AZUSA >> Detectives continued seeking clues Wednesday into the slaying of a man found shot to death alongside an aqueduct in Azusa on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The body was first discovered about 3:30 p.m. among rocks and shrubbery along the bed of the channel that runs along the west side of Sierra Madre Avenue, just north of Todd Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. The identity of the victim, described as a man in his 40s who was believed to be staying in a nearby homeless encampment, was not released pending notification of his family.
The man’s cause of death was not immediately clear once his body was found, however, it was ultimately determined he had been shot in the upper torso, Sgt. Troy Ewing of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The fatal shooting was believed to have taken place well before the body was found, he said.
“We believe he was there for a few days,” the sergeant said.
Investigators collected “ballistic evidence” at the scene, but Ewing declined to discuss the evidence in greater detail.
No information regarding a suspect description or motive was available.
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.
EL MONTE >> Two suspects have been charged with murder for the fatal stabbing of an El Monte man last month, officials announced Wednesday.
Following “a detailed and lengthy investigation,” into the Feb. 19 stabbing death of 22-year-old Alejandro Rojas, detectives identified two suspects and a SWAT team arrested them on March 2 during a raid at a home in the 11400 block of Kerrwood Street in El Monte, according to Deputy Lisa Jansen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau.
Prosecutors filed murder charges on Monday against Daniel Anthony Lopez, 22, and Adrian Alejandro Castillo, 25, both of El Monte, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said. Castillo is also accused of the special allegation that he personally wielded a knife in the killing..
Rojas was walking down the street in the 4200 block of Peck Road with his cousin when the suspects approached in a Nissan Sentra and pulled over alongside them, sheriff’s officials said.
“Suspect Castillo, a passenger, exited the vehicle and stabbed Victim Rojas,” Jansen said in a written statement. “Rojas with the assistance of his (cousin) ran from the location to a nearby residence and collapsed.”
Paramedics took Rojas to a hospital, where he soon succumbed to his injuries.
“Suspects Lopez and Castillo drove away from the scene and out of sight,” Jansen said. “The motive for the murder is unknown and there is no further information at this time.”
Lopez and Castillo appeared in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday but entered no plea, Ardalani said. An arraignment hearing for both defendants was postponed to April 5.
According to county booking records, Castillo was being held without bail pending his court proceedings. He has prior convictions in Los Angeles County for crimes including vandalism and resisting police in January, as well as possession of a gun by a felon in 2014, driving with a blood-alochol level above .08 percent in 2013, and driving without a valid license in 2011, according to court records.
Lopez was being held in lieu of $2 million bail, records show. He has a single prior criminal conviction listed in Los Angeles County for trespassing in a structure in 2014.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Authorities have identified a 35-year-old stabbing victim whose body was found along the side of a road deep in the forest north of La Canada Flintridge last week.
A hiker discovered the remains of Anthony James Willis shortly before 1 p.m. on March 2 along mile marker 18.97 of Angeles Forest Highway, in the area of Big Tujunga Road, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
An autopsy found he died from “sharp force injuries,” he said. The death was ruled a homicide.
The body was found at the end of a 30-foot-long drainage ditch that channels storm water off of Angeles Forest Highway and into the forest, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. It appeared the killer or killers dumped the body after fatally stabbing the victim at another unknown crime scene.
“It doesn’t appear that the murder occurred there. We think someone just placed the body there,” Mendoza said.
The lieutenant said he was not aware of any gang ties on the part of the victim.
Mendoza said the body did not yet show signs of decomposition and was likely placed in the forest within a day or days of its discovery.
He asked anyone who saw anything suspicious or unusual in the area in the days leading up to the discovery of the body to contact homicide detectives.
No further information was available Wednesday.
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.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> The death of a man whose body was discovered Thursday afternoon in the forest north of La Canada Flintridge is now being investigated as a homicide, authorities said Friday.
A passer-by first discovered the body about 12:50 p.m., about 30 feet off the side of Angeles Forest Highway, near mile marker 18.87, in the vicinity of Big Tujunga Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff’s officials initially described the victim as elderly. But it was ultimately determined he was a 35-year-old man, Deputy Grace Medrano of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
His identity was withheld Saturday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.“Based on the upper body trauma that was discovered on the victim’s body, this case is being investigated as a homicide,” she said.
No further details were released.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SAN DIMAS >> A judge sentenced a man to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for hiring a man to kill his wife at the San Dimas home they shared more than 25 years ago after learning she planned to leave him, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in Pomona convicted Shanker Chhaganbahi Patel, 57, on Jan. 24 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 19, 1991, death of 29-year-old law student Usha Patel, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. The jury also found true the special circumstance of lying in wait at the conclusion of a trial that stretched on for two-and-a-half months.
Shanker Patel arranged for another man, 66-year-old Miguel Angel Garcia, to attack Usha Patel as she was on her way to pick up the couple’s 7-year-old daughter from school, Ardalani said.
“The assailant fatally stabbed the victim in the chest and neck, duct taped her mouth and nose and bound her feet,” she said. “(Garcia) then placed the victim’s body in the trunk of her car and drove the vehicle to a nearby middle school, where he abandoned the car.”
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy discovered the car, and subsequently the body, later that day.
The investigation went cold until 2010, when detectives reopened the then-19-year-old murder case and reexamined evidence, “including gloves discovered in the front passenger seat of the victim’s car,” according to Ardalani.
Detectives were able to match DNA from the gloves to Garcia, who was charged with Usha Patel’s murder in 2012 and ultimately pleaded “no contest” to a count of first-degree murder, officials said. He is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
But the investigation continued, and detectives soon learned that Shanker Patel had paid a “middle man” $7,500 to orchestrate his wife’s murder, Ardalani said.
“The defendant told the co-conspirator when and where to be in the family’s home to kill Usha Patel,” she said. The middle man sub-contracted the murder-for-hire to Garcia. Prosecutors charged him with murder in 2013.
“According to evidence presented at trial, the defendant was having an affair on his wife prior to the killing,” Ardalani said. “Additionally, Usha Patel, a law school student, was planning to leave her husband after she passed the California Bar Exam.”
After identifying Shanker Patel as a suspect in the murder, detectives found and arrested him in Atlanta, officials said.
Though the special circumstance of lying in wait made Shanker Patel eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors did not seek capital punishment in the case, Ardalani said.
DUARTE >> County officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers who gunned down a 39-year-old Duarte man in front of his home.
Kirinda Morehead died in the shooting, which took place about 8:20 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the 2300 block of Bashor Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
He had just parked his car around the corner from his family’s apartment and was preparing to walk home with his wife and two children when shots rang out from a passing vehicle, according to neighbors and sheriff’s officials. His wife and children were not injured by the gunfire.
During Tuesday’s Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, “The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger establishing a $10,0000 reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of a suspect or suspects responsible for the murder of Kirinda Morehead,” Barger’s spokesman, Tony Bell, said in a written statement.
The suspect vehicle was described only as a white BMW with tinted windows. It was last seen heading north on Mount Olive Drive.
No further details in the slaying, including a motive, have been released.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Community members have already raised more than $22,000 to help Moorehead’s family via an online fund. Donations are being accepted online at www.gofundme.com/courtney-the-babies?lang=en-US.
WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.
PICO RIVERA >> A 17-year-old Pico Rivera boy previously charged as an adult in connection with the fatal stabbing of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend is now being tried as a juvenile as a result of the passage of Proposition 57, passed by California owners in November.
Rory Murga is accused of murder for the death of 16-year-old Elena Lillian Moore, who was stabbed to death during the early-morning hours of Aug. 12, 2016, inside her home in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Murga and Moore had dated for about a year and broken up about two weeks prior to the stabbing.
Detectives first labeled Murga a “person of interest” in the slaying. After he was found and taken into custody four days later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office elected to charge Murga as an adult.
In the month that followed the slaying, California voters approved Proposition 57, which made more convicts deemed “nonviolent” eligible for parole and early release, and also requires that a hearing be held before a juvenile court judge when determining whether a minor will be charged as an adult when accused of a serious crime.
Such a hearing was held Feb. 10, and the case was returned to juvenile court for further proceedings, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
A motions hearing was scheduled in the case in juvenile court on April 27, she said.
But prosecutors plan to again seek that Murga be charged as an adult, according to Ardalani.
Moore’s mother was asleep upstairs when she heard her daughter scream Murga’s during the attack name before making her way upstairs and collapsing in the hallway, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The girl had been stabbed several times.
It appeared Murga entered and exited the home through the back door, though it was unclear whether he forced his way in or was let in.
Investigators found a steak knife believed to be the weapon used in the slaying at the scene, officials said.
Deputies found and arrested Murga on Aug. 16, 2016, after finding him sitting beneath a railroad underpass along Rosemead Boulevard, near Slauson Avenue, Hernandez said.
A motive in the slaying has not been released.
PHOTO of Rory Murga courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTO of crime scene by Keith Durflinger.
HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> A La Puente man who lived as a fugitive in Mexico for three years before his capture is guilty of murdering his girlfriend in 2011 and dumping her body in Hacienda Heights, a jury found Friday.
A jury at the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court deliberated for less than a day before convicting Francisco Nila Rojas of first-degree murder for the Feb. 18, 2011, slaying of 41-year-old Claudia Tecuautzin of La Puente, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The jury also found true the special allegation that Rojas personally used a gun. He faces up to 50 year to life in state prison at his sentencing, scheduled Monday, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
After shooting Tecuautzin in the head, he dumped her body down an embankment along Turnbull Canyon, near Skyline Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. A passer-by discovered her remains on March 2, 2011. It took coroner’s investigators several weeks to identify the body, due to the condition in which it was found.
“According to evidence presented at trial, Rojas stole money from Tecuautzin’s bank accounts before and after she was killed,” according to Ardalani.
“Additionally, a Ford Explorer that Rojas and the victim co-owned contained remnants of the victim’s blood. Also, the car’s passenger floor was bleached.”
Further cementing Rojas’ guilt, prosecutors learned that Rojas had purchased a gun on Feb. 12, 2011, less than a week before the slaying took place, Ardalani said. “The same gun was consistent with bullet fragments recovered from the victim’s head, according to expert testimony.”
But by the time the victim and suspect had been identified, the killer had fled the country.
Rojas, a Mexican national, fled to Mexico five days after the killing, according to Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
He was captured in Mexico in 2014, then extradited back to Los Angeles County to face trial in October of 2015.
SAN GABRIEL >> A jury convicted a Pasadena man of murder and other charges on Thursday for fatally shooting his own sister, and attempting to shoot her 13-year-old son, at their San Gabriel home after the sister criticized him for physically abusing his then-girlfriend, officials said.
A jury in Alhambra convicted Johnny Goins, 32, of first-degree murder, attempted murder and two counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling for the March 5, 2015, attack at the victims’ apartment in the 5100 block of Rosemead Boulevard, in an unincorporated county area just east of San Gabriel, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. The jury also found true the special allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm during the crime.
Tanaya Goins, 32, died after Goins arrived at her apartment about 6:40 a.m. and opened fire, Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said shortly after the slaying.
Tanaya Goins was shot in the head and torso, officials said. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. Her 13-year-son, the shooter’s nephew, was wounded in the arm.
Goins carried out the shooting because he was enraged by a text message conversation his sister had with his then-girlfriend.
“According to evidence presented at trial, Johnny Goins’ girlfriend alerted Tanaya Goins that the defendant had tried to suffocate her,” according to Ardalani. “In a series of text messages, the girlfriend also stated that the defendant told her he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because he experienced violence as a child.
“Tanaya Goins told the girlfriend that her brother did not suffer child abuse and that he should not be assaulting women,” Ardalani said.
This prompted Johnny Goins to arm himself with a revolver and head to her apartment, where he fired a volley of shots through the front door and window.
Detectives identified Johnny Goins as the suspect and arrested him in Moreno Valley later the same day.
Ardalani said Goins faces up to 77 years to life in state prison when he returns to court for sentencing on April 6.
PHOTOS: [ABOVE] Johnny Goins in court during an arraignment hearing on March 9, 2015. (By Watchara Phomicinda) [BELOW] Tanaya Goins (Courtesy)