Police: Diamond Bar woman killed, remains may be inside plastic bags

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By Brian Day and Stephanie Baer, Staff Writers

A 77-year-old woman is presumed dead following an early-morning fire Wednesday at her Diamond Bar home, and her daughter-in-law was being questioned as a “person of interest” after she was found driving a car in Tustin believed to contain the woman’s remains, homicide detectives said.

Though investigators had yet to confirm whether the elderly woman’s body was inside the SUV, they were treating the case as a homicide.

The names of the suspected victim and her daughter-in-law were not released.

Neighbors and officials said they believed the victim lived alone, though her daughter-in-law may have previously stayed with her.

Neighbor Yolanda Delgado, who was at home during the fire, said she was awakened by firefighters working to extinguish the blaze. But she said she heard no signs of a struggle beforehand and nothing else unusual.

“It’s very sad,” said Delgado, 66.

She and her husband have lived in the area for about a year and didn’t know the woman very well, but described her as a quiet neighbor who kept to herself.

Firefighters responded just after 1 a.m. to a report of a fire at a house in the 1200 block of North Diamond Bar Boulevard, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze about 1:45 a.m. and found no one inside the home during their initial searches, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Rick Flores said.

Shortly after the fire, Tustin police received an alarming tip, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.

“Investigators received information that the resident of the location, a female adult, was possibly killed by another female, who may have also started the fire,” Navarro Suarez said. “The person suspected of committing these acts was also believed to be driving to the Tustin area.”

Tustin police found the SUV just after 6 a.m., parked on the street at Tustin Ranch Road and Greenway Drive in Tustin, investigators said. The elderly woman’s daughter-in-law was inside.

“She was cooperative,” Hernandez said of the detained woman.

Hacienda Heights legislator Bill Campbell dies at age 79

Longtime legislator Bill Campbell died this week at the age of 79. The former Hacienda Heights resident spent nearly a quarter of a century in the legislature in Sacramento.bill_campbell

The La Puente school administrator was first elected to the Assembly in 1966, eventually serving four terms. In 1972, Campbell ran for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors but lost to Pete Schabarum. The Hacienda Heights resident returned to the state Assembly in 1974.

In 1976, the ambitious politician was elected to the state Senate, where he became the first freshman since 1939 to serve on the powerful Senate Rules Committee. In 1978, his colleagues elected him as the Minority Floor Leader, a post he held through mid-1983.

Campbell spent millions running for state controller in 1986, losing to Gray Davis, who went on to become lieutenant governor, then governor. Campbell was re-elected to the state Senate in 1988.

Former colleagues described him as an affable man who was quick with a joke.

“Bill was a very nice guy, who always had a joke to tell you,” said Walnut City Councilman Bob Pacheco. “He was very smart and used his humor to cut through tough negotiations.”

The former Assemblyman said those were the days when deals were cut over dinner. Pacheco said Campbell worked closely with Democrat Willie Brown on many issues.

“Bill was someone people trusted,” Pacheco added. “When he gave you his word, he kept it.”

Jerry Haleva, Campbell’s chief of staff for 15 years, agreed, “Bill was born to solve problems … one of his great skills was being able to work closely with people from both parties, to form a consensus.”

Haleva is proud of the senator’s accomplishments.

“Bill is called the father of the sunset bills because he pushed the concept that legislation shouldn’t live forever,” Haleva said.

He said Campbell was also a champion of emergency preparedness, chairing the Joint Committee on Emergency Services.

“He promoted statewide mutual aid,” Haleva said. “When you see more than 100 fire engines from across the state fighting a major fire that is Bill’s work.”

Campbell also chaired the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a two-house committee that appoints the legislative analyst and oversees the work of the office, which monitors state revenue and expenditures.

For more, read Rich Irwin’s story CAMPBELL.

Diamond Bar teen advances to top 10 in ‘American Idol’

Adanna Duru performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIV. (Photo by Michael Becker courtesy of FOX)

Adanna Duru performs on AMERICAN IDOL XIV. (Photo by Michael Becker courtesy of FOX)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Adanna Duru has a bad cold, making it that much harder for the young Diamond Bar singer to compete on “American Idol.” But the 18-year-old isn’t giving up, making it to the Top 10 last week.

Adanna Duru, 18, of Diamond Bar (Photo courtesy of Fox)

Adanna Duru, 18, of Diamond Bar (Photo courtesy of Fox)

“I’m doing whatever I can to get better for this week’s competition,” Duru said during a break in rehearsals on Monday. “I’ll be fine.”

The Walnut High School graduate was more than fine in last Thursday’s show. In fact, she was the first to perform.

“Man, it felt great to get it out of the way. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been toward the end,” Duru recalled. “I felt really confident on stage. Then I got to sit down and relax. It was nice.”

Contestants had to pick a song from a movie, so Duru selected a favorite performed by Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls.”

“I grew up watching ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Love You I Do’ was my favorite song,” Duru explained in an online video. “So I thought this was the perfect time to sing ‘Love You I Do,’ because it’s been my jam since I was 10.”

Her performance drew some encouraging comments from the ‘Idol’ judges.

“You sound great,” said Keith Urban. “That was a really good song choice.” Harry Connick Jr. agreed, telling Duru she looked like a real star on the stage, while Jennifer Lopez chided the Diamond Bar woman for not connecting with the emotion in the song.

The 2014 Walnut High grad promised to take her performance up a notch this week, though she couldn’t divulge the song she’ll sing.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story DURU.

Diamond Bar toddler fights rare disease with experimental drug

Dr. Raymond Wang, a metabolic disorders specialist at Children's Hospital of Orange County

Dr. Raymond Wang, a metabolic disorders specialist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County

Parents will do anything for their children. But sometimes, they face staggering odds when a child becomes sick with cancer or another disease.

Galya, right, with her twin brother Ezra and father Brian Chan in their Diamond Bar Home.

Caris and Brian Chan of Diamond Bar tried to have children for 10 years. Finally, they got the wonderful news that they were expecting after a successful in vitro fertilization.

“Then the doctors noted another mass growing and discovered we were having twins,” Brian Chan recalled. “But the second baby always seemed a week behind in its development.”

Finally, the twins were born premature, a boy, Ezra, weighing 3 pounds while his sister, Galya, weighed only 2 pounds. Ezra grew hale and hearty, while Galya began ill with a unknown illness.

“She kept getting worse and worse, her liver became so enlarged that it looked like she was pregnant,” the software engineer remembered. “And Galya was yellow from severe jaundice.”

Thus began a medical mystery that took months of intensive care. Galya was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where doctors performed a liver biopsy and began genetic testing.

“I remember riding with her in three ambulances over one 24-hour period,” Chan said.

Then, the 2-year-old was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Genetic tests revealed a devastating rare condition called Niemann Pick C. The couple also learned there was no treatment for the disease.

“The diagnosis is horrible, but it’s better to know than to not know,” Chan said.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story GALYA

Armed man robs Diamond Bar gas station

An armed man robbed a gas station and got away with an undisclosed amount early Thursday morning. The robber struck at the Shell station at 3241 S. Brea Canyon Road at 4:14 a.m.

Lt. John Saleeby of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station said the suspect demanded money from the clerk who handed over the cash. The robber was last seen running northbound.

He didn’t know what weapon the robber used.

The suspect was described as a Latino, 20 to 25, 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing between 150 to 180 pounds. He wore a black hat, black pants and a black-and-gray jacket.

 

Driver gets 7 years in prison for DUI crash that injured Diamond Bar man

A Pomona Superior Court judge sentenced a Compton man to seven years in prison Friday for drunken driving which seriously injured a Diamond Bar man in a crash last year in the city.

Authorities said 18-year-old Steven Kim suffered internal injuries, broken bones, injuries to his spinal cord and brain. He is in a long-term care facility, according to Deputy District Attorney Lauren Guber.

Pierr Gonzalez-Garcia,22, didn’t make a plea deal with the prosecution.

Instead he threw himself on the mercy of the court and pleaded no contest Feb.  20 to a felony count of driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol level causing injury.

Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman with the District Attorney’s Office, said Gonzalez-Garcia also admitted to the allegations that he personally inflicted great bodily injury causing the victim to become comatose, that he was speeding and that the concentration of his blood alcohol was 0.15 percent by weight and more.

The court ordered him to pay restitution. The amount hasn’t been determined.

“We don’t have a number yet. The treatment is still ongoing,” Guber said.

Gonzalez-Garcia’s attorney, couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.

The case stems from a collision on Pathfinder Road in Rowland Heights on Aug.  1, 2014.

Guber said Gonzalez-Garcia had a blood alcohol level that night of 0.21  percent and was driving his mother’s Nissan Pathfinder.

He allegedly told the California Highway Patrol he bought marijuana from someone at a corner, purchased vodka and a Monster energy drink at a liquor store in Long Beach and was on his way to a club in Hollywood, according to the prosecution. He was drinking the vodka and the energy drink, Guber said.

Kim left a church that night in a Toyota Scion. Guber said from Alexdale Lane, Kim made a left turn to Pathfinder Road.

The Scion had almost completed the turn when the speeding Nissan crashed into it.

Gonzalez-Garcia suffered a broken clavicle in the collision, Guber said. The two injured men were taken to a hospital.

Gonzalez-Garcia was later arrested.

The California Highway Patrol investigated the crash.

Heat wave eases its grip on the San Gabriel Valley

Giovanni Rodriguez and his sister Penelope, play in spray  at Morgan Park in Baldwin Park

Giovanni Rodriguez and his sister Penelope, play in spray at Morgan Park in Baldwin Park

Southland residents can breathe a sigh of relief as record high temperatures plummet nearly 20 degrees by Wednesday.

A cold front will roll through the Los Angeles basin, bringing cloudy skies and patchy fog overnight.

“The Santa Ana event ended on Sunday, returning us slowly to highs in the 70s,” reported National Weather Service Meteorologist Kathy Hoxsie in Oxnard. “There will even be a slight chance of precipitation on Wednesday, with a 20 percent chance of a few sprinkles in the mountains.”

Weather stations in Santa Fe Springs and La Puente reported a high of 94 on Sunday and temperatures dipped only a couple degrees on Monday before dropping another 10 degrees today, with an expected high of 80. By Wednesday afternoon, SoCal should register a very comfortable 73 degrees.

A similar trend will sooth Pasadena residents, who experienced a high of 90 Monday. That will be followed by 80 today and 73 on Wednesday.

While no records were broken in the San Gabriel Valley/Whittier area over the weekend, Sunday saw a number of them fall throughout Southern California. The National Weather Service recorded a high of 92 in downtown Los Angeles, crushing the record of 85 set in 1978.

“Burbank also set a record at Bob Hope Airport at 90 degrees, breaking the 86 mark set in 1994,” Hoxsie said.

Los Angeles International Airport reported a new high of 88, breaking the 1959 record of 83.

A record high of 89 degrees was set at UCLA Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, surpassing the previous high of 87, set in 2010.

The NWS forecast calls for a much more pleasant weekend ahead, with highs around 75 under mostly sunny skies. Overnight lows will hover near 57 under partly cloudy skies.

Hoxsie said the marine layer should return, cooling coastal areas that have baked in the record heat. It was 92 at Long Beach Airport on Sunday, breaking the record of 86 from 1978. Highs in Long Beach will drop from 82 on Monday to 66 on Wednesday.

Mt SAC artist presents show in the art gallery in Walnut

The Mt. San Antonio College Art Gallery will feature the work of Mt. SAC professor and ceramic artist Susie Rubenstein in its “Landmarks: Memories of Places” exhibit, which runs March 19 through April 16, at the Art Gallery. This exhibit is free and open to the public.   

“Landmarks: Memories of Places” is a collection of Rubenstein’s work, consisting of ceramics, textiles, and charcoal drawings with a ceramic vessel oriented focus. Her work has been noted for its “renewed expression of the ethereal experience” and her “constant re-examination of line, of form and of their execution.” 

A special opening reception will be held Thursday, March 19, 4 to 6 p.m., in the Art Gallery, building 1B. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday nights, 5 to 7:30 p.m. 

For more information, call the Art Gallery at (909) 274-4328. 

$1 million Rosemead Powerball winner has until 5 pm today to claim prize

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

The winner of a Powerball drawing who purchased the winning ticket in September at the Rosemead Supermarket has until 5 p.m. Thursday to claim a $1 million prize, California Lottery officials said.

Lottery officials have released store surveillance footage of the winner in hopes of tracking him down before the 180-day deadline to collect the prize.

The ticket, purchased at the market, 8815 E. Valley Blvd., matched five numbers on the Sept. 13, 2014, Powerball drawing, officials said. The ticket bore the numbers 37, 6, 1, 53, and 16, missing only the Powerball number of 27. It won $1,098,624.

If the winner does not claim the prize by the deadline, “every penny of the unclaimed prize money is transferred to California public schools,” Lottery officials said in a written statement.

The Rosemead Supermarket received a bonus of $5,493, which amounts to one-half of one-percent of the prize, for selling the winning ticket, Lottery officials said.

The winner is advised to sign the back of the ticket in ink and keep it in a safe place and visit a local Lottery District Office as quickly as possible.

 

LASD curbs deputy in-car computer use after tragedy

CHP officer Leland Tang shows how the CHP uses heads up technology to help officers keep their eyes on the road at all times.

CHP officer Leland Tang shows how the CHP uses heads up technology to help officers keep their eyes on the road at all times.

By Brenda Gazzar, Staff Writer

In an effort to reduce distracted driving, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials have implemented a new policy that significantly curbs the use of in-car computers, authorities said.

The policy, which was formalized late last month, contains the department’s first explicit restrictions on such devices and comes a little more than a year after sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood fatally struck cyclist Milton Olin Jr. on Mulholland Highway in Calabasas while typing on his in-car computer.

While stopping short of banning all in-car computer use, the new policy of the country’s largest sheriff’s agency requires that radios be used as “the primary tool of communication” while vehicles are moving and eliminates the use of in-car computers for administrative tasks.

“The significance is to reduce the danger to the public, predominantly, and the danger to our own deputies that are posed by distracted driving and distracting devices,” said Sgt. Albert Schauberger, corrective actions sergeant at the department’s risk management bureau.

Employees cannot use their computer while driving a county vehicle unless the communication is urgent or necessary for officer safety and radio traffic prevents its timely transmission or unless it’s to hit one button to send status updates such as “en-route” or “acknowledge,” according to the new policy.

The in-car computer should be used as a last resort, such as when a deputy is facing an emergency and there’s another serious incident already being broadcast on the radio channel, and not out of convenience since it’s more distracting than a radio, Schauberger said.

“If there’s no other means to communicate and in case of emergency, then (the in-car computer) should be used because it’s all you have left,” he said.

In addition, personnel cannot use their mobile digital computers for administrative tasks, such as clearing calls, updating logs, typing, sending or reading administrative or nonurgent messages while driving, the policy states.

However, a union leader argues that the new policy leaves deputies who are trying to carry out their duties unduly vulnerable to discipline.

Read more in Brenda Gazzar’s story DISTRACTED.