GLENDORA >> A man accused of brutally stabbing two homeless men to death as they slept at a Glendora Car wash last year pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges in Pomona Superior Court, prosecutors said.
Drew Alan Friis, 29, of Glendora potentially faces the death penalty if convicted as charged of the Aug. 15, 2013, slayings of John “Little John” Welch and Warren Blagrave, both 52, at a car wash in the 200 block of Route 66, where they has been spending the night in the weeks leading up to their deaths.
Prosecutors are yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, or a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. In addition to two counts of murder, officials allege the special circumstance of multiple murders, as well as the special allegation that he personally used a knife in the killings.
Investigators arrested Friis the same day the killings occurred. Friis said he was upset with one of the victims, but did not tell officials why, Lt. Ray Lugo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said earlier this year.
Blagrave suffered more than 25 stab wounds, officials said. Welch was stabbed more than 20 times.
Friis is scheduled to return to court Feb. 20 for a preliminary hearing, officials said. In the meantime, he is being held without bail.
WHITTIER >> A man died and a teenage girl was wounded after an argument led to a drive-by shooting early Sunday, police said.
Jose Duarte, 26, of Whittier, died at a hospital following the shooting, which took shortly after midnight along Lambert Road, just east of Sante Fe Springs Road, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
A 17-year-old Whittier girl also wounded in the shooting was expected to survive, he said.
Police said the two victims were walking east along a sidewalk when Duarte became involved in an argument with several other people who were across the street at a liquor store. The victims then continued walking east through a residential neighborhood.
“As the male and female victims continued to walk away from the location, the suspects drove past them and fired several shots at the victims,” police said in a written statement.
The gunfire struck Duarte in the chest, officials said. The teenage girl was shot in the back.
Paramedics took Duarte to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
“The suspect vehicle is believed to be a silver or gray sedan,” according to the police statement.
No description of the suspects themselves was available.
It was unclear what the argument that preceded the shooting was about, White said. Police were looking into the possibility the shooting was gang-related.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Whittier police at 562-567-9241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
MONTEBELLO, Calif. >> Police Sunday discovered a woman’s body inside the trunk of the car of a Montebello family that’s been missing for five days, authorities said.
The Perez family was last seen Friday, Montebello police officials said. The missing family includes Daniel Perez, 43, his wife Erica Perez, 39, and their sons Alex, 6, Tristan, 8, Jaiden, 9, and Jordan, 11.
Police launched an investigation Tuesday after a relative reported the Perez family missing, Montebello police officials said in a written statement. The family has not been seen or heard from since.
But the case turned from a missing persons investigation into a homicide investigation Wednesday afternoon when police made a grisly discovery.
Based on a tip received while canvassing the family’s neighborhood, investigators found a black 2010 Honda Accord belonging to the family about 5 p.m., parked along the curb at 2nd Street and Harding Avenue, next to Beverly Hospital, Montebello police Capt. Luis Lopez said. The car was found less than a mile to the north of the family’s 1st Street home.
Police then discovered the body of a woman inside the trunk of the car, Lopez said. It was not clear late Wednesday whether the body found was that of Erica Perez, Lopez said, however the basic description of the body was consistent with the missing woman’s description.
Police released no information regarding how the woman may have died, or how long ago. The Perez family remained unaccounted for.
“The biggest concern we have is for the children,” Lopez said.
The captain described Daniel Perez a a “person of interest” in the investigation.
Family members told police the parents’ marriage was “unstable” and that the couple had a history of domestic violence, police officials said in a written statement,
Police continued seeking the family Wednesday night, Lopez said. Their investigation included a review of vehicles that have recently crossed the Southern border into Mexico, in case the family had left the country.
Police sought a second car registered to the family, which Lopez described as a black 2014 Toyota Camry with California license plate No. 7FDS891.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Montebello police at 323-887-1313.
PHOTOS of Perez family courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died at the scene of a shooting in a residential neighborhood in Santa Fe Springs Sunday night, officials said.
Police discovered the victim lying on the ground near a bicycle about 9:15 p.m. while responding to a report of gunshots in the 9300 block of Millergrove Drive, Whittier police Officer Brad White said.
The man, who was estimated to be in his mid-40s to early-50s, died at the scene, White said.
He was believed to be either riding or walking the bicycle north on Millergrove Drive when he was shot, the officer said.
No suspect description or further details were available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9200.
NORWALK >> Authorities arrested a man in Guatemala early Thursday in connection with the brutal stabbing death of a 50-year-old woman at her Norwalk home in 2012, officials and the victim’s sister said.
Luis Diofron, 22, is accused of sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing Denise Battey in the early-morning hours of Aug. 10, 2012, at her home in the 11900 block of Allard Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and Battey’s twin sister, Annese Battey.
Investigators recently received a tip that Diofron, whom they had been seeking for more than two years, had been spotted near Guatemala City, Detective Ray Lugo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. Guatemalan police, along with FBI agents, arrested the alleged killer without a struggle Thursday morning.
Annese Battey said she was notified of the arrest Thursday morning.
“My family is just ecstatic,” she said. But the sense of justice that came with the arrest was accompanied by many painful memories.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” she said. “Everyone is breaking down. This is a day you just hope and wish for.”
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PHOTOS of Denise Battey, above, and Luis Diofron, below. (Courtesy)
PASADENA >> A 26-year-old man faces a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing next month after Pasadena jury convicted him of the fatal stabbing of a Pasadena barbershop owner in 2011, authorities said.
At his second trial following a hung jury and mistrial in September, a Pasadena Superior Court jury found Davon Westley Moore of Los Angeles guilty of first-degree murder for the Sept. 21, 2011, slaying of 43-year-old King E. King, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
King was found about 12:30 a.m., lying in a pool of blood behind his barbershop, King King’s Barber and Beauty Salon, in the 900 block of East Washington Boulevard in Pasadena.
The stabbing, which police characterized as brutal, stemmed from robbery and burglary at the shop, according to district attorney’s officials and Pasadena police investigators.
King didn’t go without a struggle, Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said.
“He was fighting to survive this attack,” she said.
In addition to first-degree murder, the Jury also found true the special circumstances of murder during a robbery and murder during a burglary, prosecutors said.
Moore is expected to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to court for sentencing Dec. 9, district attorney’s officials said.
Moore’s co-defendant, 22-year-old Sabrina Octavia King of Compton, who was not related to the victim, pleaded “no contest” to charges of voluntary manslaughter and robbery in March, officials said. She faces up to 21 years in state prison when she returns to court for sentencing,
A previous trial for Moore in September ended in a mistrial, with jurors hung 11-1 in favor of convicting Moore.
ALHAMBRA >> A Rosemead man pleaded not guilty to murder Thursday following the fatal stabbing of a Monterey Park man last month, officials said.
Angel Octavion Garcia, 18, is accused of fatally stabbing Alhambra Parks and Recreation Department employee Edward Mendoza, 35, Oct. 14 in a parking lot in the 1700 block of Potrero Grande, near Arroyo Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
He entered his plea in Alhambra Superior Court, where he was ordered to return Jan. 9 for a preliminary hearing setting, Los Angeles County district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“There are no indications the two men knew each other,” according to the statement. A motive for the slaying has not been released.
Mendoza called 9-1-1 to report he had been stabbed, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. Investigators have declined to release further details of the 9-1-1.
Paramedics rushed Mendoza to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
“Soon after the incident, a person came forward to police and identified Garcia as the assailant,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Mendoza had worked a part-time recreation leader for the Alhambra Parks and Recreation Department since 2001, city officials said. Most recently, he served as a children’s football referee at Almansor Park in Alhambra.
Recently, Ray said Mendoza was refereeing football for the children at Almansor Park, 800 S. Almansor St. in Alhambra.
Sheriff’s investigators arrested Garcia Oct. 18, according to Los Angeles County booking records. He was being held in lieu of $1.025 million bail.
Loved ones have created a memorial video in tribute to Menoza at www.eddiemendoza.org.
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> The second of two defendants denied murder and assault charges in connection with the fatal stabbing of a La Mirada woman during a fight over a parking space at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet last month, officials said.
Reggie Cervantes, 22, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon for the Oct. 17 stabbing in the parking lot of the swap meet at 13963 Alondra Boulevard, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Cervantes is additionally accused of the special allegation that he personally wielded a knife in the crime, officials said.
Cervantes’ co-defendant Brenda Jasmine Rangel, 19, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges Oct. 21 in Norwalk Superior Court.
The two suspects are accused of fatally stabbing 43-year-old Elizabeth Yanez of La Mirada during a dispute over a parking space about 9;30 p.m., Whittier police officials said.
Yanez was in a vehicle with her two adult children when she got into an argument with Cervantes and Rangel, who were in another car, police and district attorney’s officials said.
“At some point, Cervantes exited his car and attempted to stab Yanez’s son, but was unsuccessful,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Cervantes then allegedly walked over to Yanez and stabbed her,”
Yanez succumbed to her injuries at an area hospital.
Investigators found and arrested Cervantes and Rangel in connection with the fatal stabbing the following morning at a South Los Angeles apartment, according to Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
Prosecutors said Cervantes was previously convicted of robbery in 2009 and receiving stolen property in 2010.
Both face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted as charged, officials said.
Cervantes and Rangel were being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending trial, according to booking records. They were scheduled to return to court Dec. 15 for a preliminary hearing.
POMONA >> A jury convicted an Anaheim man of murder Friday in the beating death of his 19-month-old son last year in Valinda, authorities said.
A Pomona Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before finding Jesus Vega Estrada, 44, guilty of second-degree murder, along with assault on a child causing death, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. He faces up to 25 years to life to prison when he returns to court for sentencing Dec. 15.
Estrada beat his 19-month-old son after picking the child up from the home of the boy’s mother in Valinda about 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 27, 2013, prosectors said. He told the boy’s mother he was taking the child to buy candy and juice.
Eric Avian Cervantes died at a West Covina hospital early the next morning, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey.
“When Estrada and the child returned to the home about 11:45 p.m., the victim was vomiting,” according to the statement. “The parents then took the child to the hospital, where the toddler died early the next morning.”
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested Estrada the same morning, according to officials and county booking records.
Coroner’s investigators determined Cervantes died from “blunt force trauma” to his liver, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Coroners officials further determined that child suffered his injuries when he was struck by an adult, Harvey said. Investigators ruled the death a homicide.
The boy had also suffered broken ribs, trauma to his head and bruising on his body, district attorney’s officials said.
The injuries were believed to have been inflicted by Estrada’s hand or fist, Ardalani said. No weapon was believed to have been involved in the fatal attack.
During trial, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Michael Matoba argued that Estrada had committed to previous, unreported incidents of abuse against his son on Oct. 17 and Oct. 20, district attorney’s officials said.
A specific motive for the attack was unclear, however Ardalani said Estrada and the boy’s mother had been arguing over the amount of his child support payments prior to the killing.
Estrada was held without bail pending the trial process due to a hold placed on him by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Hello. I’m working on a large-scale project documenting unsolved homicides in the San Gabriel Valley between 2000 and 2010, and I’m reaching out to families and loved ones who wish to draw renewed attention to unsolved cases. If your friend or family member was the victim of an unsolved homicide in the San Gabriel Valley between 2000 and 2010 and you wish to talk, feel free to reach me at (626) 544-0812, or at email@example.com. Thank you.
- Brian Day
Crime reporter – San Gabriel Valley Tribune