Homeless man convicted of Bassett hammer murder

BASSETT >> A homeless man received a sentence of 15 years to life in prison Thursday after pleading “no contest” to fatally beating another homeless man with a hammer following a dispute over a sleeping spot near a dumpster in La Puente, authorities said.
Marco Antonio Villanueva, 37, admitted to second-degree murder for the fatal beating of 56-year-old Ruben Zermeno, who was found “stomped on and beaten” June 18, 2014, in the 13900 block of Valley Boulevard, in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
In addition to a dispute over a sleeping spot, Villanueva told investigators that “God told him” to kill Zermeno, Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said shortly after the arrest.
Deputies had already arrested Villanueva after he was found sleeping on someone’s porch in Hacienda Heights nearly three hours before Zermeno’s body was found by a passer-by, and Villanueva was linked to the killing.
“When Villanueva was taken into custody, he admitted to investigators that he got mad at the victim for taking his spot near the dumpster and as a result, struck Zermeno with a hammer,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
If he had been convicted of first-degree murder, Villanueva could have faced 25 years to life in prison.

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Man and teen charged with murder in shooting at Santa Fe Springs park


SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man and teen face murder charges in connection with the alleged gang-related slaying of a 23-year-old Commerce man at a Santa Fe Springs park last week, authorities announced Thursday.
Daniel Charles Esquer, 27, and Marcus Rene “Spunky” Garcia, 17, are each charged with murder for the April 5 fatal shooting of Anthony Palomares at Friendship Park, at Telegraph Road and Bartley Avenue, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials and county booking records. Garcia is being charged as an adult.
Whittier police officials described both suspects as transients with ties to Pico Rivera area.
The shooting took place about 6:30 p.m., Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“Witnesses reported seeing two suspects approach the victim and soon thereafter, one suspect produced a handgun and shot the victim,” according to the statement.
Palomares died at a hospital the next day of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
Police initially sought as many as three suspects witnesses reported seeing running from the scene.
Officers detained two men in the area and arrested them in connection with the shooting.
Cruz Bermudez, 27, of Santa Fe Springs and Adam Giavelli, 27, of Pico Rivera, were ultimately released without charges related to the shooting, booking records show. But police re-arrested Bermudez in connection with a different cases being held without bail.
Continued investigation led police to find and arrest Esquer on suspicion of murder April 7, police said. Investigators arrested Garcia Tuesday.
“The motive appears to be a disagreement between the suspects and the victim,” according to the police statement. “(The) victim and suspects knew each other prior to the shooting.”
Both suspects are charged with murder, along with the special allegations that the crime was gang-related, and that in involved a handgun, according to the felony complaint filed against them in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Esquer is accused of pulling the trigger.
he formal charges were filed Monday.
Esquer and Garcia both pleaded not guilty at an arraignment hearing Thursday. They are scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court April 26 for a preliminary hearing setting, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Officials: Gunman in South Whittier murder-suicide identified

SOUTH WHITTIER >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 65-year-old South Whittier man investigators say shot his wife to death in South Whittier before turning a shotgun on himself Friday.
Walter Maholick was pronounced dead at the scene of the alleged murder-suicide, which was first discovered about 10:40 a.m. Friday at the home he shared with his wife in the 13500 block of Lanning Drive, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Authorities did not formally identify his wife Saturday pending notification of kin.
Deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Norwalk Station went to the home in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier after a close friend reported not seeing the couple in several days, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The friend provided deputies with a key, he said. They entered the home and discovered the bodies of Maholick and his wife.
Sheriff’s investigators determined Maholick killed his wife before taking his own life, officials said.
An autopsy was pending Saturday.

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UPDATED: Arson suspected in fatal Covina house fire


COVINA >> A woman died in a possible arson fire in an unincorporated county area just outside of Covina Friday afternoon, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 2:01 p.m. at a house in the 20900 block of Mesarica Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Firefighter Humberto Agurcia said.
“The first units arrived at 2:07 p.m. and reported a single-family dwelling with smoke showing from the rear,” he said. The fire was extinguished 15 minutes later.
Sheriff’s officials said firefighters entered the house, put out the fire and discovered the charred remains of an adult in a bedroom. The person was pronounced dead at the scene.
FATALFIREOfficials initially described the victim as a woman,said the person’s gender, ethnicity and age were yet to be determined
The deadly fire was being investigated as an arson, Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said. But officials released no information regarding why He didn’t say why arson was suspected.
The fire primarily involved a bedroom toward the rear of the house where the remains of the victim were found.
Neighbor Steve Campanella said an elderly woman lives at the home with her grandson.
He said he didn’t know his elderly neighbor well, but would sometimes see her in her front yard. The woman and her grandson moved to the neighborhood about eight years ago, neighbors said.
Gabriel Garcia, 22, of Glendora, a friend of the 18-year-old man who lives at the home with his grandmother, said he arrived to visit the grandson as the fire was starting.
AR-160409577The fire was not visible from the street, he said. The grandson told Garcia the house was on fire and his grandmother was inside, Garcia said.
“We went through the back. We tried breaking in,” Garcia said. “We eventually broke (a glass door), but we couldn’t go in. It was so hot.”
Garcia said he wanted to help. He said he saw no flames, only thick smoke.
“There was so much smoke, I could barely see the bed,” he said.
Garcia said the grandson arrived shortly before him.
Both fire-cause investigators and sheriff’s homicide detectives were summoned to the scene.
Investigators continued combing over the scene for evidence Friday night.
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 Watchara Phomicinda

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Officials: Man and wife dead following South Whittier murder-suicide


SOUTH WHITTIER >> A man shot his wife to death before turning a shotgun on himself at the couple’s South Whittier home, authorities said Thursday.
The suspected murder-suicide was discovered about 10:30 a.m. Thursday at a house in on a cul-de-sac in the 13500 block of Lanning Drive, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
A close family friend called deputies to report the had not seen the couple that lives in the home for a few days, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. The friend gave deputies a key to the home.
“Deputies entered the location and found the husband laying on the bed, with a gunshot wound to the upper torso,” Rouzan said. “A shotgun was recovered near the husband’s body. The gunshot wound appears to be self-inflicted.”
The body of the man’s wife was also found inside the home, he said. “She also had a single gunshot wound to the upper torso.”
Investigators determined the man fatally shot his wife before killing himself, Rouzan said. It was unclear exactly when the shooting took place prior to the discovery of the grisly crime scene.
The identities of the man and woman were withheld pending notification of family, officials said.
“There is no additional information available at this time and the investigation is ongoing,” Rouzan said.
Officials at the sheriff’s Norwalk Station, which patrols South Whittier, deferred comment to their counterparts at the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau and sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Anyone with information was 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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Whittier man denies charges in alleged street racing crash that killed 3

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LOS ANGELES >> A Whittier man accused of three counts of murder and other charges in connection with an alleged street-racing crash on the 5 Freeway in Commerce that killed a two teens and a UPS driver denied the charges in court Wednesday afternoon, officials said.
Dealio Lockhart, 35, pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing injury in connection with the fiery, six-vehicle crash that took place just after midnight on Feb. 27, on the southbound 5 Freeway, near Triggs Street, just after midnight Feb. 27, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
He was driving a Dodge Challenger and racing Dodge Charger when the crash occurred, according to investigators from the California Highway Patrol.
“One of the vehicles lost control, causing a UPS truck to go airborne and land over the center median,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
The second driver involved in the race has not been found, officials said. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the second alleged street racer.
Killed in the crash were UPS driver Scott Treadway, 52, of Mira Loma; 19-year-old Michelle Littlefield of Santa Clarita; and 18-year-old Brian Lewandowski of Santa Clarita, who was the son of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detective.
Four other people suffered serious injuries in the wreck, prosecutors said.
Lockhart was ordered back to court May 3 for a preliminary hearing setting, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
At Wednesday’s hearing, a judge denied a motion to reduce Lockhart’s bail, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Jane Robison said. He remains jailed in lieu of $6.2 million bail.

PHOTO courtesy of Caltrans

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$20,000 reward offered in the 2015 murder of Altadena man in Pasadena

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PASADENA >> The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $20,000 reward Tuesday for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of those responsible for the murder of an Altadena man last December.
Robert Arthur Calderon, 27, was gunned down about 10:45 p.m. on Dec. 18 in the 600 block of North Mentor Avenue, according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County coroner officials. The case remains unsolved.
Raised in the Altadena and Pasadena areas, Calderon attended St. Elizabeth Parish School in Altadena, then St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge and Pasadena High School before ultimately obtaining his diploma from Pasadena City College, his mother, Sarah Mendoza-Jaime, said.
His family has worked tirelessly to seek justice ever since Calderon’s slaying, posting flyers near the crime scene and at Calderon’s hang-outs.
“On behalf of Robert Arthur Calderon’s family we want to thank Mike Antonovich and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for making the funds available to assist in my sons murder,” said Mendoza-Jaime, a longtime program coordinato at the Foothill Workforce Development Board in Pasadena.
“Our hopes are that by offering a reward the public will come forth and assist in finding those responsible for his heinous murder,”sje said.
Mendoza-Jaime said she had been trying to get an award established through Pasadena officials for months with no success. When the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors offered an award this week, she said she asked the city about contributing as well, to no avail.
“Through this process of grieving I have found that the Pasadena Police Department’s advocacy for parents is lacking for victims of homicides and more services should be provided to assist grieving parents and their families,” she said. “Fortunately, through my own effort I have learned about information such as Crime Stoppers, Victims of a Crime, Justice For Homicide Victims, Justice or Murdered Children, LA County Board of Directors Reward Request, and Clear Channel.”
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police Detective Tim, Bundy at (626) 744-3861 or the Pasadena Police Department at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO of Robert Calderon, courtesy.

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San Gabriel man accused in fatal shooting of man whose body was found in car trunk in Monterey Park

MONTEREY PARK >> Sheriff’s officials Friday announced the arrest of a suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of a man whose body was discovered inside a parked car in Monterey Park last week.
Andy Chen, 37, of San Gabriel is accused of the murder of Min Gu, 30, whose body was discovered about 6 p.m. March 21 in the trunk of a Lexus left parked in the 200 block of South Lincoln Avenue, according to Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
Investigators took Chen into custody about 4 p.m. Thursday, according to county booking records.
Sheriff’s officials announced the arrest in a written statement issued late Friday afternoon.
“Detectives believe the motive for the murder was a financial dispute,” Rouzan said.
No further details were released Friday.
The investigation began after witnesses reported a foul odor emitting from a a Lexus sedan, officials said.
Deputies soon discovered Gu’s body, which appeared to have been dead for at least a day or two when discovered.
An autopsy determined Gu was shot multiple times, and died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. Gu’s city of residence was unclear.
Chen was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending a scheduled arraignment Monday in the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Alhambra branch.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is assisting Monterey Park police in the investigation.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s homicide detectives 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, 30, found shot to death inside trunk of car in Monterey Park identified

MONTEREY PARK >> Coroner’s officials Wednesday released the name of a 30-year-old man found shot to death in the trunk of a parked car in Monterey Park last week.
The body of Min Gu was discovered about 6 p.m. March 21 after residents called authorities to report a foul smell emanating from a black Lexus sedan parked in the 200 block of South Lincoln Avenue, according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter. Gu’s city of residence was unclear.
An autopsy determined Gu died from “multiple gunshot wounds,” and the death was ruled a homicide, Winter said.
No arrests have been made in connection with the killing and no motive was available, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The body had already begun decomposing, officials said. Investigators believed Gu was fatally shot at least a day or two before his body was discovered.
The Lexus had not been reported stolen, Sgt. Bill Cotter of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
It was unclear whether detectives had managed to contact the car’s registered owner. Handling detectives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
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 convicted of murder for 2014 Monterey Park stabbing

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MONTEREY PARK >> A jury convicted a South San Gabriel man Friday of murder for the seemingly random fatal stabbing of another man in a Monterey Park parking lot in 2014, authorities said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury found Angel Octavion Garcia, now-20, guilty of second-degree murder for the Oct. 14 slaying of Alhambra Parks and Recreation Department employee Edward Mendoza, 35, in a commercial parking lot in the 1700 block of Portrero Grande, near Arroyo Drive, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance that Garcia personally used a knife in the murder, she said. The deliberations took about one day.
He faces 16 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing April 8.
Garcia and Mendoza were strangers when they encountered one another by chance in the parking lot about 9:10 p.m., according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
“It appears Mendoza was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ardalani said.
Garcia, who was 18 at the time, stabbed Mendoza, “after he was humiliated over a failed drug transaction involving another person from earlier in the night,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Though Mendoza had nothing to do with the prior incident, “The defendant took his anger out on Mendoza,” the statement said.
The men briefly argued before Garcia pulled a knife and stabbed Mendoza once in the upper torso, Lt. John Corina of the sheriff’s homicide bureau said shortly after the killer’s capture.
Mendoza managed to call 911 after being wounded, according to Deputy District Attorney Theodore Swanson, who prosecuted the case.
He managed only to tell the dispatcher he had been stabbed in the heart, and gave his location, before the line went silent.
Paramedics found Mendoza collapsed in the parking lot, officials said. He succumbed to his injuries at a hospital about an hour later.
Garcia initially escaped capture.
“Soon after the incident, a person came forward to police and revealed Garcia had confessed to the stabbing a man,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
Deputies found and arrested Garcia at his home on Oct. 22, eight days after the fatal attack. He denied the charges.
Mendoza had worked part-time as a recreation leader for Alhambra’s Parks and Recreation Department since 2001, city officials said. He had also begun refereeing kids’ football games at Almansor Park in Alhambra, coworkers said.
“It was a tragic case that resulted in the death of what appears to be a man who had a number of family and friends who loved him,” Swanson said.
Loved one’s have created a tribute video for Mendoza, which can be viewed online at www.eddiemendoza.org.

PHOTO: Edward Mendoza, 35, of Monterey Park was fatally stabbed late Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in a commercial parking lot in the 1700 block of South Portrero Grande Drive in Monterey Park. Angel Octavion Garcia, 20, of South San Gabriel, was convicted of the murder on Friday, March 18, 2016. (Courtesy)

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