WEST COVINA >> A man died following a shooting in a West Covina parking lot late Wednesday, authorities said.
The victim died at the scene of the shooting, which took place about 9:45 p.m. in a parking lot outside a U.S. Social Security Administration building along Vincent Avenue, just south of West Covina Parkway, West Covina police Officer Brian Kearns said.
No information regarding the circumstances of the shooting was available, nor was a suspect description, he said. No suspects were in custody.
IRWINDALE >> Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies stood in 24-hour guard Wednesday over the site where fellow deputy David March was fatally shot during a traffic stop 13 years ago.
Afternoon temperatures climbed into the mid-90s as deputies have continued the stoic tradition each year since March was gunned down along Live Oak Avenue, just east of Peck Road, on April 29, 2002.
Sheriff’ Jim McDonnell visited the memorial site to pay his respects.
“These deputies from Temple have taken the time to pay tribute to the life of Deputy David March,” McDonnell said. “This tribute exemplified the belief that’s shared throughout the law enforcement community that we will never forget, and that we want to respect the memory and the sacrifice through the year.”
March, 33, who was assigned to the sheriff’s Temple Station, was fatally shot after pulling over Jorge Arroyo Garcia, also known as Armando Garcia. After being captured in Mexico and extradited back to the U.S., Garcia pleaded guilty to the deputy’s murder in 2007 and received a life sentence in prison.
Two by two, deputies, primarily from the sheriff’s Temple Station, took turns standing half-hour shifts over the spot where March was fatally shot, which is marked with a permanent memorial plaque. After standing frozen in place for 30 minutes, deputies changed guards with a brief ceremony.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> Three people died and three suspects are being sought for a firebombing Saturday at a tire shop that also injured a firefighter responding to the blaze, authorities said.
The alleged attack took place about 5:30 a.m. at Cheque Tires, 1252 Santa Anita Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“We received a call from an informant that he saw three males throw a Molotov cocktail at a business,” Sgt. Jim Dexter said.
Deputies and firefighters found the building “fully engulfed” in flames, he said.
“Deputies and fire department personnel saw a man within the business compound and behind the heavily locked gates of the location, badly burned and trying to escape the fire,” according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
“Despite rescue personnel’s efforts to rescue the victim, he was overcome by flames and succumbed to his injuries,” she said.
As the investigation continued, officials discovered to additional bodies inside the charred business Saturday afternoon, Deputy Ryan Rouzan said. The two additional victims were initially described only as adults.
The deaths were being investigated as homicides.
A firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his face while battling the fire, Dexter said. The injury was not believed to be serious.
More than 65 firefighters worked for about 45 minutes to extinguish the flames, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Brian Jordan said.
They also rescued a dog from the property, which was turned over to animal control officials, he said.
The suspects were last seen fleeing south on Santa Anita Avenue from the scene of the fire in a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, sheriff’s officials said. No further suspect description was known.
The victim’s name was not released Saturday pending positive identification and notification of his family, Saldana said.
The motive in the fatal firebombing remained a mystery.
Santa Anita Avenue remained closed to traffic as sheriff’s and fire officials continued working at the scene Saturday afternoon.
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.
PHOTOS by James Carbone
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died after a confrontation escalated into gunfire late Wednesday, police said.
The fatal shooting took place just before 7 p.m. in the 9900 block of Painter Avenue, near Barton Circle, Whittier police Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The victim, described as a Whittier man in his 20s, died at the scene, the lieutenant said. His name was not released pending notification of family.
He was walking north along Painter Avenue when a silver compact car came to a stop near him, Ellis said.
A passenger exited the car and began arguing with the victim, he said. The argument turned into a fight.
“The suspect pulled out a handgun and fired numerous times, striking the victim,” Ellis said.
The killer then got back into the car, which sped off, he said.
NORWALK >> A man accused of sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing his disabled neighbor in Norwalk before fleeing to Guatemala returned to the U.S. Friday to face charges, authorities said.
Luis Fernando Diofron, also known as Luis Fernando Diofron Lemus, 22, was extradited back to Los Angeles County via LAX following his Dec. 4 arrest in San Miguel, Escuinta, Guatemala, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
Diofron is suspected in the brutal stabbing death of 50-year-old Denise Battey Aug. 10, 2012, at her home in the 11900 block of Allard Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials
He’s charged with murder, with the special circumstances of rape and burglary, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
After Diofron allegedly fled the country, federal authorities also charged the suspect with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. But the federal case is expected to be dismissed as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the murder case.
Diofron, who was living near Battey while in the U.S. on a work visa, attacked and sexually assaulted Battery as she watered her garden, according to sheriff’s officials and her twin sister, Annese Battey.
He then dragged her inside her home and stabbed her to death, authorities allege.
Denise Battey worked as a system support analyst for the U.S. Social Security Administration and tutored students in college preparation part time, according to her twin sister, Annese Battey. She was an avid gardener and a classic movie buff.
And the victim was defenseless against her attacker, authorities and family members said. She had just undergone back surgery and suffered from severe sciatica in her left leg.
Diofron was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
PHOTOS: TOP: Murder suspect Luis Fernando Diofron (courtesy). BELOW: Homicide victim Denise Battey (courtesy)
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A man died after he was found stabbed in the neck in the front yard of a South El Monte home late Saturday, authorities said.
Deputies responded to the 11200 block of Broadmead Street about 11:30 p.m. after receiving word from Los Angeles County fire officials that a 42-year-old man had been found bleeding from a stab wound, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Long said.
Coroner’s officials had not yet identified the victim Sunday afternoon, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corrall said.
Paramedics rushed the man to a hospital, but he ultimately succumbed to his injuries, Long said.
“Detectives learned that evidence related to this incident was discovered in a residence in the 11200 Block of Broadmead Avenue,” Deputy Mike Barraza of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
A SWAT team was positioned in front of the involved home Sunday morning into the early afternoon.
Deputies placed a handcuffed woman in the back seat of a patrol car and quickly drove away from the scene just after noon. A second person was also placed into a squad car and driven away from the scene.
Long confirmed the SWAT team had entered the home and detained two people. Their potential connections to the slaying were unclear.”
“At approximately 12 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau assisted homicide detectives with the service of a search warrant in which several individuals were detained,” Barraza said. “Detectives are trying to ascertain what their involvement is, if any, regarding the earlier stabbing. “
No arrests had been made Sunday afternoon, and no further details were released, officials said.
Deputies shut down traffic on nearby Durfee Road as the SWAT team kept the home surrounded Sunday morning. Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off a city-block-long section of Broadmead Street.
Neighborhood residents watched over the commotion but said they did not know what had taken place, or who had been killed.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
POMONA >> A California sex offender living in Idaho is in custody in connection with the 1981 slaying of a 6-year-old Anaheim boy who disappeared while riding his bicycle before being found strangled to death the following day in Pomona, police announced Saturday.
Cold case detectives traveled to Sandpoint, Idaho, to help in Friday’s arrest of Kenneth Rasmuson on suspicion of the July, 981, strangulation death of 6-year-old Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vargo, Pomona police Lt. Eddie Vasquez said. Rasmuson was linked to the crime by DNA evidence.
He was convicted three times of violent sex crimes in California in the 1980s, according to a Bonner County, Idaho, sex offender registry.
Jeffrey Vargo was last seen alive riding his bicycle about 5:30 p.m. on July 2, 1981, near a fireworks stand at Imperial Highway and Santa Ana Road in Anaheim, Vasquez said.
“At approximately 7:20 p.m., his parents found his bike abandoned in an alley near the fireworks stand,” the lieutenant said in a written statement.
The following day, “Two construction workers found the child’s lifeless body near 34 Edgebrook Drive in the city of Pomona,” Vasquez said.
An autopsy concluded Vargo had been strangled to death, Vasquez said. “DNA evidence was confirmed and linked to Idaho resident Kenneth Rasmuson.”
The boy had reportedly been sexually assaulted.
Leads in the investigation dried up, and the case went cold for more than 30 years, Vasquez said.
DNA evidence collected during the initial investigation was not able to identify a suspect based on the technology of the time, Vasquez said.
In 2014, as technology continued to improve, Pomona police cold case investigators resubmitted the their DNA evidence. Forensic analysis was able to link the sample to Rasmuson.
Jeffrey Vargo’s mother, Connie Vargo, said the family was pleased to learn of the long-awaited arrest.
“It’s bittersweet, of course. We’re glad he has been captured and cannot hurt anyone else, but it also brings up a log of memories and things.”
“The Pomona PD never gave up on it. I really want to thank Detective (Jennifer) Turpin, who really has worked hard on this case,” the mother said.
Rasmuson was a stranger to the family, she said.
In addition to his mother, Jeffrey Vargo is survived by his father, Bob, and older brother, Michael.
Connie Vargo described Jeffrey as “brown-haired, brown-eyed, happy little boy.”
“He was only 6 years old. He had just started the first grade,” she said.
“He was a happy little guy,” Connie Vargo said. “Jeffy just liked to be outside. He loved anything with wheels. His skateboard, his big wheels.”
That’s why when she discovered Jeffrey’s bicycle abandoned while searching for him, she knew something was seriously wrong. “He wouldn’t leave that bike anyplace.”
According to Bonner County’s sex offender registry, Rasmuson was convicted of kidnapping for the purpose of committing a sexual offense in California in late-1981, as well as committing lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years old in 1987.
Sandpoint police, the FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Bonner County District Attorney’s Office and the Anaheim Police Department took part in the investigation and subsequent arrest, police said.
Rasmuson was being held in the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Idaho, pending extradition proceedings to bring him back to California to face charges, Vasquez said.
Connie Vargo said she was looking forward to seeing justice for her son.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process, but hopefully, justice will be served and he’ll never be able to hurt anyone ever again,” she said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Pomona police detectives at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO: [TOP] Kenneth Rasmuson, 53, of Idaho. (Courtesy) [BELOW] Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vardo, 6, of Anaheim. (Courtesy)
DIAMOND BAR >> Sheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a 42-year-old San Dimas woman who was found driving in Orange County with the remains of her slain mother-in-law in an SUV Wednesday following a fire at the mother-in-law’s Diamond Bar home.
Unyoung Lee had been a “person of interest” in the investigation ever since she was found driving in Tustin early Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
After a day of questioning, detectives arrested Lee about 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to Los Angeles County booking records. She was booked on suspicion of murder and was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail pending her arraignment, scheduled Friday in Pomona Superior Court.
Orange county coroner’s officials withheld the identity of Lee’s alleged victim and 77-year-old mother-in-law.
A large fire that broke out shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday at the victim’s house in the 1200 block of N. Diamond Bar Boulevard first drew emergency personnel to the home, according to deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Firefighters found no one inside the home.
But Tustin police soon received a tip that the resident of the home had been killed, the house had been set on fire intentionally, and the possible killer was driving in the Tustin area with the victim’s remains in the car.
Tustin police quickly found the car and detained Lee as detectives continued their investigation both in Tustin and in Diamond Bar.
A motive in the slaying has not been released.
MONTEBELLO >> A 75-year-old man convicted of strangling his wife of 44 years at their Montebello apartment received a sentenced of 15 years to life behind bars Wednesday, authorities said.
Baghdo Hayrapetyan, 75, received the sentence from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta, court officials said.
A jury convicted him Oct. 30 of second-degree murder for the March 5, 2012, strangling death of his wife, 63-year-old Anahit Hayrapetyan, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. At a hearing the following month, the same jury determined that Baghdo Hayrapetyan was sane at the time of the killing.
The couple, who had been married for more than four decades, became involved in an argument at their home in a seniors’ apartment complex in the 2000 block of West Whittier Boulevard.
Rescuers and police arrived at the scene to find Anahit Hayrapetyan unconscious and not breathing, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Baghdo Hayrapetyan was also suffering from stab wounds on his torso that were believed to be self-inflicted. He was initially hospitalized in critical condition before receiving medical treatment and facing trial.
The crime was first discovered by worried family members who went on the apartment to heck on the couple after being unable to contact them, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
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.