Testimony ends in Dead Presidents death penalty phase

Testimony in the death penalty phase of the so-called “Dead Presidents” trial ended Wednesday in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court sources.
Jurors have been listening to witnesses testify in the penalty phase to decide whether the two defendants – Luis Alonzo Mendoza and Lorenzo Inez Arias – should receive the death penalty or be sentenced to a life in state prison without parole.
Witnesses who testified in this phase have included family members of the victims and defendants, friends and experts. Jurors also heard details about the defendants’ criminal history, personal background and family life while growing up.
Closing arguments from the lawyers are expected next week, and then the case will go to the jury for a second time.
Jurors already convicted Mendoza and Arias earlier this month for their roles in a quadruple homicide on West Vine Street in July 2000.
Authorities say Mendoza, 32, and Arias, 29, were part of a four-man crew that targeted street gang president Johnny Agudo because he had given information to police about another gang member.
Also killed were Agudo’s 27-year-old brother, Gilbert Agudo; Anthony Daniel Luna, 23; and Luna’s half-brother, Marselino Gregory Luna, 19.
Deputy District Attorney Cheryl Kersey has told jurors Mendoza was motivated by his desire to lead the gang, to eliminate an informant, to protect his own neighborhood and to increase his reputation.
Because the Agudo brothers were presidents of two local street gangs, some in law-enforcement circles have dubbed the case “Dead Presidents.”
Another defendant in the case, John Adrian Ramirez, 34, recently took a plea bargain. A fourth man, Froylan Chiprez, 33, remains a fugitive.

Urias to have prelim Thursday in three killings

The city has its share of prolific gang members.
But another one, who police suspect in three murders on the city’s Westside, is about to be in the spotlight Thursday when he has a preliminary hearing in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Lawyers in the case of Bryant Jesus Urias, 23, announced they were ready for the hearing Tuesday before Judge Michael Dest.
At the preliminary hearing, prosecutors will present some of the evidence against Urias, and a judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold over the defendant for trial.
Prosecutors charged Urias with the deaths of:

  • Eric Selvan, 31, of San Bernardino. He was shot in the head Jan. 22, 2006 inside a detached garage at his home in the 1100 block of West Mill Street. Selvan died two days later, after being taken off life support.
  • Yobani Ramirez-Mendez, 16, of San Bernardino. Ramirez-Mendez was shot and killed Oct. 13, 2005 outside a house in the 1100 block of West Congress Street. Two brothers standing with Ramirez-Mendez were also struck by gunfire but survived.
  • Antoine Jerome Lee, 36, of Highland. He was shot and killed Feb. 2, 2006 while getting into a car with his friend in the the 1000 block of West Belleview Street, near K Street.

All the shootings occurred within 1-square-mile with a boundary of Mount Vernon Avenue, K Street, Mill Street and Rialto Avenue.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Victor Stull, who originally reviewed the case, described the slayings as “totally senseless,” in an earlier interview.
Urias is charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder as well as special allegations. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on all charges.

Aleman appears in court with lawyer Grover Porter

The big news today in San Bernardino Superior Court was the appearance by former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman who was arraignment on six felony counts that he destroyed evidence and altered official documents.
Aleman had on a really nice gray suit and was accompanied in court by his fiancee Kelly Kuntz. The pair looked really out of place in a courtroom amongst all the working-class folks and defendants.
Aleman has hired a “big gun” to defend him, lawyer Grover Porter. This lawyer has defended a former Adelanto mayor and his wife in an embezzlement case and a former Colton city councilman in a case involving misuing public funds for sex telephone calls and unauthorized hotel stays.
Porter is also currently defending Danial Tidwell, the son of former Sheriff Floyd Tidwell, in a case stemming from the county’s bail bond investigation.
If there’s anyone who knows how to handle high-profile cases, it’s Porter. The man emanates expertise and charm the moment he walks into the courtroom.
We’ll be following the case extensively as it moves through the courts. So feel free to pass along any comments or tips.
Here’s just a glimpse of Thursday’s story today. See the rest of the story in The Sun and on our web site. Enjoy.

By Mike Cruz
Staff Writer
SAN BERNARDINO — Sharply dressed in a gray suit, former Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman stood out amongst the working-class families in the courtroom where his arraignment was held Wednesday.
Aleman, sitting next to his fiancee, rose from a wooden fold-up seat at the back of the courtroom when Judge John Martin called the case in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Within minutes, Aleman and his lawyer, Grover Porter, entered not guilty pleas on all charges and allegations and set Sept. 30 as the next court date for a case status hearing.

Crosby found guilty in brother’s death

A man who let himself into his younger brother’s apartment and shot him last July in San Bernardino will be sentenced next month after a jury found him guilty of murder.
Louis Jefferson Crosby is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 21 in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court records.
Jurors announced the verdict Thursday afternoon.
Avery John Crosby, 26, was sitting in his front room at 11:22 p.m. on July 11, 2007 when his brother stormed in, aimed a gun and fired.
Police responded to the Sunset Ridge apartments at 1700 E. Date Street and found Crosby bleeding inside. He was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he later died.
The attack was the result of a family dispute that had gone on all day, according to police.
Avery Crosby, whom police said was a Los Angeles gang member on parole, lived with his girlfriend and child in the apartment.
Louis Crosby, 37, was arrested at 7:15 p.m. the next day at a Los Angeles home by the Inland Regional Apprehension Team, a group of local and federal law enforcement personnel who track down dangerous fugitives.

Lanteigne plea withdrawal postponed; Mynisha case update

The court postponed a hearing Friday to address a possible motion by Christopher Richard Lanteigne to withdraw from a three-defendant plea bargain that spared his life.
Lanteigne will return Sept. 19 to San Bernardino Superior Court, where the motion will be addressed. If the court rejects Lanteigne’s attempt to withdraw, then he is likely to be sentenced on that day, explained Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope.
The triple-homicide defendant is seeking to withdraw his first-degree murder plea entered under an agreement that would send him to prison for life. Instead, he wants to go to trial.
If Lanteigne is allowed to withdraw, he could face the death penalty once again, prosecutors said.
The plea bargain was a package deal for Lanteigne and two other defendants in the case, Christopher Weaver and Camille Marie Vredenburg. Lanteigne’s desire to leave the package could affect the outcome for the other two defendants.
Lanteigne is accused of murdering Clayton McCobb, 44, of Ramona; Scott Fisher, 42, of San Bernardino; and Kareem Mohammad Radwan, 26, of Loma Linda in 2004.

In a separate case, defendants Sinque Morrison and Michael Barnett Jr. will return to court on Aug. 8 in the Mynisha Crenshaw gang slaying.
Morrison and Barnett are last remaining defendants – from a total of 12 defendants – whose cases have not been resolved in the Mynisha case. Both men appeared Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Prosecutors have said they are ready to go back to trial for the pair, but at least one of the defense lawyers has sought more time.
Morrison and Barnett are suspected to be part of a group of armed men who fired weapons into a San Bernardino apartment in 2005 while hunting down rival street gang members.
Inside the apartment, Mynisha and her family were having dinner. Mynish was struck once in the chest and died, while her older sister was seriously wounded.
Two other defendants, Harold Phillips and Sidkiba Greenwood, were sentenced July 11 for their roles in the slaying.
Phillips received 94 years and four months to life in prison after being convicted of four charges, including second- degree murder. Greenwood, whom prostecutors said planned the shooting, received 109 years to life for five charges, including first-degree murder.

Prelim set for Monroe in officer-involved shooting

Prosecutors are reporting that a preliminary hearing for Monica Monroe was scheduled for Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Whether that date holds, and the hearing occurs without getting postponed, remains to be seen. In some cases, last-minute objections or motions from lawyers can continue the hearing to another date.
But the schedule was set today when Monroe appeared in court.
This preliminary hearing should be interesting because Monroe is represented by Woodland Hills-based lawyer Dale K. Galipo, who is also representing other folks who have been shot by police officers.
At a preliminary hearing, a judge will listen to evidence and testimony supporting the charges and then determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold over the defendant for trial.
Monroe was charged with one count of assault on a peace officer, after San Bernardino Police say she raised a weightlifting bar at them when they were flagged down to assist with a domestic dispute on May 19 at her home.

Suspected killer of Beaumont boy nearing DP hearing in Idaho

Convicted child-killer Joseph Edward Duncan III is back in the news again.
Duncan is nearing a death-penalty hearing in Boise, after he pleaded guilty in December in the kidnapping and torture of two Idaho kids in 2005, one of whom died.
But most locals are going to remember Duncan as the suspect in the kidnapping and death of 10-year-old Anthony Ramirez, of Beaumont. Riverside County prosecutors are patiently waiting for Duncan’s return, so they proceed in their own capital case.
Here’s the latest update, with some help from the Associated Press, that ran on The Sun’s web site:

By Mike Cruz
Article Launched: 07/24/2008 03:25:39 PM PDT

A federal judge in Boise says convicted child-killer Joseph Edward Duncan III is mentally competent to face a death penalty hearing for the 2005 torture of two Idaho children, one of whom died.
Duncan also still faces charges in Riverside County, in a separate case, in the death of 10-year-old Anthony Martinez, who was snatched from outside his Beaumont home in 1997.
Anthony’s nude and battered body was found nearly a decade later in rural Indio.
In Boise, Duncan faces the death penalty on three of 10 federal charges related to the 2005 kidnappings of young Dylan and Shasta Groene of Coeur d’Alene and the slaying of Dylan.
The defendant has asked U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge to allow him to represent himself. A hearing on whether that should be allowed is set for Monday.
Duncan pleaded guilty in that case in December and in state court to murdering three other members of the children’s family.
The children were kidnapped, sexually abused and tortured for weeks in the remote Montana wilderness. Dylan was killed; Shasta was found with Duncan when he was captured.
Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco has called his office’s case against Duncan “very compelling and overwhelming.” He also plans to seek the death penalty.
Authorities say Anthony was taken on April 4, 1997, while he played outside his Beaumont apartment. A ranger found his body two weeks later beneath a pile of rocks in a remote area north of Indio.
Duncan did not become a suspect in Anthony’s death until his 2005 arrest in Idaho, when he mentioned the boy’s name.
A partial thumbprint found on duct tape used on Anthony matched Duncan, a 44-year-old drifter with a history of sex offenses dating back to when he was 17-years-old.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Colton man sentenced in shooting of niece

A Colton man was sentenced to five years probation and a year in jail for accidently discharging a gun that killed his 12-year-old niece.
Judge Bryan F. Foster sentenced Oswaldo Nunez under the terms of a plea bargain at a hearing Wednesday in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Court records indicate Nunez will serve 364 days in county jail as a straight sentence, with credit for 116 days he has already served.
As part of the plea bargain, Nunez pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on June 24.
Under the terms of his probation, Nunez is not allowed to possess or have under his control any dangerous or deadly weapons, according to court records.
Nunez, 36, told Colton Police he was cleaning a gun in his home when it accidently discharged on March 29. A bullet tore through a wall and killed Julia Flores as she watched television.
Nunez’s girlfriend and several children were in the house, in the 900 block of Sperry Drive, when the gun was fired. No one else was injured.
Julia, of Bellflower, was visiting the family for the weekend. She died at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Court upholds coffee cup DNA ruling

Here’s an interesting story about a case outside the Inland Empire.
A cup left on a coffee shop table helped some savvy detectives solve a decades-old Los Angeles murder case. But the defendant appealed the conviction, citing an expectation of privacy.
However, the Associated Press reported today that a state appeals court upheld the verdicts.

Court upholds LA conviction on DNA from coffee cup

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court has upheld the conviction of a man who was found guilty of a murder based on DNA evidence collected from a plastic foam coffee cup 30 years after the murder took place.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals’ decision in the Los Angeles murder case was published Wednesday.
In 2006, Adolph Laudenberg was convicted of the 1972 strangling death of Lois Petrie, based on DNA evidence that detectives collected from the coffee cup more than 30 years later.
The court found that Laudenberg left the cup on a table in a coffee shop and therefore did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Jurors in shovel-beating case may be struggling

Jurors in the murder trial for three men charged with beating 22-year-old Jerry Ramirez with a shovel in 2005 were still deliberating for verdicts Wednesday, but court records signaled their possible trouble.
On Monday, Judge Bryan F. Foster and the lawyers in the case talked with the jurors after they advised the court shortly after 4 p.m. that they were deadlocked.
“Court finds the jurors are deadlocked and sends them back for further deliberation,” according to San Bernardino Superior Court records.
The records also state that two of the jurors were “visibily upset.” A juror also sent the court a note requesting to speak to the court about another juror.
No further information was available. Deputy District Attorney Karen Khim, who is prosecuting the case, did not return a phone call for comment.
Court officials confirmed jurors were still deliberating for verdicts just before 4 p.m. Wednesday in the trial for Edward Hernandez, his brother Benjamin Hernandez and Alfred Rodriguez.
Authorities have focused on a dispute over Ramirez’s intimate relationship with the then-15-year-old daughter of Benjamin Hernandez. Defense lawyers have denied their client’s alleged roles.
Ramirez was taken to a carport at an East Pumalo Street residence and beaten multiple times with a shovel about noon on Nov. 18, 2005, according to San Bernardino County prosecutors.
Still alive after the beating, Ramirez was rolled up in blankets, put into the trunk of a car and taken from the home. His body was found dumped in Waterman Canyon with several gunshot wounds to the head two days later.
The defendants were charged with murder and conspiracy.
A fourth defendant in the case, Edward Vincent Hernandez, is awaiting a separate trial and returns to court on July 31.