Experts: Teachers need training to spot campus molesters

LOS ANGELES–Many school teachers across the nation are trained to pick up on clues of child abuse and neglect, but most are not trained to spot the signs of classroom pedophiles, leaving a gray area that could help teacher molesters operate undetected on campuses.

Experts say better training of school teachers and administrators in red-flag behavior could aid in catching molesters, pointing to the case of a former Los Angeles third-grade teacher who is charged with feeding some two dozen students semen-laced cookies, and blindfolding and gagging them over a five-year period.

“There are clear and consistent patterns of behavior. If you know what they are, they jump right out at you,” said Diane Cranley, founder of Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids based in Laguna Niguel, Calif. “But there’s no awareness.”

Only a fraction of the nation’s 3 million educators are involved in any sexual misconduct with children. Although no national statistics are kept, a 2007 Associated Press investigation found 2,500 cases nationwide over five years where educators were punished for sexual abuse.

But that number is believed to be only a sliver of all sexual misconduct incidents.

…FULL STORY from the Associated Press

11-year-old girl dies after preplanned fight with a classmate

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LONG BEACH – An 11-year-old girl died after a preplanned fight with another girl, also 11, in an alley near Willard Elementary School, police said at a press conference held Saturday night.
The girl, identified by friends as Joanna Ramos, sustained undisclosed injuries after the off-campus fight Friday evening. Both of the girls then walked away.
Some time later, family members noticed Ramos wasn’t feeling well and drove her to a local emergency room. She underwent surgery Friday, was initially listed in critical condition, but was pronounced dead shortly before 9 p.m. Friday.
“There are times when words do not convey the sense of sadness we feel,” Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said at a press conference at the Long Beach Police Department. “This is one of those times.”
Police have not made any arrests, but have interviewed the girl who engaged in the fight with Ramos. Deputy Chief Robert Luna said there were about seven onlookers present at the time, and they have been interviewed as well.
Police did not say what prompted the fight, but friends said it was over a boy.
“They were fighting over a boy. I told the teacher and she said she would talk to all the girls on Monday,” said Stephanie Guadalupe Soltero, who said she was friends with the victim.
IMAGE of Joanna Ramos photographed by Long Beach Press Telegram staff

Baldwin Park home damaged in blaze

BALDWIN PARK — A fire caused major damage to a house and detached garage late Saturday, however the residents escaped injury, authorities said.
The blaze broke out shortly before 10 p.m. at a house in the 4000 block of Bogart Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Clyde Taylor said.
The fire, which was believed to have been sparked by an electrical problem, caused about $180,000 worth of damage to the home and its contents, Taylor said.
The residents had all evacuated themselves prior to firefighters’ arrival, she added.
The fire was determined to be accidental, Taylor said, and investigators were looking into the possibility that “faulty wiring” was to blame.

South Pasadena police sergeant to ride bike in honor of fallen fellow officer

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SOUTH PASADENA — A South Pasadena police sergeant is training for a 300-mile bike ride to honor a fellow officer who died during a training exercise last year.
Sgt. Tony Abdalla will represent the South Pasadena Police Department, the late Officer Kevin Sandoval and Sandoval’s family as he rides his bicycle alongside hundreds of other law enforcement officers at the upcoming Police Unity Tour, department officials said.
The 3-day trek, which is designed to honor fallen officers from all over the country, departs from from Somerset, New Jersey on May 10 and ends in Washington, DC. The ride coincides with National Police Week and is capped off with a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
“I’m truly honored and privileged to be able to participate in the 2012 Police Unity Tour in memory of Kevin and to honor his family,” Abdalla said. “Kevin left us way too soon and the tour is an amazing event that keeps his candle burning bright.”
Sandoval, 23, was a 3-year veteran of the South Pasadena Police Department when he suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack while participating in a training exercise at the Burro Canyon Shooting Park north of Azusa on June 14, 2011, officials said.
Abdalla is a 22-year South Pasadena police veteran and an avid bicyclist in his free time.
When given a chance to represent the department and Sandoval, “I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
The Police Unity Tour raises awareness of police officers who have died in the line of duty, as well as raises funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum in Washington, DC.
More than 1,300 cops took part last year, raising more than $1.5 million in donations, officials said. The motto of the event is: “We Ride For Those Who Died.”
Every rider is committed to raising at least $1,800 for the museum, organizers said, and that does not include the equipment and logistical expenses associated with participating in the tour.
Tax deductible donations to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum can be made in Abdalla’s name by visiting www.socalput.com.
Donations to fund Abdalla’s ride can be made in his name and sent in care of the South Pasadena Police Officers Association, 1422 Mission Street, Unit S., Pasadena, CA 91030.

Detective: Law enforcement needs to know how to recognize, use female gang members

DOWNEY – Don’t mess with the Hello Kitty Mafia.

That was just one of the female gangs discussed Friday at the third annual Symposium on Street Gangs and School Safety by the Los Angeles County Department of Education.

Santa Ana police Detective Ramona Ruiz said every gang has female members and associates.

Educators and police should know how to recognize female gang members – and how to use them.

Females make the best informants of all,” she said. “We know all and see all.”

Gang members confide in their girlfriends, sisters and mothers, Ruiz said.

And, in Ruiz’s experience, jealous girlfriends aren’t above squealing on their gang-member boyfriends, she said to a crowd of more than 200 educators and police at the Los Angeles County Office of Education building in Downey.

…FULL STORY

Baldwin Park man jailed on suspicion of auto theft in West Covina

WEST COVINA — Police, with the help of an automated license plate scanning device, arrested a Baldwin Park man driving a stolen car late Friday, officials said.
Norberto Alcantara, 35, was booked on suspicion of auto theft, West Covina police Lt. Alan Henley said.
An officer was on patrol about 8 p.m. in the 1400 block of South Azusa Avenue when an automatic license plate reading device mounted on top of the patrol alerted the officer of a stolen car nearby, the lieutenant said.
Police stopped the car and arrested the driver, later identified as Alcantara, after determining the car had been reported stolen out of Orange County, Henley said.
According to county booking records, Alcantara was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court.

Woman with child robbed at gunpoint in Covina garage

COVINA — Police are seeking a gunman who robbed a young woman in front of her 7-year-old son inside a garage earlier this week.
The crime took place about 6:30 a.m. Thursday in a garage at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of West Badillo Street, Covina police Sgt. Matt Eddings said.
A 28-year-old woman had just gotten into her car with her young son when a man with a gun in his hand walked in the open garage door and approached her, the sergeant said.
The robber told the woman, “I don’t want to hurt you, all I want is your purse,” Eddings said. The woman complied, handing over her designer Michael Kors handbag.
“As the suspect was leaving, he said he was going to lock her in her garage and don’t move,” Eddings said. He then exited the garage and closed the door.
The terrified woman was still waiting inside the garage when Officers arrived, Eddings said. Neither she nor her son was injured.
Police described the robber as a black man in his late 20s, about 5-feet 10-inches tall and unshaven. He had a raspy voice and wore a hooded flannel shirt, dark pants and a dark beanie.
Anyone with information is asked to call Covina police at 626-384-5808.

Cell phone sale turns into robbery in San Gabriel

SAN GABRIEL — A man who planned on buying some cell phones from another man earlier this week got more than he bargained for when the seller pulled a gun, authorities said.
A man who owns a cell phone repair business was solicited via his phone earlier this week by man who offered to sell him four BlackBerry cell phones for $1,200, San Gabriel police Lt. Antonio Hernandez said. The victim did not previously know the seller, or how the seller obtained his phone number.
The men met up about 8:20 p.m. Thursday in a parking lot in the 200 block of West Valley Boulevard to perform the transaction, the lieutenant said.
After selling the victim the cell phones, the robber pulled a silver handgun and robbed the buyer of his laptop computer, wallet and about $4,000 in cash, police said. The BlackBerry cell phones were not taken back from the victim.
As the sale turned into a robbery, a second man joined the first robber, Hernandez said, and both men were last seen fleeing the area in a newer-model, silver, 4-door Chevrolet sedan.
The gunman was described as black man in his mid-20s, about 5-feet 5-inches tall, 155 pounds, with dark hair and dark eyes. The second robber was described only as a black man in his mid-20s with curly hair.
Anyone with information is asked to call San Gabriel police at 626-308-2828.

Car damaged by booby trap in San Dimas; series of similar incidents reported in same area

SAN DIMAS – Deputies are looking for whoever placed a booby trap in the middle of a street Friday that sent a rock crashing into a passing car.
The 30-year-old San Dimas man driving the car wasn’t injured in the 7:50 p.m. incident, according to sheriff’s Sgt. David Buckner.
But he said a rock, spray-painted black, smashed the windshield of the 2006 Audi and hit the right rear passenger door.
The device left in the 500 block of West Gladstone Street consisted of a rock placed on top of a 4-foot tall traffic delineator post. Both were painted black.
Buckner said the paint was still sticky and that the device was placed in the middle of the lane in a dark area.
Since the delineator post was four feet tall, he said the rock was positioned to hit a windshield.
It’s not the first time this has happened on Gladstone Street, east of Amelia Avenue.
The sergeant said there have been three or four similar incidents in the past year where a painted rock and even a piece of plastic embedded with nails and drill bits were placed on the road.
“All in the same area,” Buckner said.
While there have been no injuries, he said vehicles have been damaged including one driven by a reserve deputy.
Deputies don’t know if the same person is behind all incidents.
Under the law, it is illegal to put oil, glass, nails or any substance on the street that will injure a person or an animal or damage a vehicle. It becomes a felony charge if the suspect does it with the intent to cause great bodily injury to anyone using the street.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the sheriff’s San Dimas station at 909-450-2700.
- Ruby Gonzales

Duarte man convicted of brother’s slaying at Rose Bowl

PASADENA — A jury Friday convicted a Duarte man of the murder of his brother, who was found shot to death in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl nearly a year ago.
Pasadena Superior Court jurors deliberated for not much more than an hour before finding Clifton Ashley Cass, 57, guilty of the first-degree murder of his brother, 57-year-old Victor Cass of Duarte.
The jury of eight women and four men also convicted Clifton Cass of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and found true the special allegation that he personally used a handgun to murder his brother.
Clifton Cass’s polite and mild-mannered courtroom demeanor contrasted starkly with the brutal crime which he had just been convicted of.
Wearing a grey shirt and blue jeans, the large-framed killer with a salt-and-pepper mustache reached out to shake the hand of the lead police investigator in the case — Pasadena police Detective Keith Gomez — immediately after the verdict was read.
He sat quietly and showed no emotion as the court clerk informed him of his conviction.
He waived his right to a jury trial on the issue of his prior offenses and admitted to the court he had received at least five previous felony convictions, making him eligible for sentencing under California’s Three Strikes Law.
The convict said he wanted to get the process, “over with, and get to wherever I’m going.”
The body of 57-year-old Victor Cass of Duarte was discovered by a maintenance worker in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl on Feb. 28, 2011.
Clifton Cass, angered by perceived disrespect displayed by Victor Cass toward their mother, lured his brother to the Rose Bowl under the ruse of a cocaine deal before shooting him and trying, unsuccessfully, to decapitate him with a machete, Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta argued during the trial.
Clifton Cass was defended by attorney Bill Jacobson.
Judge Janice Croft ordered Clifton Cass back to court March 14 for sentencing.
Friends and family members of the killer and victim did not wish to comment following the verdict.
A key piece of evidence in the case was an audio recording of an interview with a third Cass brother, Gregory Cass, who said on tape that Clifton confessed the killing to him.
Complicating the case, however, Gregory Cass suffers from serious memory problems. When he testified in court, he displayed difficulty even recognizing Clifton Cass, and said he had only a vague recollection that he had lost a brother.
According to Gregory Cass’ recorded statement, Clifton was infuriated at Victor Cass because he was bringing home women and using drugs in their mother’s home, as well as eating her Meals on Wheels dinners.
Clifton Cass was jailed in April of last year after being found with drugs and weapons during a traffic stop, officials said. A search at his home yielded yet more drugs and guns.
A second suspect in the case, Dwayne Sims, 60, of Duarte pleaded no contest late last year to charges of being an accessory after the fact for helping clean up evidence following the killing and being a felony with five previous convictions in possession of a firearm, Los Angeles, district attorney’s officials said.
Sims is due back in Court March 2 for sentencing.