Additional molestation charges filed against Ontario man

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Prosecutors have filed five additional felony charges against an Ontario man accused of molesting at least a half-dozen young girls, with the most distant case dating back to 1995.

Jack Edward Andrews, 57, could be face a life prison sentence if convicted of the counts filed in today’s amended complaint.

Read the complaint:

FirstAmendedComplaint31July09.pdf

Andrews, who was initially charged in June with three counts of lewd acts on a child, is set to be arraigned on the five new counts when he appears in West Valley Superior Court on Wednesday.

He remains jailed at Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center in Devore in lieu of $75,000 bail.

When he was arrested in June, Andrews confessed to molesting seven girls over a 12-year period, according to a police report attached to his court file.

The initial three counts were filed based on the corroborating statements of two of the girls, friends of Andrews’ young daughter who Andrews allegedly molested when they visited his home.

After Andrews’ confession, police said they planned to contact Andrews’ previous alleged victims to obtain corroborating statements from them.

Andrews worked as a painter for the Chino Valley Unified School District before his arrest.

Click here to read the initial story on Andrews’ case.

Family members of Chino shootout victim file wrongful death claims against city

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CHINO — Family members of an innocent bystander who was shot and killed by a Chino police officer during a February shootout have filed wrongful death claims against the city.

The six claims — filed June 25 on behalf of the estate of Daniel Balandran, his parents, his girlfriend and his two children — seek unspecified damages from the city.

The claims allege that Chino police Cpl. Claudia Lisner mistakenly believed that Balandran, 23, was involved in a robbery and subsequent shootout with police at a Papa John’s restaurant on Feb. 1.

Balandran was holding an object Lisner said she couldn’t identify as he ran away from the scene of the shootout. When Balandran lifted the object, she shot him, according to police reports.

Balandran was holding food from a McDonald’s restaurant adjacent to the Central Avenue pizzeria.

After officers learned Balandran was not involved in the robbery, they failed to promptly summon medical assistance for the Rubidoux man, the claims allege.

Officers “handcuffed decedent, (and) left him to die on the pavement without medical aid,” the claims state.

The claims allege that Lisner “was unfit for her duties” at the time of the incident, and later falsified police reports in an effort to cover up her actions.

Lisner remains on paid leave, said Chino spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden.

Here are some pdf documents related to the case:

Settlement offer:

031909SettlementDemandLetter.pdf

Claim one:

ClaimAgainsttheCityEstateofDanielBalandran.pdf

Claim two:

ClaimAgainstTheCityIreneBalandranMom.pdf

Claim three:

ClaimAgainstTheCityIsmaelBalandranDad.pdf

Claim four:

ClaimAgainstTheCityJAraceliMillanGirlfriend.pdf

Claim five:

ClaimAgainstTheCityLizzetVanessaBalandranDaughter.pdf

Claim six:

ClaimAgainstTheCityManuelNismoBalandranSon.pdf

Chino’s city attorney, Jimmy Gutierrez, said in an interview this morning that he doesn’t believe the city is liable for Balandran’s death.

Gutierrez blamed the two alleged robbers for the killing of the bystander.

“That’s the focus — those two people that came into town intent on committing the crime and ready to use deadly force, which they did use,” Gutierrez said. “That’s what the whole circumstance is all about.”

The two alleged robbers — Edward Ramon Cisneros and Joel Anthony Jaquez — remain jailed and face murder and other charges for their alleged roles in the shootout.

The city has 45 days to respond to the family member’s claims after it receives them. If the city denies the claims, or lets the 45 days pass without response, then Balandran’s family can file lawsuits against the city in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Gutierrez said the city will likely let the 45 days pass without response.

On March 19, the family’s attorney, Mark Algorri, asked for $19.5 million from the city to settle the claims.

Gutierrez called the figure “excessive.”

“We’re always willing to talk settlement, but when one party is unreasonable there can’t be any settlement,” Gutierrez said.

If the city settles the case, or is on the losing end of a judgement in the case, it will be forced to pay only the first $500,000 of any judgement, said Mayor Dennis Yates.

Any amount in excess of $500,000 will be paid by the city’s insurer, AIG, Yates said.


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Police: Suspect in Pomona stabbing mistakenly believed victim had relationship with her boyfriend

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POMONA — Robin Ridgeway sat among a small group of patients and a counselor during an outdoor afternoon meeting at the Hamilton Villa mental health facility last week.

Nicole Ann Stewart approached the group armed with a knife, and without speaking she stabbed Ridgeway, 49, in the upper torso, killing her, said Pomona police Sgt. Matt Stone.

“(Stewart) apparently thought there was some type of relationship between the victim and (Stewart’s) boyfriend, which was not true,” Stone said in an interview this morning. “(Police) ended up interviewing witnesses, and there was no relationship.”

What remains unclear, Stone said, is how Stewart, 33, obtained the knife, which was described by witnesses of the July 23 incident as a kitchen-style knife.

“Staff members said that the knife did not look familiar,” Stone said.

Residents of the mental health facility are able to leave the facility, Stone said. The sergeant said he was unsure how the outings are supervised

Management at Hamilton Villa, located at 948 S. Hamilton Blvd. in Pomona, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Stewart has been charged with murder, and remained jailed this afternoon in lieu of $1 million bail. She is next due in Pomona Superior Court Aug. 12 for an arraignment hearing.

Stone said police have no information indicating that Stewart and Ridgeway argued in the past over Stewart’s boyfriend, a resident of Hamilton Villa, or had any type of discussion about him.

Ridgeway had lived at the facility for several years, Stone said, while Stewart was a relatively new arrival.

“(Ridgeway’s) family members are really distraught, and they really don’t want any contact,” Stone said.


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Murder charges filed in Friday shooting death near Montclair Stater Bros.

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Prosecutors have filed murder and other charges against an alleged gang member accused of shooting and killing an Ontario man outside a grocery store in Montclair last week.

Jose Ramon Lopez, 25, is accused of shooting and killing 38-year-old George Salsgiver in front of a Stater Bros. store at about 9:30 p.m. Friday.

The motive for the killing remains unknown, and authorities have no information indicating that Lopez and Salsgiver knew each other, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough, who is prosecuting the case.

Lopez’s girlfriend, 19-year-old Christina Marie Pena, has also been charged as an accessory because police believed she lied to them in an attempt to craft an alibi for Lopez.

Witnesses told police that a man later identified as Lopez parked his car in the Stater Bros. parking lot at Central Avenue and Palo Verde Street. He walked toward Salsgiver with a handgun, then fired several shots at close range.

Several shoppers witnessed the shooting, and one person jotted down the first six digits of Lopez’s license place number, according to a police report attached to Lopez’s court file.

Police were able to identify Lopez, a parolee and alleged member of the Onterio Varrio Sur street gang, as the alleged shooter based on the partial license plate number, according to the police report.

Lopez and Pena, both of Montclair, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges Tuesday in West Valley Superior Court. Both are due back in court Monday.

Lopez’s bail was set at $1 million, and Pena — who is four months pregnant — had her bail set at $500,000. Both remained in custody today at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

If convicted of the charges filed against them, Lopez could face more than 50 years to life in state prison, and Pena could face up to three years in state prison, Colclough said.

Witnesses told police they saw Salsgiver cursing at someone during multiple cell phone calls Friday, both in the parking lot prior to the shooting and in a nearby bar earlier in the day, according to the police report.

It’s unclear if the profane phone conversations were related to Salsgiver’s eventual death.

Police recovered the possible murder weapon after serving Lopez’s home with a search warrant, and several witnesses identified him as the shooter in a photo line-up, according to the police report.

Lopez refused an interview with police after his arrest, according to the report.

Murder charges filed in stabbing death at Pomona mental health facility

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POMONA — Prosecutors have filed murder charges against a resident of a mental health facility accused of stabbing another resident to death with a kitchen knife last week.

Nicole Ann Stewart, 33, allegedly killed Robin Ridgeway, 49, on Thursday after the Hamilton Villa residents argued over a man in whom both were romantically interested, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors filed murder charges against Stewart on Monday, and she was in custody Monday when she appeared in Pomona Superior Court for an arraignment hearing.

Stewart did not enter a plea during the hearing, which was postponed to Aug. 12. Bail was set for Stewart at $1 million.

Following an argument between the two women Thursday afternoon, Stewart retrieved a large kitchen knife and stabbed Ridgeway in the chest, according to authorities.

Ridgeway died after she was taken to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

Police said Stewart was arrested as she tried to leave the facility, located at 948 S. Hamilton Blvd.

The knife Stewart allegedly used in the incident was recovered at the scene, police said.


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Man opts for plea bargain as murder trial is set to begin

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Pictured is Raymond Gutierrez and his girlfriend, Desiree Rios. This picture was taken only a week before Gutierrez’s death, his parents said.

FONTANA — As his murder case was set to go to trial today, a man charged with shooting and killing a man at a Fontana house party in 2005 accepted a plea bargain that carries a prison term of nearly 50 years.

Javier Salcido Ortega, 25, opted for the plea bargain rather than risk a life prison sentence if convicted by a jury of murder.

Ortega was accused of shooting and killing 24-year-old Raymond Gutierrez on Oct. 16, 2005 at a house party on Huff Court, a small cul-de-sac near the intersection of Merrill and Elm avenues.

According to prosecutors and Gutierrez’s parents, the two men did know each other prior to the early morning incident that ended in Gutierrez’s death.

Ortega and a group of his friends attacked Gutierrez, of Rialto, over a minor squabble, according to Gutierrez’s parents, first knocking him to the ground with a punch, then kicking him repeatedly once he was on the ground.

Ortega then shot Gutierrez three times with a handgun, with two of the bullets piercing his heart, said Deputy District Attorney Daima Calhoun.

Following five days of jury selection in Fontana Superior Court, Ortega’s defense attorney, Dan Mangan, approached prosecutors this morning with a bid to resolve the case, Calhoun said.

Mangan asked prosecutors if they would allow Ortega — who faced a sentence of up to 50 years to life if convicted at trial — to plead guilty to charges that carried a determinate sentence 47 years and 8 months, Calhoun said.

It was unclear this morning whether Ortega himself was open to such an offer, but after mulling it over during the court’s lunchtime break he agreed to take the deal.

Calhoun’s supervisors at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office also signed off on the deal, Calhoun said.

With time he’s spent in custody deducted from his sentence, Ortega could be released from prison in about 36 years if he is well-behaved, Judge Dwight W. Moore told Ortega today.

Ortega, who was 21 at the time of the shooting, would be in his early 60s if released in 2045.

Gutierrez’s parents said after the hearing that they were unhappy with the plea bargain.

“He’s got a lot of time to do, but I really was looking forward to (a) life (sentence),” said Fidel Gutierrez, Raymond Gutierrez’s father. “That’s what I wanted, that’s what my wife wanted, but it didn’t turn out that way.”

Calhoun said Ortega’s case was a strong case for the district attorney’s office, but she felt the plea bargain was “in the best interest of the case” because jury trials are “always a gamble.”

Jurors would have had the option of convicting Ortega of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter — Ortega would have faced a maximum sentence of 21 years if convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Calhoun said.

Mangan declined to comment as he left the courtroom.

Gutierrez’s family members tearfully recalled their son and his death today.

Fidel Gutierrez said his son’s girlfriend, Desiree Rios, was pregnant with the couple’s daughter at the time of the shooting.

Raymond Gutierrez, a former Fontana High School student, had been working, supporting his family, and was enjoying life when he was gunned down at the Fontana house party, Fidel Gutierrez said.

“Everything was going good at the time,” Fidel Gutierrez said.

Ortega and his friends were members of a “party crew” that trolled late-night gatherings looking to start fights, Fidel Gutierrez said.

“They went there looking for trouble … my son happened to bump into (Ortega),” Fidel Gutierrez said.

Ortega and other men knocked out Raymond Gutierrez when they jumped him, Fidel Gutierrez said. He was lying on the ground helpless when he was shot.

“There’s no sense in it,” he said.

Ortega was arrested in February 2006 after eluding police for several months, Calhoun said.

Ortega pleaded guilty today to voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and assault with a deadly weapon.

The charges contained allegations that Ortega committed the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Ortega is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25. Gutierrez’s family members are expected to make statements about the case during the hearing, Calhoun said.


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Judge: Alleged Ontario gang member must stand trial for Upland killing

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An alleged Ontario gang member must stand trial for murder for the killing of an alleged gangster who was gunned down in Upland, a judge ruled this afternoon in West Valley Superior Court.

In about three hours of testimony during a preliminary hearing today, prosecutors laid out the evidence connecting 21-year-old Daniel Vera to the Jan. 13 killing of Manuel Vega, 29.

Authorities believe the killing in the 300 block of South Stillman Avenue was a gang hit — the victim and defendant were both members of the Onterio Varrio Sur street gang, according to testimony.

Vera’s defense attorney, Joe Borges, implied in his cross-examination of witnesses today that he believes Vera was misidentified as the shooter.

The key piece of evidence prosecutors believe connects Vera to the killing is a large gang tattoo on the back of his neck.

Shortly before the 6 p.m. shooting, one of Vega’s neighbor saw Vega outdoors in front of the apartment building where his mother lives. Vera was nearby.

The neighbor, Frank Mizysak, testified that he believed Vega had gang ties because he had tattoos. And among the people who would visit Vega on the block were people who Mizysak said appeared to be gang members.

Vera was one of Vega’s frequent visitors, Mizysak said. Mizysak said that during Vera’s visits, he saw the large gang tattoo on the back his neck.

On the day of the shooting, Vera’s gang tattoo wasn’t visible because he was wearing a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt that covered his neck, Mizysak testified.

But Mizysak recognized him as the man with the tattoo, he testified. Mizysak said that when he saw Vera, the alleged shooter stared at him in an apparent attempt to intimidate him, Mizysak believed.

“I could see at that point that something wasn’t right,” Mizysak said.

Shortly after Mizysak’s encounter, gunshots rang out on the street, witnesses recalled today.

Vega’s mother, Sylvia Salazar, battled tears as she recalled hearing the gunshots and rushing to the aid of her son.

“I got on my knees, and I started screaming for somebody to help me,” Salazar said.

Salazar said her son lived in Fontana, but he would visit her apartment in Upland every day.

Before he was shot on a nearby sidewalk, Vega said he was going to smoke a cigarette and left the apartment, Salazar testified.

She said that after the shooting, she saw a person in the area wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and blue plaid shorts.

Mizysak’s 14-year-old daughter also testified today that after she heard five gunshots, she saw a man in the area wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and blue plaid shots.

Vera was identified as the suspected shooter after an Ontario gang expert told Upland detectives that Vera had a tattoo on his neck matching the witness’s description.

Ontario police officer Gabe Gutierrez testified that Vera has several gang tattoos identifying him as a “Black Angel,” the highest tier of the three-tiered Onterio Varrio Sur.

Gutierrez said that as a gang officer in the city, he has had numerous contacts with Vera, and at one point Vera confirmed to the officer that he had achieved “Black Angel” status in the gang.

When officers served a search warrant on Vera’s house in the 900 block of South Bon View Avenue, they found a handgun, ammunition, and clothing matching witnesses’ descriptions, said Upland police detective Lawrence Latimer.

Borges, in his cross examination of Latimer, implied that the clothing found at Vera’s home is common gang apparel, and its presence is not strong evidence that Vera was the shooter.

After hearing today’s testimony, Judge Michael Libutti held Vera to answer on charges of murder and street terrorism.

With additional allegations added to the two counts, Vera faces a maximum prison term of 60 years to life if convicted of all charges, said Deputy District Attorney Carlo DiCesare.


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Alleged gang members sentenced to prison for high-speed chase

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Two alleged Pomona gang members were sentenced to state prison today after pleading guilty to charges filed following a car chase in Ontario that ended in an officer-involved shooting.

Alfredo Monge, 19, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to evading a peace officer with wanton disregard for safety, as well as violating his probation, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough.

Alexandro Gomez, 21, was sentenced to 16 months in prison after pleading guilty to possessing a gun as a felon, Colclough said.

Monge was the driver of the car and Gomez was a passenger during a July 16 high-speed chase that ended in a neighborhood southwest of Vineyard Avenue and Fourth Street.

A third man with the group, 20-year-old Martin Chavez, was shot twice by police after he allegedly brandished a firearm.

He was hospitalized in critical condition following the incident, and has been unable to appear in court for his arraignment hearing because of his medical issues, Colclough said.

Click here to read a previous story on the case.

Judge orders trial for rape, strangling death at Fontana bakery in 2001

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A man linked by DNA to a brutal rape and killing at a Fontana bakery in 2001 must stand trial for the alleged crimes, a judge ruled this afternoon after a full day of testimony at a preliminary hearing.

The judge’s ruling means that Gilbert Bernard Sanchez, 47, may be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of murdering 30-year-old Sylvia Galindo, an employee at the bakery where she was killed.

Prosecutors will likely decide whether to pursue the death penalty against Sanchez prior to an arraignment hearing set for Thursday in Fontana Superior Court, said Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Youngberg.

Much of today’s testimony in West Valley Superior Court centered on the DNA evidence that linked Sanchez to the then-unsolved killing in 2006.

A sheriff’s department criminalist who specializes in DNA testified that the DNA profile in the evidence found on Galindo’s body is an exact match to Sanchez.

The criminalist, Susan Anderson, said she would expect to find a match that exact only once in a population of one quintillion Hispanic men.

Galindo was raped and strangled to death the night of Oct. 18, 2001, after closing time at Maria’s Panaderia in the 15300 block of Merrill Avenue.

According to the prosecution’s theory of the case, Galindo was standing near the back door of the bakery smoking a cigarette when Sanchez assaulted her.

Galindo ran from the back door toward the front area of the business.

There she was attacked and dragged by force to a storage area of the bakery, where she was raped and strangled to death with an electrical cord and wire coat hanger.

The brutal incident remained unsolved until 2006, when the California Department of Justice notified local authorities that DNA recovered from the crime scene matched Sanchez’s DNA profile in the FBI database.

At the time of the discovery, Sanchez was serving time in Centinela State Prison in Imperial County for assault with a firearm on a police officer.

In October 2001, Sanchez lived a block away from the bakery and frequented the business, authorities have said.

Following today’s testimony, Judge Arthur Harrison held Sanchez to answer on seven of eight felonies filed by prosecutors, as well as numerous allegations of special circumstances that make Sanchez eligible for the death penalty.

Youngberg said after the hearing that she has “no doubt” that Sanchez is the source of the DNA found on Galindo’s body.

“Two of those sources were a complete match,” Youngberg said.

George Wright, the deputy public defender appointed to represent Sanchez, said he believed the DNA evidence was “not conclusive.”

“I don’t think it’s 100 percent sure that it’s his DNA,” Wright said.

Wright said he has read about instances in other states where multiple inmates have been exact matches for DNA profiles — casting doubt on the criminalist’s DNA probability statistics.

Wright also said that at 7 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2001 — less than 12 hours after the killing — Sanchez was pulled over while driving in Montebello.

The police officers who contacted him did not note Sanchez being bloody, injured or otherwise suspicious, Wright said.

One of the officers involved in the traffic stop testified today that he had no memory of his encounter with Sanchez.

Sanchez’s wife, Sandra Sanchez, testified that her husband has never been abusive to her.

Chino Hills woman pleads guilty to forging home loans

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SAN BERNARDINO — A Chino Hills real estate agent who forged more than $900,00 in loan documents to purchase a home pleaded guilty to two felonies today in San Bernardino Superior Court.

As part of a plea bargain reached with prosecutors, Anita Andres Mendoza, 44, will be sentenced to 90 days in jail and be placed on probation for three years, said Deputy District Attorney Vance Welch.

She will be required to pay back $180,000 lost by a mortgage company victimized in her scheme, Welch said.

And if she violates the terms of her probation, she could be sentenced to two years in state prison, Welch said.

A judge granted Mendoza’s request today to be released from jail, with a promise that she will return to court for sentencing on Aug. 21. She had been jailed in lieu of about $1.15 million bail since her arrest on July 15.

Mendoza was accused of forging another woman’s signature on home-loan documents to purchase a home in Chino Hills in 2006.

The forgery was discovered when a lending institution contacted the woman whose signature Mendoza allegedly forged.

Welch said that prosecutors offered Mendoza a relatively lenient plea bargain because she confessed completely when contacted by investigators.

“She kind of told us in her own words that (being caught) was almost a relief for her because there wasn’t a moment that went by that she didn’t think about this,” Welch said.

“We do a lot of these types of cases, and my standard is state prison,” the prosecutor added. “But this was such a different situation in that this lady came completely clean with us.”

Welch said that if there was anyone besides Mendoza involved in the scheme, “we didn’t really have enough to file (charges) on.”

Welch said that because of her convictions, Mendoza will likely lose her real-estate license.