Mt. Baldy man sentenced to 180 years to life in molestation case

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA – A Mt. Baldy man convicted of sexually abusing his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter was sentenced this afternoon to 180 years to life in prison.

Gabriel Jimenez Garcia, 42, was convicted by a jury in February of 12 counts of continuous sexual abuse of a minor. Prosecutors accused Garcia of raping the Montclair girl two or three times a month for a full year in 2007 and 2008.

Each of the 12 counts carries a sentence of 15 years to life, and Judge Stephan G. Saleson opted today to run each prison term back-to-back, bringing the total sentence to 180 years to life, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss.

The girl testified in a preliminary hearing last year that Garcia, a former cook at the Mt. Baldy Lodge, would visit her home every Tuesday to see the twins he fathered with the girl’s mother.

When the girl’s mother picked up her other children from school each afternoon, the girl and Garcia would be alone in the house and he would often force her to have sex, the girl testified.

Garcia’s defense attorney, Robert Von Schlichting, said in West Valley Superior Court today that he would appeal Garcia’s case, Schmauss said.

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Retrial set for Ontario man whose attempted murder conviction was overturned on appeal

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LOS ANGELES – An Oct. 4 trial date was set this morning for an Ontario man whose attempted murder conviction was overturned on appeal.

It’s been eight months since a federal judge threw out Rafael Madrigal’s conviction, citing evidence that indicates the 34-year-old was innocent of the crime for which he was imprisoned for nearly a decade.

Since Madrigal’s release on bail in October, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has reviewed evidence and re-interviewed witnesses in preparation for a possible retrial, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila told a judge this morning.

When asked after the hearing whether prosecutors have made a firm decision to bring Madrigal’s case to trial, Avila was noncommittal. “We’re evaluating the case as we proceed,” he said.

Madrigal’s conviction for a 2000 gang shooting in East Los Angeles was based largely on two witnesses who identified Madrigal as the shooter in photos shown to them by Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives.

But according to Madrigal and several of his co-workers, the married father of three children was at work in Rancho Cucamonga until a half hour after the shooting.

In an October order granting bail for Madrigal, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman faulted Madrigal’s original defense attorney for failing to adequately present Madrigal’s alibi during his trial.

During this morning’s hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, attorneys discussed with Judge Curtis B. Rappe the progress they’ve made in preparing for trial.

Avila said he’s handed over 800 pages of discovery – such as police reports – to Madrigal’s three-attorney defense team.

The defense is also seeking reports from the prosecution about a shooting in the 1990s that the defense believes can help prove the actual identity of the shooter in Madrigal’s case.

Rappe scheduled a May 24 hearing to rule whether the prosecution must hand over evidence in the prior shooting.

Rappe said he wanted the case to come to trial quickly, so that if Madrigal is acquitted he can move on with his life. And if he is acquitted, prosecutors could then begin work investigating the identity of the actual shooter.

“I think Mr. Madrigal, whether he’s innocent or guilty, deserves a swift resolution to this,” Rappe said. “… It’s been under this cloud for years now.”

Rappe, citing the seriousness of the charges Madrigal faces, denied a request by Madrigal’s defense to eliminate electronic monitoring as a condition of Madrigal’s release on bail.

Madrigal, who is fitted with a GPS-tracking device on his ankle, spends half his income paying for the monitoring program, one of his attorneys, Melanie Natasha Henry, told the judge.

The monitoring condition also prohibits Madrigal from many activities, such having dinner with his wife at a restaurant, “that he has already missed all those years in prison,” Henry told the judge.

Rappe said he might reconsider his ruling once there is a firm trial date for Madrigal’s case.

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Murder trial starts in Chino revenge killing

CHINO — Miguel Ramos’ wife had left him, and rumors spread in the city that she left because she’d had an affair with another man and was pregnant with his child.

So on May 10, 2008, Ramos took revenge by shooting and killing his wife’s alleged lover — 25-year-old Valentin Barria, Ramos’ cousin.

That’s what jurors heard this afternoon in a prosecutor’s opening statement during Ramos’ murder trial in Chino Superior Court.

Deputy District Attorney Anil Kaushal spent nearly half and hour detailing evidence linking Ramos, 29, of Chino, to Barria’s killing at a party on Fifth Street.

“(Ramos) was enraged at (Barria),” Kaushal told jurors. “He blamed him for many things. … Whether it was jealousy or pure anger, that will be for you to decide.”

Ramos’ defense attorney declined to give an opening statement. Judge Gerard S. Brown told jurors Ramos’ attorney will speak at the start of the defense portion of the trial.

The night of Barria’s killing, several witnesses watched Barria greet Ramos outside the party — a girl’s quinceaera or confirmation celebration — and hand him a beer, Kaushal said.

Ramos opened the beer, took a sip, and set it down. He told Barria, “You owe me something,” then took out a revolver and opened fire on his cousin, Kaushal said.

Ramos shot Barria four times — with three shots to Barria’s chest and a defensive wound to his hand. After Barria fell to the ground, Ramos shot him in the head, Kaushal said.

Immediately after the killing, Ramos drove to Orange County, where his parents and other relatives live, Kaushal said.

Chino police detectives arrested him about a week later at a home in Stanton where he had rented a room for $200 to $300 a month, Kaushal said.

After his arrest Ramos confessed to killing his cousin. When asked how he felt about Barria’s killing, Ramos said he was both relieved and sad, Kaushal said.

According to Kaushal, Ramos told told detectives he purchased a loaded revolver for $100 at a swap meet in Pomona.

“He planned the killing, knew exactly how he was going to do it, knew exactly where he was going to do it,” Kaushal said.

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Defense rests in former teacher’s sexual abuse trial

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Testimony ended this morning in the trial of a former Upland elementary school teacher accused of molesting students, with defense attorneys calling their final witnesses in West Valley Superior Court.

Today’s defense testimony appeared designed to undermine claims by two alleged victims that their teacher, 43-year-old James Andrew Megaw, touched them sexually or made lewd comments.

Megaw’s trial will next be in session Monday, when attorneys in the case are scheduled to give closing arguments to a jury of six men and six women. After closing arguments, jurors will begin deliberating.

Megaw, of Rancho Cucamonga, is charged with four felonies for allegedly committing lewd acts with students at Valencia Elementary School in Upland.

Six of Megaw’s former students detailed abuse claims during the trial — three from Megaw’s 2008-2009 class, one from three years ago, and two from Megaw’s classes nearly a decade ago.

The students’ accusations vary. Some said Megaw rubbed their genitals through their clothing during class time, while others said he pressed their hands to the crotch area of his pants.

The school’s custodian took the witness stand today to undermine testimony last week by a former student that Megaw made a sexually suggestive comment to him as both stood at side-by-side urinals in a school bathroom.

The custodian, Royl Kneezle, testified that there is only one urinal in each school bathroom. And he said it’s always been that way in the 26 years he’s worked at the school.

Jurors were shown photos in court of one of the school bathrooms. There were nearly 6-foot-high partitions on either side of the urinal.

Megaw’s defense also sought to undermine the credibility of a girl who testified last week that Megaw held her hand during class hours and forced it near the crotch area of his pants.

When the girl was interviewed at the San Bernardino County Department of Children’s Services, she said she saw Megaw touch some of her classmates, and she named several girls as alleged victims, according to testimony by Forensic Interview Specialist Kim Lowenberg.

One of the girls named by the alleged victim testified today, and denied that Megaw ever touched her. The girl also said she never saw Megaw touch the alleged victim.

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Man sentenced to prison in Chino Spectrum shooting

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CHINO — An alleged marijuana dealer accused of shooting a customer in a robbery attempt was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Wednesday after pleading no contest to criminal charges.

Prosecutors accused Christopher O, 20, of luring the victim to the Chino Spectrum shopping center with a promise of drugs, and instead shooting the man twice as he tried to rob him.

The alleged victim in the Nov. 4 incident was shot in the thigh and ankle, and suffered a fractured bone and severed artery.

O, of Ontario, pleaded no contest to attempted robbery in a plea agreement with prosecutors in Chino Superior Court. Judge Gerard S. Brown sentenced O to seven years and four months in prison.

O was initially charged with attempted murder and attempted robbery in the case, but in exchange for his plea prosecutors agreed to dismiss the attempted murder count.

About two hours before the shooting, O sent a text message to his girlfriend complaining that he’d lost money at a casino the night before, and planned to “jack somebody,” according to police reports attached to O’s court file.

According to the report, O met the alleged victim at about 3:45 p.m. in a parking lot near Mimi’s Cafe.

About a minute after O entered the buyer’s parked car, O allegedly said, “Sorry man, you’re getting jacked,” and pulled out a pistol.

The men then struggled over control of the gun, and O allegedly opened fire, the report says.

The men left the car and continued to fight for control of the gun. The weapon dropped to the ground and O fled, the report says.

Chino police officers arrested O that night near his home in the 3200 block of Stallion Street, and the alleged victim identified him as the shooter.

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