SUV found next to skeletal remains in forest linked to missing Sunland woman, last seen in La Crescenta

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ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> A crashed and overgrown SUV found near a set of skeletal remains deep in the Angeles National Forest near Mt. Wilson has been connected to a Sunland woman who disappeared just over two years ago after leaving her sister’s home in La Crescenta, authorities said Thursday.
The silver Honda CRV was discovered Tuesday, more than 500 feet over the side of Angeles Crest Highway, near mile marker 41.69, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. The SUV was becoming overgrown with weeds and foliage.
Searchers returned to the apparent crash scene Wednesday morning, where they discovered the skeletal remains of an unidentified person, Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The age or gender of the person whose remains were found was not clear. Jauch declined to speculate on how long the SUV and remains had been there.
The Honda has been “connected” to Kimberly Blum, who was reported missing by her family on June 5, 2014, at age 45, Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Blum briefly stopped by her sister’s house in the 2000 block of Cinco Casitas Lane in La Crescenta, where a graduation party was being held for her niece, her mother, Rosalie Blum, said last year.
Surveillance camera footage shows Blum walking away from her sister’s home and driving off in a silver Honda CRV.
She was never seen or heard from again.
The only sign of Blum was a small bag containing medication and other personal items belonging to her that was found along the side of Angeles Crest Highway, 21 miles north of the 210 Freeway, in the early days of the search for her.
Anyone with information was asked to contact LAPD Detective Cletus Carlton at 213-996-1800.

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March to mark 5th anniversary of fatal shootings of sheriff’s Explorer Scout, friend in South Whittier

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> Hundreds of loved ones, family members and fellow Los Angeles County sheriff’s Explorer scouts on Sunday will mark the 5th anniversary of the slaying of an Explorer and another man with a march and candlelight vigil to honor the victims’ lives and renew their call for justice in the unsolved double-homicide.
The march has been held, and grown, each year since Aug. 28, 2011, when 19-year-old Norwalk sheriff’s Explorer Cesar Rodriguez and friend Larry Villegas, 24, both of Whittier, in the 11800 block of Painter Avenue in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier.
0826_NWS_WDN-L-MARCHmugThe group will gather at 7 p.m. at the corner of Laurel and Beaty avenues, organizers said.
During the annual marches, which passes by the scene of the shooting, marchers hand out fliers seeking information on the killings.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Valinda man killed in two-vehicle crash


VALINDA >> A Valinda man died and a Rowland Heights woman suffered injuries in a two-vehicle crash on Valinda Avenue late Wednesday, California Highway Patrol officials said.
The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. on Valinda Avenue, south of Maplegrove Street, CHP Officer Michelle Bond of the CHP’s Traffic Management Center said.
A 45-year-old Valinda man was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck north along Valinda Avenue when his truck veered into opposing traffic and struck a 2009 Toyota Venza being driven by a 35-year-old Rowland Heights woman, according to Sgt. M. Hammond of the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office.
“(He) suddenly allowed the Chevrolet Silverado to cross over the solid double-yellow lines and travel into the southbound No. 1 lane,” the sergeant said.
The driver of the Toyota veered to the right but was unable to avoid a collision, she said. The front of the truck struck the driver-side of the Toyota.
Firefighters rushed the truck driver to a hospital but he succumbed to his injuries, officials said. His identity was not available.
The woman at the wheel of the Toyota suffered injuries Hammond described as minor.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer C. Jones at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office at 626-338-1164.

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Skeletal remains found near overgrown crash scene in Angeles National Forest; SUV linked to 2-year-old LAPD missing person case


ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Investigators recovered skeletal remains found near an overgrown SUV crash scene deep in the Angeles National Forest north of Mt. Wilson on Wednesday, launching an investigation into who the remains belonged to and how the person died, a homicide detective said.
Caltrans officials first noticed a set of skid marks about 1:30 p.m. leading off side of Angeles Crest Highway, near mile marker 41.69, Lt. Randy Tuinstra of the sheriff’s La Crescenta Station said.
Members of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team descended the steep roadside and found an SUV 500 to 600 feet over the roadside, Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The SUV, which the lieutenant declined to describe in detail, was being overgrown with weeds and foliage. He declined to speculate how many months or years the SUV may have been there.
The original skid marks that prompted the search were found to have been the result of an unrelated crash that occurred about a week ago, Jauch said.
No body was initially found.
But officials returned to the scene Wednesday to resume their search. Search and Rescue officials discovered the skeletal remains “in the vicinity” of the SUV about 8 a.m., Jauch said.
The vehicle identification number on the SUV connected it to a missing person’s case launched by the Los Angeles Police Department about two years ago, Jauch said. He declined to discuss the specifics of the LAPD missing person case pending the identification of the remains. “It wouldn’t be responsible,” the lieutenant said.
The age or gender of the person whose skeletal remains were found remained a mystery, he said.
“We have no idea who they belong to,” Jauch said.
Despite the remains being found near the crashed SUV, Jauch said detectives had yet to determine whether the person had been inside it, or if the location of the remains was yet another coincidence.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner is now conducting an investigation into the identity of the person, as well as the cause of death.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Teenage boy suspected in Hacienda Heights armed robbery


HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> Deputies arrested a teen Sunday after he allegedly robbed a fruit vendor at gunpoint outside a Hacienda Heights diner before being involved in a hit-and-run car crash minutes later.
The robbery took place about 12:25 p.m. in the parking lot of Denny’s, 1150 S, 7th Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rico Sandoval said.
The 16-year-old suspect approached a vendor selling fruit, brandished a handgun and demanded money, the sergeant said.
After obtaining the cash, the robber got into a light-colored sedan and drove off.
Shortly after the robbery, deputies discovered an abandoned car matching the basic description of the car used in the robbery about 3 miles away in the area of Fairgrove and Broadmoor avenues in an unincorporated county area just outside of La Puente, officials said. It had crashed into a wall, and four people were seen running away.
All four were eventually found and detained during an hour-long search of the surrounding neighborhoods, official said. The 16-year-old boy was identified as the robbery suspect.
A handgun was recovered from inside the car, Sandoval added. Deputies also recovered some, but not all, of the suspected stolen money.
The other three people detained after fleeing from the car were not ultimately arrested, as they were not linked to the robbery, he said.

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Man critically injured in Pasadena stabbing, suspect jailed


PASADENA >> One man was hospitalized in critical condition and another was accused of attempted murder on Sunday after an early morning stabbing near Central Park in Pasadena, police said.
Officers arrested 51-year-old transient Lewis Divens minutes after the near-fatal 1:37 a.m. stabbing at Del Mar Boulevard and Raymond Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
“We received a call of a fight,” the lieutenant said. “They located a victim who had been stabbed during this fight.”
The victim, a 56-year-old man also described as transient, suffered “major injuries” in the stabbing and was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition, he said.
Officers found and detained Divens without a struggle about a block away.
Police recovered a knife from Divens that was believed to have been used in the attack, Lt. John Mercado said.
The motive in the stabbing remained unclear Sunday.

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3 DUI suspects jailed during Whittier checkpoint


WHITTIER >> Police in Whittier arrested three suspected drunken drivers during a checkpoint late Friday into early Saturday, officials said.
The checkpoint was held along Colima Road, just south of Whittier Boulevard, according to Whittier police Sgt. David Elizarraras.
“Three motorists were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and one other for outstanding warrants,” he said in a written statement.
Eight other drivers were arrested and released on citations for driving without valid licenses, or driving on suspended or revoked licenses, he added.

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Shots fired outside Pasadena apartment complex


PASADENA >> Shots were fired outside a Pasadena apartment building Friday afternoon, but no victims were found, police said.
The shooting took place about 6 p.m. in the 100 block of East Painter Street, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
A black Hyundai sedan drove into the parking lot of an apartment complex, he said. Someone inside opened fire on a group of people who were on foot.
The apparent targets of the attack scattered and were not found, Clawson said. No gunshot wound victims believed linked to the shooting turned up at local hospitals.
Clawson said the Hyundai was last seen heading north from the area. No further description was available.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Duarte man accused of murder after fatal shooting of neighbor, pursuit

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DUARTE >> A Duarte man shot and killed his neighbor Friday night before leading police on a chase that ended with his arrest in Azusa, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 7:55 p.m. in the 2100 block of Broach Avenue, Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, 35, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Luis Valdes-Santillan, 40, was booked on suspicion of murder, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
De La Torre and Valdes-Santillan lived in separate homes on the same lot, Hernandez said. Both attended a party being held at another neighbor’s home.
“At some point during the party, the victim and the suspect began to argue,” she said. “The suspect then entered his residence, retrieved a handgun, exited, and fired multiple rounds at the victim, striking him.”
De La Torre died at the scene.
Witnesses told deputies the shooter had fled in a white Toyota work truck, officials said.
Deputies soon spotted the truck nearby. The driver refused to pull over, initiating a pursuit.
The chase headed down Duarte Road and Huntington Drive before ultimately making its way onto the eastbound 210 Freeway, according to sheriff’s radio traffic.
A helicopter joined in the pursuit before Valdes-Santillan stopped and surrendered on the Azusa Avenue offramp in Azusa.
“A weapon was recovered inside the suspect’s vehicle,” Hernandez said.
The man was taken to the sheriff’s Temple Station for questioning, officials said. He was ultimately booked on suspicion of murder.
Valdes-Santillan was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Alhambra branch, records show.
No further details were released as the investigation continued Saturday.
De La Torre’s brother-in-law, Bobby Serna, said De La Torre is survived by his wife and three step-daughters who he had helped raise. The youngest of his step-daughters is a teenager.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Serna said. “He took a really good man that I looked up to. I loved him, I really did.”
Serna, who was not present when the shooting occurred, said his brother-in-law was gathered with family members behind his home, along with Valdes-Santillan.
It was unclear what angered Valdes-Santillan and prompted him to retrieve a gun from his home.
The suspect made a statement to the effect of, “Who wants it first?” before opening fire, Serna said.
Until the gunshots were fired, “Nobody even knew it was happening,” he said.
Serna said he did not know whether De La Torre was specifically targeted in the shooting.
“He was such a good man,” Serna said of his brother-in-law.
De La Torre migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager and had been working as a subcontracting electrician, he said. De La Torre’s white work van with a ladder affixed to the top remained parked in front of the home Saturday.
He was saving money and planning to obtain his contractor’s license, so he could start his own contractor business, Serna said.
“He would help anybody,” Serna said. “He really valued family. He loved kids. He was a hard worker.”
De La Torre’s personality was “quiet but humorous,” he said.
“My daughters are devastated. They loved their uncle,” Serna said.
Funds to benefit De La Torre’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/2ksz74hg.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO: Gabriel Alejandro De La Torre, courtesy

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Elderly man who went missing in Arcadia found safe

ARCADIA >> An elderly man from China who went missing in Arcadia while visiting family Thursday morning turned up safe Thursday night, police said.
Tong Huang, 78, was reported missing after he went for a walk in Arcadia and failed to return, Arcadia police officials said in a written statement. The senior, who speaks only Mandarin, was visiting family from China and had been in the U.S. for about a month.
But the search was called off after Huang was found safe and reunited with his family Thursday night, police said.
A good Samaritan spotted Huang at a Pasadena supermarket late Thursday and thought he appeared lost, Lt. Tom Cullen said.
The good Samaritan provided Huang with a ride home, he said. Once there, Huang’s family notified police that he had returned home safely.

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