Trial ordered for Rosemead man accused of killing, burying mother in El Monte

POMONA — A judge Friday ruled there was sufficient evidence to order a Rosemead man to stand trial on suspicion of stabbing his mother to death nine years ago and burying her body in the backyard of their El Monte home.
John Huynh, 27, is accused of murdering his mother, 48-year-old Hong Phuong, between June and July of 2002 at the condominium they shared at the time in the 9400 block of Cortada Street. He was 18 at the time of the alleged slaying.
According to testimony at Huynh’s preliminary hearing in Pomona Superior Court, Huynh kept his mother’s body on her bed for three days before hiring a day laborer to dig a hole in the backyard he would use as a grave.
The killing remained a secret for nearly nine years until Huynh showed up at the Alhambra Police Department on May 20, confessed to the killing and led detectives to his mother’s body, investigators testified.
“He told me that he killed his mother … approximately nine years ago,” Alhambra police Detective Corey Fukumoto said, recalling meeting with Huynh after he voluntarily showed up at the Alhambra police station.
“He said he stabbed her several times in the neck with a kitchen knife and slit her wrists,” Fukumoto said.
Huynh looked worried as he was led into court. He remained silent throughout the proceeding.
Forensic Anthropologist Elizabeth Miller testified about the state of Phuong’s skeletal remains when they were unearthed earlier this year.
“I found evidence of cut marks on vertebrae, both lower arms and the chin,” she said.
Detective James Charles of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau gave insight into the alleged motive.
“He said she had been nagging him, and he was just basically tired of her nagging,” Charles said under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Valenzuela.
Huynh admitted retrieving a knife from the kitchen, then bringing it upstairs where he fatally attacked his mother, the detective testified.
He then laid his mother on a bed, where he kept her body for three days, Charles said, periodically checking her pulse to make sure she was dead.
He then enlisted an unwitting accomplice in the alleged murder plot, officials said.
“He had gone down to Home Depot and hired a day laborer to dig the hole for him,” Charles said.
The body was wrapped in a blanket and trash bags before being placed in the grave.
Charles testified that Huynh admitted cleaning blood from the carpet and burned the portion of the mattress stained with his mother’s blood. He told friends and family members his mother had returned to Vietnam.
After his sudden confession earlier this year, Huynh agreed to go with detectives to his former home and pointed out to them where he buried the body, investigators said.
Huynh’s defense attorney, Rayford Fountaincq, said his client was responding well to treatments for mental illness in jail and was in a clear state of mind to proceed with the trial.
However, he questioned detectives about Huynh’s state of mind at the time of his confession.
Fountain asked Fukumoto if Huynh appeared to be intoxicated when he came to the Alhambra police station to confess.
“He appeared slightly mentally ill,” the detective responded. “He was very emotional. He was crying, talking in a very low tone, then he’d suddenly start screaming.”
Charles testified that when he interviewed Huynh later in the day, he was crying and upset, but not shouting.
After listening to the evidence, Pomona Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho found there was sufficient evidence presented to order a murder trial for Huynh and set an arraignment date of Aug. 12. He’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
If convicted as charged, Huynh could face life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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La Puente gang members sentenced for shooting at good Samaritan

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LA PUENTE — Two La Puente gang members received 25-year prison sentences this week for shooting at a good Samaritan who spotted them scrawling graffiti and tried to call 9-1-1, authorities announced Saturday.
Raul Montes De Oca, 26, and Edmond Gail, 22, pleaded guilty Monday in Pomona Superior Court to attempted murder and illegally firing a gun, along with the special allegation that the crimes were done for the benefit of a criminal street gang, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records. They are both known “East Side Puente” gang members.
A man was driving about 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 of last year at Azusa Avenue and Main Street when he spotted two gang members — later identified as Montes De Oca and Gail — spray-painting graffiti on the wall of a strip mall, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The good Samaritan pulled over in order to call 9-1-1 on his cell phone, but Montes De Oca and Gail spotted him, jumped in their car and drove toward him before he completed the call, Sgt. Luis Trejo said.

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The two vehicles met at the mouth of the strip malls parking lot.
“The gang members, peering at the good Samaritan like wolves to a sheep, waived him past them,” he said.
The man stopped at a stop sign nearby and again began to call 9-1-1 when he saw in his rear view mirror one of the gang members pointing a gun at him, officials said. A shot was fired, and the good Samaritan’s rear windshield shattered.
The assailants then got back in their car and drove past the victim, Trejo said, again opening fire from their moving vehicle before fleeing the area. The victim was not shot, but his arm was “riddled with glass fragments” from his shattering car windows.
Deputies spotted Montes De Oca and Gail driving erratically in the area, recognized them as possible suspects in the shooting and arrested them, authorities said. Montes De Oca was detained in the vehicle, while Gail ran from the car and was found hiding nearby.
Gail eventually admitted to Gang Investigator Glen Eads that he threw the .38-caliber revolver used in the shooting in a bush as he fled from deputies and led them to the area where it was later recovered, officials said.
Investigators found that during the shooting, a bullet had gone through the window of a nearby home and lodged in a wall, Trejo said. No one inside the home was hurt.
According to booking records, both Montes De Oca and Gail were sent to serve their sentences at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.

PHOTOS of Raul Montes De Oca (top) and Edmond Gail (bottom) courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Search continues for missing Duarte woman

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DUARTE — Sheriff’s officials and family members continued their search Saturday for a 66-year-old Duarte woman suffering from cancer and moderate dementia who went missing earlier this week.
Patricia Nelson was last seen at her home on Huntington Drive in Duarte about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
She may have left her home to take a bus to a doctor’s appointment in Pasadena, officials said.
Nelson is described as a black woman, about 5 feet 2 inches tall, 123 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was possibly wearing a sweater and a hat when she went missing.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives Harris or Abraham at the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, Missing Person’s Detail at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Patricia Nelson courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Monterey Park man accused of drugging and raping woman

ROSEMEAD — Detectives arrested a Monterey Park man Thursday on suspicion of raping and drugging a woman at a Rosemead motel, authorities said.
Ming He, 27, was booked on suspicion of rape by use of drugs and possession of ketamine, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Kim said in a written statement.
The woman called authorities Thursday after waking up undressed in a motel room in Rosemead, Kim said.
“She told deputies that she remembered going to a night club in Los Angeles the night before with a co-worker, but she did not recall anything after that. She felt that she had been raped,” The sergeant said.
Kim declined to say where exactly the alleged assault took place, “due to the sensitive nature of this investigation.”
Surveillance video at the motel showed He, “carrying the nearly unconscious victim into a room.” Kim said. “Suspect He later left the room by himself. Several hours later, the victim left the room at which time she called the Sheriff’s Department for help.
“During the investigation, Suspect He called the victim and admitted that he had drugged her with ketamine, known as a “date rape drug,” and had sexual intercourse with her. He also offered to pay her money if she agreed to go away alone for several weeks until things settled down.”
Investigators arrested He Thursday night when he arrived at a parking lot near Garfield and Garvey avenues in Monterey Park, where he thought he was going to “discuss the matter” with the woman, Kim said.
According to sheriff’s officials and booking records, He was released from jail early Saturday after posting $100,000 bail.
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Man accused of trying to carjack, rob, assault woman in El Monte

EL MONTE — Police arrested a Norco man Thursday on suspicion of trying to carjack, rob and assault an El Monte woman in a bizarre incident as she sat in a parked car in front of her home, authorities said.
Cesar Alex Sanchez, 38, was booked on suspicion of attempted carjacking, attempted robbery and attempted assault with a deadly weapon, El Monte police Cpl. Aram Choe said.
A woman in her 40s, whose name was not released, was sitting in the parked car when Sanchez reached through her open window and put his hands on her neck, the corporal said.
The woman asked the man what he was doing, and the man, in turn, asked the woman why she was alone, Choe said.
She managed to break free from the man, got out of her car, police said. Sanchez started her car, but did not move it, then turned it off again.
The woman confronted the man and asked him not to steal her car, Choe said. Sanchez exited the car and handed the woman her keys back.
The woman then ran toward her house, he said, and Sanchez gave chase and grabbed onto her purse.
When the woman screamed, her husband came out to help and chased the attacker away.
Police found him in the area about an hour later and used a Taser to subdue him and take him into custody, Choe said.
According to sheriff’s booking records, Sanchez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending arraignment.

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Burglars steal computers from El Monte school

EL MONTE — Unidentified burglars broke into a high school and stole two computers early Friday, police said.
Officers responded to a burglary alarm just before 2 a.m. at Mountain View High School, 2900 Parkway Drive, El Monte police Lt. Dan Burlingham said.
They found a brick had been thrown through a window at the school, and two computer towers had been stolen, the liueutenant said.
Evidence left behind indicated the burglars fled east through the riverbed with the computers, he added.
Anyone with information is asked to call the El Monte Police Department.

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Three suspects jailed, no one injured, after Pasadena shooting

PASADENA — Four people escaped injury and police arrested three suspects following a shooting Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Three Pasadena teens, ages 19, 17 and 14, were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the noon shooting at Garfield Avenue and Park Street, Pasadena police Lt. Chris Russ said.
The name of the adult suspect was not released due to an ongoing investigation, he added.
The circumstances and motive in the shooting remained unclear, Russ said. The suspects allegedly opened fire with a handgun on two 19-year-old boys, a 17-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman.
No one was struck by the gunfire, and investigation led officers to find and arrest the suspects as they were walking nearby in the 600 block of North Los Robles Avenue, the lieutenant said. Witnesses identified them as the attackers.
Further investigation Friday turned up the gun believed to have been used in the shooting hidden inside a car parked in the area, Russ said.

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Retired LAPD sergeant’s killing in Walnut remains unsolved

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WALNUT — Four years after the unsolved shooting death of a retired police sergeant and school teacher outside his Walnut handyman business, detectives and family members are renewing their calls to bring his killer to justice.
Ruben Whittington, 61, of Diamond Bar, had just left his Mr. Handyman business in the 300 block of South Lemon Avenue on July 29, 2007, when he was fatally shot, sheriff’s investigators said.
No motive has been established in the killing, and nothing was believed to have been stolen from Whittington.
“It’s just so hard to understand what the person wanted enough to kill him,” said his wife, Marsha Kramer. “I will never understand. The worst part of the anger and the frustration is it literally got them nothing.”
Whittington had noticed a flat tire on his SUV and was waiting for a tow truck when he was shot, authorities said.
“Our best guess is he couldn’t get the lug nut off for some reason, he called AAA,” Kramer said. “As he was waiting for the tow, he was killed.”
Between five and 10 minutes passed between the time Whittington called AAA and the time the driver arrived and found him dead.
Investigators have been left with no witnesses and no solid leads to follow, Detective Kevin Lowe of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“It’s a frustrating case for us,” Lowe said, adding that detectives continue to pursue the killer.
The leading theory in the shooting is that Whittington was surprised by someone who tried to rob him, the detective said. But he added he could also not rule out the possibility of some type of personal dispute “that we didn’t know about.”
Having been retired from the LAPD for 13 years at the time of the killing, Lowe said it was unlikely the shooting had anything to do with his previous career as a Los Angeles police officer.
Whittington resisted his attacker, Lowe said.
“There were defensive wounds,” he said. “There was a struggle, I believe over the gun. It was a struggle for his life. He put up a good fight.”
Whittington was ultimately shot in the torso and died at the scene.
Though his status as a retired police sergeant allowed Whittington to carry a concealed handgun, he didn’t arm himself, Kramer said.
“We really talked about that,” she said. “His thought was, honestly, it’s pretty easy to disarm an older person.”
It did not appear that the killer intentionally flattened Whittington’s tire prior to the killing, Lowe said. A nail was found in the tire of Whittington’s SUV that appeared to have been there for some time.
Whittington, a Vietnam veteran, was born and raised in the Philadelphia area before coming to California to join the LAPD in 1974, his wife said.
“He loved being a cop, and it suited him so well because he was a community service kind of guy,” she said.
After his retirement from police work, he spent 10 years teaching law enforcement at high schools through the La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program.
“As it turned out, he loved it,” Kramer said. “Besides liking the kids and wanting to talk to them, he tried to get them to do really productive things in their lives. He recruited many officers into the LAPD.”
In 2005, he started his handyman business.
She described her husband as an “extremely sociable” man who quickly made friends with everyone he met.
Whittington is survived by son, Joseph, 29, and daughter, Emily, 27.
Kramer said she was thankful for the detectives and community since her husband’s slaying.
“They’ve been really gracious to us,” she said.
Kramer and Lowe both said they hope someone has information regarding this killing and implored anyone who may have information to call sheriff’s homicide investigators at 323-890-5500.
With all leads in the case drying up, Lowe said, “we’ll take any help we can get.”

PHOTO of Ruben Whittington courtesy of family members

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Police urge caution after ‘hot prowl’ burglaries in Arcadia

ARCADIA — Two reports of an intruder breaking in or trying to break in to occupied homes in Arcadia this week have police reminding residents to lock their doors and windows at night.
“Although in different areas of the city, these crimes and suspect descriptions are similar,” Arcadia police Sgt. Tom Le Veque said in a written statement. “In both crimes, the suspect appears to be looking for a crime of opportunity, targeting unlocked residential doors.”
A woman was asleep at her home in the 100 block of Diamond Street about 4:50 a.m. Tuesday when she awoke to find a man with a flashlight inside her bedroom, police said.
The man grabbed the woman’s purse and fled, Le Veque said. Two teenage children were inside the home with the woman, but no one was hurt.
Police described the intruder as a white man, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, wearing a white T-shirt and basketball shorts.
“Officers found that the suspect had entered the residential unit through an unlocked front door,” Le Veque said.
A man living in the 600 block of West Walnut Avenue was awakened about 11 p.m. Thursday to hear someone trying to open his front door, officials said. Moments later, the intruder began trying to open a side door.
“The resident turned on the porch light and was able to see the suspect on the porch,” Le Veque said. “The suspect shined a flashlight in the face of the resident and then fled off the property, never making entry into the location.”
Police described the suspect in the Walnut Avenue incident as a white man in his 20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 150 pounds and wearing a red shirt.
Le Veque urged caution and reminded residents to lock doors and windows at night to avoid become victims of opportunistic criminals.
“Please remember to check your home before going to bed. Close and lock your doors and windows, and set your alarm, if you have one installed at your home,” he said.
“Many times, thieves will target homes and vehicles that have been left unlocked or open. Take the time to help prevent this type of crime before it happens. If you see or hear anything suspicious, call the police right away.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Arcadia police at 626-574-5150.
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Public invited to join police, sheriff’s officials at ‘National Night Out’ events

Police and sheriff’s stations throughout the county, the nation and the world are preparing to host the public at the 28th annual “National Night Out” events Tuesday.
More than 40 law enforcement stations in Los Angeles County will participate, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. Worldwide, 34 million people are expected to take part.
Activities vary from event to event, but all include information regarding public safety and community awareness. They include:

South Whittier: Officials from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station are planning a community march and rally, followed by a barbecue. The march will begin at 5 p.m. at the Community Resource Center, 10750 Laurel Ave., and wind 1.2 miles to Adventure Park, 10130 Gunn Ave. The barbecue will include live dancers, music, presentations, a raffle and more.

*Pico Rivera: A community barbecue and party will be held starting at 6 p.m. at the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station, 6631 Passons Boulevard. There will be free food, a jumper for the kids, giveaways and more. Former Dallas Cowboys player and two-time Superbowl champion James Washington is expected as a guest speaker.

*Pasadena: Police will host games, food and neighborhood watch updates at their event, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Victory Park, 2575 Paloma Street.

*Altadena: The Altadena Posse and Mountain Search & Rescue Team are scheduled to have displays, and there will be music, food, games and emergency preparedness information at the event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Farnsworth Park, 568 East Mount Curve Avenue

*La Crescenta: The sheriff’s Crescenta Valley Station is planning neighborhood events from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ralph’s Fresh Air Market, 2675 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta, and Vons, 635 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada Flintridge, and there will be a Neighborhood Watch barbecue in the 2700 block of Franklin Street in La Crescenta. There will be information, search and rescue team displays, activities, games, a visit from “McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog,” and more.

*Duarte: An event for residents of unincorporated areas near Monrovia, Arcadia and Duarte will have their National Night Out at Pamela Park, 2236 Goodall Ave. in Duarte from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be live music, a children’s jumper and cake and soda for families.

*Rosemead: Rosemead resident are invited to join in from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Zapopan Park, 8301 Garvey Ave. There will be live music, food and games.

*Temple City: Music, food and entertainment from HOT 92.3 FM awaits residents from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Temple City Park, 9701 Las Tunas Drive.

*Covina — The Man-e Moreno Foundation is hosting a gathering with a jumper for children, face painting, hot dogs, snow cones, giveaways and more from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the 100 block of South Kendall Way in Covina. Dignitaries including State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, are expected to attend.

*Baldwin Park: Police join radio station HOT 92.3 FM with a peace walk, barbecue, carnival style games, displays and a party. March begins at 5:30 p.m. at Baldwin Park City Hall, and the celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. at Target, 3100 Baldwin Park Blvd.

*Valinda: Sheriff’s officials, County Supervisor Gloria Molina and Rimgrove Park will have a community parade, a free concert, games, booths, arts and crafts, giveaways and more. Free hot dogs and hamburgers will be served at the event, to take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Rimgrove Park, 747 N. Rimgrove Drive.

*Rowland Heights: Sheriff’s deputies are planning an event in conjunction with the city’s “Concerts in the Park.” It will begin at 6 p.m. at Schabarum Regional Park, 17250 Colima Road, and will feature food, music, bicycle/motorcycle units and the Walnut Sheriff’s Station Mobile Command Post.

While the vast majority of events are taking place Tuesday, others are being held on other days.

Aug 3:
*Diamond Bar: Sheriff’s deputies are planning to host an event in conjunction with the city’s “Concert in the Park” at 6 p.m. at Sycamore Park, 22930 Golden Springs Drive. This event will feature food, music, bicycle/motorcycle units and the Walnut Sheriff’s Station Mobile Command Post.

Aug. 4:
*La Mirada: City officials are planning to host their National Night out event in conjunction with their “Concert in the Park.” It will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at La Mirada Park, 1301 Adelfa Drive, and will include food, music, games, children’s activities, public safety demonstrations and more.

The events are sponsored nationally by Target stores.

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