Montebello woman sentenced for abuse, murder of disabled sister

MONTEBELLO >> A judge sentenced a Montebello woman to 15 years in state prison Friday for the abuse and murder of her disabled 60-year-old sister in 2011, authorities said.
Amy Sam Ho, 62, was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July of second-degree murder and dependent adult abuse resulting in death in connection with the death of Cora Sam of Montebello on Oct. 10, 2011, Los Angeles County district Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Ho was her sister’s full-time caregiver when she brought Sam to a Montebello hospital, seemingly already dead, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
“She appeared lifeless and in a state of rigor mortis,” according to the statement. “After medical staff tended to her, the victim was declared dead.”
“Upon examination after her death, Cora Sam had several large sores and only weighed 66 pounds. She died of sepsis because of the infected sores,” the statement said. “During the investigation, detectives learned that Amy Sam Ho stopped taking her sister to the doctor for approximately one year and failed to seek medical treatment when the sores became progressively worse.”
An autopsy found that Sam died from sepsis, with additional contributing factors of pneumonia, infected bed sores, cerebral malformation and malnutrition, coroner’s records show. The death was ruled a homicide.

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Azusa man dies after being shot outside his home


AZUSA >> A 30-year-old Azusa man died Wednesday night after an unknown assailant shot him several times outside his home.
Sgt. Marcelo Quintero of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Paul Espinosa, who was shot in the upper torso, made his way back to the house where he collapsed. He died at the scene.
Detectives have not found the shooter.
The shooting broke out just before 11 p.m. in the 17800 block of E. Newburgh Street, in an unincorporated county area near Azusa.
Espinosa stepped outside for a few minutes and his family heard three to four shots, according to Quintero.
The sergeant said Espinosa entered the house, said he’d been shot and told relatives to call 911. He said Espinosa collapsed on a couch.
Azusa police found him bleeding and unresponsive with gunshot wounds to his chest. Coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said firefighters pronounced Espinosa dead at the scene at 11:10 p.m.
Investigators are looking for witnesses.
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.

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Baldwin Park man arrested in connection with fatal stabbing


BALDWIN PARK >> Homicide detectives have announced the arrest of a Baldwin Park man in connection with the fatal stabbing of another man during a fight early Friday.
Steven Barron, 54, was initially detained for questioning and treated for injuries following the deadly fight, which unfolded about 12:10 a.m. inside a residential garage in the 4000 block of Harlan Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. By day’s end, detectives had booked him on suspicion of murder, Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
Gilbert Ochoa Jr., 43, died in the stabbing, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
He was visiting a homeowner prior to the stabbing, Saldana said. The two men were talking when Barron, a tenant of the homeowner’s building, showed up.
“(Barron) entered the garage and started an argument with the victim that led to a fight,” Saldana said in a written statement. “The victim struck the suspect with a metal pipe but the suspect then gained control of the pipe, striking the victim and stabbing him with a knife.”
Ochoa died at the scene, officials said. He had been stabbed in the chest. A large kitchen knife believed to have been used in the stabbing was recovered at the scene.
Barron was treated for a broken arm as detectives continued their investigation, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The homeowner suffered no injuries in the incident, officials added.
According to county booking records, Barron was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Pomona branch.

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Man guilty in double-slaying of ex-girlfriend’s grandparents in Rosemead

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ROSEMEAD >> A jury convicted a man of fatally stabbing his then-14-year-old girlfriend’s grandparents more than 150 times in their Rosemead home six years ago.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for two days before convicting Rodolfo Lopez of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Aug. 9, 2010, slayings of Jack Bezner, 71, and Susan Bezner, 64, at their home in the 4200 block of Arica Avenue, according to Los Angeles County District Attorneys’ officials.
His former girlfriend, 20-year-old Sophia Cristo, was convicted in March of 2015 of two counts of first-degree murder, prosecutors said. Jurors also found true the special circumstances of lying in wait and multiple murders, along with the special allegation that she personally used a knife to stab her grandmother, who was wounded 112 times.
Both Jack and Susan Bezner were attacked as they slept in bed, officials said. Evidence indicated they fought for their lives, Deputy District Attorney Scott McPheron told jurors during Cristo’s trial.
Cristo lived with her grandparent prior the brutal slayings, officials said. It was alleged Cristo orchestrated the killings over a dispute with her grandparents.
“The prosecutor argued in his closing that Cristo had been involved in a check forgery scam,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“The grandparents found out. They threatened to put her in juvenile hall,” Ardalani said. Cristo then allegedly decided to kill them.
Cristo and Lopez are both expected to receive life prison terms, without the possibility of parole, when they return to court for sentencing on Jan. 24, Ardalani said.
Cristo was not eligible for the death penalty because she was a juvenile at the time of the crimes, though she was charged as an adult. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Lopez, who was 21 at the time of the double murder, Ardalani said.
Prosecutors argued that Lopez personally wielded the knife in Jack Bezner’s slaying, however jurors did not find that allegation to be true, Ardalani said.
Police apprehended Lopez and Cristo two days after the murders, according to El Paso Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jesse Tovar.
Authorities used a LoJack vehicle anti-theft system to track the suspects down as they drove through Horison City, Texas, in the Bezners’ SUV.

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Hacienda Heights man found shot to death inside car identified


HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> Officials have identified a Hacienda Heights man who was found shot to death behind the steering wheel of a car in a shopping center parking lot on Saturday morning.
Isidrio Marquez Jr., 29, died after he was discovered unconscious in his car, suffering from a gunshot wound to his upper body, just after 8 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot in the 15800 block of Gale Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
The death was first reported to authorities as a “person not breathing,” according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau. Authorities soon discovered that discovered Marquez had been shot, and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.
No information regarding the circumstances, shooter or motive in the slaying was available.
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.

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Man shot to death in Hacienda Heights


HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> Homicide detectives are seeking clues in the slaying of a man found shot to death inside a car in Hacienda Heights on Saturday morning, authorities said.
The deadly shooting was first reported about 8:10 a.m. in a shopping center parking lot in the 15800 block of Gale Avenue, just east of Hacienda Boulevard, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Someone called 911 to report a “person not breathing,” she said in a written statement.
“When deputies arrived, they found the victim seated in the driver seat of a vehicle, suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper torso,” Navarro-Suarez said.
Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
His identity was not available pending positive identification and notification of his family, coroner’s officials said.
No suspect description was available, nor were further details regarding the circumstances or of the shooting.
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.

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Man’s sentence overturned in Pasadena marijuana deal-turned shotgun slaying

LOS ANGELES >> A state appeals court panel on Tuesday overturned a man’s life prison sentence without the possibility of parole for a marijuana deal that turned violent and left a 21-year-old man dead in Pasadena in 2013.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal found there was insufficient evidence against John Michael Piepoli Jr. to support the jury’s finding of a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery for the Jan. 15, 2013, shotgun murder of 21-year-old Zane Goldstein of Pasadena.
The appellate court panel ordered the case against Piepoli to be sent back to the trial court for re-sentencing, but it was not immediately clear what sentence he would now face.
Piepoli is one of five men convicted of first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Goldstein, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich. He was convicted of murder in November of 2014, and the jury found true the special, sentence-enhancing allegation that the murder was committed during the coarse of a robbery.
The shotgun slaying occurred after the killers lured Goldstein and his brother to Holliston Avenue in Pasadena with a text message stating they wanted to buy marijuana from the brothers, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich.
Peter Parra, 39, of Pasadena, Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 29, of North Hollywood, and Raymond Frank Conchas, 27, of Covina were each convicted in February of 2015 of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy. The jury also found true the special circumstance of murder during a robbery, as well as the allegations that a shotgun was used in the crime and that the crime was gang-related.
Parra, Cabrera and Conchas each received sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus another 25 years to life in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Ricardo Santiago said at the time. Their appeals are still pending.
The Goldstein brother’s fled in their car when the suspect’s pulled a shotgun on them during their meeting, but the killers chased them and caught up with them nearby at Maple Avenue and Chester Street. Parra fired through the windshield of the Goldstein brothers’ car, mortally wounding Zane Goldstein, who died two days later.
A fifth defendant, 21-year-old Ward Lacey IV of Pasadena,pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the case in July of 2015 and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
In their 28-page ruling, the justices found that Piepoli “did not plan the criminal enterprise that led to Zane’s death,” had no role in supplying any firearms and was not present at the scene of the attempted robbery or the Jan. 15, 2013, shooting of Zane Goldstein, who died two days later.
“Under the circumstances here, there was insufficient evidence as a matter of law that appellant was a major participant in the robbery,” the justices wrote.
Piepoli repeatedly told a police detective that he thought the plan was merely to scare Goldstein into turning over his marijuana and he wasn’t aware that Goldstein had been shot until he was informed the next morning by police, according to the ruling.
The justices, however, rejected the defense’s contention that Piepoli’s statements to police should have been excluded from his trial.
A fifth man, Ward Lacey IV, was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
During Piepoli’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich acknowledged that Piepoli was not at the crime scene, but told jurors that he was “equally guilty.”
Piepoli’s trial attorney, William Jacobson, countered that it was “a case that has nothing to do with robbery.”
The defense lawyer told jurors in his closing argument that it was “simply an attempted assassination” stemming from Goldstein’s alleged failure to pay a gang “taxes” for selling marijuana in its territory. He argued that his client was “never part of an agreement to commit a murder” and “never knew what the actual conspiracy was here.”
— By Brian Day and City News Service

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Man shot to death at Norwalk skate park


NORWALK >> A man died in a Saturday night after an argument escalated into a shooting at a Norwalk skate park, authorities said.
The shooting was reported about 8 p.m. at a skate park within Norwalk Park, in the 12200 block of Sproul Street, Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
“Detectives have learned during their investigation that witnesses saw the victim at a skate park with several other people when the victim became involved in an argument with another male,” Jansen said in a written statement. “During the argument, the unknown male suspect produced a handgun and shot the victim multiple times in the torso.”
Paramedics pronounced the victim dead at the scene.
His identity was withheld pending notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were available Sunday, and no suspect description was released.
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.

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UPDATED: Man found fatally shot in car in Uptown Whittier


WHITTIER >> A man was found shot to death behind the steering wheel of a car in Uptown Whittier on Sunday morning, authorities said.
Someone called police just before 9 a.m. to report seeing an unconscious man slumped in the driver seat of a black Lexus sedan parked in the 6300 block of Pickering Avenue, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The car was parked inside a residential garage, with the garage door open, the lieutenant said.
Paramedics pronounced the victim, estimated to be 40 years old, dead at the scene, he said. It appeared he had been shot, and the death was being investigated as a homicide.
No information regarding the circumstances of the shooting was available as the investigation remained in its early stages, the lieutenant said. No suspects were in custody, and no description was known.
Ellis said investigators suspected that the shooting took place several hours before the victim’s body was discovered. Police received calls reporting gunshots earlier in the morning in the same general area, but responding officers found no evidence of a shooting.
It was not clear whether the reports of gunfire were related to the fatal shooting.
Anyone with information can reach the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Covina youth center reflects on slaying, legacy of namesake

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COVINA >> A nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping kids away from gangs, drugs and violence through sports, academic and life mentorship marked a bittersweet milestone on Thursday.
It was the 9th anniversary of the slaying of Manuel “Manny” Moreno, a 26-year-old graphic designer who was gunned down on Nov. 10, 2007, in his hometown of Covina. But out of his tragic death, Moreno’s family launched the Man-e Moreno Foundation in his memory.
The group started helping families individually, then obtained a “mobile teen center” in a trailer before ultimately achieving its goal of opening a permanent teen center, the 212 Academic and Athletic Training Center, at 542 N. 2nd Street in Covina in 2012.
More than 150 young people, from 8-year-olds to college students, as well as 25 adults, now attend the center to make use of state-of-the-art sports training facilities, an academic study hall and other resources.
Covina’s new Police Chief, John Curley, and other city officials were on hand to mark the anniversary.
“(We) marked the nine-year anniversary of Manny’s passing the only way we know how: to continue our healing and also continue our mission,” Man-e Moreno Foundation President Robert Moreno said.
He thanked the many “amazing people” in the community who have helped the Moreno family in their journey to seek justice, as well as to become part of the solution to senseless violence.
The Man-e Moreno Foundation presented Covina City Councilman John King, Covina police Sgt. Anthony Zavala, who is investigating Manny Moreno’s murder, and Covina Police Chief John Curley with certificated of appreciation. The Covina Police Department has been “beyond supportive” of the family in its endeavors, Robert Moreno said.
Looking forward, he said, “We have pledged to continue fighting for a cause as we develop the complete student athlete as well as encourage and challenge the youth in our community to live life with a purpose.”

PHOTO: Covina’s new Police Chief, John Curley, center, meets with members of The Man-E Moreno Foundation’s 212 Training Center as it commemorate the 9th anniversary of the slaying of Manuel “Manny” Moreno, a 26-year-old graphic designer who was gunned in 2007, in Covina on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The 212 Training Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping kids away from gangs, drugs and violence through sports, academic and life mentoring. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, San Gabriel Valley Tribune/ SCNG)

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