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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San Marino police arrest San Gabriel man, woman in connection with alleged burglary spree


SAN MARINO >> Police arrested a man and woman from San Gabriel in connection with a series of burglaries and other theft-related crimes after they broke into a San Marino home through a doggy door Tuesday, officials said.
Arthur Edward Hernandez, 31, and Tracey Lee Viera, 42, were booked on suspicion of burglary, grand theft, identity theft, receiving stolen property and trespassing following their arrests shortly after 9 a.m. in the 2300 block of Robles Avenue, according to San Marino police and Los Angeles County booking records.
A resident called police to report a unfamiliar black Acura was parked in their driveway, San Marino police Sergeant Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
“Officers arrived on scene within two minutes caught two suspects attempting to remove property from the location,” Tebbetts said. They were detained without a struggle.
Police found items from the home deposited around the house and backyard in advance of a quick getaway, the sergeant said.
The suspects — later identified as Hernandez and Viera — “entered the house by reaching through a dog door and unlocking the rear door,” Tebbetts said. They broke into the house, as well as the detached garage.
Officers found several pieces of mail not belonging to the suspects, as well as other suspected stolen items, in the suspects’ car, police said.
“Officers were able to link both suspects to two other burglaries in San Marino and one burglary in Pasadena,” Tebbetts said.
Detectives are seeking any additional victims of the burglars.
Hernandez and Viera were being held in lieu of $50,000 each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Thursday in Alhambra Superior Court, records show.

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UPDATED: Suspect arrested in string of sexual assaults, burglaries in South Pasadena

SOUTH PASADENA >> Police arrested a Los Angeles man suspect who went on an alleged crime spree Wednesday morning, sexually assaulting two teenage girls and one woman before breaking into five apartment in the south end of South Pasadena, authorities said.
The identity of the 22-year-old suspect, who was already on parole for burglary, was withheld as police continued following up investigative leads Wednesday afternoon, South Pasadena police Capt. Brian Solinski said during a press conference.
The string of crimes took place beginning about 7:30 a.m. in a four- to five-block area near South Pasadena High School, Solinksi said.
The suspect inappropriately touched or exposed himself to a woman and two underage girls out on the street, police said.
Immediately afterward, Solinski said the man began a burglary spree, breaking into five apartments in the same general neighborhood, Solinski said. Detectives determined the same man was responsible for all eight crimes reported in South Pasadena early Wednesday.
With help from the victims, detectives tracked the suspect to the 3000 block of Emery Street in Los Angeles, where they spotted a man matching the description of the South Pasadena suspect.
“The individual got into a car and tried to flee the scene,” Solinski said. Officers quickly pulled over the car and took the driver into custody.
Items inside the car linked the driver to the South Pasadena crime scenes, Solinski said. It was also determined that the car the suspect was driving had also been stolen early Wednesday.
None of the three sexual assault victims were physically unharmed, he said.
“There was some contact made, but nothing that produced any injuries,” Solinski said.
It at least some of the break-ins, the suspect got into the apartments through windows, he added.
Police and school officials placed South Pasadena High School and South Pasadena Middle School on precautionary lockdowns due to their proximity to some of the locations where the crimes occurred, South Pasadena police said in a written statement.
Police said officers found a knife at one of the residences that was burglarized. The lockdowns were lifted after the knife was discovered.
The investigation was ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call South Pasadena Police at 626-403-7297.

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Suspect jailed in San Marino burglary


SAN MARINO >> Police arrested a Hollywood man this week on suspicion of burglary and other crimes after he broke into a San Marino business, officials announced Friday.
Jason Richard Lindaman, 37, was booked on suspicion of burglary, theft, possession of stolen property and being under the influence of a controlled substance following Wednesday’s 12:35 a.m. break-in in the 1400 block of San Marino Avenue, San Marino police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
A business owner called 911 after spotting the “silhouette of a person” inside an office next to hers, Tebbetts said.
A man was then seen exiting the business and running south along San Marino Avenue, he said.
Officers arrived on-scene in less than one minute and found the suspect, later identified as Lindaman, hiding in an alley behind the 2100 block of Huntington Drive, the sergeant said.
He was found to be in possession of items stolen from the burglarized business, as well as other items believed to have been stolen from two other victims in other cities.
“Lindaman was also in possession of a hypodermic needs and appeared to be under the influence of an unknown narcotic,” Tebbetts added.
According to county booking records, Lindaman was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance.

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Homeless man arrested in Pasadena cafe break-in


PASADENA >> Police jailed a homeless man early Thursday on suspicion of breaking to a Pasadena cafe, officials said.
Kenneth Eugene Johnson, 62, was booked on suspicion of commercial burglary following the break-in, reported just before 1 a.m. in the 200 block of East Colorado Boulevard, according to Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“A witnesses saw Mr. Johnson attempting to break into the closed cafe by smashing out the front window with a trash can,” police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
Officers arrived to find Johnson still at the scene, next to the smashed cafe window, the lieutenant said. The witness identified Johnson as the man who smashed the window, and he was arrested.
Johnson was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Monday in the Pasadena branch of Los Angeles County Superior court.

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Alleged burglars, resident arrested following attempted break-in at residential marijuana farm in West Covina house


WEST COVINA >> Police arrested three alleged burglars, as well as the resident, following an attempted break-in Wednesday at a house containing an indoor marijuana farm, officials said.
Police first responded to the home in the 1800 block of David Court about 1 p.m. when a neighbor reported a possible burglary in progress, West Covina police Lt. Jerry Pearman said. The witnesses reported seeing several people, one of them armed with a handgun, smashing windows and trying to get into the home.
Officers found and detained three alleged suspects in the area, Pearman said. They were arrested on suspicion of burglary, and detectives continued investigating the trio late Wednesday for possible additional charges.
The ultimate intentions of the suspects, had the crime not been interrupted by police, remained unclear.
Officers also arrested the home’s resident after finding about 30 marijuana plants growing inside the home, Pearman said.
It appeared many more plants had been recently harvested at the home, he added.
The suspects names were not immediately available.

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Suspects charged in deadly crash following police chase in Industry

INDUSTRY >> Prosecutors filed charges Friday against three alleged burglars accused of killing an innocent bystander in a car crash while fleeing from deputies in Industry earlier this week, authorities said.
Driver Anthony Michael Quisenberry, 35, of Los Angeles was charged with murder, burglary and assault on a peace officer, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Co-defendants and passengers Michael Vincent Smyer, 26, of Los Angeles and Charles Allen Archer, 32, of Hawthorne each face charges of burglary, she said.
“f convicted as charged, Quisenberry faces a maximum possible sentence of 31 years to life in state prison, while Allen faces 14 years and Smyer 17 years in state prison,” Ardalani said.
The chain of events began Tuesday afternoon after a witness reported seeing the three men burglarizing a home in the 15200 block of Folger Street in Hacienda Heights.
Deputies found the three suspects riding in a Chevrolet Camaro and began a pursuit when the driver, later identified as Quisenberry, refused to pull over, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
As the suspects fled, their Camaro crashed into a small SUV at Gale Avenue and Johnson Drive in Industry, killing 66-year-old Rojelio Gonzalez of Bellflower, Lt. Joe Mendoza of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“Following the crash, the occupants in the Camaro — Quisenberry, Allen and Smyer — fled from the vehicle, but were later apprehended by sheriff deputies,” Ardalani said.
The three defendants are scheduled to appear in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court Wednesday for arraignment hearings, Ardalani said.
Quisenberry has previously been convicted of burglary twice, as well identity theft and conspiracy to commit a crime, Ardalani said.
Allen has prior convictions for burglary, identity theft and forgery. Smyer also has a previous burglary conviction.
According to county booking records, Quisenberry and Allen were being held in lieu of $1.25 million bail each. Smyer was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

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Men sought in counter-hopping cough syrup theft at Arcadia pharmacy

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ARCADIA >> Police are seeking two men who hopped a pharmacy counter to steal bottles of codeine-laden cough syrup last week.
The crime took place about 9:30 p.m. on May 25 at CVS Pharmacy, 1401 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia police Lt. Roy Nakamura said in a written statement.
“As one suspect distracted a pharmacist with a ‘consultation,’ the second suspect jumped the pharmacy counter and moved directly to a supply of bottled promethazine (with) codeine cough syrup,” Nakamura said. “He grabbed a number of bottles and placed them in a brown bag. Both suspects then ran out of the store through an emergency exit.”
No getaway car was seen.
Police released store surveillance camera images of the thieves Thursday in hopes of generating leads.
Both suspects were described as white or Latino men between 20 and 30 years old. One stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds, while the other was about 6 feet tall and 160 pounds.
Anyone with information can reach Arcadia police at 626-574-5150 in reference to Case No. 16002821. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SURVEILLANCE CAMERA photos courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department

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Police dog attacked with chair while helping apprehend Alhambra burglary suspects

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ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested three burglary suspect late Thursday after one of them attacked and injured a police dog with a metal folding chair, authorities said.
Taveonne Davenport, 20, Deonte Jerome Pinkney, 18 and Keith Vincent Wickware, 21, all of Los Angeles, were booked on suspicion of burglary, Alhambra police officials said.
The incident began about 10:30 p.m. when a resident of the 1800 block of Geranio Drive called police to report that he was watching three unknown intruders inside his home via a remote security camera, Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said.
Officers arrived within 30 seconds and surrounded the home, police said in a written statement. Three burglars fled from the back door of the home and began running through residential yards.
Police quickly found one of the three fleeing suspects — later identified as Davenport — hiding in a nearby garage, police said. He refused orders to surrender, and Alhambra police K-9 “Harm” was sent in.
“(Davenport) then attacked the K-9 with a metal folding chair,” according to the police statement.
The handler called the dog back. Harm was bleeding from the mouth, but is expected to be OK.
A second K-9 from the Whittier Police Department was then sent in and apprehended Davenport, Johnson said.
Alhambra police, with help from other area police agencies, continued searching the neighborhood into the early-morning hours.
Officers found and arrested Pinkney and Wickware about 3 a.m. in a backyard near Geranio Drive and Shorb Street, police said.
Davenport was treated for dog bites, and one of the other two suspects suffered a twisted ankle while fleeing police, Johnson said.
No human officers were hurt during the incident.
“The dog wasn’t badly hurt,” Johnson said. Harm, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, is expected to make a full recovery.
In addition to burglary, Davenport was also expected to face charges of assault on a police animal, Johnson said.
Police recovered security cameras and other items stolen from the home which the burglars discarded while fleeing, Johnson added. Police were also trying to find the owners of other suspected stolen property found in the suspects’ possession which did not belong to the Geranio Drive resident.
Police have been seeking a crew of burglars who have broken into more than ten Alhambra homes and businesses since April.
No concrete link had been established Thursday between the string of burglaries and the three suspects in the Geranio Drive break-in, however police were looking into a possible connection, the sergeant said.
In the recent spate of burglaries, the intruders often disabled or stole home security systems, as was done in Wednesday’s caper, Johnson said.
And police noted that Davenport bears a striking resemblance to one of three burglars captured on surveillance camera video during an April 27 burglary in the 100 block of South Meridian Avenue.
The investigation was ongoing.
Pinkney was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, according to county booking records. Wickware was being held in lieu of $50,000, while Davenport’s booking information was not immediately available.
Anyone with information can reach Arcadia police at 626-570-5151. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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PHOTOS: [TOP} – Alhambra police K-9 “Harm.” (Courtesy, Alhambra Police Department) [BELOW] – (Left to right) Taveonne Davenport, 20, of Los Angeles; Deonte Jerome Pinkney, 18, of Los Angeles; and Keith Vincent Wickware, 21, of Los Angeles. (Courtesy, Alhambra Police Department)

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Burglary crew sought in rash of Alhambra home break-ins


ALHAMBRA >> Police are seeking a crew of burglars responsible for a series of as many as 10 home burglaries since April, including one that was captured on video by a surveillance camera, officials said.
The city has seen 14 residential burglaries since April 1, Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said in a written statement.
“Detectives believe that at least three and possibly as many as ten of these burglaries have been committed by the same individuals,” he said.
In one of the break-ins, which occurred on April 27 in the 100 block of South Meridian Avenue, the burglary was captured on video by a resident’s home-security cameras, police said.
•Video: Alhambra home burglary; 4-25-16
“What’s unique about these suspects is that they disable the security alarm systems,” Johnson said. Alarms were disabled in at least two of the break-ins, including the one captured on video.
0507_NWS_PSN-L-ALHBURG1“This burglary is similar to other burglaries in the area,” Johnson said. “The suspects are targeting single family homes in the late-afternoon and evening hours.”
Police described the suspect as three black men in their late-teens to early-20s, about 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, all of thin build.
“One suspect is known to have a distinct goatee,” the sergeant said. The burglars used a dark-colored sedan, described as possibly an older-model Honda Accord.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Alhambra police Detective Jack Ng at 626-570-5187. Tips may be left anonymously, police said.

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PHOTOS/VIDEO courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.

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