Thursday’s Column

About 24 hours before Wednesday’s expected swearing in of a new police chief in Baldwin Park, another resident got murdered.

In a drive-by shooting to be exact. It occurred just blocks from the police department. Remarkable because it’s the city’s fifth homicide in 2008.

By comparison, at this time last year, Baldwin Park recorded just one slaying.

Welcome to Baldwin Park, “Hub City of the San Gabriel Valley.”

A stiff ocean breeze blew in from the Pacific Wednesday. Purple blossoms blew off the Jacarandas and bunched up in the gutter. Dust kicked up and made the intersection of Ramona Boulevard and Merced Avenue seem like an apparition from the Wild West.

It must have sounded like something out of a Clint Eastwood movie about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday evening.

A car with two women and a man approached the intersection from the west and stopped at the light. Another car pulled alongside. Shots rang out. Gunfire struck the man in the stopped car at least once.

By 7 p.m. he was dead and laid out on a slab in a local hospital waiting for relatives to identify him. By all accounts there was no immediate provocation for the slaying.
“But who knows what happened before?” asked Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Lt. Dan Rosenberg.

Even so, “There were indicators to suggest there were local gangs involved,” Rosenberg said. “My guess is that when this all pans out that will be the case.”

The upswing in homicides comes as Baldwin Park is in the midst of remaking itself.

Whole blighted neighborhoods that were once filled with seedy pay-by-the-hour motels and ramshackle motor home courts have been torn down.

The fences, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers and parolees have moved on to greener pastures. Families have started taking over affordable housing options that line Ramona and Baldwin Park boulevards.

Recent news stories suggest despite resistance from longtime shop owners, at least one developer holds high hopes for plans to revitalize the city’s core via eminent domain and redevelopment.

And yet, as if they lived in a town straight out of a spaghetti western, residents still cower in fear of the gangs that seemingly run the real city.

What usually happens in those old films is that the town’s lone sheriff or marshall leaves town and is replaced by a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of lawman.

The hired new muscle drives out the bad guys and everybody lives happily ever after.

As for the new muscle in Baldwin Park?

Her name is Lili Hadsell, but you can probably call her chief.

Hadsell, who began the year as a lieutenant, likely takes over as the county’s third female municipal police chief. After many years working for the Baldwin Park Police Department, Hadsell told reporter Amanda Baumfeld she’s ready for the challenges — even as the town’s homicide rate continues to soar and residents remain fearful.

“I am not new to the community,” Hadsell said. “Our gang unit has helped with violence and the city is not what it was like 10 years ago. It is relatively safer now. We have a stronger police presence on the street.”

In “High Plains Drifter,” a bad guy tells new sheriff Clint Eastwood: “Life here’s a little too quick … Maybe you think you’re fast enough to keep up with us, huh?”

To which Eastwood responds, “A lot faster than you’ll ever live to be.”

If only things were that simple in Baldwin Park.

Remembering Neal on his birthday

Jan WIlliams recalls her son Neal in an email I received this morning.

Neal, 27, and Jan’s grandsons Ian and Devon were slain last August at their apartment in Rowland Heights. Neal’s wife Manling has been charged in the killings and has yet to face a preliminary hearing in the case. Neal was apparently stabbed to death. The children were suffocated.

Here’s Jan’s letter:

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May 19, 2008 – Neal’s 28th birthday.  More than any other holiday or anniversary that I have faced in the last nine months, this is the one that is the most difficult.  This is the day my only son was born.  He should be here to eat his grandmother’s key lime pie, the one she only makes for him.  It isn’t fair.  It isn’t right.  He had so many things to look forward to and he didn’t deserve to die.  How hard it is as a parent to think of your child bleeding out his life in fear and pain.  There are times when I think that my heart is too wounded to beat even one beat more.

I have spoken and written about the little boys, but until now I have been unable to write about Neal.  That isn’t because I loved my grandchildren more than I loved my son.  I think it is because the hurt is too close.  And because so many parts of our personalities were similar, holding a magnifying glass up to examine Neal means that I must examine myself as well.  To help you see Neal  I must expose a bit of me.  That isn’t easy or comfortable, so let me take a couple of deep breaths.

Neal and I are both peacemakers.  We hate to see anyone angry, in pain or humiliated.  We want to fix it.  I’ve seen Neal get up and leave the room when he could tell that a character in a television show was about to be embarrassed.   His eyes teared up when the barracuda ate the clown fish’s eggs in Finding Nemo, and he was bothered when the T-Rex ate the dog in Jurassic Park II.  He could always see the other side in almost every argument.  It didn’t necessarily make him change his mind, because he could be very stubborn about his own conclusions, but he could understand and empathize.  I am the same way myself.  Perhaps that is why we could discuss so many issues – even volatile ones.  We both knew that it was safe to air our opinions, but that we shouldn’t expect any sudden about face, no matter how eloquent our arguments.

We are voracious readers who can lose all sense of time with a book in our hands.  It is known to be  dangerous to let us loose in a book store, especially if it also sells coffee.  We are interested in many of the same things – history and archaeology, space travel and ecology, philosophy and volcanoes.  We are fans of Monty Python and Shakespeare, Star Wars and Gilbert and Sullivan.  We like to cook but detest washing dishes.  We procrastinate.  We like to walk in the rain.  We sing in the car.  Devon once asked me in confusion how I knew all of his daddy’s songs.  I can’t begin to tell you how it felt to see my son sing my songs and play my games and tell my stories with his own children.  It was almost like being handed a glimpse of immortality, real and down to earth.

Neal and I are good with animals and children.  We can make friends with mean old alley cats and can put babies to sleep.  When Neal was in middle school, he was a volunteer aide at a daycare center.  I would come to pick him up and see him walking calmly across a play yard with four-year-olds stuck like glue to every limb.  The last time I went to the park with Neal and the boys, he started in pushing the merry-go-round, and kept right on pushing, even when his own children had lost interest and gone on with me to other amusements.  As long as there was a single child to say “Again!” he was there to push, even red faced and out of breath.  He was a great father who treated every child he met as though it was one of his own boys.

Neal liked to tease, with a roguish twinkle in his eyes, and he had a wonderful, infectious laugh. He was a trustworthy and loyal friend, the kind who would show up with a truck on moving day. He was an amazing strategist, who thought many moves ahead, and when he played games he usually won.  He also had the infinite patience to teach hyperactive little boys how to play chess or baseball or video games or (Devon’s favorite) the German card game Bohnanza.  He answered endless questions, and laughed with good humor at whatever jokes were popular in the first grade, even the ones he had heard many times before.

Neal didn’t have a lot of ambition for material things.  He was raised by a single parent from the time he was two, and we never had a lot of money.  It didn’t matter.  We were rich in many other things, and I know he felt the same about his own adult life.  We often talked about it.  Devon and Ian were his treasure, and he had no need of fancy cars or a big house.  I am proud of that.  Neal was a man of heart and integrity, and that means more to me than if he had become the world’s youngest multimillionaire.  He would often quote the character  Merlin from the movie Excaliber , saying, “When a man lies he murders part of the world.”  He believed that and made it his personal code of honor.  How many people even have a code of honor in this busy and competitive world? .  He wasn’t a perfect man.  He was a good man.  That was Neal – a genuinely good man.

Housekeeper released! *

Note from Star-news city editor Hector Gonzalez:

they just released the housekeeper in the 90 yr old’s death–lack of evidence

This just hours after Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said the housekeeper was a prime suspect…..somebody’s got some explaining to do here.

*The woman has been exonerated, officials told City News this afternoon.

“Like a game of Clue,” housekeeper arrested in Altadena

Steve Whitmore of the Sheriff’s Department said homicide detectives have arrested a housekeeper in connection with the death of Evelyn Mosley, 90, who had lived at a home in the 3200 block of Lincoln for about six years with her daughter and teenage grandson.

Property records showed that a Sandy Mosley Hamilton lived at the address.

Further details as they happen

Mystery surrounds find of bloody body in burning home

Fred Ortega spent some time in Altadena yesterday hoping to put together some of the puzzle surrounding the death of 90-year-old woman: Associated Press filed this. Here’s a piece of Fred’s story:

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ALTADENA – Firefighters doused a blaze at an Altadena home Thursday – and uncovered a murder mystery.

Homicide detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are now investigating after firefighters discovered the body of a 90-year-old woman inside the burned Lincoln Avenue home early Thursday.

Detectives said they found blood and other signs of a struggle inside the home in the 3200 block of North Lincoln.

“Right now we have no details about whether she was killed by fire or smoke,” said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Ron Haralson.

However, he said the woman’s body showed signs of trauma.

And later in the day Thursday, detectives confirmed the woman’s death was a homicide.

Pot Luck

One day after an informant for the El Monte PD was killed, detectives continued their string of pot busts with a roust in Rowland Heights. A home at 2040 Bing Court, yielded more pot than a bust at the gated El Monte community on Maxon Road last Friday.

 

 

The same in any language

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This from the World Journal, a Chinese language newspaper based in Monterey Park.  Their reporter was covering an execution type killing in Rosemead that left one man injured and another seriously wounded. I used Google Translator to give the flavor of the coverage. The dead teen was identified as Jimmy Tran, 18, of El Monte:

At the location near to residential communities, not far from the commercial district, Park corner is a kindergarten, residents in the Chinese and Hispanic majority. He evening, living in the vicinity of the house looks into Michael Hispanic television, not witnessed, but it 4-5 sound heard gunshots, he dared not go out to see, only silent prayer that no casualties.

VIrgin Mary ordered screwdriver killing

This comes from WDN reporter Airan Scruby:

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NORWALK – A man who allegedly stabbed his disabled cousin to death said he did so on orders from the Virgin Mary, according to an expert mental health witness.

Gray Maria, 23, was found incompetent to stand trial after testimony Tuesday from two psychologists. Maria was transferred to Patton State Hospital, where he will undergo treatment and report back to Commissioner Michael Schuur in 90 days.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that he suffers from mental illness,” Schuur said.

Maria has been jailed since June 2006, when he allegedly stabbed Victor Najera with a screwdriver. Najera, then 17, ran for help to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant at 11755 Whittier Blvd. in Whittier, according to Sgt. Mitch Loman of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.

Maria then allegedly went to his cousin’s house in the 7300 block of Ridgeview Lane in the unincorporated area of West Whittier, Loman said.

He watched television with Mara Del Real, 19, who had cerebral palsy and was in a wheelchair, and her older brother.

When the brother left the room, according to Loman, Maria stabbed Del Real with a knife, just hours after the first attack. She died at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital.

Career criminal linked to 1996 killing

This story comes from Sandra Molina in today’s Whittier Daily News:

LONG BEACH – A Long Beach man released from custody after being identified as a suspect in the 1996 killing of a Whittier resident has been charged in that case, as well as in a fatal stabbing in Long Beach last month.

Jeffrey Means, 42, is accused of bludgeoning to death Hal Shaw, 48, on June 12, 1996, in the 7900 block of Newlin Avenue in Whittier, police said.

He also is accused in the stabbing death of Ronald Henry, 67, of Long Beach at a home in the 900 block of Dawson Avenue in that city on Dec. 19.

Means is charged with two counts of murder, two counts of special circumstances of multiple murders, two counts of murder in the course of a robbery, and two counts of residential robbery.

He is being held without bail by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy District Attorney Karen Thorpe said Wednesday.

Means did not enter a plea, and his arraignment was continued to Feb. 5.

Because of the alleged special circumstances, he is eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

 

Murder-suicide gunman had been deported 3 times

Here’s some John and Ken fodder.

Gustavo Tellez, the man who shot his wife to death in Whittier Monday before turning the gun on himself had been deported three times, ICE officials said today.

Additionally, Whittier police said they were called to victim Suzanne Jaramillo’s home several times for domestic altercations between Tellez and Jaramillo. Apparently they never checked Tellez’s status.

Reporter BRian Day will have the complete story later this evening.