West Covina murder suspect found in Nebraska

Staff Writer Amanda Baumfeld reports that authorities have arrested a woman in Omaha in connection with the death of her roommate, who was found fatally bludgeoned in a closet in the South Hills home they shared.

Investigators found Julie McChristy Friday night and booked her at the Omaha Police Department.

She is accused in the March 28 slaying of Susan Molina.

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Spector jury deliberating again

The jury in music producer Phil Spector’s murder trial resumed deliberations today.

The panel took a break last week after one of the juror’s fell ill on Wednesday.

The 69-year-old Spector is accused of second-degree murder in the gunshot death of actress Lana Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003. Clarkson was fatally wounded inside Spector’s Alhambra mansion.

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Somebody really wants to burn this strip mall

Reporters Daniel Tedford and Ben Baeder report today that someone has tried for a fourth time this year to set fire to a strip mall in La Puente.

The Durango Plaza strip mall in the 15700 block
of Amar Road was struck by small fires three times between Jan. 13 and
Jan. 18 causing about $20,000 in damage.


The facility’s
landlord hired a security guard to prevent future attacks, but during
the guard’s break combustible materials were set up for a potential
fire Thursday morning, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Sgt. Jeff
McBride.

Story here

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Five convicted of international sex trafficking

This comes today from the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. Those convicted used a combination of threats — deception, rape, physical violence and witchcraft — to compel young Central American women to become prostitutes.

    LOS
ANGELES – Five defendants, all members or associates of an extended
family, face potential life prison sentences after being found guilty
today of international sex trafficking for participating in a scheme
that lured young Central American women and girls into the Los Angeles
area and forced them into prostitution, announced Acting Assistant
Attorney General Loretta King for the Civil Rights Division and U.S.
Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien for the Central District of California.

        The
defendants, four Guatemalan nationals and one Mexican national, were
convicted of conspiracy; sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion;
and importation of aliens for purposes of prostitution. The jury in the
case was unable to reach unanimous verdicts on additional charges.

        During a
six-week trial, the government presented evidence that the defendants
targeted young, uneducated, impoverished undocumented women and girls
from Guatemala, and conspired to lure and smuggle them into the United
States, where they were put to work as prostitutes. All but one of the
victims were enticed with bogus promises of legitimate jobs.  But after
arranging for the victims to be smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border,
the defendants used a combination of threats – deception, rape,
physical violence and witchcraft – to compel the victims to perform
acts of prostitution.

        The
defendants intimidated and controlled their victims by threatening to
beat them and kill their loved ones in Guatemala if they tried to
escape. Some defendants also used witch doctors to threaten the girls
that a curse would be placed on them and their families if they tried
to escape. At least two of the defendants further restrained the
victims by locking them in at night and blocking windows and doors to
prevent their escape. The defendants also used  manipulation of debts,
verbal abuse and psychological manipulation and control to reinforce
their control over the victims. The scheme also included strict
controls over the victims’ work schedules and ominous comments about
consequences that befell the families of other victims who attempted to
escape.

        The
defendants collected the profits generated by the acts of prostitution
the victims were compelled to perform, and maintained control over the
prostitution proceeds, earning tens of thousands of dollars while the
victims received next to nothing.

        The
defendants found guilty today are Gladys Vasquez Valenzuela; Mirna
Jeanneth Vasquez Valenzuela, aka Miriam, 27; Gabriel Mendez, the
Mexican national, 34; Maria de los Angeles Vicente, aka Angela, 29; and
Maribel Rodriquez Vasquez, 29. All of the defendants face statutory
maximum penalties of life in federal prison. Everyone with the
exception of Maribel Rodriguez Vasquez faces a mandatory minimum
sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

        United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow, who presided over the trial, will sentence the defendants later this year.

        Four
additional defendants – Flor Morales Sanchez, Pablo Bonifacio, Luis
Vicente Vasquez and Albertina Vasquez Valenzeula - previously pleaded
guilty to various offenses in connection with the defendants’ scheme.

        “The
defendants in this case trafficked in human beings, using these
victims’ desire for a better life to lure them into a situation where
they were deprived of their basic human rights,” said United States
Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “No one should be victimized in this way.”

        Acting
Assistant Attorney General Loretta King stated: “Human traffickers like
these defendants target vulnerable victims, including minors, and
subject them to vicious conditions that will not be tolerated in this
country. Today’s convictions demonstrate the Department’s commitment to
exposing and vigorously prosecuting those who engage in such depraved
exploitation of their fellow human beings.”

        Human
Trafficking Prosecutions are a top priority of the Justice Department.
In Fiscal Year 2008, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’
Offices filed a record number of criminal civil rights cases, including
record numbers of both sex trafficking and labor trafficking cases.

        In Los
Angeles, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), the
U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, the United
States Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department, along
with several community groups, comprise the Los Angeles Metropolitan
Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, whose mission is to improve
tactics for identifying and rescuing trafficking victims, provide
assistance to victims and prosecute those responsible for human
trafficking.

        “The
investigation of this sex trafficking ring, the largest of its kind in
Los Angeles to date, was initiated thanks to the courage of a witness
who reported the abuse, which included the prostitution of women and
children against their will,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant
Director In Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The FBI and our partners
on the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Human Trafficking are
hopeful that this case will bring awareness to the growing crisis
involving the trafficking of people, so that more citizens provide
information that leads to the rescue of victims and the prosecution of
traffickers.”

        Robert
Schoch, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Investigation in Los Angeles, stated:
“This verdict is particularly gratifying given the appalling abuse and
fear the unwitting victims in this case were forced to endure. While we
can’t erase the pain and suffering these young women experienced, by
aggressively investigating and prosecuting these cases, ICE and the
other members of the Los Angeles Human Trafficking Task Force are
sending a powerful warning about the consequences facing those
responsible for such schemes.”

        The case
was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and the U.S. Department of
Labor, Office of the Inspector General.

        The Human
Trafficking Task Force in Los Angeles has established a toll-free
hotline – (800) 655-4095 – which victims and individuals with
information about victims are encouraged to call. Information may be
provided anonymously and will be kept confidential.

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Fetus found at Baldwin Park recycling plant

Our partner CBS is reporting a fetus has been discovered in Baldwin Park, possibly at a recycling plant.

The fetus was found in the 14600 block of Arrow Highway near Bleecker
Street just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, said Deputy Byron Ward of the
Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau.

The circumstances surrounding the discovery of the fetus were not immediately released.

The fetus was pronounced dead on the scene.

Baldwin Park police and sheriff’s homicide detectives are investigating the matter, Ward said.

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El Monte third-grader brings gun to school, fires shot

EL MONTE – A third-grader brought a gun to school and shot it into the ground before it was confiscated Tuesday afternoon, school officials said.

The child has been arrested, school officials said.

The student was on a field at Baker Elementary School during physical education class when he pulled the gun from his backpack, said Mountain View School District spokesperson Michele Earle. The student then pointed the .22 caliber gun toward the ground and fired, she said.

“The P.E. coach saw it, confiscated it, and the police were called,” Earle said.

School ended five minutes after the incident and students were released per regular procedure, officials said.

Police responded to the call and are investigating. 

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Freestyle motocross racer dies after crash

Awful crash video here. WARNING: Graphic content.
Lusk’s Web page

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Jeremy Lusk, an American
freestyle motocross racer, died of head injuries two days after
crashing while trying to land a backflip in competition. He was 24.

He
had surgery in Calderon Hospital in San Jose to relieve swelling on his
brain, but his condition worsened and he died Monday night, Metal
Mulisha, his riding group, said Tuesday.

Lusk won a gold medal at
the 2008 X Games. He was injured Saturday night when he failed to
complete a full rotation while attempting a Hart Attack backflip and
slammed headfirst into the dirt. Lusk crashed in almost identical
fashion in the freestyle semifinals at the 2007 X Games but was not
hurt.

He had a successful 2008 season, winning Freestyle gold at
the X Games and silver in Best Trick when he landed the first
double-grab Hart Attack backflip. He won a bronze helmet in Freestyle
at the Moto X World Championships in his hometown of San Diego.

(AP)

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Man in fancy car kills self after LA police pursuit

From the Associated Press

23673-bently-thumb-300x161.jpg

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An assault suspect led Los Angeles police on
a chase in a luxury Bentley sedan for more than three hours before
fatally shooting himself in the head early Tuesday as he sat in the car
surrounded by armed officers, police said.

The man, whose identity was not immediately released, died after he was taken to a hospital in Burbank, Sgt. Ernest Fisher said.

The
low-speed pursuit covered several Southern California freeways Monday
night before the man came to a stop on a street near Universal Studios
very close to where the chase began.

About 90 minutes later,
television news video showed three large armored vehicles surround the
car and SWAT team members approach it with guns drawn. They broke the
white sedan’s passenger window and opened the door, but the man had
already shot himself.

He was whisked away in an ambulance.

Police
said the man was suspected of assault with a deadly weapon on his
girlfriend. They also suspected from the start of the chase that he was
armed.

Police had received a call at 3:30 p.m. Monday that a man
had threatened his girlfriend with a gun and may be suicidal, Lt. Greg
Doyle told KTLA-TV.

The chase began shortly before 8 p.m. when officers responded to a report that the suspect had returned to the area, Doyle said.

Driving
less than 40 mph, the man behind the wheel of the $100,000-plus car
began leading officers southbound on U.S. 101 through Hollywood, and
kept heading south on different freeways nearly to the coast, then
headed back north before stopping on Lankershim Boulevard near a
well-lit Toyota dealership. An unidentified dark-haired woman
approached the car and appeared to attempt to talk to the driver.

As
police waved her away, the trunk popped open, and police cars quickly
lined up behind it; officers then trained their weapons on the car from
behind the open doors of more than a dozen squad cars.

News helicopters hovered over the scene, and authorities kept back a crowd of photographers and gawkers.

The
lavish car and the chase’s Hollywood-area origins spurred speculation
that the suspect might be someone prominent, but police dispelled that.

“He’s not a celebrity, just someone who had a $100,000 Bentley,” Doyle said.

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Octuplets’ mother caught on tape in ’06

23604-suleman-thumb-300x181.jpg

Television station KTLA found this file video of the mother of the Whittier octuplets receiving treatment at a Los Angeles fertility clinic in 2006. It appears the clinic may be now be under investigation by the Medical
Board of California to see if there was a “violation of the standard of care” for implanting
so many embryos in the mother.

With the addition of the octuplets, Suleman, a single mother, now has 14 children. All of them — according to interviews given by the woman — were conceived via in vitro fertilization.

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Stabbed nearly 100 times

Staff Writer Bethania Palma reports today on a woman ordered to trial for allegedly stabbing her husband with a sword and smothering her two children. Here’s the lead of her afternoon update on the hearing:


POMONA – A woman accused of killing her husband and two children was ordered today to stand trial on three counts of murder.

Man
Ling Williams, 29, stabbed her husband, Neal, nearly 100 times with a
Japanese sword, according to testimony from her preliminary hearing on
Monday. She is also accused of smothering her two sons, Devon, 7, and
Ian, 3, in their beds last August.

She has plead not guilty to the killings.

Judge Robert Martinez ordered her to trial after hearing about
90 minutes of testimony Monday from a sheriff’s homicide detective who
investigated the case.

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