Suspect sought in fatal hotel stabbing

A PHOTO of Treeanna Nichols, right, is displayed during a press conference asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect in her murder. From left at the podium is Deputy Chief Al Panella, Police Chief Ralph Ornelas, Commander Cameron Knauerhaze and Det. James Wilson.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

By Jessica Peralta

The Westminster Police Department has released photos and surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with the killing of 22-year-old Treeanna Nichols, of Pasadena, who was found stabbed to death in a Westminster hotel room on Feb. 5.

“This was a brutal murder of a young woman and we hope today that information that we’re sharing with you and the community, we can bring her killer to justice,” said WPD Public Information Officer Commander Cameron Knauerhaze during a noon press conference at the station on March 14. Knauerhaze – standing alongside one of the case’s lead detectives, Jim Wilson, Chief Ralph Ornelas and Deputy Chief Al Panella, who oversees the detectives bureau – began the conference with a moment of silence for the Nichols family, homicide and crime victims in general, as well as a reminder that April 8 to 14 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

“Treeanna Nichols should not be remembered as just a victim, she was a daughter, a friend and a human being,” said Knauerhaze. “No one deserves the violent death that she endured.”

WPD officers responded to a call for a welfare check from the hotel clerk at the Westminster Quality Inn & Suites (6601 Westminster Blvd.) at 10:56 p.m. on Feb. 5. The officers found Nichols dead in her hotel room. Following an autopsy, the medical examiner determined she died as a result of multiple stab wounds during an assault, said Knauerhaze.

“Members of the Westminster Police Department commit to the family of Treeanna Nichols and to the community that we work tirelessly to bring this case to a resolution,” he said.

During the press conference, Knauerhaze projected surveillance footage and images of the suspect and his suspected vehicle on a large screen and monitors. He asked the media and the community at large to share the information.

“We think that this evidence will really help solve this case,” he said.

In one of the surveillance videos, the suspect – a 5-foot 10-inches tall and approximately 200-pound white or Hispanic male between 25 and 30 years old – is seen walking up a stairwell at the hotel at approximately 3 p.m. on the day of Nichols’ homicide. He is wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt, dark, long-sleeved jacket, dark pants and shoes, and holding a silver vaping device in his left hand. Police believe the homicide occurred shortly after the suspect was seen arriving at the hotel. Nichols was alone in her hotel room, according to Knauerhaze.

“The suspect is vaping with his left hand, using a silver-colored vape and it looks like it has a red piece on the bottom,” said Knauerhaze. “We believe he’s left-handed based on the way he’s holding that.”

Knauerhaze said the goal of releasing the video and photos is for the public to take note of all the details relating to the suspect – how he walks, that his shoulders are wide, etc.

WESTMINSTER police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in the February 5, 2018 murder of Treeanna Nichols. (Westminster PD Photo)

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