Rowland Heights man sentenced to more than 40 years in state prison

By Stephanie Baer, Staff Writer

A 27-year-old Rowland Heights man was sentenced Tuesday to more than 40 years in state prison after breaking into a woman’s apartment and raping her, officials said.

Pablo Reyes Bautista pleaded no contest to six counts, including forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object and false imprisonment, and admitted he committed a kidnapping and great bodily injury during the sex offense, the District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

He was sentenced to 41 years and 8 months in state prison and ordered to register as a lifetime sex offender, the office said.

The charges stemmed from the Oct. 27, 2012 rape of a 29-year-old woman in an apartment in the 1500 block of Jellick Avenue in Rowland Heights. Sheriff’s detectives said the woman was awakened around 6 a.m. by a Hispanic man who beat and raped her.

Following the attack, sheriff’s officials investigated and eventually linked DNA from the case to that of a man arrested on an unrelated attempted murder.

The man turned out to be Bautista’s twin brother. Investigators interviewed him, ruled him out as a suspect and zoomed in on Bautista. He was arrested in January 2014.

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.

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.

Feds target 3 alleged Chinese ‘maternity tourism’ in Rowland, Walnut

Federal agents search apartments

Federal agents search apartments

By Kevin Smith, Staff Writer

Federal agents searched several Southern California locations on Tuesday in a crackdown on so-called maternity tourism operators who arrange for pregnant Chinese women to give birth in the U.S., where their babies automatically become American citizens.

The crackdown on three alleged maternity tourism rings may be the biggest yet by federal homeland security agents who say that, while pregnant women may travel to the United States, they cannot lie about the purpose of their trip when applying for a visa.

Birth tourism has been reported from a range of countries, but authorities say the most recent cases in California have catered to wealthy Chinese amid a boom in tourism from mainland China. It is unclear how many women travel to the United States for maternity tourism.

Searches were done in Rancho Cucamonga, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Irvine.

About two dozen investigators from the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service criminal division, the Irvine Police Department and sheriff’s deputies from San Bernardino County blanketed the west end of the neatly landscaped apartment complex, located at 17800 E. Colima Road in Rowland Heights.

Some brought out boxes of papers and other evidence and locked them in black, unmarked vans. Others, mostly women, stood inside doorways of the apartments talking on their cell phones.

Asian women investigators were seen interviewing women in the complex. Some who apparently lived there were chaperoned by law enforcement from the carport up the winding pathways, disappearing into apartments.

Read more in Kevin Smith’s story MATERNITY

Car hits Rowland Heights garage

A car slammed into a garage in Rowland Heights  on Thursday and broke a gas line, and the driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The crash at 17950 Sunrise Drive was reported at 2:23 a.m., CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos said.

“The vehicle cut off the gas inlets when it crashed into the garage,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Kyle Sanford said. “We went to the scene, notified the gas company and they sent a repair crew that shut off the gas.”

The man driving the car was tested at the scene and taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, Villalobos said.

No injuries were reported, Villalobos said. The investigation is continuing, he said.

Man accused of Rowland, Hacienda Heights arson

By Brian Day, Staff Writer

A man is accused of lighting a series of seven fires inside the restrooms of open businesses in an unusually brazen arson spree in recent weeks in Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and Walnut, authorities said.

Deputies arrested David Lin, 42, Tuesday, Sgt. John Hanson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said. He had been sought in connection with a string of fires that began in December, the sergeant said. Three of the alleged fires occurred Tuesday alone.

Though the fires remained confined to the restrooms they were lit in, the suspect’s reckless and bold behavior was deeply concerning, arsonist profiler Detective Ed Nordskog of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said.

“For somebody to go into an open business during business hours and light a fire, it’s really rare, even for serial arsonists,” Nordskog said. “What he does is so high-risk. He’s a rare breed. That makes him dangerous.”

No injuries were reported in the fires, Hanson said.

Detectives first became aware of an arsonist operating in the area when they were called to investigate a fire lit Jan. 29 in the bathroom of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, 515 S. Grand Ave. in Walnut, Hanson said. Someone set fire to paper items such as toilet paper and toilet seat covers, inside the bathroom.

The following day, another similar fire erupted in a bathroom at Office Depot, 17450 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, Hanson said. The flames caused at least $2,000 in damage before fire sprinklers and firefighters extinguished it.

Detectives learned that another similar fire had taken place in December at the Rolling Wok restaurant, 18382 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, as well as at the Guppy House restaurant, 17188 Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, on Jan. 27, the sergeant said.

A break in the case Tuesday, as the suspect accelerated his arson spree, Hanson said. Three similar bathroom fires were reported Tuesday at McDonalds, 19775 Colima Road in Rowland Heights; Del Taco, 21060 Golden Springs Drive in Rowland Heights; and finally at Ten Ren’s Tea Time, 515 S. Grand Ave. in Rowland Heights.

But as the fires were igniting Tuesday, detectives managed to identify a suspect through surveillance images, witness statements and booking photos from previous arrests. A bulletin was sent out to patrol deputies, who spotted Lin driving Tuesday afternoon.

Lin led deputies on a brief chase before pulling over and surrendering in the parking lot of a Rowland Heights supermarket, Hanson said. During the pursuit, he allegedly threw methamphetamine from the car.

He was booked on suspicion of one count of arson for the tea house fire, felony evading of police and drug possession, Hanson said. Addition charges for the other six arson fires were expected to come later.

Lin, described as a former West Covina resident who has been living out of his car in recent months, was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, records show. But Lin’s bail is likely to increase as additional charges are added later.

Rowland Unified wants local reserve cap repealed

The Rowland Unified School Board wants the state legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to repeal the local reserves cap, saying SB 858 could force the 1,000 districts in the state to spend their $5 billion to $14 billion in reserves and that schools can’t survive another downturn without these savings.

“Personal finance experts recommend having enough cash in savings to cover six months of living expenses for a rainy day,” said Josephine Lucy, president of the California School Board Association. “Under the reserve cap, most districts will not even be able to cover one full week’s worth of payroll when cash flow is stressed,”

When voters approved Prop. 2, the Rainy Day Fund, it was tied to SB 858, which limits school reserves to two times the minimum allowed for economic uncertainties. Rowland officials say 3 percent is their minimum, but it currently maintains a reserve of $15 million — about 10 percent of its $155 million unrestricted budget.

“This really ties ours hands. It’s a significant reduction in our reserves, and it would only take another recession or emergency to get us into trouble,” said board member Heidi Gallegos. “How would we make our payroll or pay for the lights and water in our schools?”

Lucy said school districts will have to spend the money they saved for school repairs, as well as retiree and employee benefits.

Rowland officials note it could take many years for California to build up the Public School System Stabilization Account.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story RESERVES.

Rowland Unified opens new Family Resource Center

The Family Resource Center staff used to warn visitors about holes in the floor of its old building in La Puente. Today, both the holes and the old center are gone and Rowland Unified is ready to open a new $800,000 building.

The dental clinic has certainly come a long way since opening in an old World War II Army trailer. “We don’t miss the old World War II dental chairs,” said Coordinator Jennifer Kottke.

Kottke showed off the new family center opening next Wednesday. Residents are invited to the opening from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. at 17800 E. Renault St., next to Northam Elementary School.

In March, the school district broke ground for the 3,200-square-foot building. The prefabricated building was delivered in sections, then a crane assembled the center.

• VIDEO: Coordinator Jennifer Kottke — We’ll be able to take better care of families

• VIDEO: The dental clinic has one new chair and hopes to get another

• VIDEO: Nurse practitioner Llona Mearig says staff is thrilled with new facility

Staff members have dreamed about getting a new building for 35 years. Kottke and Nurse Practitioner Llona Mearig worked tirelessly to obtain federal and state grants totalling more than $750,000.

For more detail, read Rich Irwin’s story RESOURCE

workers rupture gas line near Rowland Heights

Construction workers today ruptured a deep high- pressure gas line in unincorporated Otterbein just north of Rowland Heights, authorities said.

The breach of the 1-inch line near the intersection of South Nogales Street and Walnut Drive occurred around 2:50 a.m., said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Kyle Sandford.

The main was buried about 12-15 feet deep, and an urban search and rescue team was dispatched to shore up the excavation before an attempt was made to repair the line, Sanford said.

No evacuations from the area were reported, he said.

Rowland Heights man hurt in home-invasion robbery

Three masked robbers forced their way into a home in Rowland Heights and pepper sprayed one of two brothers inside before fleeing with valuables late Friday, authorities said.

The three robbers smashed a rear sliding-glass door about 7:40 p.m. to get into the home in the 17800 block of Calle Barcelona, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Tousey said.

The home-invasion robbers encountered a 21-year-old man and his teenage brother, who were upstairs when the intruders broke in, the sergeant said.

A robber pepper-sprayed one of the brothers before the three bandits fled with cash, jewelry and an iPhone, Tousey said. No other injuries were reported.

A detailed description of the robbers was not available, Tousey said. All three wore ski-masks during the crime.

Tousey said the robbers were last seen running from the home. It was unclear if a getaway car was involved.

Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station at 909-595-2264.