A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s Department psychologist from La Canada Flintridge could face life in prison after a jury convicted him Friday of sexually abusing two young relatives over more than two years, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County jury convicted Michael Dane Ward, 45, of four counts of committing lewd acts on a child, two counts of forcible lewd acts on a child under 14, three counts of oral copulation of a child under 10 and one count of sodomy of a child under 10, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials announced in a written statement.
“Sentencing is set for Oct. 19, when Ward faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison,” according to the statement. The jury deliberated for three days before finding Ward guilty.
Should Ward ever be released from prison, he is expected to be required to register as a sex offender, district attorney’s office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Ward’s crimes took place between October of 2014 and March of 2016, prosecutors said at the time. His victims were both family members: a then-9-year-old boy and a then-10-year-old girl. Both victims testified against him at trial.
He was employed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a psychologist at the time of his arrest. His specific duties within the department were not available, but sheriff’s officials said he was not a sworn deputy.
In a statement issued in the days following Ward’s arrest, the sheriff’s department described the allegations as “deeply troubling.”
“These allegations were not as a result of contacts he made within the scope of his work with the Sheriff’s Department,” according to the statement.
Ward was relieved of duty the same day he was arrested on May 5, 2016, sheriff’s officials added.
Ward posted $2 million bail 12 days after his May 5, 2016 arrest and had remained free pending the trial process, Los Angeles County booking records show.
Following the jury’s verdict on Friday, he was immediately remanded into custody without bail pending his sentencing in October in the Los Angeles branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE >> A 66-year-old Sylmar man died late Wednesday after the car he was riding as a passenger in was rear-ended by another vehicle on a freeway transition road in La Canada Flintridge, authorities said.
The crash took place shortly after 6 p,m, on the northbound 2 Freeway connector to the westbound 210 Freeway, according to California Highway Patrol logs.
The victim who died was riding as a passenger in a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta being driven by a 38-year-old Sylmar man, CHP officials said in a written statement. The Jetta was stopped behind traffic on the transition road.
“A (2015) Subaru Outback was approaching the Jetta from behind at a speed greater than 35 mph when the driver suddenly swerved to the left as he collided into the rear of the Jetta,” according to the statement. Thirty-five mph is the posted speed limit on the transition road.
“The impact from the collision caused the Jetta to spin in a westerly direction, where it collided into the rear of a stopped (2015) Honda CRV,” the statement said.
Both the driver and passenger of the Jetta were taken to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena for treatment, officials said. The passenger succumbed to his injuries a short time later. The driver suffered injuries described as moderate.
The 25-year-old Woodland Hills man at the wheel of the Outback suffered minor injuries, according to the CHP. The driver of the CRV was unhurt.
No arrests were made as the crash remained under investigation by the CHP’s Altadena-area office. Intoxicated driving was not initially suspected to be a factor.
Anyone with information can reach the CHP’s Altadena-area office at 626-296-8100.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> The death of a man whose body was discovered Thursday afternoon in the forest north of La Canada Flintridge is now being investigated as a homicide, authorities said Friday.
A passer-by first discovered the body about 12:50 p.m., about 30 feet off the side of Angeles Forest Highway, near mile marker 18.87, in the vicinity of Big Tujunga Road, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff’s officials initially described the victim as elderly. But it was ultimately determined he was a 35-year-old man, Deputy Grace Medrano of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
His identity was withheld Saturday pending notification of his family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.“Based on the upper body trauma that was discovered on the victim’s body, this case is being investigated as a homicide,” she said.
No further details were released.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
LA CANADA >> In a violent incident of road rage, a group of three people followed a man from a Glendale gas station to La Canada Flintridge, where one of them beat the victim with a baseball bat or other blunt object as he tried to seek help at a Foothill Boulevard fire station late Thursday, officials said.
The attack unfolded shortly after 7 p.m. outside Los Angeles County Fire Station 19, 1729 Foothill Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Randy Tuinstra said.
The attackers — described only as two men and a woman in a silver or gray Lexus sedan — became enraged over some type of traffic dispute at or near a gas station in Glendale, the lieutenant said.
They then began following the victim, who ultimately drove to the fire station to seek help.
“As he exited his vehicle and went knocking for help at fire station, a suspect jumped out of car and battered him with a blunt object,” Tuinstra said. The victim was struck in his arm and head. He was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The attackers and their car were not found, Tuinstra said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s La Crescenta Station at 818-248-3464. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE >> A man found dead inside a vehicle in a La Canada Flintridge late Friday has been identified as a 40-year-old music video director and producer from Los Angeles who disappeared a week ago, officials said Saturday.
The body of Travis Joel Peterson was discovered about 7:25 p.m. Friday inside a car parked in a parking lot of a shopping center along the 900 block of Foothill Boulevard, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
He was reported missing by family after vanishing on Dec. 30, Los Angeles police officials said in a written statement.
“Peterson was last seen on December 30, 2016, in the 1500 block of Foothill Boulevard, in the City La Canada Flintridge,” according to the statement. He had reportedly stopped at a gas station to buy a bottle of water. He was not seen or heard from again until his body was discovered.
Peterson’s cause of death was yet to be determined through a autopsy, Smith said.
But investigators did not note any overt signs of foul play at the scene, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Daniel Stanley said.
L.A. Weekly described Peterson as the “go-to music video director for L.A.’s indie rock scene,” having worked with artists including Glass Candy, Nite Jewel, Ariel Pink, Nedelle Torrisi, Julia Holter and Seth Bogart.
Once Peterson was found dead in La Canada Flintridge, the LAPD missing person’s case became a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau investigation.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO: Travis Joel Peterson, 40, of Los Angeles. (Courtesy, LAPD)
LA CANADA >> Detectives are investigating the death of a man whose body was discovered inside a car parked in a La Canada Flintridge shopping center parking lot late Friday, officials said.
A passer-by called 911 about 7:25 p.m. after noticing an unresponsive man inside a car in the parking lot of a shopping center along Town Center Drive, just east of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Daniel Stanley said.
Officials responded and pronounced the man dead at the scene, according to the lieutenant.
There were no obvious signs of foul play, however deputies summoned detectives from the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, as well as Los Angeles County coroner’s officials, to investigate, he said.
No further details were available.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> A man died in a head-on collision between a Honda Civic and a pickup truck on a winding stretch of Angeles Crest Highway deep in the Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge late Thursday, officials said.
The crash took place about 8:45 p.m. at mile marker 27.28, California Highway Patrol officials said.
Investigators had not yet identified the man killed in the crash, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. He was estimated to be in his 20s.
“(The Honda) was traveling southbound on Angeles Crest Highway through a turn, then lost control and traveled head-on into (the pickup truck),” CHP Officer J. Saunders said in a written statement.
Paramedics pronounced the driver of the Honda dead at the scene.
A 59-year-old Lancaster man who was driving the pickup truck, a Ford F-550, was treated for minor injuries, Saunders said.
The cause of thee crash remained under investigation.
Anyone with information can reach the CHP’s Altadena-area office at 626-296-8100.
PHOTO by Rick McClure
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE >> The wife of KABC-TV chief meteorologist Dallas Raines pleaded not guilty Wednesday to allegations she beat and tried to strangle her 25-year-old daughter last month, officials said.
Danielle Raines, 58, of Pasadena is charged with a single felony count of assault by means likely to to produce great bodily injury, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
The alleged assault took place on Aug. 31 in La Canada Flintridge, officials said.
Danielle Raines had been drinking wine with her 25-year-old daughter at a country club prior to the incident, Santiago said in a written statement.
“(Raines) she became belligerent and struck and pushed her daughter as she prepared to drive her mother home,” according to the statement.
The alleged assault continued as the daughter drove, prompting her to pull over, Santiago said.
“Once on the side of the road, Raines allegedly continued beating the victim and attempted to strangle her before she managed to escape,” the statement said.
If convicted as charged, Raines faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
The motive in the alleged assault was unclear.
Deputy District Attorney Jodi Taksar, who is prosecuting the case, deferred comment to the district attorney’s media relations office.
Raines remains free pending the legal process on $35,000 bail, which she posted the day of her arrest, records show.
Bail was set at $30,000. If convicted as charged, the defendant faces a possible maximum sentence of four years in state prison.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Services are planned Friday for a Winnetka man and volunteer ski patrol member who died over the weekend in a skiing accident near Mt. Waterman, officials said.
William Robert Eslick Jr., 61, died Saturday afternoon after he struck a tree while skiing near Mt. Waterman, deep in the Angeles National Forest north of the San Gabriel Valley, Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said.
A memorial service is planned at 11 a.m. Friday at the Elks Club, 20925 Osborne Street in Canoga Park, according to the National Ski Patrol.
The accident took place about 12:30 p.m., Winter said.
“Two patrons on a ski lift heard a loud impact,” he said. They reported it to the NSP, and Eslick’s patrol partner soon found him.
Paramedics soon found Eslick and pronounced him dead at the scene, officials said.
An autopsy determined he died from blunt force trauma to the chest, with a contributing cause of heart disease, Winter said. The death was ruled accidental.
Eslick was described as “an expert skier” and ski instructor who volunteered for the NSP’s Far West Division, Winter added.
Family members could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Eslick’s colleagues in the NSP, Far West Division Director Bill Gibson said.
“On behalf of the National Ski Patrol family, we are deeply saddened by this tragic event, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Bill’s family,” Gibson said. “Because the accident is under investigation, we cannot provide further comment regarding the accident at this time.
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST >> Coroner’s officials have identified a 61-year-old Winnetka man killed in an apparent skiing accident Saturday at Mt. Waterman.
William Robert Eslick Jr. died after striking a tree about 12:30 p.m. while skiing at the mountain, deep in the Angeles National Forest along Highway 2, Los Angeles County coroner’s and sheriff’s officials said.
An autopsy was pending, however investigators noted no initial signs of foul play, sheriff’s Lt. Douglas Mohrhoff said.