Man convicted of two counts of murder in violent 2004 robbery spree spanning San Gabriel Valley, Whittier

CISNEROS

LOS ANGELES >> The last of five defendants in a violent 2004 robbery spree in Whittier and the San Gabriel Valley that left two men dead could face the death penalty after a jury convicted him Wednesday of 21 charges, including two counts of murder with special circumstances.
Leonardo Cisneros, 29, of Montebello could face the death penalty for the spree which spanned Los Angeles County cities including Whittier, San Gabriel, El Monte, Alhambra, South Pasadena and San Marino, according to prosecutors and investigators.
“The jury deliberated about two hours today before finding Leonardo Cisneros guilty of all 21 counts, including two counts of first degree murder, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
The other charges include 18 counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery, she said.
The jury also found true the special circumstances of multiple murders, murders during the course of robberies and personal use of a gun in the vast majority of the crimes. The special circumstances make him eligible for the death penalty.
“They come back on Monday to begin the penalty phase, because we are seeking death in this case,” Robison said.
Pasadena City College student Joseph Molina was working at a Whittier Subway sandwich shop on Dec. 10, 2004 when it was robbed. The 22-year-old Whittier resident was fatally shot by Cisneros.
MOLINAMolina was shot after he failed to remove money from a cash register fast enough for the robbers who had stormed into the restaurant at Beverly and Norwalk boulevards, investigators said.
The other victim slain during the spree was businessman Dianqui Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights, who was fatally shot during an Aug. 4, 2004 robbery in a San Gabriel parking lot.
Cisneros and Jose Resendez, 36, robbed Wu and a friend late at night as they arrived at the friend’s business in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Avenue in San Gabriel to use the facility’s Internet, Robison said. Cisneros robbed Wu as Resendez robbed the friend.
“Wu got scared and started running away,” Robison said. “Cisneros chased him about 40 feet, pushed him to the ground and executed him basically, shot him once in the torso.”
Cisneros grabbed Wu’s wallet before fleeing, Robison said.
Wu died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center less than an hour later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The jury found that Cisneros pulled the trigger in both slayings, court officials said.
Four other defendants in the case took plea deals.
Resendez has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the slaying of Wu; Bernadette Corvera, 32, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery in Molina’s slaying; and Mitzie Ann Oso, 35, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the killings of Wu and Molina. All three were due to be sentenced June 2.
Resendez and Corvera were expected to receive sentences of 15 years to life in prison, while Oso was expected to receive an eight-year prison term. They could have faced life sentences if convicted at trial, rather than accepting plea bargains.
When entering their pleas in recent years, the three defendants agreed to testify truthfully if called as witnesses in Cisneros’ trial, Robison said.
They were called as witnesses, and all three testified about their involvement in the crimes, as well as Cisneros’, Robison said.
Another defendant, 30-year-old Sara Lopez, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in Wu’s slaying and was sentenced to three years of probation.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

FILE PHOTOS: Top: Murder and robbery spree convict Leonardo Cisneros; Below: Slaying victim Joseph Molina, 22, of Whittier.

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Teen robbed of skateboard, cell phone in Covina

COVINA >> Two armed robbed a teen of his skateboard and cell phone late Friday, police said.
The boy was approached about 9:20 p.m. in the 200 block of East Rowland Street by two robbers, one brandishing a handgun and the other with a knife, Covina police Sgt. Rob Bobkiewicz said.
They demanded the teen’s cell phone and skateboard, and he turned the items over before the suspects ran off, the sergeant said. The victim was not hurt.
The robbers were described as a Latino man with a red bandanna over his face, armed with a handgun, and a black man wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and a red bandanna over his face, armed with a knife.
Police searched the area but were unable to find the robbers, Bobkiewicz said.

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Nanny bound at knifepoint during San Marino home-invasion robbery; suspect jailed

SAN MARINO >> A San Gabriel man stormed into a San Marino home Friday and tied up a woman at knifepoint during a daytime home-invasion robbery, authorities said.
Yongheng Huang, 24, was arrested on suspicion of charges including robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment shortly after the incident, which was reported just before 1 p.m. at a home in the 2500 block of Lombardy Road, San Marino police officials said in a written statement.
A woman who was working as a nanny at the home told police that a man, clad in a black jacket and mask, had entered the home through a back door and demanded money, San Marino Police Sgt. Robert Matthews said. But no money was found.
“The victim was threatened with a knife and tied,” according to the police statement. “(Huang) detained the victim until the homeowner arrived. Upon arrival, the suspect confronted the homeowner and again demanded money.
Police said the homeowner complied, and Huang fled with both U.S. and Chinese currency.
The woman was bound for more than an hour before the homeowner arrived home, Matthews said. Neither victim was hurt.
A San Marino police officer searching the area spotted Huang on foot just around the corner at California Boulevard and Alegria Place, officials said. He was detained and ultimately identified as the suspect in the home-invasion robbery.
Huang had a fixed-blade knife with him when arrested, as well as the money believed to have been stolen in the crime, police said.
The amount of money stolen was not available Friday.
Police had not discovered any link between the suspect and victims or a reason he may have targeted the Lombardy Road home, Matthews said, however detectives continued interviewing Huang Friday night.
Huang was booked on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment, brandishing a knife, burglary, receiving stolen property, providing false information to a peace police officer and wearing a mask during the commission of a crime.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Huang was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in Alhambra Superior Court.

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Man beaten and robbed in Pasadena

PASADENA — A group of young men beat and robbed another man early Sunday, police said.
The victim, a 37-year-old man, was walking about 2 a.m. at Orange Grove Boulevard and Worcester Avenue when a white sedan containing five to six attacker described only as black men in their 20s pulled up, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said. The group exited the car.
“They got out and accused him of being a rival gang member, which he’s not,” Clawson said.
The victim ran, chased by the group of young men, the lieutenant said.
When the fleeing victim tripped and fell, “the suspects began to punch and kick him several times,” he said. They then helped themselves to the items in the man’s pockets before fleeing in the white car they arrived in.
Police said the victim declined to be taken to a hospital.

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Man robs Pico Rivera pharmacy of cough syrup commonly used to make ‘purple drank’

PICO RIVERA >> A man with a handgun robbed a Pico Rivera pharmacy Wednesday of prescription-strength cough syrup commonly used in the street drug known as “purple drank,” officials said.
The robbery took place about 2:40 p.m. at the Rivera Pharmacy, 9253 Telegraph Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Dodson said.
The robber was described as a white man with a bandana covering his face who carried a handgun, the sergeant said. He brandished the weapon and demanded cough syrup.
Initial reports indicated the cough syrup contained promethazine and codeine. The same type of cough syrup is commonly mixed with soda and candy to create the illicit intoxicant known as “purple drank,”
“Promethazine is commonly known on the street as “purple drank,” “syrup,” “purple liquid” and “lean,” with the latter name coming from the abuser’s difficulty in standing up straight,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrations officials said in a 2011 statement. “Promethazine is a central nervous system depressant which can cause death if it is combined with alcohol.”

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Man trying to sell item online ends up robbed at knifepoint in Pasadena

PASADENA — A young man’s attempt at selling an item via social media turned into a robbery early Wednesday when the prospective buyer pulled knife, police said.
The crime took place just after 12:15 a.m. in the 2700 block of East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena police Sgt. John Mercado said.
An 18-year-old Glendale man arranged to meet another man, initially described as being in his 30s, to sell an item over the Internet, the sergeant said. Further information regarding that the victim was trying to sell or what social media service was used was not available.
But when the would-be seller and buyer met, the buyer pulled a knife and robbed the young man of the property, Mercado said.
Handling detectives could not be reached for further details late Wednesday.

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Police: Whittier man arrested following failed carjacking, shooting

WHITTIER — A 24-year-old Whittier man is accused of shooting at a man following a failed carjacking Thursday, police said.
Jesse Duran was booked on suspicion of attempted carjacking and attempted murder following the series of event, which began about 6:10 p.m. in the 6300 block of Newlin Avenue, Whittier police Officer Brad White said. Additional charges were also expected.
“The victim in the incident told officers he had arrived home in his car, which he had parked in the alley, when he was approached by the suspect,” White said.
“Duran demanded the victim’s car, however, the victim refused,” the officer said. The victim drove away from the would-be carjacker and called police before parking in front of his home and waiting for officers to arrive.
“He exited his vehicle only to find Duran waiting there with a handgun,” White said.
The victim ran north along Newlin Avenue as Duran fired two shots at him, but missed, police said.
Responding officers found Duran in the 6300 block of Comstock Avenue and arrested him without a struggle, White said. The handgun believed to have been used in the shooting was found discarded nearby.
Duran and his alleged victim did not know one another prior to Thursday’s incident, White said.

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Failed armed robbery reported at Hacienda Heights Rite Aid

HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> A gunman wearing a business suit fled empty-handed late Thursday following a failed robbery at a Rite Aid Pharmacy, authorities said.
The would-be robber entered the pharmacy, 2060 S. Hacienda Boulevard, and began walking around the business, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Enriquez said.
He then made his way to the pharmacy counter, where he pulled a small, silver semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at a female employee.
He told the woman to stand in front of him, but she instead fled from him, grabbed a telephone and notified fellow employees to lock the front doors, the lieutenant said.
The gunman unsuccessfully tried to hop the pharmacy counter before making his way back to the store’s main entrance, Enriquez said.
The armed man escaped after ordering an employee to open the locked front door, Enriquez added.
Officials described the failed robber as a Latino man in his 40s or 50s, with salt and pepper hair, wearing a gray suit with a tie and round-framed glasses.
He was last seen getting into a white, 2000s-model Toyota sedan with a waiting driver. The car headed north on Hacienda Boulevard.

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West Covina Sizzler robbed

WEST COVINA — Three masked men robbed a Sizzler restaurant early Thursday, officials said.
The crime took place shortly before 10 a.m. at the eatery in the 1100 block of West West Covina Parkway, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said.
Three robbers had at least one gun when they entered the restaurant and demanded money, Lopez said. They ultimately fled with an unknown amount of cash from the business’ safe.
The robbers were last seen running east from the restaurant, Lopez added. No getaway car was seen.
Police described them as three black men between 18 and 25 years old. All wore dark ski masks, hats and sunglasses, and all wore dark clothing.
Further details were not immediately available.

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Covina RadioShack robbed

COVINA — A heavyset gunman robbed a RadioShack store and its employees late Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The heist took place about 6:20 p.m. at the store, 1065 West Badillo Street, Covina police Lt. Dave Foster said.
The gunman demanded money from the cash register, and also demanded employees’ property such as wallets and cell phones, the lieutenant said.
The robber then ordered the employees to a back room before running off, Foster said.
He was described as a Latino man in his late-30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and 300 pounds, Foster said. He wore a blue shirt, jeans and a black baseball cap.

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