$20K reward renewed in 2013 slaying of Azusa man on Altadena horse trail

ALTADENA >> The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday renewed a $20,000 reward in the case of a West Covina man whose body was found four years ago on an Altadena horse trail.
Marcus Anthony Nieto, 26, was pronounced dead at the scene by coroner’s officials on February 16, 2013 after he was discovered unresponsive by two riders near the 3800 block of Canon Boulevard, officials said in a written statement.
He died of “multiple blunt trauma to the head” and the death was ruled a homicide, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Investigators said Nieto left his home to visit an acquaintance in Pomona, but may have returned to the Covina/Azusa area at some point before he went missing.
The reward, originally approved by the board in April of 2014, had expired before Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s motion reestablishing it for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of a suspect or suspects responsible for the murder.
Anyone with information 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.

— Sandra Molina and Brian Day

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Temple City man charged with murder, other crimes in alleged crime spree culminating in samurai sword slaying

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TEMPLE CITY >> Prosecutors filed murder and other charges against a Temple City man accused of killing a woman with a Samurai sword and stabbing two other people amid a violent crime spree on Wednesday.
John Ralph Perales, 44, is accused of murder, three counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the series of alleged attacks, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. He’s also accused of the special allegation of personal use of weapons during the crimes.
He showed up at the home of 44-year-old neighbor Diane Christine Alarcon in the 6000 block of Temple City Boulevard about noon, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said. A 42-year-old San Gabriel man, described as a friend of Alarcon’s, was also visiting.
“While spending some time there with Alarcon and another male guest, an argument ensued and Perales allegedly struck both Alarcon and the male with a wrench,” according to Ardalani.
Perales then grabbed an ornamental samurai-style sword hanging on the wall at the victim’s home and stabbed both Alarcon and her visitor with it, Corina said. Alarcon died at the scene. The wounded man was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Alarcon’s 10-year-old son was home at the time of the attack, but was unhurt, Corina said.
Perales surrendered to deputies as deputies were searching the neighborhood for him, officials said.
Hours earlier, detectives and prosecutors allege Perales stabbed his ex-girlfriend and her adult son at their home in the 3400 block of Whistler Avenue in El Monte.
He arrived there about 2 a.m., El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said.
“After spending some time there, Perales allegedly crawled on top of his ex-girlfriend as she was sleeping, woke her up and then stabbed her,” Ardalani said. The woman’s 22-year-old son tried to intervene and was also stabbed and injured. An update on the conditions of the mother and son was not available Friday.
Detectives were also investigating Perales in connection with a Rosemead carjacking that occurred in between the two stabbing incidents, however charges had not been filed for that alleged crime.
Perales has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for false imprisonment by violence in 2014; carrying a concealed dirk or dagger in 2011; being a prisoner in possession of a weapon and auto theft in 2001; attempted burglary in 1996; burglary in 1992; and acting as an accessory to a crime after the fact in 1991.
He entered no plea in court on Friday. His arraignment hearing was postponed to Feb. 2 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said. In the meantime, bail has been set at $6.21 million.
If convicted as charged, Perales could face a sentence of life in prison.

PHOTO by Walt Mancini

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UPDATED: Woman killed, man wounded, suspect surrenders in Temple City Samurai sword attack

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TEMPLE CITY >> An intruder attacked a woman with a wrench and fatally stabbed with a Samurai sword, also injuring a friend of the victim’s who tried to intervene, before turning himself in to deputies on Wednesday, authorities said.
The deadly attack was first reported about 12:05 p.m. at a duplex in the 6000 block of Temple City Boulevard, between Garibaldi and Woodruff avenues, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire officials.
Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said the woman, 40, was at home with a friend, described as a 42-year-old San Gabriel man, when the attacker barged in through the unlocked front door.
He attacked the woman with a wrench detectives believed he had brought with him to the home, the lieutenant said.
The killer then grabbed an ornamental Samurai-style sword that was hanging on the wall and used it to continue the attack, Corina said.
“(The friend) sees what’s going on. He tries to stop him,” Corina said. The friend ended up receiving non-life-threatening wounds of his own before the attacker fled from the home. The injured friend was expected to be released from the hospital later Wednesday.
The woman’s 10-year-old son was also inside the home at the time of the attack, but was unhurt, Corina said.
As deputies conducted a search of the neighborhood, the suspect approached deputies and surrendered himself, according to the lieutenant.
The 44-year-old man, who lived nearby, was taken into custody without a struggle. His identity was not available pending booking.
The identity of the woman killed in the attack was also unavailable pending positive identification by coroner’s officials and notification of family members.
The relationship between the suspect and victims was unclear, and the motive in the double-stabbing was yet to be determined, Corina said.
Both the wrench and the sword believed to have been used in the attack were recovered at the scene.
Anyone with information is urged 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.

PHOTO by Walt Mancini

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Two men fatally shot at Pasadena vigil identified

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PASADENA >> Authorities have identified two Pasadena men who were shot to death while gathered at a vigil for another recent homicide victim in a suspected gang-related attack that also left two other people wounded late Friday.
Antoine Dewayne Sutphen Jr. and Ormani Dajan Duncan, both 24 and from Pasadena, died following the late-night shooting near Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
They were gathered at a vigil for another Pasadena man gunned down on the same spot on Dec. 22 when gunfire erupted from a passing car, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
A woman was also critically wounded in the shooting, and a man suffered a non-life-threatening injuries.
Hours later, gunfire again rang out on near the same corner about 5 p.m. Saturday, where a 25-year-old Pasadena man suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, Goodman said.
A lack of cooperative witnesses in all of the shootings left investigators with no solid suspect description, police said.
The spate of violence was believed to be gang-related, Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO by James Carbone

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Two dead, two wounded after drive-by shooting targets homicide victim’s vigil in Pasadena

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PASADENA >> An attacker or attackers opened fire into a group of people gathered at a homicide victim’s vigil in Pasadena late Friday, leaving two men dead and two other victims wounded, police said.
The deadly drive-by shooting took place at 11:53 p.m. at Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, as a group of people was gathered for a vigil for the victim of a previous fatal shooting that took place in the same neighborhood on Dec. 22, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
“Unknown suspects shot from a vehicle into the group gathered for the vigil,” he said. “Four people were shot.”
A 24-year-old Pasadena man was found wounded around the corner on Pepper Street and pronounced dead at the street, officials said.
A 37-year-old Pasadena woman wounded by the gunfire managed to make her way across the street to a Pasadena Fire Department Station 36, where paramedics treated her before taking her to a hospital. She was listed in critical condition.
Two additional gunshot victims, a 24-year-old man and a 25-year-old man, were placed into a private car by others who were at the vigil, Goodman said.
A woman attempted to drive the men to a hospital, but became involved in a crash at California Boulevard and St. John Avenue, authorities said. The car struck another car before hitting a fixed object.
Authorities responding to the crash scene pronounced the 24-year-old gunshot victim dead at the scene, Goodman said. The second wounded man was hospitalized in stable condition.
The woman at the wheel of the car was treated for non-life-threatening injuries suffered in the crash.
The identities of the men who died in the shooting were not available Saturday pending positive identification and notification of their families, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
No suspect description was available, nor was a description of the vehicle from which the shots were fired, Goodman said. The motive in the attack was also unclear.
“We are having difficulty locating cooperative witnesses,” Goodman said.
The vigil came in the wake of the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Brandon Douglas of Pasadena.
He died after he was found lying wounded on a sidewalk in the 1200 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue, according to Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian. No suspect description or motive was known.
And the violence did not end Friday night.
Police returned to the same neighborhood about 4:45 p.m. on Saturday after a man was shot at Claremont Street and Fair Oaks Avenue, police and fire officials said.
Police encountered a 25-year-old Pasadena man who had been shot in the thigh, Goodman said.
He was hospitalized in serious-but-stable condition and expected to survive, officials said. No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were 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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PHOTOS by James Carbone

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Pasadena man killed in shooting identified


PASADENA >> Authorities have identified a 25-year-old Pasadena man who was killed in a shooting on Thursday night.
Brandon Douglas died at a hospital shortly after the 9:47 p.m. shooting in the 1200 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue, according to Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian.
Police responding to reports of gunfire found Douglas lying on a sidewalk suffering from gunshot wounds, Lt. Mark Goodman said.
No eyewitnesses were found, and the circumstances of the deadly shooting were unknown, he said. No suspect description was available.
Anyone with information is urged to contact 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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Man sentenced for 2006 La Puente ‘execution’ of Valinda man who failed to pay ‘taxes’ to Mexican Mafia


LOS ANGELES >> A former gang member from Baldwin Park received a 24-year prison sentence this week for his role in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy in which he admitted personally executing another gang member from Valinda who failed to pay “taxes,” or extortion payments, to the Mexican Mafia, authorities announced Thursday.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, a former 18th Street gang member with ties to Baldwin Park and El Sereno, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Los Angeles to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as part of a federal case targeting the Mexican Mafia-controlled Puente 13 street gang.
As part of his plea agreement, Garcia admitted to luring and fatally shooting David Dragna, 44, of Valinda at an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Prichard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente 13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head,” Mrozek said.
Garcia carried out the killing on the orders of leaders of Puente 13, who accused Dragna of keeping extortion payments on drug proceeds, or “taxes,” intended for the Mexican Mafia, officials said. Dragna was a member of the Townsmen gang, which also operates in the Valinda Corridor in the central Can Gabriel Valley.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises.”
At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, the prosecution and defense in the case agreed to recommend Garcia be sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald opted for the high end of the range, sentencing Garcia on Monday to 24 years behind bars, as well as eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
The two Puente 13 gang members who joined Garcia in the killing have since pleaded guilty to the slaying, Mrozek said. Angel “Smiley” Torres is serving a 15-and-a-half-year prison term, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is serving a 10-year sentence.
As part of the same investigation into Puente 13, which began in 2008, longtime gang leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente and his brother, Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonazalez of Rowland Heights, received life sentenced in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted at trial of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses.
The investigation into Puente 13 has resulted in four indictments and the convictions of about five-dozen gang members and associates, officials said.

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Man fatally shot on Pasadena sidewalk


PASADENA >> A man died late Thursday following a shooting along Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena.
The deadly shooting took place just after 9:45 p.m. in the 1200 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena police officials said.
The identity of the victim was not available pending positive identification and notification of family, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said. He was initially described by Pasadena police as a man estimated to be in his 20s.
Police responded to reports of gunshots heard in the area and discovered the victim lying on the sidewalk to the west side of the avenue, between Claremont Street and Washington Boulevard, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
Pasadena Fire Department paramedics took the wounded man to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
No further information regarding the circumstances of the shooting, including a suspect description, were available Friday.
Anyone with information is urged to contact 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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Man admits 3 counts of murder, other charges, for 2014 Pasadena shooting rampage

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PASADENA >> A man pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, as well as other charges, for a 2014 assault rifle shooting rampage in Pasadena that left three people dead and two others wounded, authorities said.
John Izeal Smith, 46, of Pasadena is expected to be sentenced to 181 years to life in state prison when he returns to the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Burbank branch for sentencing on Feb. 1, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
Under a negotiated plea arrangement, which took place just over two weeks before Smith’s trial was scheduled to begin, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, one count each of second degree murder, attempted murder and assault with an assault weapon on a police officer in connection with the July 12, 2014, bloodshed in the 1700 block of North Summit Avenue, according to district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling.
” Killed were Smith’s ex-girlfriend, 59-year-old Maria Aguiar, with whom he still lived, her 91-year-old father, Luis Aguiar, and 31-year-old Jose Hernandez Iribe, who was shot to death as he rushed toward the gunfire to help Maria Aguiar as she lied wounded in the sidewalk, according to Pasadena police.
Two other neighbors were also shot, but survived their injuries.
Smith barricaded himself inside his home and called police to report the shooting, which police said was carried out with an AK-47-style rifle.
The first arriving officer, John Woo, immediately came under fire, police said. His patrol SUV was riddled with bullets, but he was not struck.
Fellow officers placed an armored vehicle between Woo and the gunman to allow him to escape the line of fire, according to police officials and witnesses.
A police dispatcher ultimately persuaded Smith to surrender to exit the home and surrender to officers.
Smith fired more than 40 7.62x39mm rounds during the shooting spree, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said at the time.
Smith and Maria Aguiar had previously been involved in a dating relationship and were still living together at the time of the shooting, Risling said.
Smith is believed to have become became angry when Maria Aguiar confronted him about allegedly physically assaulting her mother, Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said. He retrieved the rifle and began shooting.
Though the special circumstance of multiple murders made Smith potentially eligible for the death penalty, the prosecution did not seek capital punishment in the case, Risling said.
Chief Sanchez commended the work of involved officers.
“I could not be more proud of the team of detectives that committed themselves to this investigation, in particular Sgt. Carolyn Gordon who served as the lead investigator. It is through their efforts and dedication to duty that we achieve these types of outcomes,” Sanchez said in a written statement. “It is also my hope that today’s guilty plea helps to bring solace and closure to the family members that were victimized by suspect Smith on July 12, 2014.”

PHOTO by James Carbone

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Santa Fe Springs man dies following stabbing, daughter accused of murder


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died of unknown causes after his daughter stabbed both him and his girlfriend at the mobile home all three shared in Santa Fe Springs, police said.
Janette Buena, 27, was booked on suspicion of murder following the 9:45 p.m. incident in the 8000 block of Sorensen Avenue, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Her father, 63, suffered a minor stab wound to his hand in the incident but initially declined medical treatment, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
But about 15 minutes later, the man collapsed in apparent cardiac arrest, officials said. He was taken to a hospital, where he was soon pronounced dead.
The man’s name was not available Wednesday pending notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The man’s girlfriend, a 46-year-old woman, suffered stab wounds to head, arms and hands, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
“According to the victims, Buena, for unknown reasons, began to attack her father and his girlfriend,” according to the statement.
The suspect’s father and girlfriend locked themselves in the bathroom of the mobile home and called 911.
Arriving officers encountered Buena at the mobile home’s doorway, officials said. She retreated back into the mobile home and began trying to get into the locked bathroom where the two victims were hiding.
“Whittier Police Officers followed her inside the residence and deployed three bean bag rounds from their shotgun, hitting Buena, but she did not drop the knife,” the statement said. “Officers then used their Taser. Buena fell to the ground long enough for the officers to take her into custody, although she was still resistive.”
Police recovered to large, butcher-style kitchen knives from the scene, Miller said. It was yet to be determined whether one or both knives had been used in the alleged attack.
Based on the victims’ injuries, it appeared the female victim was the primary target of the attack, and the suspect’s father may have been injured while trying to pull a knife away from her, Miller said.
The motive behind the stabbing was unclear.
The investigation now largely hinges on the findings of coroner’s investigators, who are working to determine the man’s specific cause of death.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Buena was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Whittier Police Department’s jail pending her initial court appearance.

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