Suspect jailed following string of baseball bat robberies at San Gabriel Valley convenience stores

Deputies arrested a man Thursday following a series of five baseball bat robberies at San Gabriel Valley convenience stores in matter of hours, authorities said.
Malcom Buchanan, 19, of Duarte was booked in connection with the final robbery in Thursday’s spree at a gas station in unincorporated East Pasadena as officials continued investigating him in connection with the other four robberies, police and sheriff’s officials said.
While a concrete link had not been established Thursday afternoon, ““They’re definitely looking into it,” Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
The string of robberies began shortly after midnight at a 7-Eleven store in San Dimas, investigators said. Similar robberies and attempted robberies were then reported in West Covina, Monrovia, Arcadia and unincorporated Pasadena before deputies spotted a car matching the description of one used in at least one of the robberies was spotted, stopped and arrested by deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station in Duarte, sheriff’s Sgt. Lynette O’Brien said.
Sgt. Pete Shupe of the sheriff’s San Dimas station said masked robber entered the 7-Eleven at 660 E. Foothill Blvd. at 12:11 a.m.
He found a clerk working in a back stockroom, Lt. Andy Berg said.
The bat-wielding robber ordered the clerk to the front of the store and demanded cash from the register, officials said.
When the clerk opened the register, he said the robber reached in, took $200 and fled the store.
About half an hour later, a masked man lugging a baseball bat then showed up at the 7-Eleven at 1319 W. Merced Ave. in West Covina around 12:42 a.m.
“He told the clerk ‘Give me the money’ while holding the bat threateningly,” West Covina Police Lt. David Lee said.
The robber grabbed about $350 from the till and left.
Lee said the suspect was last seen in a white vehicle, possibly a van or a sport utility vehicle. A second suspect was driving the vehicle.
The robber was described as possibly Latino, around 5 feet 5 inches tall and about 150 pounds.
In the San Dimas case, the robber wore a gray jacket, officials said.
Initial investigation indicated the same robber was involved in both crimes, Berg said.
Nearly 11 hours passed before three more incidents of convenience store robberies involving a suspect armed with a baseball bat were reported.
Monrovia police responded to a report of a similar robbery about 11:25 a.m. at 7-Eleven, 922 W. Duarte Road, officials said. Again, the robber brandished a baseball bat during the crime.
A witness to the Monrovia crime was able to provide police with a description and license plate of the getaway car, which was immediately broadcast to nearby law enforcement agencies.
Another attempted heist involving a baseball bat wielding suspect occurred minutes later at a liquor store in the 800 block of West Huntington Drive in Arcadia, Arcadia police Lt. Tom Cullen said.
It was unclear what caused him to abandon the robbery attempt and flee empty-handed.
Minutes after the Arcadia crime, a man with a baseball bat arrived at a gas station at Colorado Boulevard and Michillinda Avenue in an unincorporated county area east of Pasadena, O’Brien said.
A witness provided investigators with the license plate number of the getaway car, and deputies spotted the vehicle
Deputies searching the area spotted the vehicle and pulled it over on Bashor Street near Vineyard Avenue in Duarte about noon.
There was no description of a second robber who may have partnered with the suspect in at least some of the alleged crimes.
The robbery in San Dimas capped off a particularly unfortunate month for the convenience store.
It was the third incident at the store in recent weeks, which has also experienced another robbery, as well as a car crashing through the front window, officials said. The same clerk was working during all three incidents.
A man brandished a pistol in a robbery at the store on May 14, Berg said. He was described as black, 25 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, investigators said. He wore a dark green hooded sweatshirt and black pants.
A car Sunday smashed through the front window of the Foothill Boulevard convenience store, officials said.
No crime was suspected in connection with the crash, in which a 50-year-old San Dimas man’s 1990 Honda Accord struck the store after his foot slipped off the brake pedal and onto the accelerator, Sgt. Victor Ibarra said.

- Staff writers Ruby Gonzales and Melissa Pinion-Whit contributed to this report.

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Bear breaks into Duarte home

DUARTE – A young bear may have used a window to crawl into a kitchen where it grabbed a snack Wednesday.
The break-in happened about 2 p.m. in the 70 block of Crestview Court. A resident was home.
“The lady heard a noise and saw a bear had made it into her house,” Sheriff’s Lt. Ignacio Somoano said.
He said the woman locked herself in a room and called 9-1-1.
A deputy and a Duarte Animal Control officer headed to Crestview Court. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was also notified.
The law found the furry burglar on the kitchen counter still eating.
Somoano said the deputy left the door open. Then the deputy and the animal control officer made loud noises. The bear ran out through the door.
Authorities estimate the bear to be a year old and weighing 100 pounds.
Somoano didn’t know if this hungry bear was the same bruin found sleeping in a tree Tuesday night by deputies.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Missing Azusa woman found safe in Duarte

AZUSA — A 76-year-old Azusa woman with Alzheimer’s who went missing after going for a walk Friday afternoon was found disoriented but safe in Duarte Friday night, authorities said.
Carolyn Davis didn’t return home after leaving for her daily walk to Northside Park about 2 p.m., according to Azusa police Sgt. Randy Schmidt.
Police released a photo of Davis and sought the public’s help in locating her.
Deputies from the sheriff’s Temple Station found her after responding to reports of a possibly drunken trespasser sleeping in a bush at a retirement home in the 1400 block of Santo Domingo Avenue in Duarte, sheriff’s Sgt. Lynette O’Brien said.
The responding deputies realized the woman was the senior reported missing out of Azusa and notified Azusa police, who picked her up and returned her home.

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Woman fatally struck by car in Duarte

DUARTE — A woman in her 70s died after being struck by a car on Huntington Drive early Friday, authorities said.
The incident was reported just after 6 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of Huntington near Highland Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Jorge Marchena said.
The woman in her 20s who was driving the sedan that struck the pedestrian remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, officials said.
It initially appeared the woman, a resident of a nearby retirement home, crossed the street mid-block, just west of Highland, Sgt. A. Ben-Sahile said.
The ccollision remained under investigation, he said, however nothing criminal was initially suspected, and the driver was not cited or arrested.

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Two injured in Duarte motel fire

DUARTE — A couple were injured after a fire broke out at a local motel Tuesday night.
Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Mark Sotelo said the fire was restricted to one unit but caused minor smoke damage to another unit. He estimated damages at $75,000.
The sheriff’s arson investigators are looking into what started the fire, Sotelo said.
It happened at Rancho Inn, 1515 Huntington Drive, at 5:54 p.m.
There were two people in the unit where the fire occurred. Sotelo said a man suffered from second degree burns and smoke inhalation while a woman was treated for smoke inhalation.
Sotelo said the two were taken to Methodist Hospital of Southern California and were listed in stable condition.
About 45 firefighters responded to the first alarm fire which was knocked down at 6:30 p.m.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Former Duarte school teacher acquitted on child molestation charges

PASADENA – A jury Friday acquitted a former Duarte elementary school teacher of charges that he molested five students over more than a decade, officials said.

After more than a week of deliberation, the Pasadena Superior Court jury found Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia not guilty of all nine counts of child molestation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Bughman, a longtime teacher at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte, was arrested June 17, 2010, after five students and former students leveled allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1998.

“Obviously, we’re thrilled and overjoyed that the jury acquitted an innocent man, in our opinion,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Leonard Levine, who represented Bughman.

FULL STORY

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Former Duarte school teacher acquitted of child molestation charges

PASADENA — A jury Friday acquitted a former Duarte elementary school teacher charged with molesting five students over more than a decade of all charges, officials said.
After more than a week of deliberation, the Pasadena Superior Court jury found Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia not guilty of all nine counts of child molestation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Bughman, a longtime teacher at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte, was arrested June 17, 2010, after five students and former students leveled allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1998.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta. Bughman was represented in court by Los Angeles-based attorney Leonard Levine.

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Duarte middle school teacher accused of indecent exposure at Glendora home

A Duarte School teacher has been arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure for allegedly exposing and touching himself on the balcony of his Glendora apartment earlier this month, officials said
Steven Wilcoxon, 58, was arrested Tuesday afternoon after turning himself in at the Glendora Police Department, Glendora police Lt. Brian Summers said.
He was booked on suspicion of a misdemeanor count of indecent exposure and being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, authorities said.
He is a teacher at Northview Intermediate School in Duarte, which is part of the Duarte Unified School district, the lieutenant said.
The warrant was obtained following two weeks of investigation after witnesses at a business across the street from Wilcoxon’s apartment in the 600 block of W. Route 66 in Glendora called police shortly after 11:20 a.m. Nov. 12 to report the alleged indecency, officials said.
Summers said witnesses reported seeing Wilcoxon walking nude on his third floor balcony, and sitting in the threshold of his balcony while mastubating in public view. One of the witnesses took a cell phone image.
Upon responding to the indecent exposure call, “Officers attempted to make contact with the suspect at his apartment, however, he could not be located at the time,” police said in a written statement.
Through a photographic line-up, three witnesses identified Wilcoxon as the man they saw exposing himself on the balcony.
Wilcoxon cooperated with detectives as the investigation continued in the following days, Summers said.
“Searching his apartment, detectives located evidence that corroborated a photograph that was taken by one of the witnesses with a cell phone camera at the time of the incident,” according to the police statement.
After detectives presented their evidence to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, an arrest warrant was issued for Wilcoxon Tuesday, Summers said. He promply turned himself in.
Police found no similar allegations leveled against Wilcoxon in the past.
“There’s absolutely zero indication hes been accused of any sex crimes,” Summers said.
He identified himself to police as an 8th grade science teacher at Northview Intermediate School, Summers said.
DUSD Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Student Service Miriam Fox said Wilcoxon was not expected to be back in a classroom in the immediate future.
Since his arrest, “We’ve had no contact with him,” she said. “Based on his arrest and charges, this would be a compulsory leave situation.”
Fox emphasized that the alleged incident did not involve children or the school.
“We are always concerned about the well-being of our schools, our students,” she added.
The arrest occurred during closing arguments in the trial of another Duarte Unified School District Teacher accused of molesting five students over 15 years.
Beardslee Elementary School teacher Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia, is charged with nine counts of child molestation steming from the alleged abuse of students between ages 7 and 12.

PHOTO of Steven Wilcoxon courtesy of the Glendora Police Department

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Prosecutor: Former Duarte teacher a sick pedophile who preyed on elementary school Latinas

Accused pedophile Wade Bughman

Accused pedophile Wade Bughman’s defense attorney today will tell a Pasadena Superior Court jury that his client didn’t molest students at a Duarte elementary school.
Prosectuors told a different story on Tuesday. Here’s what Brenda Gazzar reported.

Closing arguments began Tuesday for the trial of Wade Bughman of Monrovia, 43, who was charged with crimes of a sexual nature against five girls over a period of 15 years while he taught at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte.

The nine counts against Bughman include oral copulation of a person under 14, the crime of continual sexual abuse, forcible rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object and lewd acts upon a child.

With enlarged photos of the five young girls smiling behind her, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta told jurors the girls endured physical, emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a pedophile that robbed them of their innocence.

Many of the girls were shy or submissive and some sat in the back of the classroom, she said. They were allegedly molested at lunch, during recess or after school in the “Think Together Program.”

Some of the girls in his class called him “rapist” and had code words to warn others they needed help, Archuleta said. She described Bughman as a “practiced and skilled manipulator” in satisfying his own lusts and desires.

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Frank Pastore remains in critical condition following motorcycle crash

LOS ANGELES — Christian radio show host and ex-Major League Baseball pitcher Frank Pastore remained hospitalized in critical condition over the weekend following a motorcycle crash Monday, hospital officials said.
Pastore, 55, was suffered major head injuries Nov. 19 in a motorcycle crash on the 210 Freeway near Buena Vista Street in Duarte, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
He has remained in critical condition in an intensive care unit ever since, according to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman Rosa Saca.
“There hasn’t been any change in his condition,” she said Sunday.
The 55-year-old Upland resident and host of “The Frank Pastore Show” on KKLA 99.5 FM fell into a coma following the crash, family members said.

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