MONROVIA >> A Valinda man accused of strangling his girlfriend in an SUV before sending pictures of her body and an apologetic message to his mother pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Pasadena Superior Court, officials said.
Prosecutors charged Joel Velasquez, 49, last month with the murder of his 46-year-old girlfriend, Alice Marie Medina-Kaplan, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said. Deputies found her body Sept. 21 inside an SUV parked in her father’s backyard in the 200 block of Mauna Loa Drive in Monrovia.
Medina-Kaplan and Velasquez had been staying in the SUV, officials said.
Prosecutors also accuse Velasquez of the special allegation that he has a previous felony conviction in 2011 for making criminal threat.
Velasquez entered a not guilty plea, Santiago said. He is scheduled to come back to court Nov. 17 for a preliminary hearing setting.
An autopsy determined Medina-Kaplan died of strangulation, and her death was ruled a homicide, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operation Ed Winter said.
Via text message, “(Velasquez) sent pictures to his mother of his deceased girlfriend,” Winter said. The grisly photos were accompanied by a message saying he was sorry.
Handling detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, who are assisting Monrovia police in the investigation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Friends recalled Medina-Kaplan was a woman with a once-bright future who was formerly married to an attorney and living in upscale neighborhoods before mental illness changes thr course of her life. Medina-Kaplan met Velasquez at a homeless shelter in Altadena.
Medina-Kaplan’s father told KABC that his daughter suffered from schizophrenia.
Velasquez faces up to 30 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.
PHOTO of Alica Marie Medina-Kaplan courtesy of the DMV.
ARCADIA >> Police responded en mass to a report of a shooting inside an Arcadia apartment Friday, but ultimately forced their way into the home to find it empty, officials said.
The incident began about 1:20 p.m. when officials received a third-hand report of a shooting at an apartment in the 800 block of Arcadia Avenue, Arcadia police Sgt. John Bonomo said.
A person called a television news station and said he had just shot his grandmother inside the apartment, the sergeant said. The TV station notified Pasadena police of the call, and Pasadena officials notified their counterparts in Arcadia.
Police surrounded the home and took tactical positions with rifles at the ready.
After a little more than two hours, police used a battering ram to force their way through the front door.
Officers found no one inside the home, which was secured with a burglar alarm when police entered.
“Officers were ultimately able to make contact with the people who lived there. This was determined to have been a falsely reported crime,” according to Lt. Tom Cullen.
Bonomo said the motive behind the call, which was believed to have been made from a pre-paid cell phone, remained under investigation, along with the identity of the caller.
LA VERNE >> A 150-pound tortoise disappeared from a La Verne backyard last week in what police are investigating as a theft, officials said.
Residents of the 4700 block of Camber Avenue called police on Oct. 9 to report the enormous sulcata tortoise had been taken from their backyard, La Verne police Sgt. Sam Gonzalez said.
The theft took place sometime between 5 p.m. Oct. 8 and 9 a.m. Oct. 9, he said.
Anyone with information can reach La Verne police at 909-596-1913.
LA VERNE >> La Verne police arrested a man and three teenagers early Sunday accused of a crime spree including an armed carjacking in La Verne, as well as armed robberies in La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Upland in recent days.
Officers arrested Edwin Miguel Garcia, 18, of Pomona, and three teenage boys from Pomona were arrested in connection with the series of crimes after tracking them down in Pomona about 2:30 a.m., according to La Verne police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Officials withheld the names of the juvenile suspects due to their age.
A man called police just before 11 p.m. Saturday to report being robbed and carjacked outside the Shogun Restaurant, 2123 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne, La Verne police Sgt. Sam Gonzalez said.
“Upon arrival, officers received information that three armed suspects demanded money and a cellular phone from the victim before forcibly taking his vehicle and fleeing the scene,” Gonzalez said.
A short time later, police received a second call from a bicyclist reporting he had been robbed by a group of young men in the 1900 block of Dover Way, police said.
“A preliminary investigation revealed the same subjects from the earlier carjacking were also responsible for the incident on Dover Way,” Gonzalez said.
Police found the four suspects in the area of Towne Avenue and the 10 Freeway in Pomona, Gonzalez said. Officers arrested them without a struggle.
They were found with the carjacked car, as well as a second car that had been reported stolen.
“Upon further investigation it was discovered the suspects arrested were responsible for similar crimes in the cities of Claremont, Pomona, and Upland,” Gonzalez said.
All of the crimes took place within recent days, he added.
In addition to the two stolen cars, the suspects were in possession of a loaded gun, two replica guns, stolen property and drugs, Gonzalez said.
Garcia was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail and the La Verne Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
PASADENA >> A woman stabbed her boyfriend on a hiking trail in Hahamongna Watershed Park Saturday afternoon, officials said.
Police jailed Amber Popick, 21, following the 12:20 p.m. stabbing at the park, 101 Foothill Blvd., Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said. She was described as transient.
The victim, a 31-year-old homeless man, told police his girlfriend stabbed him with a pocket knife, Luna said. The man suffered injuries to his shoulder and hand.
Officers responded and arrested Popick on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, the lieutenant said.
The wounded man was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Luna said. He was initially examined, but left the hospital before receiving treatment.
It was not clear what motivated the alleged attack.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Popick was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood pending her initial court appearance.
BALDWIN PARK >> Police checking on suspicious circumstances at the home of a senior citizen discovered her body inside her Baldwin Park home, officials said.
It was unclear whether foul play may have played a role in the death of the woman as detectives continued gathering clues at the scene Saturday afternoon. The name of the woman, described as 60 years old, was not released.
Baldwin Park police officers discovered the body about 1:50 p.m. in the 3700 block of Idaho Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Officers first went to the house after someone reported seeing a person running out of the garage of the home with beer, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Joe Meister said.
Neighbors also told police they had not seen the woman in several days, Lt. Ed Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“When officers arrived, they didn’t get an answer at the door,” Hernandez said. “They went inside through an open garage door and found her inside her residence.”
“There are no obvious signs of injuries or cause of death at this point,” Hernandez added. Coroner’s investigators planned an autopsy.
There were no signs of forced entry at the home, the lieutenant added.
The woman lived alone, though she had rented out rooms in the past, Hernandez said.
No further information regarding the person seen by a neighbor leaving the home’s garage was available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting Baldwin Park police in the investigation, at 323-890-5500.
PASADENA >> A dispute between acquaintances escalated into a home-invasion robbery Friday afternoon, police said.
The crime was reported about 6 p.m. at a home in the 800 block of North Oakland Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Two men and a woman showed up at the home of the 20-year-old victim, Luna said.
“The victim had a prior dispute with one of the suspects,” he said.
“The suspects forced their way inside the resident’s home and confronted him,” the lieutenant said. The robbers punched the victim in the face during the incident, but he declined medical treatment.
Police said the three robbers stole a cell phone and other items from the victim’s home before fleeing.
The victim knew one of the male robbers by name, and knew a moniker used by the female suspect, Luna said. All three remained at-large Saturday.
Police did not release the name of the identified suspect as the investigation continued.
PASADENA >> Police arrested a man Friday night after his 2-year-old daughter was found wandering along in the middle of a Pasadena street Friday night, officials said.
Lucas Scott Mark, 33, of Pasadena remained jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail Saturday after being booking on suspicion of felony child endangerment, according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
A good Samaritan called police to report finding the young girl wandering alone about 11:50 p.m., Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
“A motorist found a toddler in the middle of the roadway at Los Robles (Avenue) and Maple (Street),” Luna said.
Police arrived and picked up the child, who was unharmed, the lieutenant said. The child was, “very, very lucky,” not to have been struck by a car while wandering along in the dark street, he added.
About five minutes later, police received a report of a man in the area yelling and looking for his child.
Officers noted “unsafe and unfit” conditions at the man’s home and arrested Mark, Luna said. Police also summoned the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
SOUTH PASADENA — A report of a suspicious person in South Pasadena Friday led police to a theft suspect who was carrying stolen checks and credit cards, as well as a replica handgun, authorities said.
Officers used a Taser to subdue and arrest Domineke Ferguson, 23, of Alhambra, following the 1:40 p.m. incident that began in the 2000 block of Fletcher Avenue, near the Alhambra border, South Pasadena police Sgt. Matthew Ronnie said.
Officials took Ferguson to a hospital to be examined prior to booking him on suspicion of crimes expected to include receiving stolen property, Ronnie said. Ferguson also has outstanding arrest warrants, and additional charges were possible as well.
Ferguson knocked on the front door of a home, Ronnie said. A woman who lives there answered the door, and Ferguson told her he was looking for a friend named Mike before leaving.
The woman found the encounter suspicious and called police, Ronnie said. Police quickly arrived on scene and spotted a person matching the description given by the woman. The man ran when approached by police.
Officers chased down the man and ultimately used a Taser to take him into custody, the sergeant said.
Police found him in possession of checks and credit cards stolen believed to have been stolen from the area, as well as a replica handgun, Ronnie said. At least some of the items were taken in Alhambra.
The investigation was ongoing.
PICO RIVERA >> A man suffered a graze wound to his chin in a shooting at a Beverly Boulevard gas station early Thursday, authorities said.
The injured man declined to be treated by paramedics for the superficial injury, which he suffered in a shooting about 2:15 a.m. outside a gas station at Beverly and Rosemead boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jacqueline Sanchez said. He was believed to have been struck by shrapnel or a ricocheted bullet and not a direct hit.
Two men in their 20s or 30s were talking in the parking when a car described as possibly a Nissan approached, the sergeant said.
A passenger got out of the car and asked the men where they were “from,” referring to gang affiliation, she said.
The victims responded that they were not in a gang, and the former passenger opened fire with four shots from a handgun.
Detailed descriptions of the shooter and the getaway driver were not available Friday.