Diamond Bar man, volunteer at Diamond Ranch High School, accused of molesting student in 2006

DIAMOND BAR — A Diamond Bar man and volunteer in the music program at Diamond Ranch High School in Pomona is accused of molesting a 16-year-old student during the summer of 2006 while working at another high school in Fullerton, authorities said.
Albert Anthony Morales, 33, was arrested at his home Tuesday on suspicion of child molestation after a woman, now-22-year-old, came forward to report being abused by him while attending Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton in 2006, Sgt. Dan Scott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said.
The molestations took place “on an ongoing basis” over the course of the summer as Morales carried on an inappropriate, sexual relationship with the teenage student, Scott said.
“It was substantial sexual contact, and definitely rose to the level of a felony,” he said.
Formal charges were yet to be filed against Morales Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
The alleged molestation was first reported to deputies from the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station Jan. 29, officials said.
Scott said the victim told investigators about her first sexual encounter with Morales after he invited her to his home and supplied her with alcohol.
He continued meeting the teenage student and engaging in sexual activity throughout the summer, Scott said. Molestations took place at Morales’ home and at other locations, but never at the school.
But the girl did not report the molestation, which at the time she viewed as a “relationship,” until late last week.
“Recently, she heard a presentation about sexual abuse, and a woman molested by a teacher,” Scott said. “That prompted her to come forward.”
After investigators looked into the allegations, members of the Sheriff’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit arrested Morales about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday at his home, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
It is not uncommon for allegations of child molestation to surface long after the incident, Scott said.
“It’s normal that children to not report right away,” he said. “They don’t realize they’re being used and taken advantage of by the perpetrator.”
Morales has been working with high school music programs and tutoring students, primarily in percussion, for the past 13 years, officials said.
Prior to working with students at Sunny Hills High School from 2004 to 2009, Morales was part of the music program at Diamond Bar High School in Diamond Bar from 1998 to 2000, according to Deputy Aura Sierra-Lidman said.
Morales began volunteering at Diamond Ranch High School in 2012, and was still assisting the band director and working with students at the time of his arrest, sheriff’s and Pomona Unified School District officials said.
He was not paid-employee of the district, district spokesman Ryan Hightower said.
Diamond Ranch High School Principal Suzanne Steinseifer-Ripley sent a letter to parents Tuesday regarding the arrest.
“Upon receipt of information, the school and district administration have fully cooperated with the authorities,” Steinseifer-Ripley wrote.
“While there is a presumption of innocence in matters of this nature, the district takes such matters with the utmost seriousness. The individual is not on the campus and will not return to campus pending the outcome of the investigation,” according to the letter.
A pre-employment background check and fingerprint analysis conducted by the PUSD turned up no previous criminal complaints against Morales, school officials added.
“This is a difficult time for our school and with your continued support we will maintain an educationally sound and supportive school environment for all students,” according to the principal’s letter. “Students may hear rumors or information from various sources. Parents are encouraged to discuss such information with their student(s). We remain committed to the safety and well-being of our students. School counselors and psychologists from the District will be available to meet with students as appropriate.”
While no other allegations had come to light Wednesday, Scott said investigators suspected the teenage girl was not Morales’ only victim.
“The victim in this case believed that there were other girls that were close to him,” Scott said.
“This type of behavior by an individual is very methodical and it’s often repeated,” the sergeant said. “We believe there’s a high likelihood that there’s other victims out there, and we urge them to come forward,”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273.
According to county booking records, Morales was being held in lieu of $350,000 bail at the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court.

BOOKING PHOTO of Albert Morales, 33, of Diamond Bar courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Copper theft turns out the lights in Diamond Bar

DIAMOND BAR — A thief or thieves turned out the lights overnight and Saturday morning for about 1,500 Diamond Bar residents after stealing wiring from an electrical junction box at a vacant car dealership, authorities said.
The theft took place between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday at the site of the former Diamond Bar Honda dealership, in the 500 block of Grand Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Angie Wilkinson said.
The majority of affected residents had their power restored by noon Saturday, officials said.
No suspect description was available.

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Four hurt, one seriously, in 57 Freeway crash in Diamond Bar

A crash that pinned a vehicle beneath a big rig on the Orange (57) Freeway in Diamond Bar Saturday sent one man to a hospital in critical condition and injured three others, officials said.
The crash was reported just after 1 p.m. on the southbound 57 Freeway at the Pomona (60) Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Jennifer Cassidy said.
It involved a Toyota Corolla containing four people and a big rig, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. James Wheeler said.
Three of the Toyota passengers, two men and woman who were in their 20s, managed to get themselves out of the wreckage prior the arrival of firefighters, the captain said.
But the front passenger in the Toyota, a man in his 20s, had to be cut free from the mangled car, Wheeler said.
Rescuers landed a helicopter on the southbound lanes of the 57 Freeway to rush the badly injured passenger to a trauma center, officials said.
Two of the other occupants of the car suffered moderate injuries, while the third suffered injuries described as minor, Wheeler said.
A Sig Alert was issued for all lanes of the southbound 57 Freeway, as well as the transition road between the southbound 57 Freeway and the westbound 60 Freeway, officials said.
The transition road and the fast lane of the southbound 57 Freeway remained closed for more than two hours, according to CHP logs, while the remaining lanes of the southbound 57 Freeway were blocked for more than three hours following the collision.
Traffic backing up behind the crash also brought the westbound 60 Freeway to a standstill as well, Cassidy said.
The cause of the crash was being investigated by the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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UPDATED: Pregnant woman injured in 60 Freeway crash

DIAMOND BAR — A pregnant woman was flown to the hospital via helicopter Sunday following a two-car wreck on the Pomona (60) Freeway in Diamond Bar, officials said.
The crash was reported just after 12:20 p.m. in the westbound lanes of the freeway, just east of Grand Avenue, California Highway Patrol Officer Tatiana Saquillo said.
The circumstances of the crash were not immediately clear, she said.
A total of five injured people were taken to hospitals, CHP Sgt. Grady Stephens said.
A helicopter landed in the roadway to fly the injured pregnant woman to the trauma center at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, officials said. An update on her condition was not available.
CHP officials issued a Sig Alert for the carpool and four right-hand lanes of the westbound 60 Freeway, leaving only two lanes open for traffic, officials said.
Traffic was backed up all the way to the Police Officer Daniel T. Fraembs Memorial (71) Highway in Pomona shortly after 1 p.m., and significant slowing was also seen on the eastbound lanes of the 60 Freeway near the crash scene.
All traffic lanes were re-opened by 1:30 p.m.

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UPDATED AGAIN: Threat prompts lockdown at Diamond Ranch High School in *Pomona*

POMONA — Officials placed Diamond Ranch High School on lockdown Friday morning after the school received a threatening phone call, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.

The incident began around 9 a.m. at the high school, 100 Diamond Ranch Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Al Fulkerson said.
The school was notified by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding the threat shortly before the 9 a.m. beginning of the school day, Pomona Valley Unified School District Superintendent Richard Martinez said. The school had a late start schedule Friday — the last day of classes prior to winter break — for final exams.
Information was still being gathered, however Martinez said it initially appeared administrators received a “very general” threat against Diamond Ranch High School. The superintendent said he did not believe the threat made mention of any specific act of violence.
“The students are safe,” he said, adding that the campus lockdown was a “precautionary measure.”
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said administrators had received “perceived threat” against the school and the campus, but declined to give further details.
Students who had already made it to campus by about 9:05 were kept inside classrooms, which were in constant communication with the school office, Martinez said.
Students were showed up later were turned around and told to head home for the time being.
It was not immediately clear how many of Diamond Ranch High School’s 1950 or so students were on campus during the lockdown.
In the meantime, he said, officials were making preparations, such as arranging for lunch, in case the situation continued long-term.
Between 20 and 30 deputies remained at the school shortly before noon, Nishida said. The deputies joined school officials going room-to-room through the campus.
“This is protocol,” Nishida said. “Once it goes into lockdown, want to make sure everyone’s safe in every classroom.”
Once finished with the campus search, the lockdown was lifted at about 12:45 p.m., Nishida added.
Parents were notified of the lockdown via an automated phone call, and would be notified via phone and through the school’s website once the lockdown was lifted, Martinez said.
Xavier Navarro, 38, of Pomona, waited outside the campus to pick up his son, an 11th-grader.
“Once I get him, I’m just going to hug him and take him home,” the father said.
He said the situation appeared to be under control, though he was very worried during the first hour of the lockdown, when he said he and other parents had no information about what was taking place at the school.
“I’ve never been this scared in my life,” Navarro said.
After dropping his son off Friday morning, the father said he returned to the school after learning of a situation at the campus.
In the wake of the recent tragic shooting in Newtown Connecticut, Navarro said school security should be a top priority, “Even if it means an armed guard at every school.”

Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda

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Vandalism call leads to marijuana grow house in Diamond Bar

DIAMOND BAR — Deputies checking out a vandalism call found an old marijuana grow house Thursday.
Sgt. John Stanley of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar Station said a woman called about 1:30 p.m. and said someone vandalized her house in the 600 block of Hopi Street.
The woman was leasing out the property, he added.
Deputies didn’t find marijuana plants but equipment used in grow houses, Stanley said.
There were no further details.
Narcotics investigators didn’t return phone calls Thursday night.

– Ruby Gonzales

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Overnight closures planned for eastbound 60 Freeway between Diamond Bar, Pomona

DIAMOND BAR — Overnight closures are planned for the eastbound 60 Freeway between Diamond Bar and Pomona this week to make way for crews to work on a re-paving project, officials said.
The overnight closures are to take place from Sunday to Tuesday, Caltrans officials said in a written statement.
Up to three lanes of the eastbound freeway will be shut down nightly from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. between the southbound 57 Freeway and the 71 Freeway, officials said. All eastbound lanes are scheduled to be closed between the southbound 57 Freeway and Grand Avenue from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.
Additionally, according to Caltrans, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., officials plan to shut down the carpool lane between the southbound 57 Freeway and Diamond Bar Boulevard, the Diamond Bar Boulevard offramp and the Grand Avenue onramp and offramp.
The connector roads from both the southbound and northbound 57 Freeway to the eastbound 60 Freeway will be closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The $32 million paving project is being carried out by Chumo Construction of Baldwin Park and is expected to be completed toward the end of the year.
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CHP: No serious injuries reported after big rig overturns onto convertible in Diamond Bar

DIAMOND BAR — A Diamond Bar man escaped serious injury late Wednesday after a big rig overturned on top of his compact convertible, authorities said.
The crash, which took place about 10:05 p.m. on the connector road between the eastbound 60 Freeway and the Southbound 57 Freeway, prompted the closure of the transition road for six hours, California Highway Patrol Officer Resa Rombouts said in a written statement.
A big rig being driven by a 41-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man was traveling in the right line of the connector road when it “entered a right curve in the roadway at an unsafe speed and had to make a hard brake application,” Rombouts said.
The truck driver lost control of the big rig, which crossed into the left lane of the connector road and overturned, landing on top of a 2008 Honda S2000 being driven by a 27-year-old Diamond Bar man, officials said.
Both drivers managed to get out of their vehicles, according to Rombouts, and both were taken to a hospital for treatment of apparently minor injuries.
A Sig Alert remained in effect for the transition road through 5 a.m.
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Officials decline to prosecute Diamond Bar man with phony bomb charge

Officials Friday declined to file charges against a Diamond Bar man arrested earlier this week with what sheriff’s investigators described as bomb components.
Prosecutors did not find sufficient evidence for a charge of malicious possession of a false or facsimile bomb against 48-year-old Steven Ladd, however the parolee remained jailed due to an existing narcotics warrant, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials and county booking records.
Deputies arrested Ladd shortly after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at his home in the 22000 block of Hilton Head Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
They had responded to a report of a family dispute when the realized Ladd was a parolee with an outstanding warrant for his arrest, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Saleeby said.
Deputies then found a what appeared to be a pipe bomb, complete with a fuse system, but lacking any explosives, officials said. Investigators said Ladd claimed the device was a movie prop, though he had no known ties to the film industry.

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Deputies: Diamond Bar parolee suspected of possessing bomb components

DIAMOND BAR — A Diamond Bar parolee was behind bars Thursday after deputies discovered bomb-making materials inside his home while investigating a report of a family disturbance, authorities said.
Steven Vern Ladd, 48, was arrested on suspicion of an outstanding narcotics warrant and possession of bomb components following Wednesday’s 9:30 a.m. incident in the 22000 block of Hilton Head Drive, Detective Ed Nordskog of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Unit.
Bomb squad officials examined the immediate area and examined the device, which resembled a pipe bomb, after it was discovered in Ladd’s closet, Nordskog said.
“It was real except there was (no explosives) in it,” Nordskog said.
The 8-inch long steel pipe was fitted with end caps and a fuse system, he added.
Deputies had responded to a report of a family dispute and discovered Ladd had a no-bail warrant for his arrest prior to finding the suspicious device, Lt. John Saleeby of the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station said. The initial call was not related to the suspicious device.
“(Ladd) told us it was a movie prop,” Nordskog said. “He’s not in the movie business. There’s no legitimate reason to have something like that.”
According to county booking records, Ladd was being held without bail pending a scheduled arraignment Friday in Pomona Superior Court.
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