Person of interest' ruled out in Tiburon homicide

A "person of interest" has been ruled out in the case of a slain Tiburon woman after detectives pursued a potential link to a burglary investigation in Belvedere and San Rafael, authorities disclosed Monday.

As the search for Joan Rosenthal's killer enters its third week, investigators are still examining documents and chasing possible leads but have not said whether they are any closer to naming a suspect.

Rosenthal, 75, was found shot to death Sept. 22 at the gate of her home at 647 Hilary Drive. Investigators said she was shot in the head at close range and her house keys were near her body, suggesting she might have known her killer and come outside to let him or her in.

Investigators said there was no indication the victim's home was burglarized.

The autopsy showed possible bruising to Rosenthal's head in addition to the gunshot wound, authorities said. The discoloration might suggest that Rosenthal was pushed backward to the ground, striking her head on the walkway, before the killer fired the gun.

The Tiburon Police Department handed the case to the Marin County Sheriff's Office, which has been reviewing Rosenthal's financial documents, conducting interviews and analyzing fingerprints found at the scene.

Sheriff's investigators have released Rosenthal's home to her family but have returned twice to obtain more documents and items belonging to the victim and her late husband, Ken, said police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher. Mr. Rosenthal died in
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January.

Several days after the murder, the county's search-and-rescue team and a trained dog were sent to look for possible evidence or exit paths in the open space area near the victim's home.

"It is important to note that it's still not known if the suspect left the area on foot or in a vehicle and investigators are thoroughly checking all possibilities," Rohrbacher said.

In addition, detectives have now interviewed all the guests at a party held adjacent to the Rosenthal residence the night the victim was killed. The guests were cooperative and the interviews resulted in no new leads.

A potentially significant development came several days into the case, when Belvedere and San Rafael police, investigating a set of Belvedere burglaries where stolen property was pawned in San Rafael, linked their crimes to a suspect who lives close to Rosenthal's home.

"At first the detectives considered the suspect in these cases to be a person of interest in the homicide case due to the proximity of the suspect's home to the victim's home," Rohrbacher said. "A search warrant was served ... and confirmed that the burglary suspect has an alibi for the time of the homicide and has no connection to the Rosenthal case."

The burglary investigation is continuing, however, so authorities did not release the suspect's name.

Investigators suspect Rosenthal was killed between 6 p.m. Sept. 21 and 9 a.m. Sept. 22. Anyone with information can call the sheriff's investigations unit at 499-7265, or place anonymous tips with Bay Area Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS, a multilingual line. Crime Stoppers callers can be eligible for cash rewards of up to $2,000.

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