A former international fugitive will spend the rest of his life in prison for stabbing a 50-year-old disabled neighbor to death inside her Pico Rivera home in 2012, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Luis Fernando Diofron, also known as Luis Fernando Diofron Lemus, 25, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Aug. 10, 2012 slaying of Denise Battey at her home in the 11900 block of Allard Street, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
He pleaded guilty to one count of murder on June 29. He also admitted to the special circumstance that the murder was done during the commission of a burglary, as well as the special allegation that he personally used a knife in the slaying.
“Lemus broke into his neighbor’s Norwalk home and fatally stabbed the 50-year-old woman,” Ardalani said.
Diofron was also initially accused of murder during the coarse of a rape, but the rape allegation was dismissed under a negotiated plea arrangement, officials said.
The killer, a Guatemalan national, was in the United States on a work visa and living next door to Battey at the time of the slaying, sheriff’s officials said.
He attacked her as she watered here garden, then dragged her inside her home where he stabbed her to death, according to investigators.
Diofron then fled to Guatemala, where he remained for two years before being captured in late-2014 and extradited back to California to face justice.
Battey worked for the U.S. Social Security Administration and tutored students on college preparation in her spare time, family members said. A recent back surgery, as well as severe sciatica in one of her legs, left her defenseless.
PHOTOS: Convicted murderer Luis Fernando Diofron, also known as Luis Fernando Diofron Lemus, 25, (left) and victim Denise Battey, 50, of Norwalk (right). [Courtesy]
WEST COVINA >> A judge sent two men to prison for the rest of their lives on Friday for fatally shooting a man visiting the U.S. from Hong Kong during a robbery after following him and his brother to a West Covina restaurant from a downtown Los Angeles jewelry store, authorities said.
Michael Quiroga Castiblanco, 25, and Juan Alejandro Cortez, 28, each received sentenced of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Feb. 1, 2013, murder of 29-year-old Sheron Khemlani in a parking lot in the 100 block of North Barranca Avenue in West Covina, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
A jury convicted them Monday of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery, along with the special circumstance allegation that the murder was committed during a robbery, and the special allegation that a gun was used in the crime, Ardalani said in a written statement.
“According to evidence presented at trial, the two defendants were part of an organized criminal group that targeted jewelers and individuals who made large cash withdrawals from banks,” Ardalani said. “Moreover,the group followed the Khemlani brothers from downtown Los Angeles to West Covina with the intent to rob them.”
Khemlani and his 32-year-old brother were in the jewelry industry and visiting from Hong Kong at the time of the slaying.
They had gone just conducted some business in the jewelry district in downtown Los Angeles prior to the fatal robbery, Ardalani said.
They were on their way to Las Vegas, but decided to stop in West Covina for lunch, according to police and prosecutors.
“When the brothers returned to their vehicle, they were attacked by a group of men,” Ardalani said. “During the assault, Sheron Khemlani was fatally shot in the head before the attackers fled the scene in a vehicle.”
The victim’s brother was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Stolen was a bag containing $9,000, Ardalani said.
The case remained unsolved for more than a year until investigators identified Castiblanco and Cortez as suspects in the deadly robbery, officials said. Detectives released composite sketches of the suspects in hopes of generating leads prior to the apprehension of the killers.
Prosecutors filed charges against them in March of 2014, and they were both arrested in May of 2014, records show.
Details of the suspect’s capture were not available.
Castiblanco also has a pending case with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to booking records.
West Covina, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Torrance, Cypress and Evanston, Illinois, police took part in the investigation, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
PASADENA >> Prosecutors filed a murder charge Wednesday against a woman accused of fatally shooting another woman during a dispute over the weekend in Pasadena, officials said.
Theretha Howard, 58, entered no plea during her appearance in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, where she was charged with one count of murder, along with the special allegation that she personally used a handgun in the killing, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said. Her arraignment hearing was continued to July 20 in downtown Los Angeles.
The fatal shooting was reported about 1:30 a.m. along Peoria Street, just west of Fair Oaks Avenue.
Katoya King, 44, of Pasadena died following the shooting, according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County coroner officials.
The suspects knew each other prior to the shooting, Pasadena police Lt. Jesse Carrillo said, but police didn’t know what their relationship was.
Both went to a Peoria Avenue residence believed to be the home of a mutual acquaintance, the lieutenant said.
“There was a dispute that occurred that led our suspect to get agitated to the point where she pulled a gun,” he said.
Police believe Howard shot King once in the chest before fleeing the scene, Carrillo said.
The wounded woman managed to make her way out to the street, officials said. She walked south for half a block along the sidewalk before collapsing.
The wounded woman’s screams for help caught the attention of neighbors, who called 911, Carrillo said. But no one reported hearing the gunfire.
Paramedics rushed King to a hospital, where she died from her injuries at 4:31 a.m., coroner’s Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Carrillo said the victim was able to give a “very limited” statement to police before losing consciousness.
Investigators found a handgun discarded in the area of the crime scene. Ballistics tests were pending to determined whether the gun was the same one involved in the deadly shooting.
Detectives remained at the shooting through Saturday afternoon.
“Subsequent detective investigation” and “information that was shared with the detectives” led investigators to identify Howard as a person of interest. Detectives found her at her Pasadena home and arrested her on suspicion of King’s murder following an interview.
According to county booking records, Howard was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
PASADENA >> Police have arrested one Pasadena woman in connection with the fatal shooting of another this weekend.
Police arrested Teretha Howard, 58 of Pasadena Saturday afternoon on suspicion of murder, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said in a written statement.
The victim, whose identity has not yet been released, was found about 1:45 a.m. Saturday lying wounded on the sidewalk along Peoria Street, just west of Fair Oaks Avenue, authorities said. She was taken to a hospital, where she succumbed to her wounds just under three hours later.
“Follow-up investigation led detectives to a suspect, Teretha Howard, who was arrested and booked for murder,” Luna said. “Due to a preexisting medical condition, she was transported to a local hospital.”
A motive in the shooting was not available, nor was the suspect’s relationship to the victim, described as a Pasadena woman in her 40s.
Public records indicate Howard lives in a Raymond Avenue apartment complex about a quarter-mile away from the scene of the shooting.
Detectives arrested Howard shortly after 3:30 p.m., Los Angeles County booking records show.
She was being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending her initial court appearance.
PASADENA >> A woman died after she was found shot on a Pasadena sidewalk early Saturday, authorities said.
The woman was found about 1:45 a.m., lying wounded in the 00 block of West Peoria Street, Pasadena police officials said.
“Pasadena Fire Department paramedics arrived and transported the victim to a local hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries,” police said in a written statement.
The woman’s identity has not yet released pending notifiication of her family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said. Police initially described her as a Pasadena woman in her 40s.
Doctors pronounced her dead at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena at 4:31 a.m., Smith said.
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting, including a suspect description, were not available.
Police received no reports of gunfire before the victim was found wounded, according to Lt. William Grisafe.
“We did not get any shots fired calls,” he said.
Detectives remained at the scene gathering clues Saturday afternoon.
Investigators focused their attention on the backyard of a home, which was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape.
No one answered the door at the home on the property. Neighbors declined to comment.
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.
POMONA >> Police have arrested a 20-year-old woman following the fatal stabbing of her boyfriend early Friday at their Pomona home, authorities said.
Officers were called to the 2200 block of West Valley Boulevard just after midnight for reports of an assault, Pomona police Lt. Ron McDonald said.
The victim, a 21-year-old man, was stabbed in their home, Sgt. Bert Sanchez said in a written statement.
“Emergency personnel attempted life saving measures, but were unsuccessful and the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene,” he said.
Shaqcore Dalvin Prawl died at 12:31 a.m., Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
“During (detectives’) investigation, it was learned that a domestic violence incident occurred between the suspect and her boyfriend,”Sanchez said. “During this incident, the victim was stabbed.
Police arrested Chayenne Capri Lywood, 20, on suspicion of murder, according to Pomona police officals and Los Angeles County booking records.
Lywood was being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending her intitial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, records show.
No further details were released.
Anyone with information was urged to contact Pomona police at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymosuly to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Two brothers accused of fatally stabbing another man during a fight in Monterey Park denied murder charges on Friday, authorities said.
Moises Garcia, 57, and Victor Garcia, 55, both of Monterey Park, are each charged with murder in connection with the June 10 stabbing death of 26-year-old Michael Anthony Villar of Monterey Park, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Prosecutors further allege that Moises Garcia personally wielded the knife used in the killing, and that he has previously convictions for rape, rape in concert and forcible oral copulation in 1984, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. His brother faces an additional charge of murder likely to produce great bodily injury.
The stabbing took place after the brothers and Villar became involved in a dispute over a parking space, as well as other issues, shortly after midnight in the 1200 block of College View Drive, Lt. Randy Moore of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“During the altercation, the men allegedly stabbed and assaulted Villar,” Ardalani said.
It was unclear whether the suspects and the victim were acquainted with one another prior to the deadly altercation.
If convicted as charged, Moises Garcia faces up to 66 years to life in state prison, while Victor Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison, she said.
According to county booking records, Moises Garcia was being held in lieu of $2.02 million bail, while Victor Garcia was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Both men are scheduled to return to the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 20 for a preliminary hearing setting.
An online account set up to collect funds to help Villar’s family at www.gofundme.com/michaelvillar has collected more than $11,000.
“Michael was a kind, loving, gentle, and courageous soul who lived life to the fullest,” according to a memorial posted on the page. “A talented Los Angeles photographer, his love and appreciation for the simpler things in life was documented in his art.” A link to a gallery of Villar’s photos, https://www.instagram.com/arctic_mikey/, was included.
“He touched more lives than we will ever know. When Michael was in our presence, he made us feel special,” the memeorial continued.
“Michael’s family is grateful for the love and support you have demonstrated in this difficult time. It is gratifying to know he was loved by so many. Please feel free to share your stories and pictures with his family as they appreciate those precious memories.”
PHOTO: Michael Anthony Villar, 26, of Monterey Park, was fatally stabbed during an argument on June 10, 2017, in the 1200 block of College View Drive in Monterey Park. (Courtesy)
MONROVIA >> A Valinda man who strangled his girlfriend, sent pictures of her body along with an apologetic message to his mother, and left her body in an SUV parked in her parents’ backyard in Monrovia received a prison sentence of 46 years to life on Thursday, authorities said.
A jury convicted Joel Velazquez, 52, of voluntary manslaughter in May for the Sept. 21, 2014, death of 46-year-old Alice Medina-Kaplan, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He had initially been charged with murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Velazquez strangled the victim, Ardalani said in a written statement.
“Her body was later discovered inside an SUV parked behind a house owned by her parents on the 200 block of Mauna Loa Drive in Monrovia,” she said.
Shortly after the killing, Velasquez sent text messages to his mother, including photograph of her daughter’s body, along with an apology.
Medina-Kaplan reportedly suffered from schizophrenia. She had been living with Velazquez in the SUV when she was killed.
Velasquez has a prior conviction for making criminal threats in 2011, officials said.
* *NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the killer sent pictures of the victim’s body to his own mother.
PHOTO: Homicide victim Alice Medina-Kaplan, 46. (Courtesy)
SOUTH WHITTIER >> A Montebello jail administrator accused of fatally shooting his ex-wife and wounding her boyfriend during a child custody exchange at her South Whittier home is due to appear in court this afternoon to face charges that could send him to prison for more than 75 years, officials said.
Prosecutors charged Efrem Ruben Lozoya, 38, of Pico Rivera with murder and attempted murder in connection with Saturday’s 11:15 a.m. shooting at an apartment in the 13900 block of Coteau Drive, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
He entered no plea, she said. His arraignment was continued to July 18 in the Downey branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Lozoya is also accused of the special allegation that he personally used a gun in the crimes, causing great bodily injury.
Killed was 33-year-old Nereida Villanueva, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. Her boyfriend was wounded.
“Lozoya and his ex-wife, Nereida Villanueva, have two children together and had been divorced for several years,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
The suspect showed at his ex-wife’s apartment to drop off one of their children, officials said.
“Shortly after entering Villanueva’s residence, Lozoya allegedly shot his ex-wife and her boyfriend, who also was in the apartment,” Ardalani said. Lozoya then fled the scene.
Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau described the children as 7 and 9 years old. They were not injured in the shooting.
Lozoya, who works as a contracted jail administrator at the Montebello Police Department’s jail, turned himself in to authorities several hours later.
“If convicted as charged, Lozoya faces a possible maximum sentence of 75 years to life in state prison,” Ardalani said.
Lozoya was initially held in lieu of $2 million bail following his arrest. During Wednesday arraignment hearing, the judge granted a prosecution request that bail be increased to $5 million, Ardalani said.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> The Montebello Police Department’s jail administrator is accused of fatally shooting the mother of his children and another man during a child custody exchange at the woman’s South Whittier home on over the weekend, authorities confirmed Sunday.
Nereida Villanueva died at the scene of Saturday’s 11:15 a.m. shooting in the 13900 block of Coteau Drive in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said. A man was also wounded in the shooting, sheriff’s officials said.
Efrem Ruben Lozoya, 38, turned himself in at an area police station shortly after the shooting, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
He was arrested at 5 p.m. on Saturday and booked into jail just before 6 p.m. on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, according to records and sheriff’s officials.
The suspect and Villanueva, who had previously been involved in a relationship, were meeting for a child custody exchange when the shooting took place, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said Saturday. Villanueva and a man she was with were wounded.
Paramedics pronounced Villanueva dead at the scene, Rouzan said. The wounded man was taken to a hospital “in an unknown condition.”
The two children, ages 7 and 9, were not injured, officials said. It was not clear if they witnessed the shooting.
After turning himself in, Lozoya was arrested about 5 p.m. Saturday and
Lozoya works as the jail administrator at the Montebello Police Department.
Sheriff’s department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida described Lozoya as an employee of a contracted company that provides custody services for the Montebello Police Department. He is not employed directly by the police department or the city.
Montebello police defrayed comment to the sheriff’s department. City officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Lozoya was being held in lieu of $2 million pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in the Downey branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, records show.
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.