Instigator sentenced in fatal Pomona shooting

POMONA — An 18-year-old man described by prosecutors as the instigator in a fatal shooting was sentenced Thursday to 50 years to life in state prison.

Vincent Lopez was convicted of first-degree murder Sept. 2 in connection with the Aug. 14, 2010 shooting death in Pomona of 19-year-old Ramiro Chavez.

Authorities said Lopez, who’s affiliated with a La Puente-area gang, drove around Pomona with two friends after telling them he wanted to “put in work” for his gang.

At about 12:45 a.m. the group encountered Chavez standing on the sidewalk in the 500 block of Weber Street.

Lopez and one of his friends, 21-year-old Miguel Ayala, confronted Chavez armed with handguns, and Lopez asked Chavez if he was a member of a gang, prosecutors said.

Chavez told the men he was a member of a small party crew, and Lopez responded by shooting Chavez several times. Ayala then did the same at Lopez’s suggestion, prosecutors said.

At Lopez’s sentencing Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, Judge Bruce F. Marrs said Chavez suffered 14 gunshot wounds, seven of which would have alone been fatal.

Lopez’s prison sentence includes 25 years to life for first-degree murder, and another 25 years to life because he used a firearm in the course of the murder. He will be eligible for parole in 2060.

Ayala pleaded guilty last month to second-degree murder, and he was sentenced last week to 35 years to life in prison.

The driver in the incident, 24-year-old Jose Rojas Martinez, pleaded no contest to acting as an accessory and was sentenced in July to three years in prison, a prosecutor said.

The three defendants were arrested the same day as the shooting. Two guns in their van were later linked to the shooting through ballistics testing, a prosecutor said.

Big-rig driver charged with vehicular manslaughter in 14-car pileup

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A big-rig driver has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter for allegedly causing a 14-car pileup on the 210 Freeway, killing two men.

Cheryl Ann Blacksmith, 56, allegedly failed to notice cars stopped in front her on Nov. 18, 2010 and rear-ended the vehicles on the eastbound lanes of the freeway near Mountain Avenue in Upland, according to a police report contained in her court file.

The first vehicle she struck, a 1993 Ford F-150 pickup, overturned and became lodged in the front end of Blacksmith’s big-rig. The pickup caught fire and was pushed by the big-rig for the duration of the pileup.

Two people in the pickup burned to death. Alfredo Lopez Gonzalez, 47, and Jorge Alfaro, 27, were pronounced dead at the scene and were identified through dental records.

Blacksmith, of Mojave Valley, Ariz., has pleaded not guilty to the two felony counts. She is free on $100,000 bail and is next due Oct. 13 in West Valley Superior Court.

Blacksmith told a California Highway Patrol officer that in the 24-hour period preceding the crash, she and her husband exchanged driving duties traveling from Wagon Wheel, New Mexico to Carson, where her truck was loaded with goods to be delivered to New York City.

She was on her way to Barstow, where she planned to refuel, when the traffic collision occurred at about 6 p.m., according to the police report in her court file.

Thirteen vehicles besides Blacksmith’s big-rig were involved in the collision, and two people were hospitalized.

Blacksmith, who estimated she was driving 55 mph, said “she was unsure if ‘people’ were stopped in front of her, but all of a sudden she was crashing,” the report said.

Blacksmith told an officer she was not sleepy or impaired or distracted on her cellphone, and she said the only medication she had taken was for high blood pressure. An officer noted Blacksmith’s apparent lack of impairment.

“At the time of this interview I noted no abnormalities with Blacksmith’s behavior and or any indication of an impaired mental state,” the officer wrote in the report.

Blacksmith told officers her big-rig had no mechanical problems. She said that about three weeks prior to the crash, her brakes were replaced and new tires were installed.

Sentencing postponed in Montclair nightclub killing

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A sentencing hearing for two men convicted in a fatal Montclair nightclub shooting was postponed Friday to Nov. 4.

Esteban Hernandez, 27, and Armando Ledesma, 24, were scheduled to be sentenced in West Valley Superior Court. Both men pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in June in connection with the fatal shooting Jan. 13, 2009 of 31-year-old Rafaela Davila.

Hernandez and Ledesma, both alleged members of an Ontario street gang, were accused of participating in Davila’s shooting death in the parking lot outside El Encanto Night Club, 10555 Mills Ave., which has since been renamed El Capo Night Club.

Davila, of Pomona, allegedly identified herself as a member of another gang leading up to the shooting, prosecutors said.

Hernandez and Ledesma each entered their no contest pleas as part of plea agreements with prosecutors. Hernandez’s agreement carried a 16-year state prison sentence, while Ledesma’s agreement carried an 11-year sentence.

Man sentenced in Pomona killing

POMONA — A man was sentenced to 35 years to life in state prison Wednesday for his involvement in the fatal shooting last year of 19-year-old Ramiro Chavez.

Miguel Ayala, of Pomona, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder two weeks ago as his trial was set to begin. He was sentenced by Judge Bruce F. Marrs in Pomona Superior Court.

According to prosecutors, Ayala and another man each shot Chavez about three times on Aug. 14, 2010 in the 500 block of Weber Street in Pomona.

Ayala and his convicted accomplice, 18-year-old Vincent Lopez of Pomona, shot Chavez at about 12:45 a.m. after asking him whether he was a member of a gang, prosecutors said.

Chavez, a Pomona resident, said he was a member of a small “party crew,” according to prosecutors.

A jury convicted Lopez, an alleged gang member, of first-degree murder for his involvement in the killing. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 22.

Man pleads no contest in girlfriend’s overdose death

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An Ontario man has pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in connection with his girlfriend’s death in 2007 from a drug overdose.

Andrew Girvan, 34, entered the plea Friday in West Valley Superior Court as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that carries a 6-year prison sentence. Girvan is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 9.

Prosecutors accused Girvan of supplying drugs to his girlfriend, 23-year-old Miranda Daly of Corona, and thwarting others’ efforts to help her when it was clear she had overdosed and her condition was deteriorating.

During Daly’s overdose on cocaine and Ecstasy, Girvan walked around his home with a gun and threatened to kill other guests who suggested they call 9-1-1.

Daly died on Aug. 13, 2007 at Girvan’s home in the 2500 block of South Imperial Avenue.

Prosecutors charged Girvan with murder, and fought to keep the charge in place after an early setback.

A West Valley Superior Court judge dismissed the murder charge in 2008, citing insufficient evidence, and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office successfully appealed the ruling and had the murder charge reinstated.

At the time, prosecutors insisted Daly’s death was a murder, but on Monday a prosecutor said that after looking closely at the evidence, he felt voluntary manslaughter was the correct charge.

“I felt that’s what the evidence showed,” said Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd.

Dowd said he didn’t believe he could prove that Girvan intended to kill Daly, which he said is necessary for a murder conviction.

“I think he’s responsible for her death, but that’s different than intending to kill somebody,” Dowd said.

Daly’s family and other supporters were unhappy with Girvan’s plea agreement, and one of her supporters voiced their disapproval during Friday’s court hearing, Dowd said.

Because Girvan has already been in custody for several years awaiting trial, he will only spend a little more than a year in custody before he is released, Dowd said.

Prosecutors refile charges against alleged pimp


RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An Ontario man accused of raping and torturing two women was arrested this week after prosecutors refiled charges in a case that was dropped two months ago.

Tremaine Ulysses Smiler, 39, was arrested in San Bernardino at 6:20 p.m. on Thursday, the same day prosecutors filed an 18-count felony complaint against him.

The counts filed against Smiler, an alleged pimp, are the same that were dropped in July because prosecutors were unable to locate Smiler’s alleged victims to testify in a trial.

Smiler refused to waive his constitutional right to a speedy trial, and he was released from jail shortly after charges were dropped.

Since Smiler’s release prosecutors have found his two alleged victims, who are prepared to testify in the case, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss.

“I’m very grateful to hear he’s in custody because he’s a dangerous character,” Schmauss said.

According to testimony from his previous case during a preliminary hearing, Smiler committed numerous crimes in July 2009 against a 17-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman.

Smiler allegedly raped and tortured the women, who prosecutors believe he was grooming to work as prostitutes for him. He allegedly met both women in Ontario.

In torturing the women, Smiler allegedly used an electric iron to burn them. He allegedly burned the 30-year-old woman’s lips, leaving them disfigured, according to testimony in the earlier case.

He’s been convicted and imprisoned twice for similar acts — in 1998 for torturing and sodomizing a girlfriend, and in 2004 for raping a woman at gunpoint in Upland, Schmauss said.

Smiler remained jailed Friday in lieu of $1.3 million bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He’s expected to be arraigned Monday at West Valley Detention Center, court personnel said.

Smiler faces life in prison if convicted, Schmauss said.

Prosecutors file three counts of murder in fatal car crash

POMONA — The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed three counts of murder Thursday against a driver accused of killing a man and his pregnant girlfriend last month in a traffic collision.

Lorraine Martinez, 26, was allegedly unlicensed and driving a stolen car when she collided with a Nissan Maxima that made a left turn in front of her at about 1:41 a.m. on Aug. 1 at Holt and Garey avenues in Pomona.

The Nissan caught fire and collided with a pole, killing both people in the car: 22-year-old Miguel Herrera and 17-year-old Desiree Grajeda, both of Pomona.

Grajada’s was pregnant and in her third trimester, according to a Pomona police news release.

Martinez was arrested after she attempted to flee the scene on foot, police said.

Prosecutor: Gang feud may have led to Ontario shooting

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A fatal shooting outside an Ontario convenience store on Labor Day stemmed from an argument that may have been gang-related, a prosecutor said this week.

Two groups argued at about 2 a.m. Monday outside a Circle K store at 405 N. Vineyard Ave. before at least one gunman opened fire.

Anthony Demitrius Junius, 30, of Azusa was killed, and one of the suspects was shot in the arm, shattering a bone, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough.

Men who were with Junius drove off immediately following the shooting, and the group they argued with gave chase in their own vehicle, Colclough said.

Junius’ group drove back to Azusa, and the suspects’ vehicle returned to the area of the shooting, possibly to pick up men who were left behind when they chased the other vehicle, Colclough said.

Ontario police contacted the suspects and later placed them under arrest. Two guns believed to be used in the shooting were found in their car, Colclough said.

The men arrested in connection with the shooting were Napoleon Dajon Phipps of Fontana and Chris Wilson of Hawthorne, both 27.

The two men wore orange jail scrubs at their arraignment Wednesday in West Valley Superior Court, where they pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and other criminal charges.

Prosecutors also alleged that Wilson has a prior strike for robbery, which if true will lengthen his prison sentence if he’s convicted in Monday’s shooting.

The defendants cried as they spoke to court-appointed attorneys before the hearing. Wilson, who was shot Monday, had his left arm heavily bandaged.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Michael Libutti set bail for Wilson at $3,325,000, and for Phipps set bail at $3,200,000. Both remained jailed Thursday at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

The men are next due in court Tuesday. A preliminary hearing, in which prosecutors must present evidence for the case to proceed to trial, is scheduled for Sept. 19.

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Two charged with murder in Ontario fatal shooting

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — Prosecutors charged two men with murder Wednesday in connection with a fatal shooting Monday in Ontario.

Napoleon Dajon Phipps of Fontana and Chris Wilson of Hawthorne, both 23, are accused of participating in a shooting outside a convenience store in which 30-year-old Anthony Demitrius Junius of Azusa was killed.

Phipps and Wilson pleaded not guilty to murder Wednesday in West Valley Superior Court. They also pleaded not guilty to a count of attempted murder.

They tried to kill Junius’ 20-year-old relative Marcus Junius, prosecutors allege.

Phipps and Wilson were among a group of people who argued with another group at about 2 a.m. outside a Circle K store at 405 N. Vineyard Ave. The shooting that followed may have been gang-related, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough.

Phipps and Wilson each remained jailed Wednesday in lieu of more than $3 million bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. They are next due in court Tuesday.

Two men convicted of murder in Pomona shooting

POMONA — Two men have been convicted of murder in connection with the shooting death last year of 19-year-old Ramiro Chavez.

Vincent Lopez, 18, was found guilty by a jury Friday of first-degree murder, while Miguel Ayala, 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last week as his trial was scheduled to begin, a prosecutor said.

Lopez faces a prison sentence of 50 years to life, while Ayala signed a plea agreement that carries a sentence of 35 years to life, said Deputy District Attorney Bjorn Dodd.

The men are scheduled to be sentenced later this month in Pomona Superior Court, Dodd said.

Prosecutors accused the two Pomona men of shooting Chavez numerous times on Aug. 14, 2010 in the 500 block of Weber Street in Pomona after Chavez identified himself as a member of a “party crew.”

The driver in the incident, 24-year-old Jose Rojas Martinez, pleaded no contest to acting as an accessory to the murder and was sentenced in July to three years in prison, Dodd said.

According to testimony at an earlier hearing, the three defendants spent the evening drinking alcohol before Lopez, an alleged member of a La Puente-area gang, told the other men he wanted to “put in work” for his gang.

The group then drove around Pomona until they saw Chavez, a Pomona resident, on the sidewalk on Weber Street at about 12:45 a.m. Lopez allegedly asked Chavez if he belonged to a gang, and Chavez named his small party crew.

Lopez then shot Chavez several times, and Ayala did the same after being ordered by Lopez, according to testimony at the earlier hearing.

The three men were arrested that evening. Two guns in their van were linked to the shooting through ballistics testing, Dodd said.

Lopez’s trial opened Wednesday, and after hearing two days of testimony a jury deliberated a short time Friday before reaching a verdict, Dodd said.