Man pleads guilty in Chino arson case

CHINO — A 28-year-old man accused of torching his ex-girlfriend’s car in January has pleaded guilty to felony vandalism as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Carlos Allen Alexander of Long Beach entered his plea Monday in Chino Superior Court. His plea agreement carries a sentence of a year in jail, which is scheduled to be imposed by a judge on July 26.

According to police reports contained in Alexander’s court file, he often came uninvited to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment in the 13000 block of Ramona Avenue in Chino.

The evening of Jan. 12 he allegedly lurked outside the woman’s home and continuously called her and sent text messages asking that she take him back, according to the report.

The woman told police she refused to open her front door for Alexander and later ignored a knock at her door, fearing it was him.

Shortly after midnight the woman’s car was torched. Witnesses told police they saw a man matching Alexander’s description walking away from the burning vehicle, according to the police report.

Alexander was arrested at about 10 a.m. on Jan. 13 at a motel in Pomona.

Man pleads no contest in fatal street racing crash

POMONA – A Montclair man pleaded no contest to three counts of vehicular manslaughter today in connection with a 2002 street racing crash in which three people were killed.

Roque Torres, 28, entered his pleas in Pomona Superior Court as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that carries a prison sentence of five years and four months. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 25.

According to prosecutors, Torres and another driver, 22-year-old Jamael Glenn Johnson, raced each other at speeds of up to 100 mph in Pomona on Dec. 20, 2002.

Johnson’s 1993 Honda collided with a van at Garey Avenue and Philadelphia Street, killing Johnson and his two passengers: Jose Issac Batres, 26, and Carlos Mendoza, 20. All three men were from Pomona.

Torres fled the scene after the crash, authorities said.

The driver of the van suffered serious injuries, according to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The case remained unsolved until October 2010, when the Pomona Police Department received an anonymous tip implicating Torres, according to the news release. Torres was arrested in February.

Murder trial opens in Upland killing

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A murder trial opened today for an alleged Ontario gang member accused of gunning down a fellow gang member two years ago on an Upland residential street.

Daniel Vera, 23, is accused of killing Manuel Jesus Vega, 29, on Jan. 13, 2009 in the 300 block of Stillman Avenue in front of an apartment complex where Vega’s mother lived.

Vega had been “green-lighted” for execution by his gang, Deputy District Attorney Carlo DiCesare told jurors during his opening statement in West Valley Superior Court.

“This is a gang hit,” DiCesare said. “Members of the same gang hit each other just like they hit rival gangs.”

Three witnesses saw a man matching Vera’s description with Vega at the time of the shooting, DiCesare said.

Clothing found by police in Vera’s bedroom matched the attire that witnesses said was worn by the shooter, DiCesare said.

Investigators also found distinctive particles on Vera’s clothing that indicate he had been close to a fired gun, DiCesare said.

Vera’s attorney, Joe Borges, told the jury that Vera didn’t kill Vega. It’s impossible, he said, because at the time Vera was at the Ontario Mills mall, about eight miles from where Vega was killed.

Borges showed jurors a still image from a mall security camera that he said pictured Vera with two friends. The image was time-stamped 5:35 p.m., which is about 25 minutes before the shooting.

“My client was simply not there and did not do this,” Borges said.

After attorneys completed their opening statements, jurors heard testimony from a man who lived across the street from where Vega was shot.

The witness, whose name is withheld for fear of gang retaliation, said that 5 to 10 minutes prior to the shooting he saw Vega and Vera together near a sidewalk.

The witness said he and Vera locked eyes for several seconds.

He said he’d seen Vera with Vega in the past, and recalled that Vera had a large tattoo across the back of his neck that said “Onterio,” which is an intentional misspelling used by Ontario gangs.

His recollection of the distinctive tattoo assisted detectives in identifying Vera as Vega’s suspected shooter.

During his testimony, the man looked at Vera and said he was “100 percent sure” he saw the same man with Vega shortly before the shooting.

Men plead not guilty in immigrant smuggling case

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Two Mexican citizens accused of holding three immigrants captive at a home here pleaded not guilty today to criminal charges.

Jose DeJesus Horta Gutterrez, 34, and Leonardo Rios Sanchez, 24, entered their pleas during an arraignment in West Valley Superior Court.

Alvaro Barajas, 38, was also charged in the case and was expected to be arraigned today, but information about his court appearance was unavailable.

Prosecutors allege the men held captive three illegal immigrants from Mexico who paid between $2,000 and $3,000 for assistance crossing the border.

The immigrants were being held in Rancho Cucamonga until their friends or families paid an additional $1,000, according to prosecutors.

The defendants were arrested Friday after one of the immigrants used a cell phone to call 9-1-1, according to a San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman.

The defendants remained jailed today in lieu of $2.5 million at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Prosecutors charged each man Tuesday with three counts of kidnapping for ransom and three counts of false imprisonment by violence.

Testimony: Man killed ex-girlfriend after she rebuffed reunion

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Pictured: Jessica Flores.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A man accused of stabbing his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend to death last year did so after the girl rebuffed his request that they reunite, according to court testimony today.

After his arrest, Danny Vasquez told police he pleaded with Jessica Flores to return to him as both sat in a parked car outside Flores’ home in Bloomington, according to testimony from Ontario police Detective Al Parra.

During their early-morning conversation on Sept. 30, Flores became distracted by neighborhood dogs that approached Vasquez’s borrowed car, Parra testified.

When Flores greeted the dogs, Vasquez felt the girl was making light of their discussion. The 21-year-old became enraged and stabbed Flores in the throat with a steak knife, Parra testified.

Flores gasped for air and held her neck. Though there was a hospital near Flores’ home, Vasquez drove aimlessly until the girl died, Parra testified.

At about 2:30 a.m. Vasquez drove to his mother’s apartment in Ontario and called police. He was subsequently arrested.

Parra’s account of Vasquez’s confession came during a preliminary hearing in West Valley Superior Court. Vasquez’s mother and one of his sisters also testified.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Michael Libutti ruled that prosecutors presented enough evidence for Vasquez to stand trial for murder.

Vasquez’s mother, Margaret Leal, testified that she was asleep when her son arrived at her apartment in the 1700 block of East Fourth Street.

Leal said Vasquez entered her bedroom and woke her. He was hysterical, and he said he thought he’d killed Flores, Leal testified.

“He said, ‘I told you I needed help,’” Leal testified.

The commotion also roused Vasquez’s sister, Lidia Cuellar.

Cuellar testified that after she heard Vasquez say he feared he’d killed Flores, she rushed to check on the girl. She said she found Flores unresponsive in the passenger seat.

According to Parra’s testimony, Vasquez lived at a sister’s home in San Bernardino at the time of Flores’ killing.

He borrowed his sister’s car the day before the incident to search for work. He took one of his sister’s four steak knives with him, Parra testified.

In his confession, Vasquez said he arrived at Flores’ home after nightfall and went to her bedroom window. He convinced her to come with him to the car, Parra testified.

According to Parra, Vasquez made statements during his confession such as, “If he couldn’t have (Flores), no one else could,” and, “If he was going to lose everything, so would she.”

The couple met through MySpace, a social networking website, Parra said.

Flores was an Ontario native and attended Chaffey High School, her friends said last year.

When she died she’d been living at her father’s home in Bloomington for about a year, according to her friends.

Vasquez remained jailed today in lieu of $2 million bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He is next due in court July 5.

Three charged in human smuggling case

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges today against three men accused of holding captive three illegal immigrants who were smuggled across the Mexican border.

The men, all Mexican citizens, allegedly kept the immigrants in a Rancho Cucamonga home and told each captive they would not be released until their friends or family members paid a $1,000 fee, a prosecutor said.

Before they were taken to the United States, the immigrants — all Mexican citizens — each paid smugglers between $2,000 and $3,000, said John Kochis, chief deputy district attorney.

The three alleged smugglers were each charged with six felonies: three counts of kidnapping for ransom and three counts of false imprisonment by violence.

The accused men are Jose DeJesus Horta Gutterez, 34, Leonardo Rios Sanchez, 24, and Alvaro Barajas, 38.

They are being held at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, and are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning in West Valley Superior Court, according to court staff members.

At about 8 a.m. Friday, one of the captives called 9-1-1 using a cell phone and reported that he and others were being held captive, according to a San Bernardino County spokeswoman.

Deputies obtained a search warrant for a home in the 13000 block of Arrow Route, and found eight people inside, Kochis said.

According to Kochis, deputies determined that three of the people were captives, three others were responsible for holding them, and two were illegal Mexican immigrants who had been smuggled but were not being held for further payment.

Kochis said the five immigrants are in custody for a hold by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and may be deported.

Assessor’s Office scandal figure appears in court

SAN BERNARDINO — A former Assessor’s Office employee charged with falsifying timesheets appeared today in San Bernardino Superior Court.

A new pre-trial hearing was scheduled for June 30 in Gregory Eyler’s case.

Eyler, 35, was hired in 2007 as a “taxpayer advocate” under then-Assessor Bill Postmus, who prosecutors say misused his office by hiring unqualified friends, such as Eyler, and conducting political business.

According to prosecutors, Eyler often asked to be paid for time when he was not working.

His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Eric A. Teti, told a judge that on June 30, “What we’re hoping to do is (hold) a little more detailed conference with the court about setting trial dates.”

Department investigates deputy in gun case

INDIO — The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is conducting an internal investigation into a deputy who was charged with bringing his service weapon to court in his other criminal case, a Riverside County prosecutor said today.

Word of the internal investigation was a factor in prosecutors’ decision to drop criminal charges Thursday against the deputy, 44-year-old Richard Heverly, said Deputy District Attorney Lee Roberts.

“We feel that this situation … is better handled by their disciplinary process,” Roberts said.

Heverly, of La Verne, was charged with assault with a firearm and other crimes after a tow truck driver claimed Heverly, while off duty, held a gun to his head in August 2008 during an apparent road-rage incident on the 10 Freeway 50 miles east of Indio.

A jury acquitted Heverly of all charges last year in the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

During a January 2010 court appearance in that case, Heverly came to court in full uniform with his service weapon, and he was subsequently charged with possessing a firearm in a state building.

“There really wasn’t any criminal intent on his part,” Roberts said. “Certainly, it was really, really bad judgment.”

A sheriff’s spokeswoman declined to comment and said information about an internal investigation would be confidential.

Covina man testifies in bid to withdraw guilty pleas

POMONA — A Covina man accused of killing two young women last year in an alleged drunk driving crash testified today that he felt pressured by his court-appointed attorney to accept a plea agreement from prosecutors.

Alan Michael McConnell, 28, said he didn’t build a relationship with his attorney, who he said seldom returned phone calls.

“It was as if I wasn’t important,” McConnell said. “That’s how I felt.”

McConnell pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in April as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that carried a prison sentence of 15 years to life.

He decided prior to his sentencing that he wanted to revert his pleas to not guilty.

Prosecutors accuse McConnell of having a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 on Jan. 23, 2010 when he drove into a tree in the median of Foothill Boulevard in La Verne.

His two passengers — Renee Hardy, 20, and Telassie Dague, 22 — were killed in the crash.

McConnell is scheduled to retake the witness stand this morning in Pomona Superior Court.

A judge is expected to rule on McConnell’s request to withdraw his guilty pleas after he completes his testimony, and after his prior attorney testifies.

Prosecutors drop criminal case against sheriff’s deputy

INDIO — Prosecutors dropped criminal charges today against a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy who allegedly brought his service weapon to court in his other criminal case.

The felony charge against 44-year-old Richard Charles Heverly — possessing a firearm in a state building — was dismissed by a judge upon a motion by prosecutors at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

“We’re just very happy with the outcome,” said Heverly’s attorney, Michael Schwartz.

Heverly, of La Verne, was charged with assault with a firearm and other charges after a tow truck driver claimed Heverly, while off duty, held a gun to his head in August 2008 during an apparent road-rage incident.

Heverly was acquitted by a jury in November of all charges in the case.

During a January 2010 court appearance in that case, Heverly came to court in full uniform with his service weapon. Prosecutors said that was a violation of the law, and subsequently charged him.

Schwartz said he learned late Wednesday from the prosecutor handling the case that it would be dropped.

He declined to discuss whether prosecutors explained why they no longer wished to pursue the case.

A spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment this afternoon.