Man accused in child molestation, child pornography case pleads not guilty

NORWALK — A Norwalk man who’s recently being staying in Bassett has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually abusing two young girls and trading in child pornography online, officials said Wednesday.
Manuel C. Montes, 43, was arrested Feb. 13 at a friend’s home in Norwalk following a month of investigation by detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau. In addition to trading in images of child pornography on the Internet, Montes is also charged with sexually abusing two girls under the ages of 14 in Whittier between 2006 and 2013.
He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Norwalk Superior Court to four counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, one count of possession of child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of using a minor for sex acts, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s official said in a written statement.
And detectives believed at least one additional girl had been victimized by Montes based on recovered images, though she was yet to be identified, Sgt. Peter Hahn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
He was being held in lieu of $460,000 bail pending his next court appearance, scheduled for March 17 in Norwalk Superior Court.
His brother, 46-year-old Lorenzo Montes of Claremont, as well as Manuel Montes’ ex-girlfriend Stacey Marie Oropeza of Bellflower were also arrested Feb. 13 and have been charged with acting as accessories after the fact, officials said.
Lorenzo Montes has entered a not guilty plea and was being held without bail pending his next scheduled appearance, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Oropeza, who was released from jail Friday after posting $20,000 bail, was yet to appear in court.
Sheriff’s detectives began looking into Manuel Montes in January after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that he had uploaded images of child pornography to the Internet, Hahn said.
Detectives seeking Manuel Montes encountered Lorenzo Montes near his brother’s Bassett residence Feb. 12, Hahn said.
“Lorenzo Montes claimed he did not know Manuel,” according to the D.A.’s office statement.
The investigation began with a visit to Oropeza’s home in Bellflower, where Manuel Montes had allegedly uploaded child pornography prior to moving out a month or two before investigators showed up, Hahn said.
“Oropeza is also purported to have tipped off Manuel Montes that authorities were looking for him,” according to the statement.
When detectives searched a building where Manuel Montes was believed to have been staying on the lot of a commercial property in the 1800 block of Workman Mill Road in Bassett, they discovered a rear room which they referred to as a “trophy room,” Hahn said.
It was full of child-related paraphernalia, as well as a collage featuring photos of children in various stages of undress, the sergeant said. Investigators also recovered hundreds of images of child pornography stored on hard drives and compact discs from the home.
If convicted as charged, Manuel Montes faces up to 16 years in state prison.

Woman found dead at Bassett trash sorting facility identified; circumstances of death remain a mystery

BASSETT — Coroner’s officials Thursday released the name of a woman found dead on the conveyor belt at a trash sorting facility earlier this week.
The body of Kesha Williams, 45, was discovered about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday at Athens Services, 14048 E. Valley Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Her city of residence was not known.
An autopsy to determine how Williams died had not been completed Thursday, and handling detectives said it was not initially known whether the death involved foul play.
The body was brought to the facility in a trash container, officials said, though where the container may have originated was not clear.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

Auto theft suspect jailed after chase through Industry, Bassett

INDUSTRY — Deputies arrested an alleged auto thief Friday following a brief car chase and foot pursuit, authorities said.
Joaquin Garcia, 38, was arrested following the incident, which began shortly after 5 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. James Beamon said. His city of residence was not available.
A deputy spotted him driving a 2000 Hyundai that had been reported stolen near Amar Road and Baldwin Park Boulevard, at the northwest edge of Industry, the lieutenant said.
Garcia refused to pull over for the deputy, initiating a pursuit that ended in the 400 block of Santa Mariana Avenue in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, where the suspect abandoned the car and continued fleeing on foot, Beamon said. He was quickly apprehended by deputies.
According to county booking records, Garcia was being held in lieu of $80,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in El Monte Superior Court.

UPDATED: Bellflower man killed in 605 Freeway crash

BASSETT — A man died early Friday in a solo-car crash along the 605 Freeway, authorities said.
Armando Salas, 38, of Bellflower died at the scene of the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
He was driving a 2008 Toyota Avalon southbound on the 605 Freeway, just north of the 60 Freeway in an unincorporated county area near Industry, “at a high rate of speed,” when the crash occurred, CHP officials said in a written statement.
For reasons currently under investigation, Salas was unable to maintain control of the vehicle and traveled in a westerly direction, where it left the roadway and traveled down the embankment bordering the I-605 to the west,” according to the statement. “The vehicle subsequently rolled several times and came to a rest in a (plant) nursery.”
Salas, who was the only person inside the Toyota, died from his injuries, officials said.
Officers from the East Los Angeles office of the CHP were continuing the investigation.

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

Sheriff Baca to host discussion on drugs in Bassett

BASSETT — Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca will join other sheriff’s officials next month for a discussion on substance abuse.
The forum, titled “A Community United Against Substance Abuse,” will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at Evergreen Baptist Church, 323 Workman Mill Road, sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff Baca and officials from the sheriff’s Industry Station hosted another meeting in La Puente last April to discuss law enforcement and quality of life issues, Lt. John Babbitt said.
There were many questions regarding drugs and drug abuse, and the sheriff commented that the issue deserved a meeting all of its own.
So he will join sheriff’s industry Station Capt. Timothy Murakami and patrol deputies to discuss prevention, education and recovery assistance, organizers said.
The event will include free hot dogs and children’s fingerprinting, and a raffle will be held.
For more information, contact Lt. Babbitt at 626-934-3071.

Officials name man found dead at Bassett waste sorting facility

BASSETT — Authorities Thursday released the name of a 42-year-old man whose body was discovered last week at a waste processing facility.
The body of Mark Christopher David of Hollywood turned up in a dumpster just after noon Friday at Athens Services, 14048 E. Valley Boulevard, according to Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter. Sheriff’s officials described him as a transient from the Hollywood area.
Workers found the body on a conveyor belt used to sort recyclables from trash at the facility, Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
An autopsy was completed earlier this week, however an official cause of death had not been determined Thursday pending further tests, Winter said.
There were no signs of trauma on the body, and the autopsy revealed no internal injuries, Dolson said. It was initially believed that the dumpster the body arrived at Athens in had been picked up in the Hollywood area.
“At this point, it doesn’t look like it’s a homicide, but we haven’t completely ruled that out,” the lieutenant said. “There’s numerous possibilities.”
It was possible the man died in the dumpster, or was placed there by someone else after dying, Dolson added.
The ongoing investigation hinged on the final finding of the coroner’s office, he said. Toxicology results typically take between six and eight weeks.

Body discovered at Bassett waste processing facility


BASSETT — Homicide detectives are investigating the discovery of a man’s body inside a trash bin at a waste processing facility Friday afternoon.
The body, initially described as that of a man appearing to be between 30 and 35 years old, was discovered about noon in a waste bin at Athens Services, 14048 E. Valley Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Arthur Scott said.
The investigation remained in its early stages, however it appeared that the body may have been dead for about two days, the lieutenant said.
Sheriff’s activity was not visible from the street as trucks continued entering and exiting the facility Friday afternoon. Athens security personnel said there was no one available to comment, and did not allow reporters onto the private property.
Athens Chief Operating Officer Gary Clifford said the company was saddened by Friday’s discovery.
All employees of the facility were accounted for, he said.
“The sheriff’s department was called immediately,” Clifford said. “They’re handling the investigating.”
He added that Athens was cooperating fully with detectives, and grief counselors were made available to employees.
It was unclear where and when the body was collected before it arrived at Athens.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau were handling the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to contact the bureau at 323-890-5500.
No further details were available.
Friday’s discovery was not the first time human remains have turned up at the facility.
The body of a newborn infant girl was discovered at the trash-sorting facility Dec. 10, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials. She was initially listed as a Jane Doe as detectives worked to find out who she was and where she came from.
It was suspected the body had been placed into the trash somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley before it was ultimately deposited at the Athens plant, officials said. An update on the case was not available late Friday.
Another baby girl was found dead at the facility on June 10, 2002.
The body was believed to have been placed in the trash in Azusa, however the mother was never identified and the death continues to be investigated as a cold case.
She was buried under the name “Amanda,” which was given to her by detectives.

Man accused of indecent exposure at Bassett Park

BASSETT — Deputies arrested a man already on probation for indecent exposure on suspicion of exposing and fondling himself Tuesday at Bassett Park, officials said.
Juan Roberto Martinez, 47, of La Puente, was booked on suspicion of indecent exposure following the incident, which took place shortly before 1 p.m. at Bassett Park, 510 N. Vineland Avenue, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
In addition to already being on probation for an indecent exposure conviction, Martinez was being sought on a $75,000 warrant for the same alleged crime, deputies from the Sheriff’s Parks Bureau said in a written statement.
“Mr. Martinez was standing in the restroom doorway allegedly exposing and fondling his genitals where the victim a female adult could see him,” the statement said.
Responding deputies found and arrested Martinez near a bathroom next to a playground at the park.
According to county booking records, Martinez was being held in lieu of $110,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

Sheriff Baca to join local deputies at Valinda Corridor town hall meeting

LA PUENTE — Residents of La Puente and the nearby collection of unincorporated communities along the Pomona (60) Freeway that make up the Valinda Corridor are invited to join Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and other officials next month at a town hall meeting.
The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. April 4 at St. Louis of France Church, 13935 East Temple Ave., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Babbitt said.
The discussion will center around law enforcement and quality of life issued affecting communities in the corridor including La Puente, Bassett, Valinda, East Valinda, West Valinda, Avocado Heights and North Whittier. The area is patrolled by the sheriff’s Industry Station.
Joining Sheriff Baca will be newly-appointed Industry Station Capt. Tim Murakami and local deputies.
Free hot dogs and drinks will be provided, along with free children’s fingerprinting and a raffle.
For more information, contact Lt. Babbitt at 626-934-3071.

Man wounded in Bassett stabbing

BASSETT — A man suffered serious injuries but was expected to survive Wednesday following a fight that escalated into a stabbing, officials said.
Both the suspect and victim in the 12:20 p.m. stabbing in the 13000 block of Valley Boulevard were believed to be members of the same El Monte street gang, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Raymond Enriquez said.
Few details were initially available, as the victim was not cooperating with investigators, the lieutenant said.
He was hospitalized with a punctured lung, Sgt. Desiree Rodriguez said.
Deputies set up a search perimeter to hunt for the attacker, who was not found, she added.
Both the stabbing suspect and victim were described as men in their late-teens or early 20s, Enriquez said. A further description of the suspect was not available Wednesday afternoon.