SAN GABRIEL >> Police arrested a convicted arsonist on suspicion of breaking into a San Gabriel plant nursery early Sunday, less than a month after the same nursery lost $34,000 worth of rare bonsai trees in another burglary, officials said.
Alonzo Delgadillo, 38, of Commerce was arrested in connection with this weekend’s burglary as detectives continued investigating his possible connection to the earlier break-in, San Gabriel police Lt. Riki Nakamura said.
A burglary alarm triggered just before 4 a.m. first brought police to the San Gabriel Nursery & Florist, 632 S. San Gabriel Blvd., according to the lieutenant. The owner also notified police that an intruder was visible remotely on the businesses’ surveillance cameras.
The suspect ran into the surrounding neighborhood as officers arrived, Nakamura said.
San Gabriel officers set up a search perimeter with help from Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Marino and South Pasadena police, he said. Officers and ultimately found Delgadillo hiding in a residential backyard, Nakamura said. They were about to send in a K-9 to apprehend him when he elected to surrender.
It appeared the burglary was interrupted before the suspect managed to steal anything, Nakamura added.
The same nursery was the victim of another break-in on Aug. 8.
“The suspect cut a hole in a chain link fence of the nursery and stole about $34,000 worth of bonsai trees,” Nakamura said.
The nine trees stolen in last months heist were valued between $950 and $5,000 each. The stolen trees have not been recovered.
Detectives had yet to establish a concrete link between the two break-ins, but were looking into the possibility they were releated, Nakamura said.
Delgadillo is already on probation due to a previous arson conviction, officials said.
LA HABRA >> Burglars smashed their way into a La Habra Boulevard pharmacy late Wednesday for the second time in just over two weeks, authorities said.
The most recent break-in was reported about 10:30 p.m. at Central Drugs, 520 W. La Habra Blvd., La Habra police officials said in a written statement.
“Upon arrival, it was discovered that the front window had been smashed and entry made into the business,” according to the statement.
Officers search the building with help from Buena Park Police Department K-9s but found no suspects.
It was yet to be determined Thursday exactly what had been stolen from the pharmacy.
The same drug store was also the scene of another burglary on Aug. 16, police said at the time.
Three suspects were jailed in connection with that incident, and another escaped. Officers recovered allegedly stolen prescription painkillers from the suspects.
LA HABRA >> Police jailed three suspects and sought another following a break-in targeting prescription drugs at a La Habra pharmacy early Friday morning, authorities said.
An alarm activation at 3:30 a.m. first attracted the attention of police to Central Drugs, 520 W. La Habra Blvd., La Habra police officials said in a written statement.
The first officer to arrive on-scene spotted a suspicious silver Hyundai Sonata near the pharmacy, but it immediately sped away once the driver spotted the patrol car, according to the statement.
The driver of the Honda fled, but soon crashed into a wall at a dead end in the 700 block of West First Avenue, police said.
The driver, later identified at Daniel Estrada, 29, of Apple Valley, allegedly put the car into reverse and rammed the police car. He and passenger Lina Medina, 24, of Rialto, where then taken into custody.
“While this was occurring, two additional suspects, who had still been in the business when the officers arrived, fled the area on foot,” according to the statement.
Officers searched the area and found Gabriel Pille, 23, of Fontana behind a nearby supermarket and arrested him. The fourth and final suspect evaded police, but officers recovered “numerous pieces of evidence,” including recovered prescription drugs.
Police recovered thousands of prescription painkillers such as morphine, codeine and oxycodone from the suspects, Sgt. Ron Hurst said.
The investigation was ongoing.
Estrada and Pille were booked on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy, police said. Estrada is additionally accused of assault on a peace officer. Media was booked on suspicion of conspiracy.
Anyone with information can reach La Habra police at 562-383-4300. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online at www.tip411.com.
NORWALK >> A Norwalk man shot and wounded a knife-wielding intruder who broke into his home while his family was inside early Sunday, officials said.
The break-in and shooting took place about 2:30 a.m. at a house in the 14400 block of Graystone Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rene Garcia said.
A woman at the home was firs alerted by noises coming from the front of the house, the sergeant said. Children were also present at the home.
“The suspect proceeded to go to the rear of the residence, where he broke through french doors armed with a knife,” Garcia said.
The male resident shot the armed intruder in the torso, he said.
“The suspect fled from the scene, however, he was taken into custody about a block away,” Garcia said.
Officials took the wounded suspect to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition, he said. His identity was not available pending the booking process.
None of the family members inside the home were hurt, according to the sergeant.
The resident who shot the burglar was not arrested as detectives continued investigating what initially appeared to be self-defense, he said.
LA VERNE >> Police are seeking a man who went on an arson and vandalism spree targeting six La Verne businesses Tuesday night.
The rampage unfolded shortly before 10 p.m. at a string of businesses along Foothill Boulevard, between Damien Avenue and Baseline Road, La Verne police officials said in a written statement.
The vandal lit a vehicle on fire outside a Molly Maid business, as well as a gazebo at the neighboring business, Outdoor Elegance, and two trash cans at a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant and a 76 gas station across the street, officials said.
He also smashed windows at Outdoor Elgance, Inland Dental and Kiddie Academy, police said. At the diner, he set fire to a grease container.
Mr. D’s Diner was open for business when the suspect lit the grease collector on fire outside the rear of the store.
Employees were unaware of the fire as the man entered the restaurant, gobbled down salad and left without paying his bill. The fire was discovered a short time later and extinguished by employees.
Based on the man’s strange behavior, “We believe he was impaired,” Detective Matthew Hadan said. During the destructive spree, “He was kind of just wandering around, almost aimlessly.”
Hadan said, all of the fired remained relatively small.
“It could have been way worse,” the detective said. “It was very fortunate.”
A dollar-value estimate of the damage caused by the vandal was not available. The motive in the seemingly random destruction was unclear.
Police described the arsonist as a white man, 19 to 20 years old, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, 145 pounds, with black wavy hair.
Anyone with information is asked to contact La Verne police Detective Matthew Hadan at 909-596-1913. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
VIDEO courtesy of the La Verne Police Department.
EAST PASADENA >> A married couple hid in a bathroom at their home as intruders forced their way into their house in the unincorporated county area of East Pasadena early Sunday.
The crime took place about 1:15 a.m. at a home in the 3600 block of Grayburn Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Carbajal said.
The couple first heard what they believed to be gunshots coming from their backyard, the sergeant said.
They locked themselves in a bathroom as several intruders, a least one wearing a mask, made their way into the home through a back door, he said.
Deputies arrived at the scene within minutes, but the robbers were already gone, Carbajal said. Deputies searched the area but found no suspects.
Investigators did not initially find any physical evidence of gunfire, and no other neighborhood residents reported hearing shots, Carbajal said.
It was unclear Sunday what may have been stolen from the home. No injuries were reported.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Temple Station at 626-285-7171. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PASADENA >> Police arrested a Monterey Park man Thursday after he broke into several Pasadena businesses and cars, then attacked a business owner who confronted him with a brick, officials said.
Brian Anthony Wheeler, 45, was booked on suspicion of burglary, assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats following the incident, which unfolded about 6:25 a.m. in the 1000 block of South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
A business proprietor caught Wheeler leaving his businesses, where a window had been smashed out with a brick, police said. Wheeler had stolen a can of beer.
Wheeler attacked the business owner with the brick, leaving him with redness to his face but no serious injuries, Luna said.
The attacker fled from the area, trying unsuccessfully to steal a car.
Witnesses pointed responding police officers in the direction where the fleeing suspect had jumped a fence onto Marengo Avenue.
Officers found Wheeler hiding in the community laundry room of a nearby apartment complex, Luna said.
Investigators soon found other windows allegedly smashed by Wheeler.
“Prior to this incident, the suspect attempted to enter two adjacent business and (several) cars,” Luna said.
Officials suspected Wheeler was under the influence of some sort of narcotic, he added.
According to county booking records, Wheeler was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
WEST COVINA >> A La Puente woman who befriended an elderly West Covina man, stabbed him to death and set the house ablaze pleaded “no contest” to murder and arson charges Thursday, authorities said.
Brenda Armstrong, 40, is expected to be sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison when she returns to the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing on Dec. 14, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
She was originally accused of the special circumstance of murder during the coarse of a burglary, but the special circumstance allegation was dismissed under the negotiated plea arrangement, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho of the D.A.’s Elder Abuse Section said. If convicted as originally charged, Armstrong could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors previously decided not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Ralph Simonian, 82, was found dead on Nov. 15, 2012, inside his burning home in the 900 block of Holiday Drive, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators, who assisted West Covina police in the investigation.
“His house had been set on fire and he had been stabbed multiple times,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
After a lengthy investigation, detectives determined Simonian, who lived alone at his home, had been slain by Armstrong during a burglary at his home, Sgt. Robert Gray of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
She had befriended Simonian while working at J.B. Burgers in La Puente, where Simonian was a regular customer, officials said.
On the day of the slaying, a neighbor’s security camera captured images of a car Armstrong had borrowed arriving on the victim’s street, detectives and prosecutors said. Cell phone data also linked Armstrong to the crime scene.
Detectives first arrested Armstrong in connection with the slaying about two months after it occurred. But prosecutors declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence. Armstrong promptly moved to Delaware.
Detectives continued gathering evidence and building their case. Prosecutors ultimately filed a murder charge and issued an arrest warrant for Armstrong, who was taken into custody in Delaware during a traffic stop on Sept. 13, 2013.
Deputies found no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home. Detectives learned she had visited the victim on several occasions, Gray said.
There were no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home, the sergeant said. The fire, which began in the master bedroom where Simonian was fatally stabbed, was believed to have been set in order to destroy evidence.
The entire incident lasted about 45 minutes, Cho said.
Many of the details surrounding the slaying remain a mystery, as there were no witnesses, and Armstrong has not detailed the crime.
Officials said theft was believed to be the motive in the murder, but it was unclear what was stolen.
A small safe was discovered missing from Simonian’s home following the slaying and fire, Gray said.
The safe has never been recovered.
“We don’t know what was in the safe,” Cho said.
Absent of eye witnesses or DNA evidence, the case was largely “circumstantial,” Cho said.
He praised the tenacity of homicide detectives for Thursday’s conviction.
“I would jut credit with the detectives with putting together all the circumstantial evidence in the case,” Cho said.
PHOTO by Keith Birmingham
SAN MARINO >> Police arrested a man and woman from San Gabriel in connection with a series of burglaries and other theft-related crimes after they broke into a San Marino home through a doggy door Tuesday, officials said.
Arthur Edward Hernandez, 31, and Tracey Lee Viera, 42, were booked on suspicion of burglary, grand theft, identity theft, receiving stolen property and trespassing following their arrests shortly after 9 a.m. in the 2300 block of Robles Avenue, according to San Marino police and Los Angeles County booking records.
A resident called police to report a unfamiliar black Acura was parked in their driveway, San Marino police Sergeant Tim Tebbetts said in a written statement.
“Officers arrived on scene within two minutes caught two suspects attempting to remove property from the location,” Tebbetts said. They were detained without a struggle.
Police found items from the home deposited around the house and backyard in advance of a quick getaway, the sergeant said.
The suspects — later identified as Hernandez and Viera — “entered the house by reaching through a dog door and unlocking the rear door,” Tebbetts said. They broke into the house, as well as the detached garage.
Officers found several pieces of mail not belonging to the suspects, as well as other suspected stolen items, in the suspects’ car, police said.
“Officers were able to link both suspects to two other burglaries in San Marino and one burglary in Pasadena,” Tebbetts said.
Detectives are seeking any additional victims of the burglars.
Hernandez and Viera were being held in lieu of $50,000 each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Thursday in Alhambra Superior Court, records show.
SOUTH PASADENA >> Police arrested a Los Angeles man suspect who went on an alleged crime spree Wednesday morning, sexually assaulting two teenage girls and one woman before breaking into five apartment in the south end of South Pasadena, authorities said.
The identity of the 22-year-old suspect, who was already on parole for burglary, was withheld as police continued following up investigative leads Wednesday afternoon, South Pasadena police Capt. Brian Solinski said during a press conference.
The string of crimes took place beginning about 7:30 a.m. in a four- to five-block area near South Pasadena High School, Solinksi said.
The suspect inappropriately touched or exposed himself to a woman and two underage girls out on the street, police said.
Immediately afterward, Solinski said the man began a burglary spree, breaking into five apartments in the same general neighborhood, Solinski said. Detectives determined the same man was responsible for all eight crimes reported in South Pasadena early Wednesday.
With help from the victims, detectives tracked the suspect to the 3000 block of Emery Street in Los Angeles, where they spotted a man matching the description of the South Pasadena suspect.
“The individual got into a car and tried to flee the scene,” Solinski said. Officers quickly pulled over the car and took the driver into custody.
Items inside the car linked the driver to the South Pasadena crime scenes, Solinski said. It was also determined that the car the suspect was driving had also been stolen early Wednesday.
None of the three sexual assault victims were physically unharmed, he said.
“There was some contact made, but nothing that produced any injuries,” Solinski said.
It at least some of the break-ins, the suspect got into the apartments through windows, he added.
Police and school officials placed South Pasadena High School and South Pasadena Middle School on precautionary lockdowns due to their proximity to some of the locations where the crimes occurred, South Pasadena police said in a written statement.
Police said officers found a knife at one of the residences that was burglarized. The lockdowns were lifted after the knife was discovered.
The investigation was ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call South Pasadena Police at 626-403-7297.