Walnut elementary school gets 11 of 47 stolen laptop computers back

WALNUT — Sheriff’s investigators Thursday returned 11 recovered laptop computers and a projector to C.J. Morris Elementary School, which had 47 computers and other equipment stolen in a break-in earlier this month.
Winston Burt, 19, Trajon Thomas, 19, Jovan Hughes, 27, and Ibrahim Brown, 28, have been booked on suspicion of burglary and receiving stolen property in connection with the crime, officials said. Authorities have recovered 11 of the 47 stolen laptops, and one of 11 stolen LCD projectors.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we were able to recover these,” Capt. David Halm of the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station said. “Today, we’re proud to return these computers and projector to the students.”
Detectives continued working to find the rest of the stolen equipment.
“We’re still following up on other leads,” the captain said.
The machines were stolen from C. J. Morris Elementary School, 19875 Calle Baja, in the early morning hours of May 5, investigators said.
The school had just recently launched its “One-2-One Laptop Program,” in which every third-grader in the school receives an Apple MacBook to use for the rest of their elementary school years, principal Susan Arzola said.
“Apparently, (the suspects) found out about the One-2-One Program,” she said.
Following the break-in, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies pulled over a car in Moreno Valley containing Burt, Thomas, Brown and nine of the stolen computers, Halm said.
Further investigation over the next few days led authorities to identify and arrest Hughes in connection with the case and recover two more computers, an LCD projector and several violins officials said may have been stolen from music schools in Orange County.
Investigators declined to release the cities of residency of the suspects, citing the ongoing investigation.
Students were disappointed to learn the laptops they’d helped fund-raise to get had been stolen when they arrived at school on May 5, the principal said.
“We had to explain that bad guys came into our school and took things that didn’t belong to them,” Arzola said.
At nearly $1,500 each, the total loss from the burglary was estimated at well over $60,000, Arzola added.
Walnut Mayor Tony Cartagena said he was glad to see the learning equipment being returned to the classrooms.
“We take great pride in providing to our youth quality education,” the mayor said. “During these tough times, it is important that we recover these computers.”
If the remaining computers aren’t recovered, she said, the school is making plans to replace the stolen machines through renewed fund-raising efforts, such as Friday ice cream sales and the “Matador March” fundraiser.
“Whatever it takes, that’s our mantra,” Arzola said.
Anyone interested in making a donation to help replenish the school’s computers can make check’s payable to the Walnut Unified School District, 880 S. Lemon Avenue in Walnut, and indicate that the funds are for C.J. Morris Elementary School.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact Detective Chris Wargo at (909) 595-2264, ext. 3014.

Fullerton police suspect Pico Rivera man in string of robberies

From City News Service:
FULLERTON — A stakeout at a Fullerton grocery store paid off when police caught a Pico Rivera man suspected of robbing the business for at least the third time this year, a sergeant said Thursday.
Demetres Delvon Mitchell, 28, was being held in the city jail on suspicion of armed robbery, Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich said.
Investigators staked out HR Market, 253 S. Magnolia Ave., for about 200 hours before Mitchell allegedly struck again about 8 p.m. Wednesday, Goodrich said.
Mitchell — as he is also accused of doing in January and March — hopped a counter and grabbed cash out of the register, Goodrich said.
“He’s a self-service kind of robber — he doesn’t wait for the clerk to give him the money,” the sergeant said.
Police were waiting for the suspect, who was in the store for about 45 seconds, when he burst out the door, Goodrich said.
Investigators from throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties were going over the evidence in the HR Market robberies to see if Mitchell was involved in other stickups, Goodrich said.
The suspect’s method of operation appears to match multiple robberies in the Southland, Goodrich said.

West Covina man suspected of robbing ex-girlfriend

WEST COVINA — Police arrested a man Wednesday on suspicion of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home, robbing her and assaulting her, authorities said.
The incident was reported about 7:40 a.m. in the 1700 block of East Nanette Avenue, West Covina police Lt. Ron Mitchell said.
The suspect, whose name was not available Wednesday afternoon, arrived at the woman’s home and forced his way in, the lieutenant said.
He then assaulted the woman as he demanded her cell phone, purse and money, Mitchell said.
The woman saw the man leave her home and drive away, he said, and she followed him in another car being driven by her mother.
The mother and daughter chased the man until they were able to flag down an officer, who arrested the suspect and recovered the woman’s property, Mitchell said.
Police jailed the man on suspicion of burglary, robbery and domestic violence.

Man to face charges of killing mother in South El Monte

From City News Service:
SOUTH EL MONTE — A Rosemead man accused of fatally stabbing his mother just under nine years ago and burying her body in the backyard of a condominium they shared will be arraigned next week on a murder charge.
John Taylor Huynh, 27, was arrested Friday after sheriff’s homicide investigators unearthed a woman’s body from the backyard of the condominium, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities have not positively identified the body, but the criminal complaint alleges that the victim was Huynh’s mother, Hong Tu Phuong, officials said.
The criminal complaint alleges that Huynh killed the woman some time between June and July 2002, and that he used a knife in the commission of the crime.
Huynh, who remains jailed, is due back in Pomona Superior Court Tuesday.
If convicted, he faces up to life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

Teenage girl, boyfriend, to stand trial in slaying of girl’s grandparents

From City News Service:

ROSEMEAD — A 15-year-old girl and her 21-year-old boyfriend were ordered Wednesday to stand trial for the stabbing deaths of her grandparents at the couple’s Rosemead home last summer.
Sophia Janalisa Cristo and Rodolfo Lopez are charged with murdering Jack Bezner, 71, and his 64-year-old wife, Susan, who were found dead in their bed last Aug. 9 at their home in the 4200 block of Arica Avenue.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with the allegations that the two each used a knife and inflicted great bodily injury on the victims.
Prosecutors will decide later in the case whether to seek the death penalty against Lopez.
Cristo, who was 14 at the time but was charged as an adult, is not eligible for the death penalty because of her age.
The two were arrested last Aug. 11 in Horizon City, Texas, after detectives learned they might be on their way there in the Bezners’ missing Nissan sport utility vehicle.
Cristo and Lopez are due back at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse on June 8 for arraignment.

Suspect wounded in shoot-out with police officer in Glendora grocery store

GLENDORA — Police wounded and arrested a suspected robber during a shoot-out inside a crowded grocery store late Saturday, authorities said.
The suspect, whose name was not released, was hospitalized in critical condition, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Harry Drucker said in a written statement. No officers or bystanders were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
An officer spotted a man suspected in a department store robbery earlier in the day about 10 p.m. near a Ralph’s grocery store, 655 S. Grand Ave., Drucker said.
“The suspect pulled out a handgun and ran into the Ralph’s grocery, the sergeant said. “The officer pursued the suspect into the location and when the suspect fired his handgun at the officer, he was forced to return fire.”
The wounded suspect, initially described only as a white man in his mid-30s, was struck once in the upper body hospitalized in critical condition.
“The Ralph’s was crowded,” sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said. “It was full of people shopping at the time, and the suspect was firing from behind the checkstands at the officer as he entered the store.”
The robbery the wounded suspect was suspected of took place just after 4 p.m. at Kohl’s department store, 1225 S. Lone Hill Ave., Glendora police Lt. Rob Lamborghini said.
Police said the robber brandished a handgun as he demanded cash from a store employee.
“Using investigative leads and witness information, Glendora officers were able to identify the suspect, the vehicle he was driving and the location where the vehicle was registered,” Lamborghini said.
Officers went to the home where the car was registered Saturday afternoon, he said, but the suspect wasn’t found.
– City News Service contributed to this report.

Cockfight busted in West Valinda

WEST VALINDA — Three men were cited for spectating when police broke up a cockfight in a residential neighborhood Saturday, authorities said.
Deputies responded to reports of a possible cockfight going on in a backyard in the 15000 block of Fairgrove Avenue in the unincorporated county area of West Valinda about 10:20 a.m., Lt. Mark Stevens of the the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Industry Station said.
By the time officers arrived, there were only three men on-hand who were cited for being spectators to a cockfight, the lieutenant said. 
More than 50 birds, several of them dead from apparent cockfights, were collected by animal control officials, Stevens said.
Other evidence of cockfighting, such as metal spurs cockfighters attack to their birds’ feet, was also found at the scene, officials said.
The organizers of the cockfight were not identified.
Stevens reminded the public that not only is cockfighting illegal and inhumane, but even attending such an event is a crime.
“It’s actually against the law to attend and watch,” he said. “Just to be a spectator is illegal. You can be arrested for it.”

Undercover investigation led to Bassett marijuana grow bust

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BASSETT — The discovery of 1,900 marijuana plants found growing in three commercial buildings earlier this week was the result of a month-long undercover operation, officials said. 
Theodoro Castro, 35, of Rowland Heights, Colby Kelly, 38, of Santa Ana, Alfred Serrato, 39, of Tustin and Brandon Roberto, 26, of Aliso Viejo were all booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana following Wednesday’s 10:30 a.m. raid in the 100 block of 8th Avenue in Bassett, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Michael Parker said in a written statement.
The pot plants — valued at about $2 million — were in various stages of growth and spread out in three small commercial buildings, investigators said.
“The service of the search warrant stemmed from information gathered following a four week-long undercover operation,” Parker said. “Suspicious activity at the location led Special Assignment Team deputies to secure search warrants for three small warehouses at the location each containing a marijuana grow.”
According to sheriff’s booking records, all four suspects had been released from jail on bail as of Friday.
The Bassett marijuana growing operation was not believed to be connected to two others also discovered by sheriff’s officials in Alhambra and San Gabriel Wednesday, sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Kim said.
In that case, a man and woman were arrested in connection with marijuana gardens in a commercial building in Alhambra, as well as a condominium in San Gabriel.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

Man stabbed in Monrovia, suspect jailed

MONROVIA — A young man is expected to survive and a suspect is in custody following a stabbing during a fight outside a house party late Friday, police said.
Eric Diaz, 19, of West Covina was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder after stabbing the victim, another young man, in the neck, Monrovia police Sgt. Mike Head said.
The wounded man was hospitalized with an injury that was not believed to be life-threatening after the 10:15 p.m. stabbing in the 100 block of Montana Street, just west of Myrtle Avenue, the sergeant said.
“Officers responded to a call of several subjects fighting at a residential party, and one person was reported to be stabbed,” Head said.
Officers found several people loitering in the street, police said, and the wounded young man suffering from a stab wound to his neck.
Monrovia police and other local law enforcement agencies set up a search perimeter and found Diaz about three blocks away from the scene of the stabbing, Head said.
No further details about the incident were released Saturday.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Diaz was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Monrovia Police Department’s jail and was due for arraignment Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.

Pot grows found in Alhambra, San Gabriel; two arrested

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Sheriff’s deputies arrested two people and dismantled two indoor marijuana growing operations valued at $2.5 million Thursday in Alhambra and San Gabriel, authorities said.
A month-long investigation led to the arrest of Joseph Hsu, 30, of San Gabriel and Pauline McDonnell, 22, of Redlands on suspicion of growing the pot, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Michael Parker said in a written statement.
Hsu is a suspected member of the Wah Ching street gang, Sgt. Steve Kim of the sheriff’s Asian Gang Team.
Officials had been looking into reports of suspicious activity reported lately at an industrial building in the 800 block of South Date Avenue in Alhambra and developed evidence that an illegal marijuana grow was being housed there, Parker said.
About 4 p.m. Thursday, sheriff’s deputies carried out search warrant on the commercial building, which was posing as some type of consultant’s office, as well as the home of Hsu in the 9100 block of Huntington Drive in San Gabriel, officials said.
“Inside the South Date Avenue location, deputies discovered a fully-operational indoor marijuana grow,” Parker said.
Deputies seized about 400 plants in varying stages of growth from the building, along with about 100 pounds of dried marijuana and numerous pieces of lighting and hydroponic equipment.
At Hsu’s condominium on Huntington Drive, Parker said, “A search revealed a smaller indoor marijuana grow with about 40 plants and 40-50 pounds of dried marijuana.”
Two handguns and a shotgun were also found in the condominium, officials added. Hsu, a convicted felon, is legally barred from possessing firearms.
McDonnell was also at the condominium when deputies arrived and was also arrested in connection with the marijuana grow.
The commercial building was listed as a consulting firm on lease paperwork, however it displayed no sign, Kim said.
The marijuana growing operations appeared to be stealing their electricity from the Southern California Edison grid by bypassing electrical meters, he added.
The relationship between Hsu and McDonnell was not clear Friday.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Hsu and McDonnell were both released from jail Thursday afternoon after posting bail. Hsu’s bail was set at $50,000, while McDonnell’s was set at $20,000.
Both were scheduled for arraignment Monday in Alhambra Superior Court.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department