Criminal charges filed in death at Chino Hills construction site

CHINO — The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges this week in connection with a man’s death three years ago at a Chino Hills construction site.

Yeong Hak Song fell 19 feet to his death on April 30, 2008 after stepping on temporary roofing materials that gave way at Crossroads Community Church, 2600 Grand Ave.

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed criminal charges against the superintendent of the job site, Daniel Robert Worthington, and the company he works for, Thayer Construction, Inc. of Yorba Linda.

Worthington, 51, was charged with two felonies: involuntary manslaughter and willful violations of a standard causing death, which is a violation of the state labor code. Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of four years.

Thayer Construction was charged with willful violations of a standard causing death.

Worthington and the company are scheduled to be arraigned May 23 in Chino Superior Court.

Song, a 57-year-old Huntington Beach resident, was the superintendent overseeing air-conditioning installation at the job site.

He worked for Olympic Air Conditioning, Inc. of Cerritos, according to a written summary of the investigation completed by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

According to the summary, a four-foot-by-four-foot hole in the church’s roof was covered temporarily by two pieces of plywood that were attached to each other.

The plywood gave way when Song stepped on it at about 9 a.m. He fell through the hole in the roof and landed on the concrete floor below, injuring his head, according to the summary of the investigation.

Song was pronounced dead at about 10 a.m. at Chino Valley Medical Center, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Corner’s Department.

The temporary roofing was designed and installed by Thayer Construction, Inc., according to a citation issued by the state. The state fined the company $15,300.

Plea agreement in fatal traffic collision angers victim’s family

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Pictured: Ruben Vasquez

CHINO — A 33-year-old man has pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in connection with a fatal traffic collision last year on the 60 Freeway.

At about 4:30 a.m. on June 20, Daniel Briones Rosas collided with a car that was stopped in the westbound lanes of the freeway near Benson Avenue.

The occupant of the stopped car, Ruben Carlos Vasquez of Menifee, was killed in the collision.

Rosas, of Chino, pleaded guilty on April 11 in Chino Superior Court to vehicular manslaughter, a felony.

He entered the plea as part of a plea agreement with Judge Gerard S. Brown that carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail. Brown is scheduled to sentence Rosas on May 9.

Vasquez’s family members are upset by what they consider a lenient plea agreement for Rosas, who had been drinking before the crash and registered a 0.07 blood-alcohol level when tested, which is just shy of the 0.08 legal limit.

“What kind of message is the judge sending to the public?” said Reynaldo Vasquez, Ruben Vasquez’s brother. “That is what we’re opposed to.”

Vasquez, 20, was a native of Bell Gardens and graduated in 2007 from Bell Gardens High School. His family moved to Menifee that year.

Vasquez worked as an auto mechanic in the months before his death after completing training in that field, his sister Belia Vasquez said.

Rosas’ attorney, Cedric Elias, defended the agreement and said the collision, which he called “tragic,” was ultimately caused by Vasquez.

He said he believes Vasquez’s car rolled to a stop on the freeway because he passed out. His blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.12, Elias said.

Rosas saw a car approaching him from behind before the crash, so he moved right into the next lane, Elias said.

As soon as Rosas switched lanes he collided with Vasquez’s idle vehicle, Elias said. The accident triggered two other collisions.

“This was an unavoidable accident caused by (Vasquez),” Elias said.

Vasquez’s brother said he was aware of the circumstances of the crash, and still feels that a year in jail is not just punishment for Rosas.

“He’ll just go ahead and do it again — drink and then maybe kill someone else,” said Reynaldo Vasquez, 32.

The maximum sentence for vehicular manslaughter is four years.

Vasquez’s brother said he will speak during Rosas’ sentencing and ask Brown to withdraw the plea agreement.

“I’m going to get him to see what we’re going through,” he said. “What if this was one of his family members? Would the judgment be the same?”

Rosas’ prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Tasha Soroosh, declined to comment for this article.

Transient to stand trial in fatal Pomona stabbing

POMONA — A judge ruled this month that there’s sufficient evidence for a transient to stand trial for murder in connection with a fatal stabbing here in October.

Harry Lee Glaser, 51, allegedly stabbed Alfred Edward Burton in the thigh during an argument on Oct. 11, 2010 in the parking lot of a strip mall at North Garey Avenue and Grove Street.

The argument was allegedly spurred by Burton, 50, who without invitation entered a vehicle at about 11 p.m. that Glaser and his girlfriend lived in, according to court testimony this month.

Burton was reportedly drunk and made sexual advances toward Glaser’s girlfriend, Shannon King.

He refused to leave the car when asked by Glaser, according to King’s testimony during a preliminary hearing in Pomona Superior Court.

Glaser then forced Burton out of the car, punched him several times and stabbed him with a knife, according to testimony.

During the attack Glaser demanded money from Burton and rifled through his pockets, according to testimony from King and a resident of a nearby apartment building.

Judge Bruce F. Marrs ruled at the end of the April 15 hearing that Glaser must stand trial for Burton’s killing.

Glaser remained jailed today in lieu of about $1 million bail at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic. He is scheduled to return to court Friday morning.

King testified that Burton approached her car and entered the passenger side as she sat in the driver’s seat. Glaser was outside the car feeding the couple’s dog, King testified.

Burton had a water bottle filled with alcohol, King said. He rubbed King’s thigh and asked for a ride to Garey and Holt Avenue to buy cocaine, according to King’s testimony.

Glaser confronted Burton and asked him to get out of the car. Burton refused, so Glaser punched him, forced him out of the car and beat him in the parking lot, King testified.

Burton died the morning after the incident. Pomona police arrested Glaser in Rancho Cucamonga two days after the attack.

The evening of the incident, King sent a text message to a friend that said Burton threatened her and Glaser with a knife.

Glaser’s defense attorney argued during the preliminary hearing that the text message is evidence Glaser acted in self-defense. But in King’s testimony, she denied Burton had a knife.

Appeals court upholds convictions in murder plot

A state appeals court today upheld the convictions of three Pomona gang members serving life prison sentences for their participation in a murder plot.

Julio Ponce Felix Jr., 38, Arthur Garcia, 40, and Ricardo Polanco, 28, were each convicted of of plotting to kill Frankie Buelna in Pomona in 2005.

According to prosecutors, the men plotted to kill Buelna, a Mexican Mafia member, because he was imposing excessive gang “taxes.”

Authorities built a case against the defendants by monitoring their phone conversations through wiretaps. The men were arrested in 2005 before they could carry out the hit on Buelna.

The defendants argued on appeal that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts reached by juries.

A three-judge panel of the state’s Second Appellate District disagreed, ruling that there was sufficient evidence for the convictions.

Buelna, 61, was killed in November 2007 at the Characters bar in downtown Pomona. The case remains unsolved.

Pomona man gets 40-to-life sentence in revenge killing

POMONA — A man convicted of murdering a man to avenge his brother’s slaying was sentenced Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court to 40 years to life in state prison, a prosecutor said.

Prosecutors accused Joel Martin, 24, of targeting Carlos Espinoza on Feb. 4, 2009 because Espinoza was friends with the alleged gang members who fatally shot his brother two months earlier.

Espinoza, 22, was shot six times at a Mission Boulevard bus stop in Pomona by a gunman in a passing Chevy Astro Van.

Before he died, Espinoza, of Pomona, told police his killer was a man he knew as “Guero.” He also told police the gunman’s brother had recently been killed.

Martin, of Pomona, fled the city after the shooting. A year later, police discovered that he was living with a sibling in Portales, New Mexico.

Martin was arrested there and interviewed by a Pomona police detective, but he initially denied he was involved in Espinoza’s death.

He confessed after a detective confronted him with evidence tying him to the shooting. He also acknowledged his nickname was “Guero.”

Martin’s brother, 24-year-old Miguel Martin, was shot to death on Mission Boulevard on Dec. 5, 2008 about a block east of where Espinoza was killed.

The gunman in the case, Jose Luis Gutierrez, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. He was 16 when he shot Miguel Martin.

Arrest made in death of fetus

From the Associated Press:

ONTARIO — A Hesperia woman has been arrested on suspicion of causing the death of a pregnant relative’s fetus following a fight between the women last year.

Ontario police Detective Jeff Crittenden said Tuesday that 27-year-old Nieshia Johnson is being held on more than $1 million bail for investigation of murder.

Crittenden said Johnson was babysitting for the relative in November when the women got into an argument, then a fight over Johnson disciplining the victim’s children. Later, the victim went to the hospital for treatment and she lost her more than 8-week-old fetus.

It was later determined that the fetus was delivered prematurely due to blunt force trauma.

It’s not immediately known whether Johnson has retained an attorney.

Two men arrested, charged in Pomona killing

POMONA — Two men have been arrested and charged with murder for the shooting death of a 36-year-old man this month in the 200 block of East Holt Avenue.

Armando Saucedo, 19, and Jose Bedolla, 20, were arrested by Pomona police April 20 in connection with the April 16 slaying of Jimmie Adams. Authorities allege the two men are gang members.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged both men with murder. They are scheduled to be arraigned May 25 in Pomona Superior Court.

Each man remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.

Jury begins deliberating in Ontario woman’s murder trial

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SAN BERNARDINO — A jury began deliberating this afternoon in the trial of an Ontario woman charged with murdering her husband nearly four years ago.

Mia Gonzales, 36, is accused of shooting and killing Abel Gonzales, 44, on Oct. 27, 2007 in the couple’s bedroom in the 1900 block of South Almond Street.

The jury retired to deliberate after hearing closing arguments from attorneys in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Izadi said Mia Gonzales was the aggressor during an argument with her husband about whether the couple should divorce.

Mia Gonzales initiated physical contact by slapping her husband in the face, and she further escalated the fight when she retrieved a revolver, Izadi said.

“This is someone who took a fight about a divorce too far,” Izadi said.

Mia Gonzales testified during the trial that her husband, a state parole officer, often physically abused her. She said the abuse was at its worst the night of the shooting.

She testified that she threatened her husband with a gun because she feared for her safety and the safety of her three daughters, who were in the home at the time of the incident.

Mia Gonzales said her husband struggled with her as she held the gun, and the weapon inadvertently fired.

Abel Gonzales was shot below the chin at close range. The bullet entered his brain, killing him within seconds.

Mia Gonzales’ defense attorney, Mark Fredrick, told the jury during his closing argument that Mia Gonzales was entitled to defend herself from her husband.

“We don’t call people murderers for accidents,” Fredrick said. “She didn’t mean to hurt anybody.”

The jury, which consists of nine women and three men, has the option of convicting Mia Gonzales of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. They could also acquit her.

Izadi said Mia Gonzales lied about her husband’s alleged abuse, and accused the wife of trying “to turn the tables on someone who is no longer here to defend himself.”

The prosecutor said Mia Gonzales was angry about her husband’s infidelity and the possibility of losing custody of her children.

“This is not a manslaughter, it’s a murder,” Izadi said. “And at the very least it’s second-degree murder.”

Testimony concludes in Ontario woman’s murder trial

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SAN BERNARDINO — Testimony concluded Monday in the trial of an Ontario woman charged with murdering her husband nearly four years ago.

Attorneys in the case are expected to deliver closing arguments today, and afterward jurors will begin deliberating.

Mia Gonzales, 36, is accused of shooting and killing Abel Gonzales on Oct. 27, 2007 at the couple’s home in the 1900 block of South Almond Street.

On the witness stand Monday and last week in San Bernardino Superior Court, Mia Gonzales said her marriage was failing, and she and her husband argued the night of the shooting about whether to divorce.

She said Abel Gonzales was mentally and physically abusive, and on the night of the shooting he beat her severely. She said she retrieved a revolver to protect herself and didn’t intend to hurt her husband.

She said the gun inadvertently fired as she struggled with her husband.

Prosecutors believe Mia Gonzales is lying about what occurred during the shooting.

So do family members of Abel Gonzales, a 44-year-old state parole agent who relatives describe as nonviolent.

Family members said Mia Gonzales’ description of Abel Gonzales behavior — as violent and controlling — is inconsistent with how they remember the Norwalk native.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Izadi completed her cross-examination of Mia Gonzales on Monday morning.

The prosecutor sought to portray the defendant as a liar whose accusations about her husband can’t be verified.

“Abel’s not here to contest anything you say, right?” Izadi asked.

“No, he’s not,” Mia Gonzales responded.

Gonzales’ defense attorney called several people to testify Monday who befriended the Gonzales family through church.

Ralph Castillo testified that Abel Gonzales told him he was having an ongoing affair. He also said he saw small bruises on Mia Gonzales’ arms that she told him were caused by clumsiness.

Other people testified that they saw bruising and other markings on Mia Gonzales’ body in the months prior to the shooting.

After the defense rested its case, Izadi called one of Abel Gonzales’ former co-workers to testify as a character witness.

Steven Dye, an employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said he and Abel Gonzales worked together as prison guards between 1987 and 1993.

Dye said he never saw Abel Gonzales act violent or aggressive toward inmates or co-workers.

“I never saw Abel get upset or lose his cool,” Dye testified. “He was a pleasure to work with.”

Accused drunken driver asks to withdraw guilty pleas in double-murder case

POMONA — The sentencing hearing for a Covina man convicted in a fatal drunken driving crash was unexpectedly postponed today because the defendant wants to back out of his plea bargain.

Alan Michael McConnell, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder on April 6 as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that carries a prison sentence of 15 years to life.

A judge was scheduled to impose that sentence today in Pomona Superior Court, but sentencing was delayed to allow McConnell time to craft a request to withdraw his guilty pleas.

His request is scheduled to be heard May 20.

Authorities said McConnell’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 — nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 — when he drove a car into a tree on Jan. 23, 2010 in the median of Foothill Boulevard in La Verne.

Two of his passengers were killed in the crash: Telassie Dague, 22, and Renee Hardy, 20.

Several dozen supporters and family members of the two young women came to court today for McConnell’s sentencing, and many were upset by the postponement.

Dague’s mother shouted, “Shame on this system,” several times when the victims’ supporters were told of the delay in the case.