Man accused of killing rabbits pleads not guilty

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A Victorville man accused of killing as many as 20 wild rabbits in Ontario pleaded not guilty today to five counts of animal cruelty.

A judge also turned down a prosecutor’s request to set bail for Shea Johnson, 22, who was arrested in May but released from jail on his “own recognizance” pending criminal charges. Today was his first appearance in West Valley Superior Court.

Johnson is accused of capturing wild rabbits at Fox Rent A Car, where he works as a driver, and killing the animals by hitting them with his fists or slamming them against walls and fences.

He was arrested after one of his co-workers secretly took video footage of the alleged abuse and presented it to police, authorities said.

After Johnson pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, Judge Raymond P. Van Stockum rejected Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ploghaus’ request to set Johnson’s bail at $50,000.

“He’s a danger to the community without some kind of bail being set,” Ploghaus said.

Johnson’s attorney, Alphonse Provinziano, told the judge that Johnson “is not going to re-offend in any way.”

Provinziano said Johnson has no prior criminal history, is enrolled in school, and continues to hold his job at Fox Rent A Car, 1776 E. Holt Blvd.

When Provinziano mentioned the business, Van Stockum interrupted him and asked, “Which is overrun with these animals?”

“Yes, your honor,” Provinziano said.

After the hearing, Provinziano said Johnson will not be available for an interview. He declined to discuss Johnson’s possible defense to the charges.

“At this time we’re investigating the case,” he said.

Johnson is next due in court Aug. 3.

Man pleads not guilty to murdering wife

CHINO — A Rancho Cucamonga man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that he murdered his wife, who was fatally shot Sunday and dumped on a residential street in Ontario.

Bobby Joe Winters, 74, is accused of shooting 70-year-old Angela Winters twice at the couple’s daughter’s home in Chino, and shooting her a third time before leaving her in the 300 block of West Elm Street at about 9:30 p.m.

About an hour after shooting his wife, Winters shot himself in the chest when confronted by San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies near his home on Galatina Place.

Judge Gerard S. Brown on Wednesday turned down a request from Winters’ attorney to set bail, leaving Winters jailed without bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Winters is next due Aug. 2 in Chino Superior Court.

Arrest warrant issued after DUI suspect misses court date

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A judge issued a $50,000 arrest warrant Wednesday for a suspected drunken driver who failed to show for a hearing in West Valley Superior Court.

Leone Tautuiaki Ahoia, 19, is charged with a felony for allegedly being under the influence of alcohol when he overturned his truck July 2 in Ontario, injuring his 17-year-old girlfriend, who was a passenger.

Police found a smashed can of beer near the overturned truck, and a test of Ahoia’s blood yielded a blood-alcohol measurement of 0.05, according to a police report in Ahoia’s court file.

Ahoia told police his truck overturned when he swerved to avoid another vehicle that cut him off, according to the report.

Man sentenced in fatal street racing crash

POMONA — A Montclair man has been sentenced for participating in a 2002 street race in which his opponent crashed, resulting in three deaths.

Roque Torres, 28, was sentenced to five years in and four months in prison Monday by Judge Jack P. Hunt in Pomona Superior Court.

Torres pleaded no contest to three counts of voluntary manslaughter last month as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

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

Johnson’s car collided with a van at Garey Avenue and Philadelphia, killing Johnson and two passengers: Jose Issac Batres, 26, and Carlos Mendoza, 20. All three were Pomona residents.

Because Torres fled the scene after the crash, his identity as one of the drivers remained unknown until police received a tip in October 2010. Torres was arrested in February.

Man charged with killing wife remains hospitalized

CHINO — A man accused of shooting his wife to death Sunday was unable to appear in court Tuesday because he remains hospitalized, according to a staff member in Chino Superior Court.

Bobby Joe Winters, 74, remained hospitalized at Loma Linda Medical Center, where he was being treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office on Monday charged Winters with murdering 70-year-old Angela Winters.

Bobby Joe Winters allegedly shot his wife twice at about 9:30 p.m. at the couple’s daughter’s home in Chino, then shot her a third time before dumping her body on an Ontario residential street, authorities said.

Winters then drove to his home in Rancho Cucamonga, where he shot himself in the chest after being confronted by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, authorities said.

Chino police: Woman shot to death by husband

CHINO — A woman was shot and killed Sunday by her husband, who later shot himself when confronted by sheriff’s deputies, according to a news release.

Bobby Joe Winters, 74, allegedly shot his wife twice at about 9:30 p.m. at the couple’s daughter’s home in the 12500 block of Arlington Lane in Chino. He then kidnapped his wife from the location, according to a news release.

Winters allegedly shot his wife a third time and left her body in the 300 block of West Elm Street in Ontario, according to a Chino news release.

Angela Winters, 70, was found by Ontario police at 9:36 p.m. and transported to Chino Valley Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department.

Officials have not offered a motive for the slaying.

At about 10:30 p.m., sheriff’s deputies found Bobby Joe Winters near his home in Rancho Cucamonga, the news release said.

A neighbor said Winters drove past the home he shared with his wife in the 6900 block of Galatina Place, a small cul-de-sac near Milliken Avenue and Victoria Park Lane.

Deputies were outside Winters’ home, and they appeared to recognize Winters’ silver Mercedes-Benz sedan as it passed, the neighbor said.

Winters stopped his car about midway down Galatina, and five or six armed deputies approached Winters’ car, the neighbor said.

As the deputies approached Winters, he shot himself in the chest with a handgun, the neighbor said.

The neighbor said he saw a gunshot wound on Winters’ chest. Despite the wound, Winters was responsive to commands from deputies, the neighbor said.

Winters was transported to a local hospital and is in stable condition, according to the news release.

The neighbor, who asked to remain unnamed, said Winters and his wife have lived on Galatina for about 20 years.

“They’re very nice people,” he said. “I would have never suspected this would happen. (They’re the) friendliest people on the street.”

Winters is being held on suspicion of homicide, domestic violence and kidnapping, according to the news release.

A granddaughter of the couple who lives at the Chino home declined to comment to a reporter on Monday.

“Right now we don’t want to speak about anything,” Joanna Morris said.

People who live in the Chino neighborhood said Winters’ daughter lives in the home in the 12500 block of Arlington Lane with her husband and three daughters.

Two men at the couple’s home in Rancho Cucamonga declined to comment.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Chino Police Department at 909-628-1234.

Chino woman sentenced in embezzlement

SANTA ANA — A 54-year-old Chino woman was sentenced to four years in state prison today for embezzling more than $82,000 from her Santa Ana employer, according to court records.

Rebecca Labelle pleaded guilty May 19 in Santa Ana Superior Court to four felony counts of computer access and fraud. She was arrested at her home May 11 after she was charged by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Labelle allegedly took money over 15 months from her employer, a sign and graphics company, to pay personal bills and mortgage payments, according to a Santa Ana police news release.

Man charged with animal cruelty for allegedly killing 20 rabbits

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ONTARIO — Prosecutors have charged a Victorville man with five counts of animal cruelty for allegedly killing an estimated 20 rabbits.

Shea Johnson, 22, allegedly killed the rabbits by hitting them and slamming them against a fence or wall outside a car-rental business where he worked near LA/Ontario International Airport, police and prosecutors said.

“He throws them up against the wall, he punches them, just killing them in various ways,” said Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ploghaus.

Johnson was charged July 11. He is currently out of custody, and is scheduled to be arraigned July 28 in West Valley Superior Court, Ploghaus said.

Johnson, whose full name is Shea William David Johnson, was arrested May 25 after one of his co-workers showed police video footage he shot of Johnson abusing and killing rabbits, said Ploghaus and Ontario police Sgt. David McBride.

McBride said the footage shows Johnson striking each rabbit with his fist, then placing each animal in a bag and slamming it against a fence or wall outside the business, Fox Rent A Car at 1776 E. Holt Blvd.

The co-worker secretly filmed Johnson by hiding a camera inside a parked car, Ploghaus said.

The co-worker estimated Johnson killed about 20 rabbits in the month preceding his arrest, Ploghaus and McBride said.

When officers searched Fox Rent A Car they found about a dozen rabbit carcasses behind a back fence, Ploghaus said.

Johnson was interviewed by police after his arrest, McBride said.

“He initially denied any of the acts, and eventually partially admitted to some of it,” McBride said.

Ploghaus said Johnson has no prior criminal history.

Former detective charged in rape pleads insanity

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A former police detective has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges that he kidnapped a woman at gunpoint last year at Ontario Mills and sexually assaulted her for more than an hour.

Anthony Nicholas Orban, 32, entered the pleas Friday in West Valley Superior Court. He’d previously pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the April 3, 2010 incident.

The new pleas mean that a trial in Orban’s case will consist of two phases, attorneys said today.

A jury will first be asked determine whether Orban is guilty of rape and other crimes. If he’s convicted in the first phase, the jury will then hear evidence about Orban’s mental state and deliberate over whether he was sane at the time of the incident.

If Orban is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he will be held indefinitely for treatment in a state mental hospital rather than be sentenced to prison, said his attorney, James Blatt.

Prosecutors say Orban, a former Westminster detective, was off-duty and armed with his service weapon at about 5 p.m. when he confronted a Dave and Buster’s waitress who was walking to her car after her shift.

According to the woman’s testimony at a preliminary hearing, Orban ordered her into her car and directed her driving until telling her to park at a Fontana shopping center.

He then sexually assaulted her in the car for more than an hour. He also choked her, punched her, and took photos of the assault with his cell phone, the woman testified.

Blatt said the defense doesn’t dispute the woman’s account of Orban’s abuse. But he said Orban’s behavior was the result of a “psychotic break from reality” brought on by prescription drugs.

Orban, a former Marine, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Iraq War combat.

He was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft, as well as an anti-seizure medication called Neurontin, Blatt said.

“At the time of this incident we believe he was overly prescribed for the drugs,” Blatt said. “… Mr. Orban did not know right from wrong.”

Blatt said two doctors have examined Orban and they will testify during a trial about the effects the drugs had on Orban’s mental state. A judge on Friday appointed two additional doctors to examine Orban.

“The issue that the jury will be facing is, ‘Why would this outstanding man who gave his entire adult life to his country and community all of a sudden be involved in these heinous crimes?’” Blatt said.

“We are confident that when the jury hears of the effects one may have with regard to Zoloft and Neurontin that it will seriously consider our defense that he was legally insane at the time of the incident,” Blatt said.

Orban’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus, said she believes Orban was sane during the incident despite his drug use.

“It doesn’t change our case at all,” she said. “We still feel, obviously, that he’s guilty.”

Alleged pimp freed after prosecutors drop torture, rape charges

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An alleged pimp accused of raping and torturing two women was released from jail Saturday after prosecutors dropped criminal charges against him.

The prosecution of Tremaine Ulysses Smiler was dropped Friday — with his release from West Valley Detention Center coming shortly after midnight Saturday — because his victims couldn’t be found to testify against him, a prosecutor said.

With the victims unavailable, prosecutors had no choice but to dismiss Smiler’s 18 felony counts alleging torture, forcible rape, forcible sodomy and other crimes.

Smiler, of Ontario, refused to waive his constitutional right to a speedy trial, Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss said.

“If you have no witnesses, you have no case,” Schmauss said.

She said prosecutors will refile charges against Smiler, 39, if one or both of his alleged victims are found.

“I would file in a heartbeat if I had my witnesses right now,” Schmauss said.

In July 2009, Smiler allegedly raped a 17-year-old girl and burned her pubic area with an electric hair straightener.

The same month he allegedly burned a 30-year-old woman’s lips with a clothing iron, leaving her face disfigured.

Authorities believe Smiler was grooming the women, who he met in Ontario, to work for him as prostitutes.

Schmauss called Smiler a danger to the community. He was sentenced to prison 1998 for torturing and sodomizing a girlfriend, and he was again sentenced to prison in 2004 for raping a woman at knifepoint in Upland.

Smiler is not currently on parole or probation, Schmauss said.

Both the alleged victims in the case have active warrants for their arrest, Schmauss said, and if they are arrested they can be asked to testify against Smiler.

The 17-year-old victim is wanted for failing to appear in West Valley Superior Court to testify against Smiler, while the other victim has failed to appear in Pomona Superior Court on prostitution charges, Schmauss said.

“All is not lost, but these kind of victims are very difficult victims in this kind of life,” Schmauss said. “Finding them and keeping them is very hard.”