GLENDORA >> A man accused of brutally stabbing two homeless men to death as they slept at a Glendora Car wash last year pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder charges in Pomona Superior Court, prosecutors said.
Drew Alan Friis, 29, of Glendora potentially faces the death penalty if convicted as charged of the Aug. 15, 2013, slayings of John “Little John” Welch and Warren Blagrave, both 52, at a car wash in the 200 block of Route 66, where they has been spending the night in the weeks leading up to their deaths.
Prosecutors are yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, or a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. In addition to two counts of murder, officials allege the special circumstance of multiple murders, as well as the special allegation that he personally used a knife in the killings.
Investigators arrested Friis the same day the killings occurred. Friis said he was upset with one of the victims, but did not tell officials why, Lt. Ray Lugo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said earlier this year.
Blagrave suffered more than 25 stab wounds, officials said. Welch was stabbed more than 20 times.
Friis is scheduled to return to court Feb. 20 for a preliminary hearing, officials said. In the meantime, he is being held without bail.
GLENDORA >>Detectives continue searching for answers in the mysterious slaying of a Nevada man found shot to death alongside a Glendora street last week.
A newspaper carrier first discovered the body of Ernesto Medina, 22, of Henderson, Nevada about 3:30 a.m. along Sunflower Avenue near the 210 Freeway , Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner officials said.
Despite initial reports that the body was found inside a vehicle, Lt. Steve Jauch of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Monday that Medina’s body was found lying on the ground, alongside several bullet casings.
“He appears to have been shot multiple times at that location,” Jauch said.
Medina’s body was discovered in the roadway near the curb, he said. “There was no vehicle there at the scene.”
Several neighborhood residents said they heard what they described as gunshots or popping tires about 11:30 p.m., however Jauch said investigators had not determined exactly what time the shooting took place.
Detectives also focused their investigation on what the Nevada man may have been doing in Glendora when he was shot, Jauch said. But the lieutenant declined to discuss what detectives have learned thus far. “That’s all part of the investigation,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
GLENDORA >> Coroner’s officials Friday identified a Nevada man found shot to death along Sunflower Avenue in Glendora early Thursday.
Ernesto Medina, 22, of Henderson, Nevada, was pronounced dead after newspaper carrier discovered him about 3:30 a.m. inside a car along the road near an offramp of the 210 Freeway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Initial statements issued by Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators indicated the Medina was found lying on the ground. Handling detectives could not be reached for comment Friday.
No information was released regarding he circumstances of the shooting, or what the Nevada resident may have been doing in Glendora.
Several neighbors said they heard several popping noises or gunshots shortly before midnight.
“I just heard shots about four (to) five shots around 11:27 p.m.,” Emma Carolina Rosas said.
Another neighbor also reported hearing what sounded like tires exploding shortly before midnight.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau are assisting Glendora police in the investigation, and anyone with information was asked to call the bureau at 323-890-5500.
GLENDORA >> A man attacked another man with a pizza cutter Friday night during an argument at a Glendora grocery store, officials said.
The unusual assault took place about just after 10 p.m. at Vons, 432 E. Arrow Highway, Glendora police Lt. Rob Lamborghini said.
“A 23-year-old male was in Vons when, for unknown reasons, he was confronted by a two females and a male,” the lieutenant said. The suspects were initially described as being in their late-teens or early-20s.
“The male picked up a pizza cutter from inside the store and repeatedly slashed the victim in the face and arms,” Lamborghini said. The suspects then fled.
The wounds appeared superficial and were not considered life-threatening, the lieutenant said.
Further details were not available as police continued seeking the suspects Saturday, he said. Detectives were reviewing surveillance footage and following other leads to identify the stabber and the two women who accompanied him.
GLENDORA >> Animal control officials have begun going to go door-to-door throughout Glendora to check that pet dogs are properly licensed, officials said.
The Inland Valley Humane Society’s neighborhood canvassing campaign will take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and should be completed in November, Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
California law and local ordinances require all dogs more than 4 months old to be vaccinated against rabies and licensed, according to the police statement.
“In addition to ensuring that pets are protected and free from rabies, licensing also assists in the return of lost or stray dogs to their owners, and the revenue helps to offset the cost of providing animal control services to Glendora,” the police statement said. “IVHS staff conducting the canvassing will be wearing a distinctive uniform consisting of a blue polo shirt with the IVHS logo, Navy-colored slacks or shorts and will have an IVHS badge and identification card.”
Glendora residents are encouraged to ensure their dog licenses are up-to-date ahead of a visit from the IVHC. Owners found out of compliance will be cited, resulting in an additional fine and a requirement that the animals be licensed within five days.
For more information, contact the IVHS as 909-623-9777 or visit www.ivhsspca.org.
GLENDORA >> Police arrested five DUI suspects during a checkpoint late Friday and early Saturday, including one with a blood-alcohol level three times greater than the legal limit, officials said.
The checkpoint was held from 6 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday on Grand Avenue, Glendora police Senior Community Service Officer Wendy Brewer said. Brewer also coordinates a regional, multi-agency anti-DUI task force known as “Avoid the 100.”
In addition to the five suspected intoxicated drivers, police also arrested seven people for driving without licenses or identification, and one person was jailed due to an outstanding warrant, Glendora police Sgt. Marty Barrett said.
Officers cited 27 unlicensed drivers and 20 drivers with suspended licenses, Barrett said. Twenty-four vehicles were impounded as a result of the checkpoint.
Officers from the Pomona, La Verne and Azusa police departments joined Glendora police at the checkpoint, Brewer said.
Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
GLENDORA >> Glendora police Wednesday jailed an alleged residential burglary ring comprised of five Los Angeles gang members, officials said.
The four men and a teenage boy are accused of three burglaries in Glendora Wednesday, as well as at least one additional burglary in Covina, Glendora police Lt. James De Mond said. And detectives continued working to link them to additional crimes.
The burglars primarily stole jewelry from the homes, the lieutenant said.
The arrests came after Glendora officers police responded to a report of a burglary in the 700 block of East Essex Street, the lieutenant said. A resident had arrived home to find the front door kicked in and the home ransacked.”
“As officers were investigating this burglary, a resident in the 1100 block of East Dover Street called to report seeing five males attempting to get in a screen door of a residence,” De Mond said.
Police rushed to Dover Street where officers spotted two young men running between homes in the neighborhood, as well as a white Toyota Camry with paper license plates driving away, De Mond said.
Police stopped the car and arrested Jaime Estrada, 26, of Maywood, who was on parole for burglary, De Mond said. Stolen property from all four burglaries was found in the Camry. Some items found in the car had been stolen in another residential burglary in the 1000 block of East Bradford Drive that was not reported until later in the day.
Officers searched the neighborhood and found Martin Sanchez, 26, of Hacienda Heights and Junior Valdez, 25, of Los Angeles hiding in a nearby garage, police said. Two other suspects, identified as Jerry Castro, 21, of Los Angeles and a teenage boy from Cudahy, hiding in a side yard and trying to break into a garage.
A Pasadena police helicopter and two Pasadena police K-9s took part in the search.
“All of the suspects have been identified as 38th Street gang members out of South Central Los Angeles,” De Mond said.
Estrada was being held without bail while the three other adult suspects were being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to Los Angeles County booking records. All four were scheduled to be arraigned Friday in West Covina Superior Court.
The teenage suspect was taken to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> A police task force arrested 19 people and seized drugs, a gun and cash during a parole and probation compliance sweep Friday in Azusa, Glendora and Covina, authorities said.
Members of the San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force carried out compliance checks of parolees and probationers in Covina, Azusa and Glendora, Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez said in a written statement. The seven-agency task force is based out of the Pomona Police Department.
“The operation included attempting apprehension of identified subjects found to be in violation of their conditions of release, as well as directed crime suppression in known gang, narcotic and high crime ‘hot spots’ within the target areas,” Sanchez said.
The task force targeted 17 locations and netted 19 arrests, including ones for probation or parole violations, drug offenses, weapon possession and existing warrants, Sanchez said.
One loaded gun was seized during the operation, along with 54 grams of drugs and $6,000 in allegedly ill-gotten cash, he added.
Officers from the Azusa, Baldwin Park, Covina, Glendora, La Verne, West Covina and Pomona police department took part in the sweep, along with probation and parole officials and representatives from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
COVINA >> Authorities have identified a Glendora man found fatally shot outside a mobile home in an unincorporated county area near Covina Friday.
Richard Alan Wurtz, 37, died at the scene of the shooting, which was reported shortly after 11 a.m. at the Royal Palms Mobile Homes Park, 21210 E. Arrow Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Two men were detained for questioning at the scene as deputies responded to reports of gunfire, however neither had been arrested Saturday morning, officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said Saturday in a written statement.
“Deputies detained two adults from the location in order to investigate their connection, if any, to the shooting,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “No arrests have been made at this time and the motive for the shooting remains under investigation.”
The names of the two men detained by deputies were not released.
Deputies investigating reports of gunshots encountered a man lying wounded outside a mobile home, and a second man leaving, sheriff’s Sgt. Nicole Davis said.
The wounded man was pronounced dead at the scene, and the other man was detained for questioning, officials said. A second man found nearby was also detained by investigators in the wake of the fatal shooting.
Neighbors said one of the men taken into custody by deputies at the shooting scene was a 32-year-old resident of the mobile home. They did not know the identity of the second person detained by deputies.
A family member of Wurtz reached by telephone Saturday did not wish to comment.
The ongoing investigating was being handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
PHOTO by Watchara Phomicinda
A federal jury on Thursday convicted the last of three suspects charged with starting the damaging Colby Fire above Glendora early this year, as officials cautioned that a looming storm poses a potential debris flow threat to the barren hillsides created by the wildfire.
The Los Angeles jury convicted Jonathan Carl Jarrell, a 23-year-old transient, of one felony and one misdemeanor in connection with a campfire that grew out of control on Jan. 16 and became the 1,952-acre wildfire that burned five homes and 17 other structures. One civilian and five firefighters were hurt during the fire.
Jarrell was found guilty of one felony charge of unlawfully setting timber afire, and a misdemeanor charge of illegally starting a fire, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The jury deadlocked on two additional misdemeanor charges related to the fire.
“As a result of today’s guilty verdicts, Jarrell faces up to five-and-a-half years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on July 31,” Mrozek said.
The final conviction in the three-defendant case came just as Glendora city officials issued a “Yellow Alert” to urge residents to be prepared of the possibility of mud or debris flows in the hillsides denuded by the Colby Fire.
The thunderstorm was expected to hit Palmdale hardest, however officials issued the Yellow Alert, “due to the unpredictability of thunderstorms and the possibility it may go over the Colby Impact Area,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
Two friend’s of Jarrell’s were tried separately and each convicted by a federal jury May 16 of one felony count of unlawfully setting timber afire and three other misdemeanor charges related to illegally starting a campfire.
Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora and transient Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, each face up to six-and-a-half years in federal prison when they return to court for sentencing Aug. 4, officials said.
“Henry, Aguirre and Jarrell were detained by Glendora police officers after they were seen escaping the fire,” Mrozek said. “During interviews with Glendora Police and personnel with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson Investigations Unit — interviews that the jury heard during the two trials — all three defendants admitted playing a role in the starting of a campfire that started the Colby Fire after wind blew burning paper into the brush in the hills above Glendora.”
The investigation was carried out by the Glendora Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
PHOTO of Jonathan Jarrell: courtesy