Car of missing LAPD officer sought in connection with fatal Pomona shooting found

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POMONA >> Police seeking a missing rookie Los Angeles police officer who is being sought in connection with a fatal Pomona shooting found the officer’s car abandoned in Pomona on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
Investigators found a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta belonging to LAPD Officer Henry Solis, 27, of Pomona just before 1 p.m. at Main Street and Monterey Avenue, Pomona police Lt. Ron McDonald said.
The car was parked along the street several blocks north of the scene of Friday’s shooting, which took place about 3:30 a.m. at Main and Third streets, the lieutenant said. Police towed the car away so investigators could examine it in detail for evidence.
Police have described Solis as a “person of interest” in the shooting, which claimed the life of 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr. of Ontario. But investigators have not labeled the LAPD officer a suspect in the slaying.
A gunman shot and killed Rodriguez during a fight, police said. Witnesses reported seeing a compact car fleeing the scene.
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were not released.
Solir, who joined the LAPD in June, was assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division, LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera said.
Solis has not shown up to work since the shooting, officials said.

PHOTO of LAPD Officer Henry Solis courtesy of the Pomona Police Department.

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Man sentenced for 2013 fatal shooting of El Rodeo nightlcub valet in Pico Rivera

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PICO RIVERA >> A judge sentenced an Oxnard man who fatally shot a valet and wounded a security guard at the El Rodeo nightclub to prison Wednesday, two days before the club’s owner is due in federal court to answer to charges of laundering money for drug traffickers, officials said.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury convicted Sebastian Zazueta, 22, in January of first-degree murder, as well as four counts of attempted murder, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. The jury also found true special allegations that he personally used a gun in the crimes.
He received a sentence of 114 years to life in state prison, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brandon Wong said.
Melvin Ernesto Cortez-Ortega, 37, of Hacienda Heights died following the Sept. 22, 2013, early-morning shooting outside nightclub, 8825 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
A then-26-year-old security guard was also shot several times in the attack but survived his injuries, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators and prosecutors.
Zazueta unleashed a barrage of bullets after he got into an argument with a security guard who told him to leave the parking lot after the club had closed, Wong said.
…FULL STORY

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2nd UPDATE: Man fatally shot in El Monte

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EL MONTE >> An El Monte man died Wednesday in a shooting at an Elliot Avenue apartment, officials said.
Juan Carlos Salazar, 22, died in the shooting, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The fatal shooting took place about 6:45 p.m. in the 11000 block of Elliot Avenue, just east of Tyler Avenue, El Monte police Lt. Ben Lowry said.
After receiving a call reporting gunshots, “Officers responded to the location and found a male in his 20s who was suffering from multiple gunshot wounds,” Deputy Kelvin Moody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. The victim died at the scene.
The shooting took place inside an apartment, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
Though a local resident, Salazar was not believed to have lived in the apartment where he was shot, Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. It was unclear why was there.
“The incident appears to be gang related,” Moody said.
No suspect information was available, and further details were released Thursday.
Police went door-to-door talking to residents of the street, which is densely packed with apartments.
Other officers kept watch over the rear side of the shooting scene facing Schmidt Avenue. Police with flashlights examined a wall to the rear of the Elliot Avenue apartments.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting El Monte police in the investigation, Lowry said.
Anyone with information can reach 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 killed, woman injured in Baldwin Park stabbing

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BALDWIN PARK >> A man died and a woman was hospitalized following a stabbing at a Baldwin Park townhouse Thursday afternoon , officials said.
The incident was first reported at 5:36 p.m. in the 4700 block of Maine Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Al Jackson said.
Paramedics pronounced a 23-year-old man dead at the scene, fire Capt. Matt Boyan said. A woman, described as 18 or 19 years old, was taken to a trauma center with stab wounds described as moderate.
No outstanding suspects were being sought in what Lt. Steve Jauch of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said initially appeared to be an incident of domestic violence between the man and woman.
“The male and female do have some type of dating relationship,” the lieutenant said.
The man lived at the home where the stabbing took place, while the woman was believed to live elsewhere in town, Jauch said.
The circumstances of the violence that unfolded at the townhouse remained unclear as the investigation was in its early stages, he said. There was no evidence to indicate anyone else was involved, but Jauch said it was too early to label either the dead man or the woman as a criminal suspect.
Police first responded to the scene after a neighbor discovered the wounded woman on the front porch of a neighboring home, Jauch said. Police found the man in the garage of his home a short time later.
Jauch declined to discuss any statement the woman may have made prior to being hospitalized. Detectives planned to interview her soon.
Both the man and woman suffered stab wounds to their upper torsos, Jauch said. But investigators had not recovered any weapons believed to be involved in the incident.
Neighbors and workers at a nearby business said they did not see or hear anything out of the ordinary before police swarmed into the neighborhood and began cordoning off a townhouse with yellow crime scene tape.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau responded to help Baldwin Park police with the investigation. Anyone with information can reach 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 Sarah Reingewirtz

 

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Man fatally shot inside his own home in Valinda

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VALINDA >> A man died at the scene of a shooting inside his own home in Valinda home early Sunday, authorities said.
The shooting took place just before 4 a.m. at a house in the 16000 block of Garrett Court, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Deputy Jeffrey Gordon of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
0223_NWS_SGT-L-VASHOOTING3A man gathered with family members at the corner of the small cul-de-sac said the home was that of his brother. The man said he did not know what had happened and he was waiting for information from the sheriff’s department. He did not wish to comment further.
The street was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape as investigators continued gathering clues inside the well-kept, beige, two-story home.
Detectives, coroner officials and forensic investigators continued working at the home through Sunday afternoon.
Nearby neighbors said they did not hear any gunshots, or anything else unusual in the early-morning hours.
0223_NWS_SGT-L-VASHOOTING2Tony Hoke was sleeping at the home a friend next to the shooting scene.
“What woke us up was the sirens,” he said.
Deputies knocked on his door a short time later to ask if he’d heard or seen anything regarding the shooting, he said.
No information regarding the circumstances of the shooting or any possible suspects was released.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Three convicted of Pasadena shotgun slaying stemming from robbery attempt

PASADENA >> A jury convicted three men of murder and other crimes Friday for the 2013 shotgun slaying of a Pasadena man in an attempted robbery during a marijuana transaction, authorities said.
Gang members Peter Parra, 37, of Pasadena, Kevin Jessie Cabrera, 27, of north Hollywood and Raymond Frank Conchas, 26, of Covina each face life in prison without the possibility of parole when they return to Los Angeles Superior Court for sentencing April 17, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said in a written statement.
A jury found each of the three men guilty of first-degree murder, attempted robbery and conspiracy to a commit a crime for the Jan. 15, 2013, slaying of 21-year-old Zane Goldstein at Maple Avenue and Chester Street in Pasadena, officials said.
“The jury also found true the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery and allegations that a shotgun was used and the crime was for the benefit of a gang,” Santiago said.
The victim was riding in a car with his then-24-year-old brother when the shooting occurred.
Prior to the fatal attack, the brothers had arranged to meet the suspects in an alleyway to by a small amount of marijuana, which police described as less than an ounce.
“When the victim arrived, the defendants attempted to rob him and shot him in the head with a shotgun as he tried to escape near Maple Street and Chester Avenue,” Santiago said. Goldstein’s brother escaped serious injury.
A fourth suspect in the slaying, 21-year-old Michael Piepoli, received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in November after being convicted of the killing, officials said. And a fifth defendant, 20-year-old Ward Lacey, is scheduled to go on trial for the killing in Feb. 23.

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Deputies to canvass Pomona neighborhood seeking witnesses in La Verne double-slaying

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POMONA >> Sheriff’s homicide detectives investigating the mysterious slaying of an Elderly La Verne couple in their home late last year plan to canvass a Pomona neighborhood Friday for motorists, pedestrians and train passengers who may have key information to help solve the case, officials said.
Armie “Troy” Isom, 89, and wide Shirley Isom, 74, were found fatally stabbed and beaten on Dec. 26, inside their home at the end of secluded Roughrider Road in an unincorporated near La Verne, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
The case remains unsolved.
““We have not determined a motive,” Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said last week.
“We’re still working all the clues that came in,” the lieutenant said. “We have multiple leads we are following.” Coleman declined to discuss what those leads were.
The search continues for a man spotted by neighbors walking away from the Isoms’ sprawling estate shortly before the couple was found mortally wounded.
The man, who has since been labeled a suspect in the killing, was last reported to be walking south from the isolated neighborhood where the victims lived. But he has not been found.
In an effort to develop new leads in the investigation, and track down the mysterious suspect, deputies plan to pass out fliers to drivers in the 3100 block of Garey Avenue in Pomona Friday.
The flier will include a composite sketch of the suspect previously released to the public in early January, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. The canvassing will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in the 3100 block of Garey Avenue, just south of the Isom’s neighborhood.
The operation is being held on the same day of the week as the killing, and covering the same time of day. Troy and Shirley Isom were discovered slain shortly after 1 p.m. on the day after Christmas.
“As people come through, we’ll hand out fliers and ask them a couple simple questions,” Lt. Andy Berg of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station said.
Deputies will ask drivers and pedestrians if they were in the same area on the afternoon of Dec. 26, and whether they’ve seen the man pictured in the sketch.
Deputies will strive to delay motorists as briefly as possible, Berg said. Deputies will not be looking for traffic violations, he said. They will not even ask driver’s names, unless they have information pertinent to the double-homicide investigation. Homicide detectives will be on-hand to interview anyone who may be able to help.
At the same time, deputies will be aboard commuter trains on the nearby San Bernardino Line passing out fliers and questioning passengers, Nishida said. No trains will be delayed as a result of the canvassing.
Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

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Man convicted of 1981 rape, killing of Whittier woman

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WHITTIER >> A man arrested more than 30 years after the 1981 rape and killing of a woman inside her Whittier home pleaded “no contest” to four felony charges Tuesday, on what would have been his victim’s 55th birthday, authorities said.
Joseph Allen Thornton, 53, immediately received a sentence of 24 years to life in state prison after entering his pleas in Norwalk Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Initially charged with murder, Thornton pleaded “no contest” to voluntary manslaughter, rape, sodomy by force and digital penetration by force, district attorney’s officials said.
For more than 30 years, Thornton had gotten away with the June 27, 1981, slaying of 21-year-old Blanca Negrete in her home in the 7900 block of Washington Avenue.
“At the time of the slaying, detectives had exhausted all leads and the case eventually went cold,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
Blanca Stella NegreteBut Whittier Police Department investigators reopened the cold case in 2010, and identified Thornton as a suspect in the crime in January of 2011 via previously unusable DNA evidence, police officials said at the time.
DNA evidence had been collected by investigators after the slaying occurred, however the technology of the time did not allow investigators to match it to a suspect, police said in a written statement. Thornton’s DNA had been entered into a law enforcement database as the result of a domestic violence conviction, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said at the time.
Once identified as a suspect, police turned their attention to locating and capturing Thornton, Miller said.
The trail led them as far away as Topeka, Kansas, where Thornton had stayed for many years after the killing, he said. Detectives ultimately tracked him down and arrested him in April, 2012, at his home in Auburn.
Negrete worked at what eventually became PIH Health Hospital at the time of her slaying, police said. What, if any, relationship that existed between her and her killer was unclear.
The conviction occurred on what would have been Negrete’s 55th birthday, Whittier police Officer John Scoggins said.
In addition to his prison sentence, Norwalk Superior Court Judge Yvonne T. Sanchez ordered Thornton to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Ardalani said.

PHOTOS of convicted killer and rapist Joseph Thornton (above) and his victim, Blanca Negrete (below) courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.

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Chino Hills man fatally shot in Whittier identified

WHITTIER >> Coroner’s officials have released the name of a 26-year-old Chino Hills man killed in a shooting at Broadway Park Whittier last week.
Jesus David Molina, 26, died at a hospital shortly after he was shot about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at Broadway Park, 12816 Broadway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Kristy McCracken said.
Two male attackers approached Molina as he was sitting in the park, according to Whittier police Officer John Scroggins.
After a brief exchange of words, one of the two attackers shot Molina and fled, he said. Officers responding to reports of a shooting found Molina suffering from gunshot wounds to his chest.
No further details were available.

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Woman guilty of murder in husband’s 2007 shooting death in South Whittier

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Nearly seven years after a woman claimed she accidentally shot her husband to death at their Whittier home, a jury convicted her of murder Friday following her second trial.
The Norwalk Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days before finding Linda Gwozdz, 57, guilty of second-degree murder for the April 26, 2007, slaying of then-husband Patrick Duffey, 50, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa said. The jury also found true the special allegation that she personally discharged a firearm during the crime, resulting in death.
Duffey was shot twice in the head, officials said.
Even following conviction, however, some key questions remain unanswered.
“She never expressed what the motive was,” Villa said. “She said he was her best friend.”
Duffey’s life was insured for $300,000, but through a judge’s ruling, the money went to the couple’s two sons, even though Gwodz was listed as the primary beneficiary, the Clarion Ledger in Mississippi reported. A death certificate provided to the insurance company listed Duffey’s cause of death as homicide due to multiple gunshots wounds.
Gwozdz faces up to 40 years to life in prison when she returns to court for sentencing March 9, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
A previous murder trial ended in a mistrial January after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, Villa said.
The fatal shooting took place about 2:50 p.m. at the couple’s home in the 15800 block of Sharon Hill Drive, in an unincorporated county area just south of Whittier, officials said. The couple’s two children were at school at the time.
Gwozdz herself called 9-1-1 to report the shooting.
“In the 9-1-1 call, she says he was teacher her how to shoot a gun, and the gun accidentally went off,” Villa said.
“But the evidence doesn’t really support that that’s what happened,” the prosecutor said. “It looked like he was sleeping on the couch.”
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau interviewed Gwozdz the day of the shooting, and several times after in the years that followed, Villa said. In the meantime, she moved to Mississippi and re-married.
There was no documented history of domestic violence between Gwozdz and Duffey, Villa said.
Gwozdz story changed each time she was interviewed, Villa said. She first stated her husband was lying on the couch when the gun went off. She later said he had been sitting on the couch and lied down just as she aimed the .38-caliber revolver at the couch and inadvertently fired.
After several years of persistent investigation, detectives presented their findings to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, resulting in the filing of a murder case in May of 2012.
Authorities extradited Gwozdz back to Los Angeles County from Mississippi shortly after the case was filed, Ardalani said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested her June 7, 2012, according to county booking records. She was held in lieu of $2 million bail prior to her conviction.
— Staff Writer Stephanie Baer contributed to this report.
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