UPDATED: Woman struck by pickup truck, critically injured while crossing Maine Ave. in Baldwin Park

BALDWIN PARK — Rescuers rushed a Baldwin Park woman to a trauma center in critical condition Saturday after she was struck by a pickup truck while crossing Maine Avenue, authorities said.
The collision took place about 1 p.m. on Maine Avenue, just north of Ramona Boulevard, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Marco Ortiz said.
The woman suffered “severe head trauma” when struck by the truck, the captain said. She was conscious but required assistance breathing while taken to Los Angeles County-USC for further treatment, Ortiz said.
Police and fire officials estimated the woman was between her 40s and 60s.
The driver of the pickup truck, a man, remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Melissa Stehly said.
Nothing criminal was initially suspected in the collision, she added.
The woman was walking east across Maine Avenue within a crosswalk when struck, Stehly said. The truck was making a left turn onto southbound Maine Avenue from the Park Plaza shopping center.
The incident remained under investigation by the Baldwin Park Police Department’s Major Accident Investigation Team.

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Man charged with murder, robbery in death of Baldwin Park transgender woman found fatally beaten in motel

Melony Smith, 26, Baldwin ParkBALDWIN PARK — A person found beaten to death in a Baldwin Park motel room last week was identified by authorities as a 26-year-old man was a transgender woman known to loved ones as Melony Smith, friends said Monday.

Smith, who was listed at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner as Vanhxay Inthichack, was discovered dead in her motel room in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue about 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9.

Detectives Thursday identified Stephen Gonzales, 28, of West Covina as a suspect in the slaying. Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. Gonzales, who was already in jail following a drug possession Wednesday, was expected to appear in Pomona Superior Court Tuesday.

The relationship, if any, between Gonzales and Smith was unknown to both friends and investigators. A specific motive has not been released, however court documents show he was charged Monday with robbery, in addition to murder.

Leticia Alvarado, who works as a cashier at the motel where Smith had been staying on and off for more than three years, said she first discovered her friend’s body.

“We became very close,” Alvarado said. “She called me sister. I was her sister.”

“Before I go to work, I always stop by her room and we have breakfast. That day she wouldn’t answer her phone.”

Alvarado sent she went to the room and asked a maid to open the door and saw Smith’s body lying on the floor.

“She was all bruised up. She had blood on her head. She was lifeless. I could tell she was dead.”

Investigators identified Gonzales as a suspect based on surveillance camera images and cell phone data, Coleman said.

Prosecutors charged Gonzales Friday with murder and robbery, according to a felony complaint filed in Pomona Superior Court. He was also accused of the special, sentence-enhancing allegation of committing murder during the course of a robbery.

Alvarado and another friend of Smith’s, Misty Vale, said they’d never seen Gonzales before.

“We don’t really know why he did it or what’s the relationship with him,” Vale said.

The friends described Smith, who worked for a security company, as well-liked and mild-mannered.

“Everybody liked her at the hotel,” Alvarado said. She was very helpful to everyone. She was funny and outgoing.”

Though shy around strangers, “She was friendly to the people that she knew,” Alvarado added.

Vale said Smith had been saving up money for a car and was hoping to return to school to become a dental hygienist.

She grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, moving out of her family’s home at age 16 because her family disapproved of her being transgender, Alvarado said.

“She decided to leave the house, because her family wouldn’t understand,” Alvarado said. “She moved in with her cousin.”

But she continued going to high school and graduated Sierra Vista High School, the friend said. “She was very proud of that.”

Family members could not be reached for comment Monday.

A viewing was scheduled from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the SkyRose Chapel of Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier, 3888 Workman Mill Road, Alvarado said. The funeral will take place Thursday at 1 p.m., to be followed immediately by burial.

Alvarado thanked members of the transgender community who came together to raise money to help pay for the services.

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Suspect identified in Baldwin Park motel slaying

BALDWIN PARK – A suspect has been identified in the beating death of a 26-year-old Baldwin Park man found dead inside a motel room earlier this week, officials said.
Stephen Gonzales, 28, of West Covina, was behind bars Thursday after being arrested by deputies from the sheriff’s Industry Station Wednesday on suspicion of drug possession, Lt. David Coleman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. He was expected to be charged with the murder of Vanhxay Inthichack this week or early next week.
Inthichack’s body was discovered about 1:30 p.m. Monday inside a motel room he had rented in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue, investigators said.
Though it was not immediately clear how he died, an autopsy determined he had been beaten to death and the case was ultimately ruled a homicide, coroner’s officials said.
A motive in the alleged slaying was not clear, nor was the relationship between Inthichack and Gonzales.
Detectives identified Gonzales as a suspect through cell phone information and surveillance footage near the crime scene.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Officials: Man found dead in Baldwin Park motel was homicide victim

BALDWIN PARK — A Baldwin Park man found dead in a hotel room was beaten to death, and the case is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said Wednesday.
Vanhxay Inthichack, 26, was found dead about 1:30 p.m. inside a motel room in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
He died from “multiple injuries,” Corral said.
Lt. David Coleman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau described the injuries as “blunt force trauma.”
No information regarding a possible suspect or motive was available Wednesday, the lieutenant said. The investigation was ongoing.
The motel room was rented in Inthichack’s name, Coleman added.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Man found with major head injuries in Baldwin Park: source of injuries a mystery

BALDWIN PARK — Investigators are trying to piece together what happened to a man found lying in the street with serious head injuries early Sunday.
The man, who remained unidentified Sunday afternoon, was found about 5:45 a.m. in the 3400 block of San Gabriel River Parkway, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Mike Hemenway said.
The man appeared to be in his 30s or 40s, the sergeant added. It was not clear how he suffered the severe head injuries that rendered him unconscious.
He was still unable to speak Sunday afternoon as he remained hospitalized in an intensive care unit, Hemenway said.
Anyone with information can reach Baldwin Park police at 626-960-1955.

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Homeless man robbed at gunpoint in Baldwin Park

BALDWIN PARK — A transient robbed another homeless man of his money and bicycle at gunpoint earlier this week in a wash area along the San Gabriel River, authorities said.
The crime took place about 4:30 a.m. Sunday in the wash adjacent to the 400 block of Cloverleaf Drive, just south of the 10 Freeway, Baldwin Park police Sgt. Mike Hemenway said. But the crime was not reported to police until Wednesday.
A man in his 50s, was approached by a second man who brandished a small revolver and demanded his property, the sergeant said.
The victim turned over about $200 in cash and his bicycle, Hemenway said. The robber fled, and the victim was not injured.
Police described the gunman as a Latino man between 40 and 45 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and between 160 and 175 pounds. He was believed to be a transient.
Anyone with information can reach the Baldwin Park Police Department at 626-960-1955.

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AP: Baldwin Park man accused of DUI in Las Vegas injury crash

LAS VEGAS — Police say a Baldwin Park man is facing charges for driving under the influence for a car accident that injured himself and three others in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police say 24-year-old Nan Li ran a red light while traveling west on Desert Inn Road around 6 a.m. Saturday.
Li’s car collided with a minivan headed south on Buffalo Drive, causing the van to tip over onto its side.
The van’s driver, 40-year-old Lee Ann Smith of Las Vegas, was hospitalized with severe injuries.
KSNV-TV reports two passengers in Li’s car, 25-year-old Jialin Yu of Baldwin Park and 26-year-old Ricky Ziao of Las Vegas, sustained minor injuries.
Police say Li was booked into Clark County Detention Center after failing a field sobriety test.

- From the Associated Press

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Baldwin Park man sentenced for Orange County kidnappings, rapes

Jose Luis Capacete, 40, Baldwin Park

A former security guard from Baldwin Park received a sentence of 75 years-to-life in prison Friday for tying up and raping three prostitutes in 2011 with the use of a stun gun, authorities said.
Jose Luis Capacete, 50, received the sentence following his June 6 conviction on five felony counts and one misdemeanor, according to Orange County Superior Court Records and Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said.
A jury convicted him of two counts of sodomy by means of force, rape, oral copulation by force or injury, sexual penetration by a foreign object and battery. The jury also found true special, sentence-enhancing allegations of binding his victims, kidnapping and attacking multiple victims.
All three of Capacete’s victims were prostitutes he picked up in Santa Ana, officials said. All three were immigrants and in their 20s.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke said he was satisfied with the prison term.
“The 75-to-life was actually what I had recommended as an appropriate sentence in the case,” he said.
With about 25 years behind bars for each of his three victims, “It ensures that he’ll never get out.”
The crimes took place between June 1 and December 24, 2011, Emami said.
Capacete employed similar tactics in each of the three crimes, Burke said.
“All three testified he brandished a (stun gun),” the prosecutor said. “All three testified that he tied them up with a rope.”
A handgun was brandished in at least one of the crimes, officials said.
Though Capacete worked as an armored car driver for Brink’s in Orange County at the time of the crimes, Burke said the company did not provide him with the stun gun.
Authorities began investigating Capacete following a kidnapping and rape that occurred on Christmas Eve of 2011.
The victim reported the crime to police, who quickly identified Capacete as a suspect due to a vital clue he’d left behind.
Capacete tossed some money at the woman after completing the assault, but accidentally left a receipt from a gasoline purchase with the bills, Burke said.
The gas had been purchased with a credit card, which allowed detectives to zero in on Capacete, Burke added.
Shortly after the arrest, detectives suspected their were additional victims based on the “brutality and sophistication displayed during the Christmas Eve attack, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said at the time. That suspicion would prove correct
While searching his home in Baldwin Park, investigators discovered six cell phones which Capacete admitted belonged to prostitutes, he said.
Two additional victims were subsequently identified.

BOOKING PHOTO of Jose Luis Capacete: Courtesy

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Man killed in Baldwin Park shotgun attack

BALDWIN PARK — A man died following a drive-by shotgun attack late Thursday in the second fatal shooting reported in the same neighborhood in a week, authorities said.
The name of the victim was not released Friday pending positive identification and confirmation that his family had been notified, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials said. The man’s age or city of residence were not available.
Police responded to the shooting just before 8:40 p.m. in a residential neighborhood in the 4700 block of Merced Avenue, near Olive Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“The victim was shot in the front of the location after the suspects pulled up in a vehicle and fired a shotgun at him,” Sgt. Diane Hecht of the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said.
“The victim, who was hit by the gunfire in the upper torso, was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead,” Hecht said.
Initial reports from the scene indicated police were searching for a red pickup truck with a camper shell immediately following the shooting, however officials did not confirm Friday whether that vehicle was involved in the shooting. Officials also did not confirm early reports that the victim had been shot in the head.
The motive in the slaying was unclear, Hecht said. It was unknown whether the shooting was gang-related.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is assisting Baldwin Park police with the investigation, but could not be reached for comment Friday.
Thursday night’s slaying was the second fatal shooting in the city in seven days and occurred about two blocks away from last week’s homicide scene at Los Angeles Street and Merced Avenue.
Last Friday, 20-year-old Maurio Sotelo was discovered shot in front of a bus stop, according to sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
No suspect description was available, and sheriff’s officials released no further details.
Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to call the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tipsters can call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477, or text “TIPLA” plus the tip to 274637, or use the website http://lacrimestoppers.org

- Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day

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Man killed in Baldwin Park shooting identified

BALDWIN PARK — Authorities Saturday released the name of a 20-year-old man found shot to death in front of a bus stop.
Maurio Sotelo died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported about 12:15 a.m. Friday at Los Angeles Street and Merced Avenue, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner officials said. His city of residence was not listed.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials released no information regarding the circumstances of the shooting or any suspect description.
Sotelo was pronounced dead at the scene after being found suffering from gunshot wounds.
No further information was released.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting Baldwin Park police in the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact the bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by contacting L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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