UPDATED: Woman fatally shot during attempted robbery at Alhambra motel

ALHAMBRA >> A manager at an Alhambra motel and mother of two died after she was shot during a botched robbery late Friday, authorities said.
The fatal shooting was reported shortly after 11 p.m. at the Ambassador Inn, 2720 Valley Blvd., according to Alhambra police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
A fellow worker at the motel first discovered the victim lying bleeding in the motel office and called for help, Alhambra police Sgt. Richard Aguayo said.
Police and paramedics responded and discovered the woman had been shot, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra dead at the scene, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
“The victim was working as a clerk behind the counter of the local business when a male suspect attempted to rob her at gunpoint,” Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement. “During the commission of the robbery, the suspect shot the victim in the torso at least one time.”
“The male suspect fled the location in an unknown direction. It is unknown at this time if there was any property taken,” Schrader said.
No description of the gunman was available. Detectives were checking numerous area surveillance cameras for clues.
Chen’s husband, Armando Escanbdor, said his wife leaves behind an 11-year-old daughter and a son who served in the U.S. Navy.
“This devastation, I don’t know how to explain it,” he said.
Escandor said he was waiting to learn more about what happened to his wife, known to many as “Michelle.”
“The only thing I know is my wife is gone,” he said.
Chen had been working at the motel for the past six years, and served as manager the past two, according to her husband. Her shifts generally end at 11:30 p.m., when he routinely picks her up.
“I didn’t expect this to happen to her. The past six years I would always pick her up… except for last night.”
Escandor said he arrived at the motel like usual and found police swarming around the place, and yellow crime scene tape quartering off the motel’s office. He went inside to see what had happened and saw the body of his wife.
“I’m trying to explain this to my daughter,” he said.
“We don’t have any family members here in America. All our relatives are in the Philippines abd China. It’s only the four of us. They took one.”
Escandor described his wife as a “lovely, very nice person who didn’t know how to fight even for her own safety,” he said.
He hoped someone would be able to help homicide detectives find the person responsible for Chen’s slaying.
“I’m really seeking for the public to help to solve this case,” he said. “I feel like my wife is beside me, telling me two do this. This is the least I can do for her right now,”
“All I want is justice,” he said.
Officers canvassing the motel found residents who said they heard a single gunshot earlier in the night, police said. But no one reported the gunfire.
One man staying at the hotel said he spoke with Chen, who brought him linens for his room, at about 11 p.m. He said he was shocked to learn the deadly shooting was believed to have taken place minutes later.
The man said he heard no gunshot, but added that his motel room was on the opposite end of the motel as the office, where the shooting took place.
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau joined Alhambra police in the investigation.
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.
Funds to benefit Chen’s family are being collected online at www.gofundme.com/michelle-chens-memorial-service.

PHOTOS: [TOP] – Photo of Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra. (Courtesy) [MIDDLE] – Photo of Xiuxia Chen, 44, of Alhambra and her family. (Courtesy) [BELOW] Photo of Ambassador in, 2720 Valley Blvd. in Alhambra. (By Brian Day)

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UPDATE: Woman found safe in South Pasadena after going missing in Alhambra

ALHAMBRA >> Police found a woman safe in South Pasadena after went missing in Alhambra on Tuesday night.
Wei Li, 71, was last seen about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 100 block of North Third Street, Alhambra police officials said in a written statement.
“Li does not have a cellular phone and does not speak English,” according to the statement.
She’s described as Asian, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 138 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
But she was found safe in South Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon and reunited with her family, police said.

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Teacher at Catholic high school in Alhambra accused of sexual relationship with student

ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested a teacher at a Catholic all-girls high school on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, officials said.
Diana Kelly Yniguez, also known as Diana Wendel, 42, of Azusa, was booked on suspicion of child molestation and contacting a minor for the purpose of committing sex crimes following her arrest about 2:30 p.m., according to Alhambra police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. She has been teaching at Ramona Convent Secondary School for the past three years, where the victim attended, and has taught at several parochial schools within the Los Angeles Archdiocese over the past 18 years.
The investigation began Tuesday after a relative of the alleged victim, a 17-year-old student at Ramona Convent Secondary School, found graphic text messages on the victim’s phone and alerted the girl’s father, police said in a written statement. The father turned the phone over to police.
“The investigation revealed the Yniguez had sent the text messages and had been involved in unlawful sexual contact with the minor,” according to the statement.
The alleged illegal relationship took place between March and May, officials said. No violence or threats are alleged on the part of Yniguez.
Yniguez has been placed on leave by the school pending the outcome of the investigation, Alhambra police Sgt. Steven Carr said.
Yniguez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending her initial court appearance, scheduled Friday in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, booking records show.
Investigators had not learned of any additional victims, but encouraged anyone with information to contact the Alhambra Police Department’s Detective Bureau Tip Line at 626-308-4875. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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South Pasadena burglary suspects arrested following crash in Alhambra

SOUTH PASADENA >> Police arrested two South Pasadena burglary suspects after they crashed their getaway car in Alhambra on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The incident began about 3:15 p.m. when a witness called police to reports a break-in at a home in the 1000 block of Milan Avenue, South Pasadena police Sgt. Spencer Louie said.
Responding officers caught sight of a vehicle matching the suspect description driving away from the area, he said. As officers attempted to catch up with the car, but before they tried to pull it over, the car crashed into another car at Fremont Avenue and Mission Road in Alhambra, the sergeant said.
Both suspect were arrested at the crash scene, he said. One complained of pain and was examined at a hospital prior to booking.
A man at the wheel of the car the fleeing suspects struck was unhurt, Louie added.
The suspects’ identities were not available pending the booking process.

PHOTO courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department

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Alhambra police recover burgled items including cremated remains of victim’s father; suspect jailed

ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested an auto burglary suspect and recovered a stolen backpack containing a personal items including the cremated remains of the victim’s father on Tuesday, authorities said.
Officer Zachary McFarland as on patrol Tuesday morning when he noticed a man, who appeared to be transient, carrying two backpacks in the area of Atlantic Boulevard and Mission Road, Alhambra police officials said in a written statement.
The officer approached the man and soon learned he was on probation for robbery and obtained permission to search the backpacks, which contained a laptop computer, documents and other items.
“Additional items and a somewhat unbelievable story from the transient led Officer McFarland to the conclusion that the backpacks may have been stolen. The transient was arrested,” according to the statement.
After working for several hours to determine who the backpacks belonged to, McFarland identified the owner, an area man whose car was broken into the previous night, police said.
“While happy that his computer and work related material were found, the victim was especially concerned about a small box that he had in one of the packs,” according to the statement. The box was recovered along with the other property.
“The reason for the man’s concern for a small box, it contained the cremated ashes of his father. An irreplaceable item that was very dear to the victim’s heart,” the statement continued. “The victim was very appreciative for Officer McFarland’s efforts.”
The suspect’s identity was not available Wednesday.

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Shot fired during Alhambra robbery

ALHAMBRA >> A man suffered an apparent graze wound after a shot was fired during a robbery in Alhambra on Friday night.
The crime unfolded about 7:30 p.m. near 1st Street and Main Street, Alhambra police Sgt. Ruben Soriano said.
Two men approached the victim, who was on foot, and attempted to rob him, the sergeant said.
A struggle ensued, during which one of the two robbers fired a gunshot, he said.
The victim suffered what appeared to be a graze wound, but suffered no major injury, according to the sertgeant.
Further details, including a detailed suspect description, were not available.

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Man sought following suspicious encounter with girl in Alhambra

ALHAMBRA >> Police on Friday released a sketch of a man they are seeking following a suspicious encounter with a 13-year-old in which he tried to get her to get in his car last week.
The incident took place about 2:30 p.m. on March 22 as the victim was walking in the 800 block of Westminster Avenue, Alhambra police officials said in a written statement. The girl was walking to a friend’s house from Emery Park Elementary School.
A man approached in a black sedan and began asking the girl a series of questions,
“The subject asked the victim if she was lost, if he could help her, and ultimately asked the victim if she wanted to go with him,” according to the statement. “The child did not respond to the questions and walked up to the friend’s house without additional comments or contact from the male adult. The suspect re-entered the vehicle and left the area.”
The suspicious man was described as Latino, 50 to 60 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with dark-but-graying hair and a dull beard. He wore blue denim pants and a gray flannel shirt.
His car was a black sedan, possibly a Toyota, with ha 6- to 10-inch dent on the trunk. It had wires sticking out of a hole in the trunk area.
A second person, described only as a Latina woman over 40 years old, was also riding in the car as a passenger, officials said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Alhambra police Sgt. Elizalde or Detective Montano at 626-570-5157. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SUSPECT SKETCH courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department/Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Police: Whittier teen brandishes gun at man who confronted him for smoking marijuana at Alhambra Park

ALHAMBRA >> Police chased down and arrested a teenage boy from Whittier after he brandished a loaded, stolen handgun at a man who confronted him about smoking marijuana at Alhambra Park on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
Police responded to the park, 500 N. Palm Ave., about 2:35 p.m. after receiving a report of the incident, Alhambra police Cmdr. Jennifer Wiese said.
A man noticed the young suspect smoking marijuana at the park and confronted him about it, the commander said.
Undaunted, the teen lifted his shirt to display a handgun in his waistband, according to Wiese.
The teen ran when officers arrived at the park, but was soon captured nearby, Wiese said. It appeared he surrendered once he realized police had brought a K-9 to the scene to aid in the apprehension.
The .40-caliber pistol the boy was carrying had a loaded, high-capacity magazine and had been reported stolen in 2012, Wiese said.
He was booked on suspicion of numerous weapons charges including possession of a stolen handgun, possession of a concealed handgun in public, possession of a loaded handgun in public, possession of a high-capacity magazine and possession of a handgun by a minor.
Wiese said the teen was also on pronation for robbery, and is accused of violating the terms of his supervision.
Although voters legalized recreational marijuana for adults in California last November, it remains illegal to use or possess for those under 21 years old, and smoking the plant in public remains prohibited.

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Alhambra victims’ advocate honored as ‘Woman of the Year’

SACRAMENTO >> An Alhambra woman who had dedicated the past nine years of her life to helping families of homicide victims was honored by a California lawmaker as 2017 “Woman of the Year” this week as part of the Women’s History Month observance.
California Rep. Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, selected Ernestina “Tina” Yamashiro to receive the honor at a ceremony held Monday in Sacramento.
Yamashiro’s life was forever changed when her niece, 16-year-old Sammantha Salas, was gunned down in an unincorporated county area between Monrovia and Duarte while walking to a the store on Jan. 26, 2008.
Since then, she had worked tirelessly on behalf of homicide victims and their families, founding the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the victim advocacy group Survivors of Murdered Children.
“I am recognizing Ernestina, because of her unwavering commitment to serving grieving families during some of the most difficult times of their lives, which is the loss of a loved one,” Chau said in a written statement.
“She is truly a role model and pillar in the community that has turned a very difficult and personal experience into a lifelong mission to transform the lives of others, in an empowering way, by making sure that families of homicide victims are aware of the resources available to them, and by promoting peace and educational activities that attempt to end violence. She is, without a doubt, deserving of this recognition and much more.”

PHOTO: Victims’ rights advocate Ernestina “Tina” Yamashiro, center, was honored as 2017 “Woman of the Year” by California Rep. Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park, at a ceremony in Sacramento on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Courtesy)

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Alhambra parcel delivery man accused of stealing $30K worth of packages

ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested a package delivery driver after discovering more than $30,000 worth of allegedly stolen goods, primarily destined for Alhambra homes, stashed at his home in East Los Angeles this week, authorities said.
Eden Sergio Ortega, 37, was booked on suspicion of grand theft following his arrest on Tuesday night, according to Alhambra police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He worked a route in Alhambra, delivering packages for companies such as Best Buy, Nordstrom, Sephora and UGG, according to Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson.
Alhambra police launched an investigation in January in regard to a rash of package thefts.
“Detectives soon learned that these package thefts were not random acts, but in fact thefts perpetrated by one individual,” Alhambra police officials said in a written statement. “The thefts are believed to have begun approximately two years ago, with a majority of the thefts taking place in the later part of 2016.”
Upon examining delivery records of to the stolen packaged, and aided by an anonymous tip, detectives identified Ortega as a suspect in the ongoing thefts, Johnson said. The vast majority of thefts took place along Ortega’s route, and packages were often reported missing after being marked electronically by Ortega as having been delivered.
Police showed up Tuesday night at Ortega’s home in the 5300 block of Verona Street in East Los Angeles.
“During the search, detectives collected over seventy pieces of evidence and merchandise believed to have been related to packages that were never delivered by the delivery driver,” according to the police statement. “Some of the items were found in their original packaging stored in the suspect’s closet. Other items found inside his home were relatively new and being used by the suspect and his family.”
Recovered items included cell phones, computers, high-end clothing, toys and three big-screen TVs, still in their original packaging.
“Detectives also found shipping boxes and labels listing the intended buyer’s information,” the statement said. All of the victims identified as of Thursday were Alhambra residents.
Police declined to name the delivery company, citing a request by the business to withhold it.
“The company asked us not to use their name. We’re going to respect their request,” Alhambra police said via their Facebook page.
When pressed further, Johnson said that Police Records Manager May Ung related that the department was withholding the company’s name because it would jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
Several local residents who took the Alhambra Police Department’s Facebook page to comment on the arrest, however, said they recognized the suspect a driver from OnTrac shipping.
An executive with OnTrac said the company is taking the matter seriously, and thanked the Alhambra Police Department for their “swift action on the initial reports that we provided on Eden Ortega.”
“OnTrac has been aware of the situation as the OnTrac Loss Prevention team investigated the independent contractor prior to turning the information over to the authorities,” OnTrac Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing Laura Peterson said in a written statement.
“OnTrac has zero tolerance with this type of behavior,” Peterson added. “We will continue to aggressively pursue investigations and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to county booking records, Ortega was released from custody Wednesday, pending his initial court appearance, after posting $20,000 bail.

PHOTO of Eden Sergio Ortega, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department

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