Suspect’s relative recalls body being exhumed in Ontario

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Pictured above: The area of an Ontario backyard where Carmen Montenegro allegedly exhumed a dismembered body Sunday.

Pictured below, at right: The holes Montenegro reportedly dug a month ago during what she said was a gardening project.

Pictured at bottom: The street view of the home where Montenegro allegedly exhumed the body.

ONTARIO — When Matthew Bell moved into his grandmother’s house three weeks ago, there were four large holes in the backyard.

A tenant who rents a room in the Ontario home told Bell that a week earlier, Bell’s cousin, Carmen Montenegro, dug the holes as part of what she described as a gardening project, to beautify the yard with new trees and flowers.

Bell now believes Montenegro’s gardening project was cover for the true purpose of her visit — to bury a dismembered body that she allegedly exhumed Sunday and loaded into a trash can.

Ontario police arrested Montenegro, 51, of San Bernardino, after she reportedly walked 200 yards on residential streets with the trash can containing an unidentified man’s remains.

Bell, 18, said he was at home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue during the entire episode.

He recalled seeing Montenegro throw body parts into the trash can, and he said she offered him $5,000 for help disposing the body.

Bell said he left the home to call police, and Montenegro followed him with the trash can, imploring him for help.

“I still can’t believe it,” Bell said today during an interview at his Holmes Avenue residence. “It’s (like) some crazy movie.”

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Bell, who said his mother is Montenegro’s first cousin, said Montenegro came to his home Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with two men he didn’t recognize who may have been day laborers.

She seemed panicked as she came into the living room, where Bell, his girlfriend and his brother were playing video games, Bell recalled.

She paused Bell’s controller and offered the group $100 each if they left the home immediately.

Though Bell said Montenegro didn’t pay them, they left. They walked only about two houses away before Bell said he reconsidered his decision.

“I just had a bad feeling,” he said. “She’s played our family so many times in the past.”

The group walked back to the house. One of the men Montenegro arrived with was waiting in the front driveway with a red Toyota pickup in which the group arrived, Bell said.

Bell said he walked to the backyard with his girlfriend and brother.

He said he saw Montenegro waist-deep in a hole in the back corner of the yard. The other man she came with was standing beside the hole, and both were holding shovels, he said.

When the laborer saw Bell and the two others, he stopped digging. He walked to the front of the home, where he and the other laborer left in the pickup, Bell said.

With Montenegro now lacking assistance and a ride, she panicked further, Bell said.

She offered Bell $5,000 to help her dispose of the body, Bell said. He said he initially considered her offer and put on gloves that she gave him.

Bell said the smell of the corpse was overwhelming, and the sight was gruesome.

He recalled seeing a white trash bag that contained several body parts, including a leg that was severed at the mid section of the thigh.

He said he vomited several times and resolved to leave the backyard and call police.

As he left, he said he saw Montenegro throw body parts into a small wheeled trash can. She called for him to help, Bell said.

“Help me hide him,” she said, according to Bell.

She covered the body with dirt after it was fully loaded into the container, Bell recalled.

Bell said he, his girlfriend and his brother left the home and walked north on Holmes Avenue. Bell said he called the police.

Montenegro followed the group, dragging the trash can with her and pleading for Bell and the others to return, Bell said.

“Matthew, come here,” she said, according to Bell. “You guys, come here.”

She followed them north to H Street, then followed them west along H. Bell said police arrived as Montenegro was three houses west of Holmes Avenue.

Bell said that after Sunday’s incident, his family held a meeting to discuss Montenegro’s arrest. He said he learned during the meeting that last Wednesday, two gunmen reportedly came to Montenegro’s home in San Bernardino.

They threatened her and other family members, Bell said, and stole Montenegro’s purse and car keys.

The men reportedly told Montenegro that they knew she was the last person seen with a man they said was missing, and they demanded she “come clean,” Bell said.

The men stole Montenegro’s car when they left her home, Bell said.

After the robbery, Montenegro was panicked and suicidal, and said she wanted to hang herself, Bell said he learned from his relatives.

Bell said he believes Montenegro felt pressured to move the body because in her stolen car was a copy of Bell’s resume, which contained his Holmes Avenue address.

Bell said he believes Montenegro possibly feared the men who threatened her would use the information to locate the body.

Bell said he first met Montenegro a year ago, having been kept away from her during his childhood due to a rift in the family.

“My mom said she’s the black sheep in the family,” he said.

Bell said the home where the body was buried is owned by his grandmother, but she recently moved in with Bell’s mother in Pasadena due to health issues.

Bell said he lives in the home with several tenants who rent rooms.

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Missing Diamond Bar man may be corpse found in Ontario trash can

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Pictured: Carmen Montenegro during her arraignment today.

Authorities said today that that the dismembered corpse found in a woman’s trash can in Ontario may be her former boyfriend — a 63-year-old Diamond Bar man who was reported missing by his family May 1.

Police and prosecutors declined to name the missing man because they haven’t confirmed the identity of the remains.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office charged Carmen Montenegro today with murdering a man identified in a complaint as “John Doe.”

Montenegro, 51, was arrested Sunday after she allegedly exhumed a dismembered corpse from the backyard of a home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue in Ontario, then pushed a trash can containing the remains 200 yards along residential streets.

Montenegro, of San Bernardino, pleaded not guilty to murder this afternoon during a brief arraignment in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga.

Judge Michael Libutti set Montenegro’s bail at $1 million, and scheduled her next court hearing for Thursday, when she may argue for reduced bail.

Montenegro said during the hearing that she feels $1 million bail is too high.

“That’s not reasonable for me because I don’t work,” she said.

Montenegro was not represented by an attorney. She remained jailed at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

According to Montenegro’s cousin, who was at the home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue during the incident, Montenegro arrived at the home with two day laborers at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

About a month ago, Montenegro dug several large holes in the home’s backyard as part of what she described as a gardening project, said the cousin, Matthew Bell.

Bell said that on Sunday, Montenegro exhumed a body from the rear corner of the backyard and loaded the remains into a wheeled trash can.

The two day laborers left, and Montenegro asked Bell and others for help. They refused, left the home and walked north on Holmes Avenue.

Montenegro followed them, still dragging the trash can behind her, Bell said. She was arrested about 200 yards away from the home.

Ontario police Detective Jeff Crittenden said the missing person’s report for Montenegro’s former boyfriend was made May 1 at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Walnut station, whose patrol area includes Diamond Bar.

Crittenden declined to name the missing man because police haven’t confirmed that the dismembered corpse recovered Sunday is him.

He said he was unsure of the time frame of Montenegro and the man’s relationship.

“All I know is they had a dating relationship,” Crittenden said. “I don’t know the time frame.”

Deputy District Attorney Nancy Cooper, who appeared in court for the prosecution during Montenegro’s arraignment, said authorities may be able to identify the corpse through unique scars or tattoos, or through DNA comparison with possible relatives.

Authorities have declined to state what body parts were missing from the dismembered corpse found in the trash can.

Police arrest murder suspect who pushed trash can containing man’s partial remains

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ONTARIO — A woman was arrested on suspicion of murder Sunday after police found her walking with a trash can that contained an unidentified man’s partial remains.

Carmen Montenegro, 51, was arrested at about 2:45 p.m. after Ontario police received calls that she was pushing a container with human remains, according to a news release.

Montenegro allegedly walked with the wheeled trash can 200 yards along a sidewalk — from a home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue, where she may have lived, to the 900 block of East H Street, where she was arrested, police said.

Police believe the unidentified man’s remains were dug up from the back yard of the home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue, said Detective Jeff Crittenden.

Crittenden said police found a hole in the home’s rear lawn.

The identity of the deceased man, his cause of death, the location of his death, and his connection to Montenegro remain unknown, Crittenden said today.

Crittenden said the remains in the trash can were partial, but he declined to say which body parts were present or missing.

Authorities this afternoon continued to search the back yard where the body was reportedly removed from the ground, as well as the inside of the house, Crittenden said.

Police said Montenegro is a resident of San Bernardino, but Crittenden said she may have previously lived in the home in the 700 block of North Holmes Avenue.

Multiple residents of the area said Montenegro’s mother owns the home and lives there, and Montenegro has lived there on and off since for at least 15 years.

Some of Montenegro’s other relatives also live in the home, as do tenants who rent rooms, the neighbors said.

After Montenegro was arrested, she was taken to the Ontario Police Department and later booked at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, according to a police news release.

Crittenden said Montenegro asked for an attorney and did not speak to police.

Detectives interviewed eight other witnesses Sunday night at the Ontario Police Department, Crittenden said.

Anonymous tips aided police in arrests for Easter Sunday killing

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Pictured (L-R): Jon Flores and Joseph Arrez.ONTARIO — The two alleged gang members charged with carjacking and murdering a man on Easter Sunday were tied to the killing through assistance from witnesses, police said.

Jon Flores, 29, and Joseph Arrez, 31, have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges filed in connection with the April 24 shooting death of Gregory Peck Johnson.

Johnson, a 59-year-old former Marine, was shot in the head at about 6:30 p.m. during an alleged carjacking outside his apartment building in the 1500 block of North Holmes Court, police said.

Police found his 2006 Ford Explorer about three hours later in an alley near the intersection of D Street and Begonia Avenue.

After holding a press conference about the case in the days following the shooting, police received anonymous phone calls from people who said Flores and Arrez were Johnson’s killers, Sgt. Keith Volm said.

Witnesses later identified the men in photo lineups presented to them by investigators, Volm said.

Witnesses identified Flores and Arrez as people seen after the shooting entering an apartment building within a quarter-mile of where the vehicle was abandoned, according to a court declaration from Detective Jeff Wentz.

Two men matching the descriptions of Flores and Arrez were seen leaving Johnson’s car where it was abandoned about 30 minutes after the shooting, according to Wentz’s declaration, which was in the defendants’ court file.

Johnson was shot with a .22-caliber round, and one or more witnesses saw Flores and Arrez with a .22-caliber handgun after the shooting, Wentz wrote.

Volm said he believed that people provided anonymous tips in part because Johnson was a random victim, not a gang member targeted by a rival.

“I think people were just upset by that fact,” Volm said.

Johnson fought in the Vietnam War, and after his military service he became an officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Volm said. Johnson recently retired, Volm said.

“We believe he was just a random victim — that these guys needed a ride and they just saw him,” Volm said.

Flores was arrested May 18 at his home in the 500 block of West Maitland Street in Ontario.

Arrez was arrested the following day in Thousand Palms in the 31500 block of Las Flores Way.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has charged both men with murder, carjacking and street terrorism.

The charges carry “special allegations” — which if proven would lengthen the men’s prison terms — that the crimes were committed using a firearm and to benefit a street gang.

Both men have numerous gang tattoos, including “Onterio,” which Arrez has tattooed on his back and Flores has tattooed on his head, according to police reports and booking photos.

“I’ve known these guys for many, many years,” Volm said. “They’re both members of the gang.”

Flores and Arrez each have a prior conviction related to drug sales, and Flores was convicted in 2005 of vehicle theft, according to the felony complaint in the men’s court file.

The men remain jailed in lieu of $1 million bail, and they’re next due June 29 in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga.

Flores’ mother declined to comment when she was reached at her home on Maitland Street.

Judge reduces bail for Ontario woman charged in husband’s slaying

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SAN BERNARDINO — A judge reduced bail today for an Ontario woman who faces criminal charges in connection with her husband’s shooting death.

Mia Gonzales was acquitted by a jury last month of first- and second-degree murder for Abel Gonzales’ shooting death, but the panel deadlocked in its deliberations over a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is the only charge that currently stands.

During a brief hearing today in San Bernardino Superior Court, Judge Ronald Christianson reduced Gonzales’ bail from $2 million to $1 million.

The new bail amount equaled a prosecutor’s request and exceeded Gonzales’ attorney’s call for bail at $350,000, which is the amount suggested by the “bail schedule.”

“I think it’s awfully high for the charge. I respectfully disagree with (the judge’s ruling),” Gonzales’ attorney, Mark Fredrick, said after the hearing.

Fredrick said Gonzales is unable to post $1 million bail.

Mia Gonzales, 36, testified during her trial that she and her 44-year-old husband argued in their bedroom the night of Oct. 27, 2007, and her husband became physically abusive.

She said she retrieved a handgun for protection, and it inadvertently fired when her husband tried to gain control of the weapon.

Abel Gonzales, a Norwalk native and Fontana-based state parole agent, was shot in the head and died within seconds.

Mia Gonzales has been in jail since the shooting.

Christianson said he based his decision in part on a $1 million bail recommendation from a detention review officer with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The judge also noted that the jury in Gonzales’ trial was split 11-1 in favor of guilt for voluntary manslaughter, putting Gonzales only one juror away from a prison term.

Abel Gonzales’ sister, Sandy Silva, called the judge’s ruling just.

“Whenever this woman walks, she’s a ticking time bomb,” Silva said. “She’s going to kill someone else.”

Mia Gonzales is next due in court June 10.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Izadi said her office hasn’t decided whether to retry Gonzales or offer her a plea agreement.

Criminal charges denied in death at construction site

CHINO — A construction superintendent and the company he works for pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal charges filed in connection with a worker’s death.

Yeong Hak Song, 57, fell 19 feet to his death on April 30, 2008 when temporary roofing materials failed at a construction site at Crossroads Community Church in Chino Hills.

Job site superintendent Robert Worthington and the company he works for, Thayer Construction, Inc. of Yorba Linda, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in Chino Superior Court.

Worthington, 51, is charged with two felonies: involuntary manslaughter and willful violations of a standard causing death, which is a violation of the state labor code.

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

Chino city attorney convicted of reckless driving in DUI case

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WEST COVINA — Chino’s longtime city attorney pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving today in his case stemming from an arrest on suspicion of drunken driving.

Jimmy Gutierrez’s plea in West Covina Superior Court came as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, who agreed to drop two counts of driving under the influence.

Gutierrez was placed on probation for three years and fined $1,663, which he paid immediately after the hearing.

Gutierrez, Chino’s city attorney since 1975, was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer in October for allegedly driving drunk on the 60 Freeway in the City of Industry.

Gutierrez likened prosecutors’ dismissal of the DUI counts to a determination of innocence. A prosecutor disputed Gutierrez’s characterization of the plea agreement.

“The (Los Angeles County) district attorney has determined I’m innocent of driving under the influence,” Gutierrez said. “After reviewing all the evidence the district attorney dismissed all the charges against me.”

Deputy District Attorney Daphne Smith said that blood drawn from Gutierrez about an hour after his arrest yielded a blood-alcohol measurement of 0.10, which exceeds the legal limit of 0.08.

But in the event of a trial, Gutierrez planned to use a “rising blood-alcohol defense,” in which he’d argue that his blood-alcohol level was lower than 0.08 while driving, and rose after his arrest, Smith said.

Such a rise could have occurred if Gutierrez drank immediately before driving, Smith said.

Smith said prosecutors were unable to find witnesses to describe what Gutierrez drank before his arrest.

Said Gutierrez: “This case is one where the arresting officer’s judgment that I was driving under the influence was mistaken.”

“This incident inspires me to exercise great caution before driving and to encourage others to do the same,” he continued. “I thank God, my family and my friends for the support they have given me.”

Gutierrez declined to answer specific questions about the circumstances of his arrest or about whether he was drinking, saying such questions were “irrelevant at this point” in light of the case’s resolution.

Memorial planned for slain Chino Hills woman

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Friends of a Chino Hills woman slain by her husband have scheduled a candlelight memorial this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the woman’s death.

Iman Wahid, 33, was stabbed to death on May 25, 2010 by her husband, Samir Wahid, who is jailed awaiting trial for murder.

Iman Wahid’s friends are set to hold the memorial at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 15700 block of Sedona Drive in Chino Hills.

“(Iman Wahid) had no family here in California, so as her friend I feel compelled to keep her memory alive in any way,” said Lorraine Sandoval, one of the organizers of the memorial.

Plea deal near in Chino city attorney’s DUI case

WEST COVINA — Chino’s longtime city attorney may soon admit to a criminal charge in his case for allegedly driving drunk, his attorney told a judge today.

Jimmy Gutierrez, Chino’s city attorney since 1975, was arrested by a California Highway Patrol officer in October for allegedly driving drunk on the 60 Freeway in the City of Industry.

Prosecutors later charged Gutierrez with two misdemeanors.

On Thursday in West Covina Superior Court prosecutors added a third misdemeanor — reckless driving — to which Gutierrez may plead guilty or no contest on Monday, his attorney, Felipe I. Plascencia, told Judge Jon R. Takasugi.

Gutierrez did not appear in court Thursday. He was not required to appear because he faces only misdemeanors.

Gutierrez, who is also Rialto’s city attorney, graduated from Pomona College in Claremont and attended law school at UCLA.

Fontana DMV employee sentenced for falsifying records

FONTANA — A former Department of Motor Vehicles employee convicted of falsifying records was placed on probation for three years today at her sentencing hearing in Fontana Superior Court, her attorney said.

Felicia Shauntee Fuller of Victorville pleaded guilty in March to a felony count of computer access and fraud.

The plea was entered as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, who agreed to drop the remaining counts against Fuller.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed a 12-count complaint against Fuller in December alleging that she falsified records in exchange for cash at the Fontana DMV office where she worked as a “motor vehicle field representative.”

According to a police report in Fuller’s court file, Fuller changed a man’s DMV record to make it appear he’d passed the written test needed to obtain a driver’s license.

The man told investigators he failed the test multiple times before paying a third party between $100 and $200 to have the record changed, according to the report.

Fuller was also accused of creating fake IDs for a wanted criminal with his aliases in place of his true name.

Fuller’s crimes were committed between March and July 2009, prosecutors said.