So Cal serial killer from Monterey Park indicted on suspicion of New York murders

Rodney Alcala, a former Monterey Park resident who was sentenced to death in March for the murders of five women and girls in the 1970s, has been indicted in connection with two additional murders in New York, authorities said Thursday.
A cold-case unit established last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s office built on the California case and other evidence collected over the years to obtain an indictment, officials said.
“Cold cases are never, ever forgotten cases,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a written statement. “Our prosecutors, investigators and partners in the NYPD do not give up.”
Long after the slayings were relegated to cold-case files, Alcala, now 67, who had long been suspected in the New York cases has been indicted, prosecutors said.
The killings made headlines, spurred extensive investigations and frustrated authorities for decades: A 23-year-old flight attendant found raped and strangled with a pair of stockings in her Manhattan apartment in 1971. A Hollywood nightspot owner’s 23-year-old daughter whose remains were found in the woods in 1978 after she disappeared in Manhattan the year before.
Though he remains on California’s death row for now, Rodney Alcala is expected to be extradited to New York to face murder charges in the deaths of Cornelia Crilley and Ellen Hover. Alcala, 67, was convicted last year of strangling four women and a 12-year-old girl in California in the 1970s, in killings prosecutors said were laced with torture.
The indictment was the result of an “exhaustive re-examination” of the two unsolved murders last year, which included the interview of more than 100 witnesses, New York County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Erin Duggan said in a written statement.
“This re-focus on these cases, combined with information made available during the defendant’s trial in California, finally gave prosecutors the evidence needed to secure today’s indictment,” she said.
Alcala represented himself in his California case, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would have an attorney in New York.
Alcala was sentenced in March to death for five murders in the 1970s. His victims were Robin Samsoe, 12, of Huntington Beach; Jill Barcomb, 18, of New York; Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu; Charlotte Lamb, 32, of Santa Monica; and Jill Parenteau, 21, of Burbank.
Samsoe’s body was discovered in the Angeles National Forest north of Sierra Madre.
After the verdict against Alcala last year, authorities released more than 100 photos of young women and girls found in the amateur photographer’s storage locker, and prosecutors said authorities were exploring the possibility of tying Alcala to cases in other states including New York.
The database of photographs remains posted at the Orange County District Attorney’s website, orangecountyda.com.
“As we often do in cold cases, detectives made connections and his victims piece by piece, year after year, including last April’s public release toward that end of 226 images of women photographed by Alcala.
New York District Attorney’s officials declined to discuss specific details of the case Thursday, saying it may jeopardize the prosecution.
He had been suspected in Hover’s death since at least 1979, according to newspaper reports at the time; California prosecutors even sought unsuccessfully to mention her killing in the first of Alcala’s several trials in the 12-year-old’s death, in 1980.
In 2003, police detectives investigating the Crilley slaying went to California with a warrant to interview Alcala and get a dental impression from him.
The New York Police Department’s cold-case squad also discovered while investigating the Crilley slaying that Alcala had used an alias, John Berger, while living in New York, and that name was also in the Hover case file, said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman. A private detective working for Hover’s family said at the time of her disappearance that she had a lunch date with a photographer with a similar name.
Alcala initially denied he ever visited New York, but after police showed him the warrant, he said, “What took you so long?” Browne said.
Alcala had been convicted and sentenced to death twice before in the California girl’s 1979 murder, but the verdicts had been overturned on procedural grounds. Drawing on DNA samples and other evidence, prosecutors refiled charges in her death and added the four other murder charges in 2006.
Alcala was living with his mother on Abajo Drive in Monterey Park when he was first arrested for murder in July of 1979.
He grew up in a middle-class home in Monterey Park and claimed to have a near-genius IQ of 135. He went to Cantwell High School in Montebello and earned a bachelor’s degree from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1968. 
His trial was both gruesome and bizarre. Prosecutors portrayed him as a killer with a penchant for torturing his victims, raping one with a claw-toothed hammer and posing several victims nude in sexual positions after their deaths.
Alcala, acting as his own attorney, offered a rambling defense that included questioning the mother of one of his victims, playing Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 song “Alice’s Restaurant” and showing a TV clip of himself on a 1978 episode of “The Dating Game.”
- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

“Grim Sleeper” may not have “slept” at all: officials investigate suspect in connection with new cases

It turns out the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer suspect may not have taken a break from his alleged crimes during the 1990s, as previously thought by investigators. More recent revelations indicate he may have continued killing — at least two other women — during that time. The Associated Press has the story:
LOS ANGELES — Perhaps the “Grim Sleeper” never took a break after all.
Police on Thursday were investigating two additional homicides that could be tied to Lonnie Franklin Jr., a mechanic who already has been charged with killing 10 women from 1985 to 1988 and from 2002 to 2007.
The 14-year pause led to the nickname “Grim Sleeper.”
Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said Franklin might also be responsible for the deaths of two women whose bodies were found in South Los Angeles in the 1990s. No charges have been filed in those cases. “I don’t think there is a gap,” Kilcoyne said. “He was here, he was active. I don’t think you stop one day, take a 14-year vacation and then start up again.”
Kilcoyne released few details about the additional cases but said the bodies were found in the same general area as other victims. He would not say if there was DNA evidence tying Franklin to the two women, as was the case in several of the deaths that led to charges.
Most of the victims linked to the “Grim Sleeper” were found in alleyways within a few miles of Franklin’s mint-green stucco home a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Those victims were shot, strangled or both, usually after some kind of sexual contact. Several were prostitutes.
Detectives were led to Franklin after his son was arrested on an unrelated matter and swabbed for DNA. Using a controversial technique known as a familial DNA search, the sample came back as similar to evidence in the serial killings, leading police to investigate relatives of the man who was arrested.
Franklin has pleaded not guilty. A call to his attorney Louisa Pensanti was not immediately returned.
After Franklin’s arrest in July, detectives spent days searching his house and garage for evidence. They seized a stash of hundreds of photographs and hours of home videotape of women, many of whom were engaged in sexually explicit behavior.
Learing there may be additional victims, detectives released images of dozens of the women and asked for the public’s help identifying them.
Kilcoyne said 72 women in the pictures have been identified and ruled out as victims, and four new missing person cases have been opened involving people in the photos. Women in 62 pictures have yet to be identified.
The women in the two additional homicide cases were not depicted in the photos, Kilcoyne said.
The initial killings occurred during a time of extreme violence in parts of Los Angeles, when many young women were falling prey to crack cocaine and other drug addictions.
As many as 30 detectives investigated the slayings in the 1980s but exhausted leads within a few years.

Possible suicide prevented on Colorado Street Bridge

PASADENA — Police officials may have prevented a suicide Wednesday on the Colorado Street Bridge, authorities said.
A police officer driving on the 134 Freeway and a police park safety specialist noticed a Manhattan Beach man in his 30s climbing the fencing along the bridge, which hangs more than 100 feet above the Arroyo Seco, about 12:30 p.m., Pasadena police Lt. Tom Delgado said.
When the man saw officials approaching, he climbed back onto the bridge, Delgado said. He was taken for psychological evaluation.

Tortilla factory scorched by fire in La Puente

LA PUENTE — A fire scorched a tortilla-making factory Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 3:30 p.m. at Sope Ozzy’s, 818 N. Hacienda Blvd, Unit A, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Art Lopez said.
The blaze was mainly contained to a large oven at the business, the captain said.
About 25 people were evacuated from the factory and other nearby businesses during the fire.
Firefighters extinguished the fire in about 20 minutes, Lopez said. It caused an estimated $70,000 worth of damage to the oven and other kitchen equipment, as well as about $5,000 worth of structural damage.
The cause appeared to be a malfunction in the oven, he added. No injuries were reported.

Former county inspector convicted of sexual battery

From City News Service:
POMONA — A former inspector with the Los Angeles County Department of Health was convicted today of a misdemeanor sexual battery count involving the female owner of a Pomona doughnut shop.
Magdy Naiem Tawadros, 51, of Ontario, faces up to six months in jail when he is sentenced Feb. 3. Tawadros targeted the woman March 24, 2009, while conducting what was supposed to be a routine inspection of the shop on Temple Boulevard.
The woman went to police five days later, Pomona police Sgt. Horace Blehr said. Videotape showed the man hugging the woman inside the store.
Tawadros was fired by the Los Angeles County Department of Health on April 14, 2009, according to the agency.
An earlier trial ended in a mistrial when jurors deadlocked on the charge.

Smash-and-grab jewelry robbery reported in Norwalk

NORWALK — A group of robbers escaped with about $50,000 worth of jewelry Wednesday after a smash-and-grab robbery at the Norwalk Indoor Swap Meet, authorities said.
Four to five men, one of them armed with a handgun, entered the Goldtime store in the Swap Meet, 11600 Alondra Boulevard, about 12:45 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Mouat said.
The robbers ordered everyone to get away from some jewelry cases before they smashed them open and helped themselves to the gold, he said.
They were described as black men in their mid-20s, Mouat added, and they were last seen fleeing in an older-model, gold-colored, 4-door Nissan sedan, possibly an Altima or Maxima.
A group of about seven robbers carried out a similar robbery on Dec. 10 at a jewelry store inside the Pico Rivera Indoor Swap Meet, officials said.
The men fled in two getaway cars with stolen jewelry, but left one suspect behind who was arrested by deputies.
Officials were looking into the possibility that Wednesday’s robbery in Norwalk was related to the Pico Rivera crime or any other recent smash-and-grab jewelry robberies.

Men use screwdriver in Baldwin Park robbery

BALDWIN PARK — Two men used a screwdriver to to rob a pedestrian late Tuesday, police said.
The crime took place about 9:40 p.m. at Maine Avenue and Clark Street, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Doug Parnell said.
Two robbers described as apparent gang members wearing dark clothes approached a male victim, brandished a screwdriver and stole his wallet and keys, the sergeant said.
Police said the robbers were last seen leaving the area on foot following the crime.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Baldwin Park Police Department.

San Gabriel man’s murder trial delayed

SAN GABRIEL — Trial was postponed Wednesday for a San Gabriel man accused of killing his former girlfriend and stuffing her body into a trash can at a friend’s house in Arcadia.
Isaac Campbell, 35, is charged with the 2007 murder of 31-year-old Liya “Jessie” Lu of San Gabriel.
Trial was scheduled to begin Wednesday in Alhambra Superior Court, however it was continued until Feb. 28, court officials said.
The two were both nursing students at Pasadena City College when Lu went missing after on Aug. 11, 2007, officials said.
Campbell allegedly stored a trash can containing Lu’s body at a friend’s house in the 1700 block of South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia, where it was discovered just over a month later.
Investigators arrested Campbell in Minnesota just under two weeks after the body was found, and he was extradited back to California to face trial.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Campbell is being held in lieu of $1.275 million bail at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.

Teen shot to death in Pomona

From City News Service:
POMONA – Two suspects in a dark-colored vehicle were being sought Wednesday in the gang-related shooting death of a 16-year-old boy, who had survived a similar attack about two months ago, police said.
Family members identified the victim as Jose Angel Dominguez, a 10th-grader at Park West High School.
The boy died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday at North Huntington Street and West Laurel Avenue, Pomona police Lt. Ron McDonald said.
The teen apparently was riding a bicycle in the area, and he may have been stopped when the shooting occurred, police said.
gt. Jaime Gutierrez said detectives had determined the shooting was “not a random act of violence and that the victim was the intended target.”
The victim had local gang ties and was the victim of a drive by shooting in November of 2010,” the sergeant said.
Detectives urged anyone with information to call 909-620-2095.

Fire scorches home in San Gabriel

SAN GABRIEL — A fire destroyed a San Gabriel home Saturday, but caused no injuries, authorities said.
The blaze was reported about 12:20 p.m. at a house in the 400 block of West Norwood Place, San Gabriel police Lt. Ariel Duran said.
No one was home at the house when a fire broke out in an attached garage and spread to the main structure, the lieutenant said.
Firefighters from several agencies extinguished the fire, he said.
The exact cause remained under investigation, though the fire was initially believed to be accidental, Duran said.
Nearby homes were briefly evacuated as a precaution as the fire burned.