BASSETT >> A homeless man received a sentence of 15 years to life in prison Thursday after pleading “no contest” to fatally beating another homeless man with a hammer following a dispute over a sleeping spot near a dumpster in La Puente, authorities said.
Marco Antonio Villanueva, 37, admitted to second-degree murder for the fatal beating of 56-year-old Ruben Zermeno, who was found “stomped on and beaten” June 18, 2014, in the 13900 block of Valley Boulevard, in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
In addition to a dispute over a sleeping spot, Villanueva told investigators that “God told him” to kill Zermeno, Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said shortly after the arrest.
Deputies had already arrested Villanueva after he was found sleeping on someone’s porch in Hacienda Heights nearly three hours before Zermeno’s body was found by a passer-by, and Villanueva was linked to the killing.
“When Villanueva was taken into custody, he admitted to investigators that he got mad at the victim for taking his spot near the dumpster and as a result, struck Zermeno with a hammer,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
If he had been convicted of first-degree murder, Villanueva could have faced 25 years to life in prison.
BASSETT >> A drive-by shooting in residential neighborhood in Bassett late Thursday left two men and a woman wounded, officials said.
Deputies sought three suspects in connection with the 7:30 p.m. shooting in the 13600 block of Moccasin Street, in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Tubbs said.
The victims, a man in his 20s, a woman in her 20s and a man in his 30s, were all hospitalized with stable vital signs, the lieutenant said.
Three men were inside a passing older-model, black, four-door Nissan Maxima with tinted windows when one of the occupants opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun fitted with a laser sight, officials said.
Initial reports from the scene indicated the shooter was a Latino man of about 30 years old, wearing a black mask and a black shirt.
Tubbs said the victims were standing in front of a home when shot, Tubbs said.
The investigation remained in its early stages Thursday night, however the shooting appeared to be gang-related, Tubbs said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
BASSETT >> Fumes from mixing nail polish are blamed for a massive fire that caused nearly $3 million worth of damage to a Bassett cosmetics manufacturing plant Friday, forcing the closure of the factory and left the jobs of more than 30 workers in question, at least for the next several months.
The massive fire burned for more than three hours Friday after erupting shortly after 5 p.m. at LASplash Cosmetics, 13324 E. Valley Boulevard, in the unincorporated county area.
“The cause was ignition from an electric drill while mixing nail polish,” Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Melanie Flores said.
Officials estimated the fire caused $1.9 million worth of damage to the building, and another $1 million in damage to the building’s contents, Flores said.
Workers busily cleared debris and salvaged what they could Sunday afternoon.
In a statement on the company’s Instagram account Saturday, LASplash representatives announced the company has had to shut down.
“We had an unfortunate accident yesterday. Our factory was burnt down. We are thankful that all employees got out safe,” the statement said. “We have to temporarily shut down our operation. Please allow us some time to reorganize. We will be back up and running as soon as we can.”
A company officials at the gutted business Sunday who did not wish to be identified said the LASplash Cosmetics employes between 30 and 50 workers, depending on season.
The business hoped to reopen at a different location within two to three months, he said, adding that much of the irreplaceable items, such as data stored on computer hard drives, appeared to have been spared by the flames. A meeting between company officials and employees to discuss plans for the immediate future was planned Monday.
The company promised to post additional updates when more information is available.
The Instagram message also addressed customers who have placed recent orders.
“For those of you who placed your orders (Friday), we will check the status of all the orders shortly. As soon as our first computer can be up and running, we will be sending notifications out.”
More than 750 people had left comments of support on LaSplash Cosemetic’s social media post by Sunday afternoon.
The fire sent flames and a thick, black plume of smoke high into the air above Valley Boulevard, and caused traffic to back up throughout the area.
One civilian suffered injuries described as first- and second-degree burns to his legs in the blaze, Flores said. He declined to be hospitalized by ambulance, electing instead to seek treatment on his own.
As is standard procedure with respect to workplace mishaps, the California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health was expected to investigate, officials said.
BASSETT >> A massive fire ripped through a cosmetics manufacturing plant in Bassett on Friday sending flames and a thick plume of black smoke high above the San Gabriel Valley before firefighters got the upper hand, officials said.
The fire, which burned for more than three hours. was first reported about 5:10 p.m. at the two-story, 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot commercial building at Valley Boulevard and Collwood Avenue in the unincorporated county area near Industry, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright said.
One civilian suffered burns in the fire, but was treated at the scene and did not wish to be taken to a hospital, fire Dispatch Supervisor Michael Pittman said. No firefighters were hurt.
Upon firefighters’ arrival, “We had fire through the roof,” Wright said.
“We started an aggressive interior fire attack,” he said. But concerns over possible volatile chemicals and propane tanks stored on-site slowed fire fighting efforts, officials added.
Early in the fire, “They did hear large explosions,” Wright said. The source of the explosions had not been determined.
Firefighters pulled back and took a “defensive” posture against the fire, drowning it with water from above with the use of aerial ladders, Wright said. A second-alarm was declared, bringing about 55 firefighters to the scene.
Officials declared the fire extinguished at 8:23 p.m., Pittman said. Firefighters were expected to remain on-scene “mopping up” well into the night as a cause investigator examined the scene for clues as to have the fire ignited.
Melissa Valdivia, 15, of Bassett, said she was walking to the store when she saw the massive smoke plume and decided to take a look.
She said she spotted flames towering about 50 feet above the building, and thick smoke created an opaque wall along Valley Boulevard.
Even from the spot she was standing 100 or so yards away, “You could feel the heat,” she said.
Officials worked to gauge and mitigate any potentially dangerous fumed emanating from the fire, Wright said. People were kept upwind of the fire, and nine residents of nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution. No issues related to fumes were reported.
Authorities shut down Valley Boulevard between the 605 Freeway and Workman Mill Road during the incident, as well as side streets running along it. Traffic backed up heavily throughout the area.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Fire Department
BASSETT >> Two victims suffered cuts from flying glass but escaped serious injury when a gunman in a car opened fire on them with a rifle early Sunday, officials said.
The shooting took place about 2:30 a.m. at Orange Blossom Avenue and Valley Boulevard in the unincorporated county area of Bassett, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Beamon said. It appeared the victims were in a vehicle when they were shot based on their injuries, however details regarding the circumstances of the attack were not available Sunday.
A gunman inside a newer-model, dark-blue, two-door Scion opened fire on the two victims with a rifle, Beamon said. But none of the bullets struck the victims, described only as male.
The motive was unclear, he said. The victims were not believed to be gang members.
AVOCADO HEIGHTS >> After a burglary this week at their, there’s just one stolen item an Avocado Heights family is desperate to have returned: their 7-year-old daughter’s teacup Shih Tzu puppy.
The 12-week-old male puppy, coincidentally named Bandit, was stolen Thursday during a break-in at the Rangel family’s home in the 600 block of Reburn Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Avocado Heights, homeowner Roman Rangel said. The burglary took place sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
While the burglar or burglars made off with various items from the home, including jewelry and cash, ““We don’t care as much about the and stuff as we do about the dog,” Rangel said.
“It just blew my mind,” he added. “Really? Take the dog?”
Sgt. Rico Sandoval of the sheriff’s Industry Station confirmed deputies responded the home Thursday and took a residential burglary report. The investigation was ongoing, he said, and no suspects were in custody.
The intruders broke into the home through a bathroom window, Rangel said.
The dog belonged to Rangel’s 7-year-old daughter, Mariah, he said. “It was a reward for doing well in school.”
The family adopted Bandit four or five weeks ago, Rangel said. “In just a few weeks, we grew really attached to it.”
Rangel asked that anyone who sees Bandit contact the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322.
“We’d just really like to get the dog back,” he said. “No questions asked.”
PHOTOS of teacup S
BASSETT >> Suicide is suspected after the body of a man was found hanged from a lamppost at a Bassett intersection early Sunday, officials said.
A man, who was estimated to be in his 50s, was found hanging from a lamppost just after midnight at Temple and Vineland avenues, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Toni Calton said.
Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene at 12:18 a.m., she said.
No foul play was suspected, she said. It appeared the man had placed a ladder against the post in order to climb it before hanging himself.
An autopsy will be conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.
BASSETT >> Deputies are seeking three men who kidnapped a teenage girl from the roadside and sexually assaulted her Saturday, officials said.
The 15-year-old girl was walking about 6:30 p.m. in the 600 block of Van Wig Avenue in the unincorporated county area of Bassett when her abductors stopped their car in front of her, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Beamon said.
“Two suspects exited the car. One of the suspects blindfolded the young lady,” the sergeant said.
The men took the girl to an unknown location where they raped her, Beamon said. They threatened the girl not to report the crime, then released the girl in the same general neighborhood from where she was kidnapped.
Deputies described the attackers as two Latino men in their late-20s, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall. A description of the third suspect, who drove the car and never got out, was not available.
They drove an older-model, black Honda Civic with the first three license plate digits of “2WE.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
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.
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.