FULL STORY: Pastor pleads not guilty to drug sales, gun charges

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RIVERSIDE — Prosecutors charged a pastor this morning with four felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly selling narcotics out of his Home Gardens church and possessing a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac, pleaded not guilty to the charges this afternoon in Riverside Superior Court.

A judge set bail for Garduno at $250,000 after denying a request for reduced bail from Garduno’s court-appointed attorney, according to online court records.

Garduno, a self-identified bishop in a small offshoot of the Roman Catholic church, was arrested Tuesday after Riverside County sheriff’s investigators searched his Magnolia Avenue church and found methamphetamines, a stolen pistol, and evidence of possible sexual crimes against children.

Last week a former parishioner told sheriff’s investigators that Garduno sexually assaulted him about four years ago, when the man was 17.

Investigators obtained a warrant to search Garduno’s church after presenting the man’s accusations to a judge.

When investigators searched the church, they found pills believed to be the date-rape drug GHB, which was possibly used by Garduno in sexual assaults, a sheriff’s sergeant said Wednesday.

Tests must be performed on the pills before they can be confirmed as GHB, the sheriff’s sergeant said.

Sheriff’s investigators have urged potential sexual assault victims of Garduno to contact them at 951-955-2600.

Garduno was formerly a Roman Catholic priest, but he left the church about a decade ago following allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a male parishioner, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino said in September.

“I believe it was for inappropriate contact with a parishioner, or an attempt to do so,” said spokesman John Andrews. “It was an adult, somebody I think in a marriage-preparation class.”

Garduno said in an interview last month that in addition to overseeing his Home Gardens church, his duties as a bishop include oversight of a church in Ontario that has its own pastor.

On Sept. 15, Garduno was shot several times during an attempted robbery at his church. Garduno said last month that he still had a bullet lodged in his right arm from the incident.

The five men allegedly responsible for the robbery are also accused of holding up five divers the day of the shooting.

Investigators initially believed Garduno’s church was randomly targeted because of its proximity to a diner, said sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

But in light of Garduno’s new drug charges investigators are reassessing their original theory, and are examining whether the robbers were targeting the church for drugs and cash, Gutierrez said.

“Where there is drugs there’s usually cash,” Gutierrez said.

The five alleged robbers are set to stand trial in Riverside Superior Court on Monday for the attempted murder of Garduno and several additional felonies.

The defendants include Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23, Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21, and Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.

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Five robbery defendants (L-R): Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23, Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21, Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.


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Pastor pleads not guilty to criminal charges; bail set at $250,000

RIVERSIDE — A pastor pleaded not guilty this afternoon in Riverside Superior Court to criminal charges for allegedly selling drugs and possessing a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, pastor of Our Lady of Tepeyac, was charged by prosecutors this morning with four felonies and a misdemeanor.

Garduno was in custody during this afternoon’s hearing, and a judge set his bail at $250,000 after denying a motion from Garduno’s attorney for reduced bail.

Prosecutors file criminal charges against pastor

A Riverside County pastor was charged this morning with four felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly selling narcotics out of his Home Gardens church and possessing a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon at 1:30 in Riverside Superior Court. Read yesterday’s post for additional information on Garduno’s case.

Suspect in boy’s death wants his bail reduced

A man suspected in a failed hand-off of Mexican immigrants that left a 12-year-old boy dead is asking a judge to lower his bail.

Pedro Escobedo is scheduled for a bail hearing Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court. He is currently being held on $5,000,000 bail, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Prosecutors say they believe Escobedo, 46, was part of a smuggling ring and the driver of a white Ford Explorer who motioned toward a small group of men in a restaurant parking lot in the Cajon Pass in December 2006. Something went wrong, and a Nissan Maxima sped out of the lot followed by the Explorer, witnesses told authorities

The boy, Gabriel Garcia, was in the passenger seat of the Maxima, as the two vehicles sped southbound on the 15 Freeway in a 45-mile car chase. Witnesses say gunshots were fired from the Explorer.

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Hearing set for Redlands landlady in 1994 death

A Redlands woman who is accused of killing of teenage mother in 1994 will get to hear some of the evidence against her at a hearing Thursday.

A preliminary hearing is set for 52-year-old Seferina Marquez Ponce in San Bernardino Superior Court, according to court records. Lawyers in the case announced their readiness for the hearing at a court appearance Monday.

Redlands police arrested Ponce in connection with the disappearance of 18-year-old Sarah Hernandez Reyes, who lived on the Ponce’s property and whose family reported her missing Oct. 4, 1994. She was charged with one count of murder.

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Pastor arrested for alleged drug sales, stolen gun possession

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A Riverside County pastor who was shot during a recent robbery at his church has been arrested for allegedly selling drugs and keeping a stolen pistol.

Anthony Garduno, 51, was arrested Tuesday morning at his Home Gardens church by Riverside County sheriff’s investigators after a search of Garduno’s church turned up evidence that he was selling methamphetamine there, according to a sheriff’s news release.

Sheriff’s investigators also found evidence that Garduno, who lived at the church, may have committed sexual assaults there, according to the news release.

Garduno was booked on suspicion of drug sales and possession of stolen property, and remains jailed in lieu of $25,000 bail at Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, according to booking records.

About three months ago, Garduno was shot several times during an attempted robbery at his church, Our Lady of Tepeyac at 13462 Magnolia Ave.

Investigators initially believed that Garduno was randomly targeted by five men who allegedly went on a crime spree on Sept. 15, said Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez.

Besides shooting Garduno, the men are accused of holding up five diners in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. They are set to stand trial in Riverside next week for attempted murder and other felonies.

Garduno’s church is near a diner, and investigators believed the church robbery “was a crime of opportunity” because of its proximity to the diner, Gutierrez said.

But when criminal allegations surfaced against Garduno, sheriff’s investigators began examining the theory that the men targeted Garduno’s church to take drugs and cash, Gutierrez said.

“Where there is drugs there’s usually cash,” Gutierrez said.

Sheriff’s investigators obtained a warrant to search Garduno’s church after a man contacted authorities Dec. 21 and accused Garduno of sexually assaulting him about four years ago, when the alleged victim was 17, Gutierrez said.

Investigators searched the church Tuesday, and found evidence indicating Garduno may have had additional victims, Gutierrez said.

Among the evidence recovered by authorities were drugs believed to be GHB, a common date-rape drug, Gutierrez said. Investigators must perform tests on the drugs before they can be confirmed as GHB, Gutierrez said.

Investigators believe Garduno may have used the reputed date-rape drug in the course of sexual assaults, Gutierrez said.

Garduno is a pastor in an obscure offshoot of the Roman Catholic church.

He identifies himself as a bishop, and he said in an interview this month that in addition to running his Home Gardens church, he oversees a church in Ontario that has its own pastor.

Garduno was a Roman Catholic priest, but he left the church about a decade ago following allegations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with a male parishioner, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino said in September.

“I believe it was for inappropriate contact with a parishioner, or an attempt to do so,” said spokesman John Andrews. “It was an adult, somebody I think in a marriage-preparation class.”

Sheriff’s investigators have urged Garduno’s other alleged sexual assault victims to contact them at 951-955-2600.

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Five robbery defendants (L-R): Pomona residents Timothy Jacquemain, 18, Jacob Bushow, 19, and Andrew Swindle, 23, Chino resident Anthony Coleman, 21, Perris resident Willis Bagley, 38.


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Man to enter plea in wheelchair-bound woman’s death

A man suspected of killing a 52-year-old wheelchair-bound woman in October is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on murder and robbery charges.

Anthony George Gooden, 29, is set to enter a plea on the charges at an arraignment in Victorville Superior Court, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

At his last court appearance Dec. 17, Gooden waived his arraignment, according to court records.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies say Gooden planned to rob Brenda Robinson on Oct. 8 at her Apple Valley home in the 21300 block of Nisqually Road. Gooden and a second man went to the home, and Gooden shot her before the pair fled.

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Trial imminent in 2005 San Bernardino motel slaying

Prosecutors say a trial may begin next week for a Riverside man accused of fatally stabbing his 18-year-old girlfriend in 2005 with such force that a knife broke off in her throat.

Anthony Lamont McCullough, 39, returns Monday to San Bernardino Superior Court to determine whether his trial will get under way in the slaying of Shicole Deshon Bester at an H Street motel in San Bernardino.

Deputy District Attorney Joanne Uhlman, who is prosecuting McCullough’s case, said she hopes the trial will start by Tuesday. Generally, lawyers must argue pretrial motions before the court and select a jury before testimony can begin.

McCullough faces murder charges in the death of Shicole Deshon Bester on March 8, 2005 in a second-floor room at the Econo Lodge Motel.

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Man charged in shooting outside Highland complex

By Stacia Glenn

A Twentynine Palms man has been charged with the Dec. 10 slaying of a man he was arguing with outside a Highland apartment complex.

Alcide Levont Lewis Walker, 29, was charged Tuesday with murder, second degree robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a criminal complaint filed in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Sheriff’s investigators say Walker shot Ryan Peters, 23, of San Bernardino, outside an apartment complex in the 25100 block of Fifth Street. Witnesses told investigators Peters was arguing with a group of black men prior to the shooting, but it’s unsure what they were fighting about. Robbery is believed to play a part in the motive, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller.

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Yucca Valley man sought, charged in child porn case

By Stacia Glenn

A $500,000 felony warrant has been issued for a Yucca Valley man wanted for possessing and distributing child pornography.

Peter Ault, 50, has been charged with one count of distributing child pornography and nine counts of possessing child pornography, according to a criminal complaint filed in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Sheriff’s officials said they believe he is trying to avoid being arrested. His last known address is 55524 Yucca Trail #75 but he is known to hang out in Joshua Tree.

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