SANTA ANA >> Prosecutors Friday filed a murder charge Friday against a Santa Maria man with killing his mother and dumping her body in some bushes behind a La Habra carport earlier this year.
Following five months of investigation, La Habra police detectives arrested Gabriel Anthony Espinoza, 30, of Santa Maria Tuesday in connection with the slaying of his mother, La Habra police Sgt. Jose Quirarte said in a written statement.
After making an initial appearance Friday in Orange County Superior Court, Espinoza was being held without bail pending his next scheduled hearing on Feb. 6, according to Orange County booking records.
A man walking his dog first found the body of 58-year-old clinical social worker Emma Posadas Espinoza of Lompoc about 4:30 a.m. on July 21 in the 900 block of South Idaho Street in La Habra.
“He indicated that he had been walking his dog, off leash, behind the carport area, when his dog alerted on something,” Quirarte said. “He went to investigate and discovered the body. He immediately called the police.”
“The body had been covered with foliage and only the feet and a limited portion of the body appeared to be uncovered. The body was later identified as being Emma Posadas Espinoza.”
But the death remained shrouded in mystery for months. There were no obvious signs of trauma on the body when discovered, officials said. Initial autopsy results were not conclusive.
Autopsy results provided by the Orange County coroner investigators Dec. 17 revealed that Posadas-Espinoza died of asphyxiation, police said. Further details regarding exactly how she died were not available Saturday.
“Based on information gathered in the investigation, which included search warrants and court orders, the La Habra Police Department was able to identify a suspect responsible for the homicide,” Quirarte said.
Aided by Santa Maria police, La Habra officers arrested Espinoza at his Santa Maria home.
Prosecutors have filed a murder charge against the suspect, and also allege the murder involved special circumstances, making Espinoza potentially eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The alleged special circumstance is reportedly murder for financial gain, however officials could not confirm that information over the weekend.
Espinoza called Lompoc police the day his mother’s body was found and told them he hadn’t heard from her, but she was not formally reported missing, Lompoc police Sgt. Chuck Strange said at the time.
Espinoza declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper in July.
LA HABRA >> A ruptured water main Friday buckled Euclid Avenue in La Habra and flooded a portion of the La Habra Police Department, officials said.
The water main break occurred about 12:40 p.m. on Euclid Avenue, just north of La Habra Boulevard, La Habra police Sgt. Clint Angle said. Water gushed for more than two hours before crews shut off the flow.
In addition to buckling the street above, water poured into the basement of the nearby La Habra police station, the sergeant said.
Portions of the station’s basement — which houses telephone equipment and come computers, as well as a property room, locker room and gym — ended up flooded with 2 to 3 inches of water, Angle said.
No important equipment was damaged, and the station continued operating as normal, he said.
Workers temporarily patched the roadway to allow traffic to resume, Angle said. Crews will return Monday morning to make permanent repairs, and Euclid Avenue north of La Habra Boulevard is expected to be closed through most of the day.
SANTA ANA >> A La Habra gang member received a sentence of 50 years to life in state prison Friday for fatally shooting a Westminster man outside a La Habra Halloween party eight years ago, authorities said.
A Santa Ana Superior Court jury convicted David Anthony Parga, a 28-year-old member of the West Side La Habra street gang, late last year of second-degree murder for the Oct. 29, 2006, slaying of 27-year-old Leland Washington, according to Orange County District Attorney’s officials.
In addition to finding Parga guilty of murder, the jury also found true special allegations that the crime was gang-related, and that Parga personally used a firearm in the killing, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Washington, a senior at California State University, Long Beach, attended a Halloween party in the 400 block of West First Street when he was shot to death shortly after 1:30 a.m., officials said.
Though the party was attended by many gang members, Washington had no gang ties, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Washington went to the party at the invitation of two friends, but returned to his car after he was unable to find them.
“Outside of the house, Parga approached Washington and shot him without provocation several times in the torso,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Parga murdered the victim for a criminal street gang purpose. Washington and Parga did not know each other, and the victim had no previous contact or conflict with anyone at the party.”
Washington’s friend placed the wounded man into a car, called 9-1-1 and rushed him to the La Habra Police Department, officials said. He was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
After the investigation into Washington’s murder went cold, prosecutors developed new evidence and charged Parga with the killing in 2009. He was already serving a jail sentence for leading police on a chase in a stolen car that ended with a crash in Whittier about two weeks after the slaying.
LA HABRA >> A federal grand jury indicted a La Habra businessman Thursday on charges of illegally manufacturing and selling AR-15 style rifle parts, as well as completed firearms, authorities said.
ROHG Industries owner Joseph Roh, 46, of Fullerton agreed to turn himself in to authorities Friday, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. He was scheduled to be arraigned Friday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Roh is accused of making and selling hundreds of lower receivers for AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles, Mrozek said. A lower receiver is the primary component of the rifle, containing the trigger and hammer.
“In addition to the lower receivers, the indictment alleges that Roh illegally sold complete rifles and pistols,” Mrozek said.
Roh was not licensed to manufacture or sell guns, officials added.
Starting with an incomplete lower receiver, Roh and his employees would complete the firearm part using machining tools.
“Roh attempted to avoid the licensing requirements by requiring that each customer play a token role in the manufacturing process, which often meant merely pushing a button on a (milling) machine, while company employees did the vast majority of the work,” Mrozek said.
While the manufacture and sale of incomplete lower receivers is not legally regulated, the manufacture and sale of complete lower receivers is, and requires proper licensing, Mrozek explained.
Only the lower receiver of an AR-15 rifle must be serialized and registered as a firearm under state and federal law.
In some cases, at the request of customers, Roh would complete the assembly of the guns, adding an upper receiver, barrel and all other necessary components, according to the DOJ.
If convicted as charged, Roh faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
LA HABRA >> A man carjacked a woman in La Habra before leading police on a wild chase that ended in Yorba Linda late Friday, police said.
Gerald Paul Terveer, 47, of La Habra was arrested following the pursuit, which began shortly before 7 p.m., La Habra Police Department spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said in a written statement.
Brea police notified their counterparts in La Habra that a black Ford F-150 pickup truck had been spotted heading west in the eastbound lanes of Lambert Road, Knapp said.
A short time later, the truck rear-ended a gray Ford Taurus that was pulled along the curb, she said.
“(Terveer) exited his vehicle and ordered the woman driver to get out of the car,” Knapp said. “She did so, and he took her vehicle and sped away from the scene.”
The woman was not hurt, she said.
La Habra police officers caught up with the Taurus, initiating a pursuit, Knapp said.
Terveer drove wildly at high speeds during the chase, driving on the wrong side of the road numerous times and nearly colliding with other vehicles, she said. At one point, the car became airborne as it sped off the side of an offramp of the 91 Freeway.
The chase sped through La Habra, Fullerton, Anaheim, Orange, Tustin, Placentia and ultimately Yorba Linda.
It lasted for more than half an hour before the Taurus turned onto a Yorba Linda cul-de-sac, where officers cornered him and took him into custody.
According to Orange County booking records, Terveer was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his arraignment, scheduled Tuesday in Santa Ana Superior Court.
LA HABRA >> A man was hospitalized in a medically induced coma with major head injuries after taking a fall while riding his bicycle Sunday evening, officials said.
The man, 47, was riding about 7:15 p.m. in the 200 block of North Euclid Street when he crashed into a street sign, the sergeant said.
The bicyclist fell to the ground and struck his head on the pavement, Ruiz said. He was not wearing a helmet.
Paramedics rushed the man to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, he said. The injured man was placed into a medically induced coma as he received treatment.
The victim’s city of residence was not available Monday.
FULLERTON >> A serial bank robber dubbed the “Quad Bandit,” who had been linked by the FBI to 10 bank robberies and attempted bank robberies, is in custody following his most recent alleged caper in Brea, authorities said.
The prolific serial bandit, identified as Jonathan Wade Oechsle, 42, of Anaheim, was jailed Thursday by Fullerton police following his final robbery in Brea, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. He made his initial court appearance Friday at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The Quad Bandit was already being sought in connection with nine crimes at banks in Los Angeles and Orange counties — including one in La Habra — since late March, officials said. The FBI have him his nickname because he started his alleged spree with four robberies and attempted robberies at Buena Park banks on March 22.
After robbing the Bank of the West, 311 S. State College Blvd. in Brea, Thursday afternoon, Fullerton police spotted the robber driving in a silver Chevrolet Cavalier, Brea police Lt. Darrin Devereaux said in a written statement.
“Fullerton officers pursued the suspect approximately two miles until he crashed into a curb in the 1600 block of Sjyline (Drive) in Fullerton,” Devereaux said. “The suspect surrendered to officers at the scene without further incident.”
Other robberies and attempted bank robberies attributed to Oechsle occurred July 23 in Anaheim Hills, in Anaheim on July 15, La Habra on July 3, and twice in Cerritos on June 16, according to the FBI.
PHOTO courtesy of the FBI.
The FBI is seeking a serial bank robbery they’ve dubbed the “Quad Bandit,” whose robbed or attempted to rob nine banks in Orange and Los Angeles counties since April, officials said Friday.
The bandit earned his moniker at the outset of his spree when he struck four Buena Park banks on March 22, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Three of the crimes at Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase branches failed, while one at a Chase bank was successful.
The robber then showed up in Cerritos March 16, where he tried unsuccessfully to rob a Wells Fargo before successfully robbing a Chase bank later the same day, officials said.
The Quad Bandit robbed a La Habra U.S. Bank branch July 3, followed by an Opus Bank branch in Anaheim on July 15 and a Union Bank branch in Anaheim Hills on Wednesday.
“During the robberies, the suspect known as the Quad Bandit typically passes a note and makes a verbal demand for cash,” Eimilller said. “In some of the robberies, the Quad Bandit has threatened a weapon, or has appeared to have gestured toward what might be a weapon, according to victims.”
In a bank surveillance photo released by the FBI from a Buena Park crime, the bandit is seen holding up a piece of paper toward the teller’s window with the words, “bank robbery,” written on it.
The FBI described the bandit as white, 40 to 50 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall, 150 to 160 grounds. he had dirty blond hair, a goatee and stubble during the crimes, during which he wore sunglasses and baseball caps.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles office at 888-226-8443.
PHOTOS courtesy of the FBI
LA HABRA HEIGHTS — A stretch of Hacienda Road that was shut down Friday due to a water main leak reopened Saturday afternoon, officials said.
The leak was first reported about 12:30 p.m. Friday at Hacienda and West Roads, prompting officials to shut down Hacienda Road between Colima Road and Whittier Boulevard, La Habra Heights Public Works Director Dave Nichols. The mishap opened up a hole 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, and 4 to 5 feet deep.
After repairing the water main and repaving the street, the section of road was reopened shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday, Nichols said. About 18,000 vehicles use the road daily.
LA HABRA — Police searched a La Habra neighborhood Thursday after a botched tobacco shop robbery, authorities said.
The suspect ultimately eluded capture following the incident, which began about 6 p.m. with an attempted robbery at a tobacco store on Whittier Boulevard, just east of Hacienda Road, La Habra police Sgt. Mel Ruiz said.
The would-be robber entered the store and demanded property from the clerk, the sergeant said. He claimed to have a knife.
The clerk refused and confronted the robber, Ruiz said. The crook reached for the cash resister as the two briefly struggled.
The robber abandoned the crime and ran from the store, dropping a box cutter-style knife as he fled, officials said. The clerk declined to be taken to a hospital.
Police spotted a man matching the description of the failed robber about 6:40 p.m. in the area of Beach and La Habra Boulevards, Ruiz said. He ran south through a residential neighborhood as officers approached.
Officers set up a search perimeter in the area of Beach Boulevard and Lambert Road, where they last spotted the fleeing suspect, Ruiz said.
They searched yard-to-yard with the help of two police dogs and an Orange County Sheriff’s Department Helicopter, but came up empty-handed, he said.
Police described the robber as a Latino man of about 20 years old, about 5 feet 3 inches tall, of thin build, with a shaved head. He wore a black shirt with white lettering, blue jeans and leather boots.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the La Habra Police Department.