Suspect identified in Pasadena auto body shop arson

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PASADENA >> DNA evidence links a suspect to the arson of a Pasadena auto body shop last month that caused $375,000 worth of damage, officials announced Thursday.
Jesse Cole Nicholas, 30, was already in jail on unrelated cases when he was linked by DNA Wednesday to the Sept. 27 fire, according to Pasadena fire officials and arrest records.
The 7:20 a.m. blaze badly damaged a rear building used for detailing and prep work at Alliance Auto Body, 826 S. Arroyo Parkway, and destroyed two cars that were parked inside, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
“Believing that the fire was suspicious in nature, a fire investigator was summoned to the scene,” Pasadena fire officials said in a statement. “The investigator was able to determine that the fire was an intentional act and initiated an arson investigation.”
Surveillance footage from the business shows a man hopping a fence and breaking into cars at Alliance Auto Body hours before the fire ignited, officials said. He then stole a car and fled.
But the burglar returned several hours later, broke into several more vehicles and set fire to a car parked in the rear building, authorities said.
1017_NWS_PSN-L-ARSONSUSPECT2Pasadena fire investigators teamed with Pasadena police detectives and distributed a suspect flyer seeking information. “As a result of viewing the video, (the fire investigator) believed the suspect may possibly be transient and began canvasing the areas of the city frequented by the homeless.”
The fire investigator found a man matching the description at Pasadena’s Central Park on Sept. 29, according to the statement. Police helped arrest the suspect on an outstanding felony warrant as the investigation into the arson continued.
Nicholas received a 60-day jail sentence for the unrelated warrant on Oct. 1 at Los Angeles Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County records. He remained in custody Thursday at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
Records show he was also sentenced to 10 days for violating the terms of Post-Release Community Supervision stemming from a prior conviction.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab notified Pasadena investigators Tuesday that DNA collected from one of the burglarized vehicles matched Nicholas, officials said.
A fire investigator interviewed Nicholas in jail Wednesday.
“Although the suspect denied knowledge and involvement in the break-in, auto theft and arson, he did provide the approximate location of the stolen vehicle, which was recovered,” according to the department statement.
Investigators planned to file their case with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office next week.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Pasadena Fire Department

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Suspect jailed in Pasadena ‘hot prowl’ burglary

PASADENA >> A Pasadena man awoke to fund an intruder in his house and chased him from the home before police arrested the alleged burglar Wednesday, officials said.
Police jailed Gary Jones, 21, of Compton on suspicion of residential burglary following the 10:20 a.m. break-in at a home in the 300 block of South Marengo Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Ed Calatayud said. Police described the victim as a man in his 30s.
“The victim was sleeping in a bedroom when he was startled by a noise,” the lieutenant said.
Upon investigating the noise, the resident encountered an intruder in his home, he said.
Calatayud said the burglar ran from the home once confronted by the resident. The burglar grabbed a small bag containing dog treats as he fled.
The resident chased the burglar briefly, then called the police, Calatayud said. Officers found Jones nearby and ultimately arrested him in connection with the break-in.
He got into the home through an unlocked, second-floor sliding glass window, Calatayud said.
Jones was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to Los Angeles County booking records.

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Ontario men accused of hot prowl burglary in West Covina

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WEST COVINA — Two Ontario men were behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of burglarizing the home of an elderly West Covina man as he slept inside earlier this week, officials said.
Robert Perich, 22, and Luis Santana, 19, were arrested Monday in connection with the 9:40 a.m. break-in in the 1100 block of South Montezuma Way, according to West Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
A third suspect, a 23-year-old Ontario man, was also arrested along with Perich and Santana, but was released from custody Wednesday without charges, records show.
Police responded to a call reporting a possible burglary when they noticed a Chevy S-10 pickup truck parked in front of the home, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said in a written statement.
A 23-year-old Ontario man was found hiding in the back seat area and was arrested on suspicion of burglary, though he was ultimately released without charges Wednesday, according to police and booking records.
0703_NWS_SGT-L-WCBURGLARS2After setting up a search perimeter, police saw two men running from the home, Lopez said. One, later identified as Santana, was quickly captured in a nearby backyard.
The other fleeing suspect, later identified as Perich, ran onto the golf course at South Hills Country Club, where police caught up with him and took him into custody.
“A 78-year-old male resident was inside the location asleep in his bedroom during the burglary,” Lopez said. “Of the items stolen and recovered, many were taken from the room the resident was sleeping in.”
All of the allegedly stolen items were recovered, and no injuries were reported in connection with the incident, Lopez said.
Perich was ultimately booked on suspicion of burglary, receiving stolen property and resisting arrest, as well as on two outstanding warrants, Lopez said. Santana was jailed on suspicion of burglary and receiving stolen property, police said.
According to county booking records, Perich was being held in lieu of $195,000 bail, while Santana was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

PHOTOS of suspects Robert Perich, above, and Luis Santana, (below) courtesy of the West Covina Police Department.

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