with murder. They were also charged with attempted murder for the shooting of the 19-year-old employee, two counts of at-tempted robbery and one count of commercial burglary.

While Hazell also alleged special circumstances of lying in wait and murder for financial gain, he postponed a de-cision on whether to seek the death penalty if they are found guilty.

According to sources close to Austin, Van Sickle appeared as the beneficiary on a handwritten will, believed to have been in Austin’s script. The will gave Van Sickle — who had helped to refurbish the theater and often worked as the projectionist — ownership of the theater and its entire library of silent movies.

In addition to holding the distinction of running one of the sole remaining theaters devoted to silent films, Austin also was known as a collector and archivist of the genre.

The theater has been closed since the killing.

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