Home burglarized following man’s death in South Pasadena; car, dog, other items stolen

SOUTH PASADENA — The death of a 51-year-old man in his South Pasadena home appears to be due to natural causes, officials said Sunday, however police are now investigating a subsequent burglary in which someone stole items from the dead man’s home including his car and his dog.
Miguel Santamaria was discovered by a friend unresponsive and bloody and soon pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after noon May 21 at his home in the 1600 block of Amberwood Drive, according to South Pasadena police and Los Angeles County Coroner’s officials. His cause of death was not immediately apparent, so police and coroner’s officials launched an investigation.
Though coroner’s officials said an officials cause of death remained deferred Sunday pending additional test results, “Detectives have received preliminary information from the LA County Coroner’s Office that the death of Miguel Santamaria at his residence… was a result of natural causes,” South Pasadena police officials said in a written statement.
But as one investigation draws to a close on Amberwood Drive, a new one is beginning into a burglar or burglars who apparently saw opportunity in Santamaria’s death.
His car, cell phone, wallet, laptop computers and even his dog were taken in a burglary at at unknown point following his death, South Pasadena police Sgt. Tony Abdalla said.
“His dog has since been found in the City of Downey,” the sergeant said. The animal showed up at a shelter, though it was not immediately clear where and how it was found.
There were no signs of forced entry at the home, he said, however it was unclear Sunday how the intruder or intruders gained access.
Santamaria’s missing car is a green, 2001 Honda Civic, with a California license plate of 4PIM316, Abdalla said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact South Pasadena Police Detective Bill Earley at 626-318-5552.
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Gang members from Whittier, Montebello accused of 2007 fatal beating, robbery of elderly Rosemead man

ROSEMEAD — Two admitted gang members gang members from Whittier and Montebello are awaiting trial in connection with the beating and robbery of an 82-year-old Rosemead man who ultimately died from his injuries, officials said Saturday.
Robert Hewitt was found robbed and badly beaten Nov. 5, 2007, inside the garage of his home in the 8500 block of Guess Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
“He remained in a coma until being pronounced dead 11 months later (Oct. 17, 2008) from injuries sustained in the robbery,” Lt. Mike Rosson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said in a written statement.
Though detectives had some initial clues to follow and identified suspects, the case grew cold due to a lack of evidence, Rosson said.
New revelations in the case earlier this month led to the arrests of Adrian Gardea, 26, of Whittier and Leonardo Alegre, 36, of Montebello on suspicion of murder, robbery and burglary, investigators said. The men are each also accused of the special allegation of crimes against the elderly.
They were both arrested May 10 by deputies from the Sheriff’s Surveillance/Apprehension Team, according to county booking records.
They were arraigned May 14 in El Monte Superior Court and were scheduled for another hearing in their case June 4, according to officials and records.
As detectives initially investigated the crime, “Possible suspects, who attempted to use the victim’s stolen credit cards after the robbery, were identified and interviewed, but could not be tied directly to the robbery or murder,” Rosson said.
Biological evidence from the scene also pointed to one of the men caught trying to use the stolen credit cards, the lieutenant said, and helped investigators identify a second suspect and a vehicle believed to have been involved in the killing.
“However, there was not enough evidence to obtain a criminal filing for the robbery or murder, and the case went cold for several years,” Rosson said.
“In May, 2012, investigators (Dan) McElderry and (Ken) Perry were able to gain additional information though investigative techniques, which led to the arrest of the two suspects,” he said.
Officials released no further details on what new information recently came to light in the investigation.
Both Gardea and Alegre are “admitted gang members from the San Gabriel Valley area,” Rosson said, though their specific gang affiliations were not disclosed.
According to county booking records, both suspects were being held without bail at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.
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Robbery reported in Northeast Pasadena

PASADENA — Two masked men used a handgun to rob a group of people as they sat in a car in northeast Pasadena late Friday, police said.
The crime was reported about 10 p.m. at Alegria Aveue and Daveric Drive, Pasadena police Lt. Diego Torres said.
The three victims were sitting in a stopped car when a small white sedan pulled up alongside them and two men got out, the lieutenant said.
Both men wore masks, and one of them carried a handgun, he said.
The robbers demanded wallets and cell phones from the three victims before fleeing, Torres said.
Police described the robbers as either white or Latino, about 5 feet 11 inches tall, of medium build and wearing dark clothes.
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Two jailed, one sought in federal probe into illegal arms dealing in Norwalk, Bellflower

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Two men are behind bars and another is being sought as a fugitive following a six-month federal investigation into illegal arms dealing in Norwalk and Bellflower, authorities said Saturday.
David Martinez, 28, of Norwalk and Francisco Jimenez, 22, of Bell Gardens were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of weapon-related charges as a result of a federal indictment earlier in the month, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials said in a written statement.
A third indicted suspect, 27-year-old Gerardo Perez of Bellflower, remained at large, officials said.
“During the course of the investigation, six firearms were purchased, including a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun and a stolen .50-caliber handgun,” ATF officials said in a written statement.
“ATF undercover agents and a confidential informant working on behalf of ATF were able to infiltrate a group of criminals that were selling illegal firearms in Bellflower and Norwalk,” the statement said.
The three defendants are charged with conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license and possession of unregistered firearms, ATF officials said in a written statement.
In addition, authorities said, the three defendants have been charged with possession of unregistered firearms, and Perez is accused of two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
If convicted as charged, Martinez faces up to 40 years in federal prison, while Perez and Jimenez could receive up to 20 years behind bars, officials said.
Anyone with information on Perez’s whereabouts is asked to contact the ATF at 800-283-4867. Calls will be kept confidential.
PHOTO of fugitive Gerardo Perez courtesy of the ATF.
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UPDATED: Woman accused of murdering husband in Whittier five years ago

Homicide investigators have arrested a woman in Mississippi on suspicion of murdering her husband five years ago at the home they shared near Whittier, officials announced Saturday.
Linda Gwozdz, 54, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, told detectives she accidentally shot her then-husband, 50-year-old Patrick Duffey, as she was “examining” his .38-caliber revolver on April 26, 2007, at the couple’s home in the 15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, according to Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau.
At the time of the killing, Gwozdz was known as Linda Doreen Duffey. She has since moved to Mississippi and re-married, however the investigation never ceased, Parker said.
“The investigation has been ongoing for five years,” Lt. Matt Burson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. “Recently, new information was obtained.”
Investigators declined to comment on the specifics of the new break in the case, however Parker said detectives have been continuously looking over evidence in the case through the years, “including physical evidence.”
Detectives presented their case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which filed a murder charge against Gwozdz, officials said.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Gwozdz and flew to Mississippi, where they were joined by a U.S. Marshals Task Force to arrest her at her home early Tuesday, Parker said.
She had working at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Protective Life Insurance Co. filed a challenge in court in the years following Patrick Duffey’s death, questioning who the rightful beneficiaries were, according to the Jackson, Mississippi-based Clarion Ledger.
In response to a complaint filed by the insurance company, a judge reportedly ordered in March of 2009 that that Patrick Duffey’s $300,000 life insurance policy be split between the man’s two sons, even though his wife was listed as the primary beneficiary.
A death certificate provided by Gwozdz to the insurance company listed her husband’s cause of death as homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds to the head, the Clarion Ledger reported. 
Lt. Larry Dietz of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner said he was barred from discussing the case due to a security hold placed on the information by sheriff’s investigators.
Sheriff’s officials said Gwozdz was being held by the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office in Mississippi in lieu of $2 million bail as she awaited extradition proceedings.
Anyone with information on the case was asked to contact sheriff’s homicide detectives at 323-890-5500. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
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San Bernardino County probation official suspected of bizarre police impersonation incident in Glendora

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Police arrested a San Bernardino County Probation Correctional Officer Friday in connection with a bizarre case of false imprisonment and impersonating a police officer reported earlier this month.
Glendora police arrested Douglass Leon Weaver, 43, about 6 p.m. Friday at his workplace, the San Bernardino County Juvenile Detention & Assessment Center, 900 E. Gilbert Street in San Bernardino, according to Glendora police Capt. Tim Staab.
Tips from the community and Weaver’s fellow probation officials led to his identification and capture, the captain said.
“Weaver was on-duty at the time and did not know Glendora police were searching for him,” Staab said.
Agents from the San Bernardino County Probation Department’s newly formed Criminal Intelligence recognized Weaver from a composite sketch circulated by Glendora police and confirmed he drove a cream-colored Ford Edge that matched the one described in the crime “spot on,” Staab said.
He’s accused of posing as a police officer May 11 when he pulled over a driver on the Sunflower Avenue offramp of the westbound 210 Freeway, police said. He used a strobe light and bumped the victim’s vehicle from behind to get him to pull over.
The fake cop took the victim, who had been drinking, to his sister’s home in Glendora and released him, Lt. Brian Summers said.
The police impersonator then told the victim he was giving him a “break,” and that, “this never happened, Summers said. The suspect carried a handgun in a holster on his hip.
Five days later, the phony officer returned to the sister’s home in Glendora, saying he wanted to check up on the situation, the lieutenant said. The woman became uncomfortable when the suspect barged into the home and began touching her on her arm and leg, and the intruder quickly left when the woman said her husband would soon be home.
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Though Weaver is employed by the San Bernardino County Probation Department, “He only has peace officer powers while on-duty, and while inside a custody facility,” Staab said.
He is not authorized to carry a gun either on- or off-duty, police added.
In a written statement, San Bernardino County Probation Department Chief Probation Officer Michelle Scray said she was disturbed by the allegations.
“We will not tolerate off duty conduct that brings discredit upon the San Bernardino County Probation Department and the professional men and women who work here,” she said.
According to county booking records, Weaver was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Glendora Police Department’s jail pending a scheduled arraignment Wednesday in West Covina Superior Court.
PHOTO of Douglass Weaver and suspect sketch courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
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Two jailed following chase in El Monte

EL MONTE — Sheriff’s deputies arrested two Baldwin Park men — one of them a wanted parolee — following a brief car chase Friday, officials said.
Adrian Aguiniga, 25, was booked for felony evading of police, while his passenger, Luis Diaz, 26, was being held for violating parole, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
A deputy saw the car driving recklessly and erratically and tried to pull it over about 3:25 p.m. at Santa Anita Avenue and West Hondo Parkway, he said.
Aguiniga failed to pull over and led deputies on a short pursuit south on Santa Anita Avenue and north on Kings Row, Somoano said.
The driver of the fleeing vehicle drove erratically at times, ignoring stop signs and traveling on the wrong side of the road, however the chase came to an end with the driver pulling over and surrendering on Vista Lane.
Aguiniga and Diaz were arrested, while another passenger in the car was released at the scene, Somoano said.
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Three suspected of burglary in Pasadena

PASADENA — Police arrested three men Friday in connection with a residential burglary, police said.
A resident of the 3800 block of Ranch Top Road called police about 12:30 p.m. to report three suspicious men in a truck at a neighboring house, Pasadena police Lt. Diego Torres said.
One of the men remained in the truck parked out front, while two other men approached the home and went around the back, the lieutenant said.
Officers arrived within minutes, Torres said. The truck had driven off, but was pulled over a short distance away and the driver was arrested.
Two other men were arrested as they exited the home, he said.
Officers checked the home and determined the men were in the process of a burglary, police said.
The suspects’ names were not available Friday afternoon pending booking.
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San Gabriel man suspected of shining laser at police helicopter, drug possession

SAN GABRIEL — Police jailed a San Gabriel man on suspicion of shining a laser at a Pasadena police helicopter and possession of cocaine after striking a helicopter crew member in the eye with a laser beam, causing him to be hospitalized for evaluation, police said Friday
Rafael Juarez, 23, was booked on suspicion of discharging a laser at an aircraft and possession of a controlled substance following Thursday’s 9:30 a.m. incident, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement.
“A Pasadena police officer was injured by a laser struck while flying over the City of San Gabriel,” the statement said. “The helicopter crew was not wearing their protective eyewear at the time of the attack; however, they identified the suspect’s location and worked with San Gabriel police ground units to contain the area.”
Officers found and arrested Juarez without a struggle near San Gabriel Boulevard and Broadway, police said.
The officer was not seriously injured, police said.
According to county booking records, he was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail and was due for arraignment Tuesday in Alhambra Superior Court.
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Missing Diamond Bar woman with Alzheimer’s disease reunited with family after spending night wandering

DIAMOND BAR — A 72-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease was found lying in a wash and reunited with her family Friday after she vanished from an assisted living facility the previous afternoon, officials said.
The woman went missing Thursday afternoon from an assisted living home in the 1000 block of Banner Ridge Road, Lt. Chris Blasnek said. Caretakers reported last seeing her watching TV about 3 p.m. before she disappeared.
As night approached and officials grew increasingly concerned about the missing woman, deputies continued a systematic search of the area with the help of a helicopter and tracking dog, the lieutenant said.
The dog tracked the woman’s scent to Sycamore Canyon park, but the difficult terrain prevented an overnight search, officials said.
Rescuers resumed the search in the morning, and a helicopter spotted the woman lying in a wash along Monument Canyon Road about 10:45 a.m. Friday, Blasnek said.
She was hospitalized for evaluation, but did not appear to be seriously harmed, he added. Worried family members were reunited with the missing woman at the scene where she was found.
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