The first indication Gretchen Corrales' family and friends had that something may be wrong was when she didn't pick up her two children from school on Friday. It wasn't like her.
“[Gretchen's sister] Adrienne was pretty freaked out because she didn’t pick up her kids. She would always fight no matter where she was to get to those kids,” said Dr. Greg Kofman, a friend of Corrales' family.
Kofman said someone called a friend who is an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, and that's when they got the terrible news. Corrales, a former track coach at Louisville High School in Woodland Hills, was "in the system," and had been found in her car earlier that day at 2 p.m. shot dead. She was 53.
Her car was found parked on a street south of downtown Los Angeles near the intersection of East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Long Beach Avenue, according to Det. Julio Bevavides of the LAPD Newton Division. Corrales’ estranged husband, Gilberto Corrales, a former professional boxer, was arrested in connection with the homicide several hours later, Benavides said.
Benevides said the suspect was arrested in South L.A.
“I can’t give details on how we found him, but he was found just wandering around the street,” Benevides said.
The 36-year-old man was charged in superior court Tuesday with murdering his wife.
Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Corrales indicated through a Spanish interpreter that he wanted to speak with an attorney from outside the Public Defender's Office and that he did not know what to do when asked if he wanted to delay his arraignment, according to a report by City News Service.
Corrales was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $2 million bail while awaiting a hearing Dec. 4 to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.
Gretchen's maiden name was Gretchen Lohr, and she had grown up in the North Hollywood/Studio City area but was recently living in Los Feliz, according to Kofman, who had known Corrales since high school. She was a graduate of North Hollywood High School, a former All-American track star and coach at Cal State Los Angeles.
Gretchen and her estranged husband had two 9-year-old twins together who are now being cared for by her sister, who lives in Studio City, according to Kofman. Kofman said he was present when the news of their mother's death was broken to the children by Gretchen’s sister and friends.
“We waited for the arrival of Gretchen's twins… who were still in the dark about their mother. They walked into the living room completely clueless,” Kofman said. “It was heart wrenching but, after about half an hour, they both were truly amazing how they felt secure and safe with their aunt and uncle and some of her close Cal State alumni whom the kids were also close to.”
While competing for Los Angeles Valley College in 1986, she placed second in the 3,000 meters and third in the 5,000 meters in the state championships, according to the Times. After transferring to Cal State L.A., she earned All-American honors in track and cross country in 1987 and in 1989 finished fourth in the Los Angeles Marathon with the best time by an American, according to the Times.
Throughout the years she had served as a track and cross country coach at various L.A.-area colleges, including Los Angeles Valley College, Los Angeles Mission College, East Los Angeles College, Glendale College and Cal State L.A.
“When my wife was training for the police academy and going through that process, Gretchen helped train her,” Kofman said. “They would meet every morning at Griffith Park, and every morning she would tell me about those grueling workouts she would put her through. They’d run their ass off and my wife would say like, ‘Oh, I think I’m going to throw up.’ And Gretchen would say, ‘OK, just throw up over there and we’ll get back to it.’ She was a hardcore runner.”
Kofman said Gretchen touched a lot of people though all her years of coaching.
“She was a very popular person. She’s been very influential and very giving at Mission College and Glendale College. This is going to strike a lot of people,” Kofman said.