Testimony continues in teen’s slaying at Pomona party

LOS ANGELES – New details of a teen’s slaying at a Pomona house party were revealed in court testimony today during a preliminary hearing for seven young men charged in the case.

Marquis LeBlanc, 18, was beaten by a group of young men at a Virginia Avenue party on April 17, 2009 after he took out a gun and waved it at people, according to witnesses.

LeBlanc, of Diamond Bar, escaped his assailants after an initial beating and ran down Virginia Avenue. The group chased him and caught up to him four or five houses away, a witness said this morning.

A man struck LeBlanc in the head with a two-by-four and he dropped to the ground. The rest of the group commenced “stomping” the teen, according to a witness who watched the beating through a window at his home.

The crowd eventually dispersed, leaving LeBlanc on the ground, but two or three men remained. One of the men retrieved a handgun from a car. As he approached LeBlanc, who lay motionless, one of the other men confronted him, the witness said.

“He was pushing him, telling him not to do it, not to do it because it wasn’t worth it,” the witness said. “He just pushed him away.”

The man holding the gun walked to LeBlanc and shot him once, killing him. The man who tried to keep the shooter away lifted his hands to his head, the witness said.

Today was the second day of testimony in a preliminary hearing for seven young men charged in LeBlanc’s killing. Three others also face criminal charges, but a preliminary hearing for them won’t be held until November.

At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must present evidence for a case to proceed to trial.

Eight people are charged with murder for LeBlanc’s killing: Adrian Zuniga, 16; Luis Martinez, 19; Adam Delgado, 21; Edgar Cisneros, 20; Richard Vasquez, 18; Victor Guillen, 18; Ralph Richard Alfaro, 18; and Martin Haro, 16.

Efrain Prado, 21, and Haro are charged with assault. Arturo Casas, 21, is charged with robbery.

During the hearing at the Clara Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles, several witnesses have complained of intimidation from supporters of the defendants.

Judge William R. Pounders has admonished the defendants’ supporters not to speak to witnesses in courthouse hallways, and this afternoon he had his admonishment translated by a Spanish-language interpreter.

“I’m getting very tired of witnesses in this case being threatened,” the judge said.

Some witnesses – including those who have complained of intimidation – have recanted in their testimony prior statements to police identifying LeBlanc’s attackers.

One 19-year-old woman who recanted identifications of three of LeBlanc’s assailants began crying on the witness stand this afternoon when a prosecutor asked her if she feared retaliation.

Three of the witnesses to testify today described text messages they received from Haro after LeBlanc’s killing. In the messages, Haro used racial slurs to describe LeBlanc, who was black, and in one message said, “We killed the fool.”

Testimony in the hearing is set to resume Wednesday morning.

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Witnesses recall teen’s slaying at Pomona party

LOS ANGELES – The first witnesses testified today in a preliminary hearing for several young men accused of participating in an 18-year-old man’s killing last year at a Pomona house party.

Marquis LeBlanc, 18, was beaten by group of men on April 17, 2009 at a party in the 2100 block of Virginia Avenue, then chased down the street and fatally shot as he tried to escape, prosecutors allege.

The crowd at the party was predominantly Latino, and during the incident many of the accused assailants hurled racial epithets at LeBlanc, who was black, witnesses said.

One of LeBlanc’s friends and a cousin of the party’s organizer detailed the incident on the witness stand today at the Clara Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The witnesses were identified in court, but their names are being withheld for fear of gang retaliation.

At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must present evidence – typically through court testimony – for a case to proceed to trial.

Seven of 10 young men charged in the case appeared in court today for a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing for three of the defendants was postponed last week to Nov. 2 because of attorneys’ scheduling conflicts.

LeBlanc’s friend testified that he and LeBlanc – both Diamond Bar residents – were at a bowling alley in Diamond Bar with another friend when the witness received a text message about a house party in Pomona.

When the group arrived at the party at 10 or 10:30 p.m., there were 50 to 70 people there. LeBlanc was one of only three or four black people at the party, LeBlanc’s friend estimated.

LeBlanc and his friend tried to dance with girls at the party, but neither had any luck attracting a partner. Later, the friend said he saw a man wearing a windbreaker jacket with “Pomona” lettering confront LeBlanc.

The man pointed to a tattoo on his neck and said, “Do you see my tattoo?” the friend recalled. “Marquis was like, ‘I don’t want any problems.”

“It didn’t appear friendly or hostile,” the friend testified. “Marquis was brushing it off like it was nothing.”

LeBlanc and his friend became separated at the party, and the friend said he didn’t see LeBlanc again until he was shot.

A cousin of the organizer of party – thrown to celebrate a graduation – testified that she was inside the home, and through a window to the back yard she saw LeBlanc draw a pistol, wave it around and point it at several people.

People in the back yard scattered, providing space for LeBlanc to move along the side of the home toward the front, the woman testified.

But as LeBlanc moved away, the woman said several young men followed him. They caught up to him on the side of the house and began beating him, the woman said.

LeBlanc was laying on the ground, hunched over to protect himself, as a group of as many as 15 young men took turns kicking and punching him, the woman testified.

The woman said she opened the side door and cleared the crowd to help LeBlanc. She said she led him though a gate to the front yard and told him to run.

“He just looked at me, and he just ran down the street,” the woman said.

As LeBlanc ran away, 16 or 17 people chased him, the woman testified.

“I heard them say, ‘Stomp that [racial epithet]. Get him for what he did. Don’t let him go. Don’t let him go. Get him,’” the woman testified.

The woman said that after LeBlanc ran away, she went outside to close the front gate to the house.

“I heard somebody yell, ‘Pomona, Pomona,’ and that’s when I heard gunshots,” the woman testified.

When LeBlanc’s friend saw people scattering from the party and heard a gunshot in the street, he ran to find his friend. About four or five houses away he found LeBlanc lying on his back on the sidewalk, he testified.

LeBlanc had been shot and was unconscious. His friend testified that LeBlanc’s pants were pulled down as if people had rifled through his pockets.

“It looked like he was bleeding from the head,” the friend testified.

Eight people are charged with murder for LeBlanc’s killing: Adrian Zuniga, 16; Luis Martinez, 19; Adam Delgado, 21; Edgar Cisneros, 20; Richard Vasquez, 18; Victor Guillen, 18; Ralph Richard Alfaro, 18; and Martin Haro, 16.

Efrain Prado, 21, and Haro are charged with assault. Arturo Casas, 21, is charged with robbery.

Prosecutors initially charged seven people with murder, but Haro’s name was added to the count today in an amended complaint.

Prosecutors allege that the eight defendants charged with murder committed their crimes to benefit a street gang.

Testimony in the preliminary hearing is set to resume Tuesday morning.

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Driver’s son speaks out in fatal Claremont accident

The son of the driver who struck and killed her friend Wednesday in the Claremont Village sent me an email today with new details on the incident.

Nicholas Calderon, son of driver Brenda Monahan, sent this message today about the accident that killed Catherine Shelton.

To whom it may concern:

Your article makes it seem like Brenda drove the car up the curb, into Catherine, and 100 feet after finally crashing into a planter.

As the car was parked Brenda reached back to grab her purse before exiting the car for Catherine to jump in and drive when the car may have jumped into gear (though its not confirmed how the car started to move). After jumping up the curb, Brenda battled with controlling the car, her left leg was actually run over and she was compressed between two cars as she hung onto the steering wheel trying to veer the car away from people where it finally crashed into the planter. She was not actually in control or driving the car, and the damages to the car on the driver’s side door show that the car impacted as the door was open–the door was bent out from the hinge, pushed out from its place. In addition, Brenda was not “sedated” but medicated by the doctors at the hospital. This information is supported by the police report, please review it.

Catherine was an incredible lady, and we all loved her dearly. She was a part of the family and this incident is a heavy pain for all of us to bear.

Regards,
Nicholas Calderon, son of Brenda Monahan.

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Court testimony expected in teen’s killing at Pomona party

LOS ANGELES – About a dozen witnesses are expected to testify next week in a preliminary hearing for several young men charged in connection with a man’s killing last year at a party in Pomona.

Marquis LeBlanc, 18, of Diamond Bar, was beaten, stabbed and shot to death on April 17, 2009 outside a party in the 2200 block of Virginia Avenue, according to police.

Jessica Corde, LeBlanc’s mother, said her son was robbed and his assailants stole his shoes after the attack.

LeBlanc was the only black person at a party of about 200, which consisted primarily of Latinos. Leblanc’s family members believe race was a motive in his killing.

Prosecutors have charged seven men with murder, and three others face charges of assault or robbery.

A preliminary hearing, at which prosecutors must present evidence for a felony case to proceed to trial, was scheduled to begin this morning in the Clara Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The hearing was postponed to Monday because several defense attorneys had scheduling conflicts. The hearing is expected to last five days.

A preliminary hearing for three of the 10 defendants was postponed to Nov. 2 because of scheduling conflicts.

Charged with murder in the case are Adrian Zuniga, 16; Luis Martinez, 19; Adam Delgado, 21; Edgar Cisneros, 20; Richard Vasquez, 18; Victor Guillen, 18; and Ralph Richard Alfaro, 18.

Efrain Prado, 21, and Martin Haro, 16, are charged with assault. Arturo Casas, 21, is charged with robbery.

Prosecutors allege that the seven defendants charged with murder committed their crimes to benefit a street gang.

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Driver, pedestrian in fatal Claremont crash were ‘best friends’

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Pictured are Catherine Shelton (left) and Brenda Monahan. (Photo from Facebook)

CLAREMONT — The pedestrian hit by a car and killed this week in the Village was identified by friends today as Catherine Shelton.

Shelton, 42, was killed Wednesday in the 400 block of West First Street when a car driven by her friend and roommate, Brenda Monahan, accelerated onto the sidewalk.

The women’s mutual friends said the incident was accidental, and said Monahan, who police interviewed and released at the crash scene, was devastated.

“They were like sisters,” said Chas Seward, Monahan’s boyfriend of nine years. “It was her best friend. It’s a tragedy.”

Monahan is the owner of Three French Hens, a Village boutique that is in the process of relocating to a vacant space in the city’s Village West shopping area.

Shelton, a real estate agent, was with Monahan Wednesday to help her with the boutique’s relocation, the women’s friends said.

According to one of Shelton’s co-workers at Coldwell Banker, the two women were inside Monahan’s Infiniti SUV at about 10:40 a.m. when it pulled into a parking space on the south side of First Street.

Shelton, who was in the front-passenger seat of the car, left the vehicle and walked around the front of the car toward the driver’s side, Paul Piedrahita said.

While Shelton was in front of the car, it accelerated and drove over the curb, striking Shelton, Piedrahita said.

Piedrahita said witnesses told him Shelton hit a wall and fell to the ground after she was struck. Monahan drove east on the sidewalk for about 100 feet and crashed into a planter.

Shelton was pronounced dead at 11:21 a.m. at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, police said.

Piedrahita, who went to the hospital with Shelton, said doctors told him Shelton lost consciousness when she was hit and never regained it.

Claremont police Lt. Dennis Smith said an investigation into the crash won’t be complete for two or three weeks.

Smith said he doesn’t know whether the department will forward its findings to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office for possible criminal prosecution.

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By this afternoon, several bouquets of flowers and candles had been left in the area where Shelton was hit.

A hand-written message taped to the front door of Monahan’s business said, “Our prayers are with you both and your families.”

Piedrahita called Shelton the “princess” of Claremont. She had lived in the city for about 14 years, and her son graduated in 2009 from Claremont High School.

She helped establish a group of friends and professional colleagues known informally as the “Thursday night crew” that made weekly social outings in the Village, Piedrahita said.

“That built a lot of good friendships and relationships she was responsible for,” he said.

Shelton lived in Seward and Monahan’s Claremont home the past four months, Seward said.

“She was like a sister to us,” he said. “We just can’t believe it happened.”

Monahan was sedated today and “not in a condition to say anything” to a reporter, Seward said.

On Monahan’s Facebook page, dozens of friends left supportive messages.

“I want you to know the Lord is by your side at this moment,” Susan Brunasso said. “You are so loved and are in the prayers of so many including mine.”

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