louisdmv.jpgYesterday the Appeal was the first to report the name of the woman found dead in a suitcase floating in the Bay on Tuesday in a case the Medical Examiner has declared a homicide. At present, SFPD does not have any suspects in the case — however, the victim’s family is planning an effort to change that this weekend.

The victim, a 52-year-old African-American woman named Pearla Ann Louis, was declared missing at around 3 PM on Monday (citing an open investigation, the SFPD would not say who reported her missing or when she was last seen). She had been identified by the authorities on Wednesday, but her name had not been released until Thursday, pending notification of her family.

As you might recall, shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, Margarito Real, who was walking with his niece, saw the suitcase floating near the Embarcadero and Folsom Street. Real reported it to firefighters who were returning from a rescue in the Bay, San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said.

A firefighter “opened it and I think I saw a leg” said Real.

Police contacted the U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday to ask for assistance in determining the drift patterns in the Bay around the time the suitcase was found, according to Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Jeremy Pichette

A computer program that the Coast Guard uses in search-and-rescue missions to find out where an object may have drifted “essentially did a reverse search … trying to go back in time” to estimate where the suitcase may have drifted from, Pichette said.

He said, however, that the program was unable to provide any substantial information that would help police. As of Tuesday, police were saying that it appears the body had only been in the water for a couple of days. No identifying information was found on the suitcase.

The SF Medical examiners office reportedly performed her autopsy Wednesday morning, at which time they ruled the case a homicide. Tomioka told the Appeal she could not release the specific cause of death at this time.

She said investigators have determined how Louis died but do not want the information released to the public yet, citing an open investigation. The Chronicle reports that Louis had previous addresses in Oakland, and “had a history of homelessness and drug addiction, police said.”

However, according to a release sent to media by SFPD, “Pearla was a loved daughter, mother and grand-mother.” SFPD says that her family will be handing out flyers on the Embarcadero at Folsom (near that bow and arrow statue) on Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 11am, in an effort to marshal public assistance in solving this crime.

SFPD is urging anyone with information on this case, she said, to call their anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444 or text them at TIP411 and “sfpd” in the “to” field.

Photo of Pearla Louis: CA DMV

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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