UPDATED: Body found along Angeles Crest Highway identified

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Coroner’s officials Friday identified a man found dead alongside Angeles Crest Highway north of La Canada Flintridge in an apparent homicide.
The body of Noe Vasquez, 35, of Canoga Park was found about 5:20 a.m. near mile marker 27.5 of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Though an autopsy was pending, homicide detectives found evidence of a shooting at the scene and were investigating the death as a homicide, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
A passing motorist spotted Vasquez’s body lying next to a guard rail and called authorities.
The investigation is ongoing.
According to county booking records, he was arrested April 24th on suspicion of a misdemeanor by the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau and released the following day after a conviction for violating a gang injunction.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records indicate Vasquez had a long criminal history dating back to 1995.
He was convicted of violating a court order in Van Nuys Superior Court in December of 2009, illegal gun possession at the Van Nuys court in 2006 and 2005, harassment in San Fernando Superior Court in 2000, domestic violence in the Van Nuys court in 2000, drug possession in Van Nuys court in 1995 and grand theft in Van Nuys court in 1995.
Anyone with information was asked to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
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Romanian man indicted in JPL computer hacking case

LOS ANGELES — A Romanian man already convicted in his home country of hacking into NASA computers at the the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge has been indicted in the United States, officials announced Wednesday.
Robert Butkya, 25, of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement. The alleged hacking took place in December.
Butkya used the moniker “Iceman” as he hacked into, and placed malicious software on, 25 computers that were part of NASA’s “Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Program — designed to support climate research and improve weather forecasting capabilities — in December, according to the DOJ.
In at least one instance, “He used the computers to launch attacks against other computers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Silber, who is prosecuting the American case, said.
It was not believed Butkya was trying to steal information from the system, Silber added.
In many cases, he said, the principal motivation of hackers is pride — to show off their prowess at accessing restricted systems.
“As a result of Butkya’s alleged conduct, researchers were unable to use the computers for more than two months while NASA removed the malicious code in the machines, restored data and took steps to prevent further access by hackers,” according to the statement. “NASA sustained more than $500,000 in damages, which includes the costs of completing the work on the computers and the time lost to scientific researchers.”
A Romanian court has already tried and convicted Butkya, sentencing him to three years in prison and seven years of probation, officials said.
Once he’s released from Romanian prison, he will have to be brought before a judge in the U.S. for the case to process, Silber explained.
Since Romania will not extradite in such a case, he said, prosecution in the United States will depend on with Butkya coming to America voluntarily, or being arrested in another country that will extradite him.
“As a practical matter, he has to come to the United States (to face trial),” Silber said.
If convicted in the U.S., Butkya faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
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Man killed in weekend hiking accident in forest identified

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Authorities have released the name of an 18-year-old man killed Saturday in a hiking accident in the Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge.
Vigen Sarkisyan of Tujunga was pronounced dead shortly before 3 p.m. after he and two other young men were found to have taken a fall near mile marker 41.9 of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
The two other men Sarkisyan was hiking with were hospitalized with serious injuries, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The details of the accident were under investigation, however it initially appeared the men fell into a steep culvert and tumbled about 600 feet, sheriff’s Sgt. Debra Herman said.
One of the injured men managed to climb back up to a roadway and seek help, officials said.
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One killed, two injured in Angeles National Forest mishap

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — A man died and two others were injured Saturday after tumbling about 600 feet down a drainage culvert off of Angeles Crest Highway, in the forest north of La Canada Flintridge.
The accident was reported shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday after one of the injured men managed to climb up to the road and seek help, however it was unclear when the men actually fell, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Debra Herman said. The men were believed to have gone up to the forest to go hiking Friday.
For reasons that remained under investigation, the three men were hiking when they slipped and slid about 600 feet down a steep, cement drainage culvert near mile marker 42 of Angeles Crest Highway, Herman said.
One of them men, initially described only as appearing to be in his 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene, she said.
Officials described the two survivors as Pasadena men who appeared to be in their 20s.
The man who managed to climb back up to the road was hospitalized by ambulance in unknown condition, Herman said. The other injured man was flown to the hospital by helicopter.
Authorities continued investigating the incident and working to recover the body late Saturday.
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Briefcase bomb scare shuts down 210 Freeway in La Crescenta

LA CRESCENTA — A briefcase abandoned at an overpass led to all lanes of the 210 freeway being shut down for nearly an hour Monday.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Randy Tuinstra said the sheriff’s bomb squad determined it was empty.
He said a passing motorist spotted the briefcase on the Rosemont Avenue overpass near the eastbound 210 Freeway about 6 p.m. and called the California Highway Patrol. The CHP then notified the sheriff’s Crescenta Valley Station.
Tuinstra said the bomb squad arrived with a robot and rendered the briefcase safe.
CHP Officer Anthony Martin said a SigAlert was issued at 6:18 p.m. and all freeway lanes were reopened at 7:12 p.m.
- By Staff Writer Ruby Gonzales

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Extra patrols planned on Angeles Crest Highway Saturday

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — California Highway Patrol officials will field extra officers on Angeles Crest Highway Saturday in an effort to combat motorcycle-related deaths and injuries, authorities said.
“This scenic drive attracts all types of motorists, including a special appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts of all calibers,” CHP officials said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, the Angeles Crest Highway has become known for its disproportionately high rate of motorcycle collisions resulting in fatal injuries.”
The CHP recorded 10 motorcyclist deaths and 195 injuries on the highway between 2007 and 2009.
The extra enforcement campaign is being funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

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Closing arguments expected in La Canada Flintridge fatal big rig crash case

From the Associated Press:

PASADENA — Trial is winding down for a trucker charged with the deaths of a father and daughter killed by his runaway big rig in La Canada Flintridge.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office says closing arguments are scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon in Pasadena Superior Court in the murder and vehicular manslaughter trial of Marcos Costa.
Costa was hauling cars over the San Gabriel Mountains on April 1, 2009, when his brakes failed on the steep Angeles Crest Highway above La Canada Flintridge. The double-decker rig hit a car, killing Angel Posca and his daughter Angelina, of Palmdale, collided with four other vehicles and smashed into a bookstore and a nail salon, injuring three others.
Costa has maintained his innocence.

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UPDATE: Two fatal crashes reported on recently reopened Angeles Crest Highway

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Two en died Friday in unrelated solo-car crashes on the same stretch of the recently reopened Angeles Crest Highway.
The crashes were reported just after 3 a.m., and the other about 4:30 p.m., officials said, though both occurred within about a quarter-mile of each other on Angeles Crest Highway, just south of Dark Canyon Truck Trail, in the Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge.
Julio Cesar Velasquez, 21, of Pasadena, was pronounced dead at the scene of the early morning crash, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
He was driving westbound on the highway in his 2007 Honda at an unknown speed when he lost control, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
Velasquez’s car struck an embankment and a tree, and he was pronounced dead from his injuries by a Los Angeles County paramedic shortly after the crash, officials said.
“Alcohol is being investigated as a factor in this crash,” the statement said.
Friday afternoon, authorities received word of the second fatal crash about a quarter-mile north of the first crash scene.
Witnesses reported seeing a vehicle go over the side of the road and plummet about 500 feet down a hillside, CHP Officer Jennifer Connolly said.
The driver of the vehicle, who was initially described as a 48-year-old Monterey Park man, was pronounced dead at the scene.
No further information was available late Friday.
The causes of both crashes remained under investigation.
Caltrans officials on June 3 reopened seven miles of Angeles Crest Highway that had been closed since the Station Fire scorched the area in the summer of 2009.
The $32 million repair job was celebrated by local residents and motorists eager to see the connection between the San Gabriel and Antelope valleys restored, however the road also has a dangerous history.
Hundreds of crashes have been reported on the road in recent years, and CHP officials cautioned the public when it reopened to be careful while using Angeles Crest Highway and obey all traffic laws.
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Man charged with La Crescenta slaying of cousin

From City News Serice
PASADENA — A Tujunga man was charged Thursday with murdering his 33- year-old female cousin, whose body was left near the La Crescenta Avenue offramp of the westbound 210 Freeway.
Aram Sarukhanyan, 27, is accused of shooting Adrine Arzumanyan and then pointing a handgun at a civilian who tried to stop him after he allegedly dumped the victim’s body alongside the freeway April 29.
Sarukhanyan was located a short time later on the southbound 2 Freeway with a self-inflicted gunshot wound that resulted in his hospitalization, authorities said.
He will be arraigned after he is released from the hospital, according to Deputy District Attorney Lee Mitchell.
Sarukhanyan is charged with one felony count each of murder and brandishing a firearm at a person in motor vehicle, along with the allegation that he personally used a handgun in the commission of Arzumanyan’s shooting.
If convicted, he faces a maximum of more than 50 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. 
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Drivers distracted by gadgets blamed for crashed in Industry, La Canada Flintridge

Officials blame drivers distracted by gadgets for two separate injury crashes late Friday in Industry and early Saturday in La Canada Flintridge.
A man suffered a broken ankle about 8:50 p.m. Friday when he crashed into a telephone pole at Baldwin Park Boulevard and Temple Avenue in Industry, Lt. Steve Katz said in a written statement.
The man told deputies he dropped his cell phone while driving and leaned over to retrieve it, the lieutenant said.
“In doing so, the vehicle veered toward the curb and struck a telephone pole,” Katz said.
The crash brought live electrical wires down into the street, officials said, however electrical service and traffic signals were unaffected. A Southern California Edison crew was summoned to repair the damage.
About five hours later, a 22-year-old man was hospitalized with major injuries when he crashed his car while sending a text message on the westbound 210 Freeway near Foothill Boulevard, California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs said.
“He was texting while driving,” he said. “His wife or girlfriend received the text a minute after the crash came out.”
The car swerved across westbound lanes, hit the center divider and overturned, Jacobs said.
The driver was taken Huntington Hospital in Pasadena for treatement of injuries that were believed to be life-threatening, officials said.

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