One suspect released, the other charged in fatal Covina shooting

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

COVINA >> Authorities have released one of two suspects in the weekend slaying of a 20-year-old Covina man stemming from an alleged robbery and filed charges against the other, officials said Wednesday.
Covina police arrested Christopher Avila, 20, and Adam Hernandez, 21, both of Covina, on suspicion of murder the day after Saturday’s late-morning shooting in a restaurant parking lot that left Isaac Urena dead.
But prosecutors declined to file a case against Avila, sending the case back “for further investigation,” according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
Avila was released from jail Tuesday morning, Los Angeles County booking records show.
District attorney’s officials filed a county of acting as an accessory to the killing after the fact, Ardalani said.
A scheduled arraignment hearing for Hernandez on Tuesday was postponed to Monday.
According to booking records, Hernandez was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Covina Police Department Jail.
The fatal shooting took place shortly before noon after Urena was driven by a friend to the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, along San Bernardino Road, just east of Azusa Avenue.
Urena had arranged to sell some jewelry via the online app OfferUp, according to police.

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim's body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department's arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

But the transaction turned deadly, and Urena was fatally shot, Peterson said.
His friend drove across the city border to the parking lot of Faith Community Church in West Covina where paramedics pronounced Urena dead, officials said.
Despite Avila’s release without charges, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said he remains the suspect in the fatal shooting of Urena.
“We’re confident we’ve identified the people responsible,” he said.
No additional suspects were being sought, he added.
Hernandez is accused of driving the car that brought the gunman to the scene, and Avila is suspected of wielding the gun, Peterson said.
Detectives will continue building their case, gathering evidence and conducting witness interviews
“We’ll continue working with detectives, and with the District Attorney, to ensure charged are filed when warranted,” Peterson said.
Detectives recovered a handgun while serving search warrants at the suspects’ homes, Peterson said. The results of forensic tests to determine whether the seized gun is the same one that killed Urena were still pending Wednesday.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS by Leo Jarzomb

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Two suspects jailed in fatal shooting of 20-year-old Covina man during alleged robbery

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COVINA >> Police have arrested two suspect in the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Covina man while allegedly trying to rob him of jewelry after arranging a meeting online, officials said.
Isaac Urena died in Saturday’s 11:50 a.m. shooting in the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, at San Bernardino Road and Azusa Avenue in Covina, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator A. Lopez said.
After following leads and serving search warrant through the night and into Sunday morning, Covina police detectives, aided by SWAT officers, arrested Adam Hernandez, 21, and Christopher Avila, 20, both of Covina, on suspicion of murder and robbery, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
“These guys were relentless in their pursuit of these suspects…working, literally, around the clock,” he said.

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police have Clearman’s North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Urena was the passenger in a Honda Civic, with a friend at the wheel, when the shooting took place, according to police.
He had made an arrangement online to sell some jewelry, and had gone to the restaurant parking lot to meet the prospective buyer, the sergeant said.
But the transaction turned into a robbery, and Urena was shot and mortally wounded, Peterson said.
The driver of the car Urena was riding in fled from the shooting scene and drove west along San Bernardino Road, coming to a stop in the parking lot of Faith Community Church across the city border in West Covina, police said.
It was there that paramedics pronounced Urena dead, officials said. The driver, also a young man, was not wounded in the shooting.
Detectives had yet to determine of the alleged killers successfully stole the jewelry they were after, or fled empty-handed, Peterson said.
As investigators pursued leads in the case, they identified Hernandez and Avila as suspects in the fatal shooting.
Police served a search warrant in the 1400 block of Armel Drive in Covina, where they apprehended Hernandez, Peterson said.
“As the investigation continued, it led us to the 1200 block of O’Malley Avenue (in Covina), where we served a search warrant with our Special Response Team,” Peterson said. Avila was taken into custody.
Police recovered a handgun during the searches, he said, but police were yet to determine it if was the weapon used in the slaying.
According to county booking records, Hernandez and Avila were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court. Police planned to seek an increase in bail to $2 million, Peterson said.
Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628, Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Christopher Avila (left) and Adam Hernandez (right) courtesy of the Covina Police Deparmtent.

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Man found shot to death at West Covina church following Covina attack

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim's body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department's arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

A man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. Police have the victim’s body covered by a tent awaiting the Coroner Department’s arrival. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

WEST COVINA >> A young man died after he shot in the passenger seat of a friend’s car in Covina while meeting someone to sell property via an online advertisement, authorities said.
The shooting took place about 11:50 a.m. in the parking lot of Clearman’s North Woods Inn, at San Bernardino Road and Azusa Avenue, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said.
Immediately following the shooting, the driver of the car drove away from the shooting scene, heading west across the city border into West Covina, the sergeant said.
“After the shooting, the victim’s friend drove away from the location and into the parking lot of Faith Community Church in the City of West Covina,” Peterson said.
It was there that first-responders encountered the victim.
“When fire department personnel arrived, he was in full arrest,” West Covina Fire Department Captain Esteban Rodriguez said.

Police have Clearman's North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police have Clearman’s North Woods Inn parking lot cordoned off where they believe a man was shot late Saturday morning. The man was found fatally shot inside a Honda Civic in the parking lot of Faith Community Church on San Bernardino Road in West Covina Saturday August 13, 2016. (Photo by Leo Jarzomb/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Police, and then paramedics performed CPR on the wounded man, but he was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene, according to the captain.
The black Honda Civic in which the victim was riding came to a stop within a painted parking stall at the northwest end of the sprawling church property, 1211 E. Badillo Street.
Police covered the body with a sheet and a tent as they awaited the arrival of coroner’s officials.
The driver of the Honda, also a young man, spoke with investigators at the church Saturday afternoon.
He declined to comment and appeared angered by the presence of media.
The victim’s identity was not released Saturday.
The investigation remained in its early stages Saturday, however it initially appeared the victim and his friend had gone to the parking lot in Covina to sell some property after arranging the transaction online, Peterson said.
Police declined to say exactly what was being sold, but said the transaction did not involve contraband.
The shooter was described only as male, Peterson said. It was unclear if he was alone, or if was accompanied by accomplices.
No further details were available.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628, Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man sentenced for murder of 1-year-old daughter in Pasadena

PASADENA >> A judge sentenced a Lancaster man who drowned his 1-year-old daughter in Pasadena to 25 years to life behind bars on Friday, officials said.
A Pasadena jury convicted Marquise Jackson, 26, last month of first-degree murder, along with child abuse resulting in death for the May 20, 2011, murder of his daughter, Mo’Mayjah Jackson.
He drowned the young girl in the apartment of the girl’s mother in the 100 block of West Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena while she was away at work, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
Shortly after his arrest, Jackson, who was 21 at the time, told police he killed the girl because he no longer wanted the responsibility of being a father, police said.
But he went on to deny the formal charges, and argued unsuccessfully that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.
The jury deliberated for less than one day before convicting Jackson, officials said.

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Teenage girl fatally stabbed inside her Pico Rivera home; ex-boyfriend sought

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PICO RIVERA >> A 16-year-old girl died after being stabbed in her Pico River home early Friday, and homicide detectives are seeking her ex-boyfriend as a possible suspect in the slaying, authorities said.
• PHOTOS: Deputies descend on Pico Rivera home where teen girl was stabbed to death
Elene Lillian Moore died at the scene of the 3:15 a.m. stabbing in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
“Detectives learned that the victim’s mother was suddenly awoken by her daughter’s screams that she had been stabbed as she staggered into her bedroom and collapsed,” Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“(The mother) believed she had been stabbed by her ex-boyfriend,” Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
• VIDEO: Sheriff’s deputy talks about teen’s stabbing death in Pico Rivera, neighbor recalls victim

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

The attacker had fled the home before deputies arrived and remained at-large Friday afternoon.
“Based on the victim’s statements to her mother prior to her collapse, the victim’s ex-boyfriend is being sought to determine f he was involved in the attack,” Saldana said.
Detectives identified the “person of interest” as 17-year-old Rory Murga.
Moore and Murga had dated for about a year, Hernandez said. “They broke up recently, about two weeks ago.”
The circumstances of the fatal stabbing remained unclear, officials said. The stabbing took place on the first floor of the home, while the mother’s room was upstairs.
“At this point, we’re not sure if he forced his way in or was let in by the victim,” Hernandez said. “We’re not sure if there was an argument that precipitated that stabbing.”
Moore had been stabbed multiple times, Winter said.
Both Moore and Murga attended Ruben Salazar High School in Pico Rivera, neighbor Jaime Lugo said.
“She was a really nice girl,” he said. “She was always really friendly. She was always really open with people.”
“Just shocking. I think that’s like really the only word that can describe it,” Lugo said.
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.

PHOTOS/VIDEO by Keith Durflinger

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Woman sentenced for role in botched Montebello robbery that left accomplices dead


MONTEBELLO >> A woman received a 23-year prison sentence Wednesday for her role in an ill-fated armed robbery in Montebello last year that escalated into a gunfight that led to the fatal shooting of her two accomplices and the wounding of a shopkeeper, authorities said.
Toni Danielle Lopez of Los Angeles, who served as the getaway driver in the botched Montebello robbery, pleaded “no contest” in Los Angeles County Superior Court to charges of attempted murder and robbery, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said in a written statement. She also admitted the special allegations that a gun was used in the crimes, and that the crimes were gang-related.
Judge Henry Hall immediately sentenced Lopez to 23 years in state prison, Risling said.
Lopez served as the getaway driver in the double-fatal robbery attempt, which took place just after midnight on July 18, 2015, at a restaurant in the 2100 block of West Whittier Boulevard following a spate of violent crimes.
Fellow robbers Kevin Fierro, 23, of Los Angeles and Roger Soriano, 21, of Los Angeles, entered the restaurant and carried out the robbery, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncannon said at the time.
Soriano shot and wounded the shopkeeper, who pulled his own gun and returned fire, police said. Soriano died in the restaurant. Fierro, who was also wounded in the gunfight, tried to flee but collapsed and died about a block away.
Just prior to the Montebello robbery attempt, Lopez, Fierro and Soriano robbed a 17-year-old boy along Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, Risling said.
And prior to that, authorities suspect Fierro and Soriano carjacked the Toyota Camry used in the other crimes in East Los Angeles.
Detectives found and arrested Lopez in connection with the crime at Eugene A. Obregon Park in East Los Angeles three days after the robbery and shootout, Vuncannon said. She was still driving the carjacked Camry.
Prosecutors initially charged Lopez with two counts of murder for the deaths of her accomplices, as well as other crimes. The complaint was later amended to include one count of attempted murder, two counts of robbery and one count of receiving stolen property.

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Memorial planned for Fontana man allegedly slain by girlfriend in Valinda

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FONTANA >> A memorial service is planned today for a Fontana man who died after his girlfriend allegedly intentionally ran him down with a car in Valinda.
A service in memory of Randolph “Randy” John Morales, 51, is planned for 1 p.m. at Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, 9112 Oleander Ave., daughter Priscilla Morales said. The family only recently received his ashes.
Randolph Morales died after his girlfriend, 52-year-old Sharon Hood of La Puente, struck him with a car during an argument during the early-morning hours of May 8 outside a motel in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Hood is being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending trial, records show. Her next court appearance was scheduled Aug. 30 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In addition to his daughter, Morales is survived by son Randy John Morales, mother Doralene Weitz, father Richard Morales, brothers Richard and Raymond Morales and sister Yvette Guerrero

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Woman killed, man wounded in Pomona shooting; suspect jailed


POMONA >> Police jailed a suspect early Saturday following a shooting that left an Arizona woman dead and a Chino Hills man wounded, authorities said.
Robert Lee Bogan, 23, was arrested near the shooting scene and booked on suspicion of murder, according to Pomona police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The fatal shooting took place about 3:30 a.m. at Holt and San Antonio avenues, Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez said in a written statement.
“Patrol officers heard numerous gunshot in the area of Holt Ave and San Antonio,” Sanchez said. “Soon after, two vehicles involved were located and stopped several blocks from each other.”
Inside one of the cars, a 2003 Chevrolet Impala, officers encountered a man and woman suffering from gunshot wounds, police said.
Deborah Gutierrez, 34, of Arizona, succumbed to her injuries at an area hospital, Sanchez said. The second victim, a 39-year-old Chino Hills, was treated for a superficial gunshot wound.
The second involved car, a 2003 Cadillac DTS, contained Bogan, who investigators identified as the gunman, the sergeant said. “
“He was taken into custody and he is believed to be the only suspect involved at this time. A handgun believed to have been used to commit this crime has been recovered,” Sanchez said.
According to county booking records, Bogan was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The investigation was ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Pomona police at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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La Puente woman convicted of stabbing elderly West Covina man to death, setting house on fire

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WEST COVINA >> A La Puente woman who befriended an elderly West Covina man, stabbed him to death and set the house ablaze pleaded “no contest” to murder and arson charges Thursday, authorities said.
Brenda Armstrong, 40, is expected to be sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison when she returns to the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing on Dec. 14, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
She was originally accused of the special circumstance of murder during the coarse of a burglary, but the special circumstance allegation was dismissed under the negotiated plea arrangement, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho of the D.A.’s Elder Abuse Section said. If convicted as originally charged, Armstrong could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors previously decided not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Ralph Simonian, 82, was found dead on Nov. 15, 2012, inside his burning home in the 900 block of Holiday Drive, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators, who assisted West Covina police in the investigation.
“His house had been set on fire and he had been stabbed multiple times,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
After a lengthy investigation, detectives determined Simonian, who lived alone at his home, had been slain by Armstrong during a burglary at his home, Sgt. Robert Gray of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
She had befriended Simonian while working at J.B. Burgers in La Puente, where Simonian was a regular customer, officials said.
On the day of the slaying, a neighbor’s security camera captured images of a car Armstrong had borrowed arriving on the victim’s street, detectives and prosecutors said. Cell phone data also linked Armstrong to the crime scene.
Detectives first arrested Armstrong in connection with the slaying about two months after it occurred. But prosecutors declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence. Armstrong promptly moved to Delaware.
Detectives continued gathering evidence and building their case. Prosecutors ultimately filed a murder charge and issued an arrest warrant for Armstrong, who was taken into custody in Delaware during a traffic stop on Sept. 13, 2013.
Deputies found no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home. Detectives learned she had visited the victim on several occasions, Gray said.
There were no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home, the sergeant said. The fire, which began in the master bedroom where Simonian was fatally stabbed, was believed to have been set in order to destroy evidence.
The entire incident lasted about 45 minutes, Cho said.
Many of the details surrounding the slaying remain a mystery, as there were no witnesses, and Armstrong has not detailed the crime.
Officials said theft was believed to be the motive in the murder, but it was unclear what was stolen.
A small safe was discovered missing from Simonian’s home following the slaying and fire, Gray said.
The safe has never been recovered.
“We don’t know what was in the safe,” Cho said.
Absent of eye witnesses or DNA evidence, the case was largely “circumstantial,” Cho said.
He praised the tenacity of homicide detectives for Thursday’s conviction.
“I would jut credit with the detectives with putting together all the circumstantial evidence in the case,” Cho said.

PHOTO by Keith Birmingham

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Man guilty of murder for drowning death of baby daughter in Pasadena


PASADENA >> A jury convicted a man of murder and child abuse Wednesday for drowning his 1-year-old daughter five years ago in Pasadena, authorities said.
The jury deliberated for one day before finding Marquise Jackson, 26, of Lancaster guilty of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death in connection with the May 20, 2011, drowning of Mo’Nayjah Jackson according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
“According to the evidence presented at trial, Jackson drowned baby Mo’Nayjah Jackson at the apartment of the child’s mother, in the 100 block of West Del Mar Boulevard in Pasadena while the mother was at work,” district attorney’s office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said in a written statement.
Shortly after his arrest, Jackson admitted the killing, Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra said at the time. ”He (said he) wanted to be alleviated of his responsibilities of being a father,” she said.
Jackson later denied the charges and unsuccessfully argued he was mentally incompetent to stand trial for the crime.
Jackson faces 25 years to life in state prison when he returns to the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 12.

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