Second suspect convicted of teen’s slaying outside La Habra Halloween party in 2009

LA HABRA – The second of three gang members accused of fatally beating and slashing the throat of an 18-year-old La Habra man outside a Halloween party in 2009 pleaded guilty to his role in the slaying Thursday, authorities said.
Rene Antonio Lobos, 18, of La Habra was 15 years old when he took part in the Oct. 31, 2009 killing of Joshua Mora-Rodriguez of La Habra, officials said. Mora-Rodriguez, the son of two Los Angeles police detectives, had recently graduated high school and preparing to join the Army at the side of his death. He had no gang ties.
After more than three years of court proceedings, Lobos pleaded guilty Thursday in Santa Ana Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter, and admitted the the sentence-enhancing allegation that the crime was gang-related, Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said. Under a plea agreement, an additional charge of street terrorism was dismissed.
He was immediately sentenced to 16 years in state prison, Emami said.
A total of three young men were charged in connection with the killing.
A jury convicted Steven Salvador Hernandez, 20, of La Habra, in May of second-degree murder and street terrorism for Mora Rodriguez’s killing, officials said. He was sentenced in July to 15 years to life in prison. He was 17 years old at the time of the killing.
A third defendant, 23-year-old Francisco Nuno, has denied the same charges and was due in court May 15 for a pretrial conference and hearing to set a trial date, Emami said.
Though minors at the time of the killing, Lobos and Hernandez were tried as adults.
Mora-Rodriguez was attacked by a group of gang members, which included the three defendants, shortly before midnight on Halloween, 2009, as he left a house party in the 1000 block of East Francis Avenue, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Duff. The party was hosted by a female friend of one of the suspects.
Prior to the fatal attack, two of Mora-Rodriguez’s friends had been involved in a fight by several other young men at the party, Duff said.
As Mora-Rodriguez and his friends were leaving the party, they became involved in an argument, then another fight, with the same group, officials said.
Six to eight gang members joined the attack, in what was described by witnesses as an “ambush,” Duff said.
Lobos beat the victim with a baseball bat while Nuno pummeled Mora-Rodriguez with his fists, the prosecutor said. Hernandez then used a knife to cut Mora-Rodriguez throat, fatally wounding him.

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Young Rowland Heights woman badly hurt in 57 Freeway crash in Diamond Bar

DIAMOND BAR — A 19-year-old Rowland Heights woman suffered major injuries Tuesday when an SUV struck her stopped Toyota Corolla on the Orange (57) Freeway, authorities said.

Kathryn Rios was hospitalized following the 2:27 p.m. crash on the southbound 57 Freeway, just south of Brea Canyon Cutoff Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Antillon said in a written statement.

Edward Castaneda, 38, of La Habra, who was driving the Ford Explorer that rear-ended Rios’ car, was cited at the scene on suspicion of driving on a suspended license and failing to provide proof of insurance at a collision scene, the officer said. Driving under the influence was not initially suspected to be a factor.

The Corolla was travelling ahead of the Ford prior to the crash, officials said. “For an unknown reason, Ms. Rios’ Toyota came to a complete stop within the No. 4 lane,” Antillon said. “Mr. Castaneda failed to notice the Toyota stopped directly ahead of him,” he said.

“The front of the Ford subsequently struck the rear of the Toyota.” Rescuers took Rios to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center for treatment with “major injuries,” Antillon said. An update on her condition was not available. Castaneda was not injured.

Any witnesses to the crash where asked to contact the CHP’s Baldwin Park office during normal business hours at 626-338-1164.

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La Habra Green Burrito restaurant robbed

LA HABRA – Two men with handguns fled with $500 and a cell phone after robbing a Green Burrito Wednesday night.
La Habra police Lt. Jeff Swaim said no one was injured during the 9:20 p.m. robbery of the store at 911 West Whittier Blvd.
The suspects left the store on foot, he said. They were only described as black men wearing black sweatshirts.
Swaim said prior to the La Habra robbery, there was a robbery in Fullerton involving two black men in a white 1990s Suburban with Arizona license plates.
He said the two cases haven’t been linked.

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8-year-old girl attacked by Rottweilers while walking to school in La Habra

LA HABRA — An 8-year-old girl walking to school was attacked by two Rottweilers Tuesday morning, police said.
La Habra police responded to the 200 block of Pacific Avenue about 7:15 a.m. regarding a dog attack.
Los Angeles County firefighters took the girl to a hospital.
Authorities early Wednesday said the girl’s injuries were not considered life-threatening, however no further details on her condition were available.
La Habra Animal Control found the two male Rottweilers and took the dogs into custody. Police don’t know yet who owns the dogs.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Three workers taken to hospital after fumes emerge from manhole in La Habra

LA HABRA — Three public works employees were hospitalized as a precaution Friday after they opened a manhole cover and inhaled fumes from what was later determined to be a degreasing solvent, authorities said.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works officials lifted the manhole cover about 9:20 a.m. at Euclid Avenue and Electric Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Robert Cendejas said.
They smelled a strong odor and experienced shortness of breath, officials said. They were taken to a hospital for treatment as a precaution.
A hazardous material crew ultimately determined the chemical was some sort of degreasing solvent that had become concentrated in the area beneath the intersection, Cendejas said.
Exactly what the chemical was, or how it ended up concentrated in the were below Euclid Street, remained unclear, he added.
Nearby residents were advised to stay in their homes as firefighters dealt with the situation, Cendejas said, however no evacuations were ordered.
Officials remained at the scene for nearly two hours.

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La Habra woman accused of throwing infant from fourth floor of parking structure pleads not guilty by reason of insanity

SANTA ANA — A La Habra woman charged with murder for allegedly throwing her infant son from the fourth floor of a hospital parking structure pleaded not guilty Wednesday by reason of insanity, authorities said.
Sonia Hermosillo, 32, entered the plea in Santa Ana Superior Court, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said. She was ordered back to court for a pre-trial conference Feb. 22.
“We anticipate that’s the defense — that they’re going to claim postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis,” said Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons, who is prosecuting the case.
But he said the evidence indicates the killing was a pre-meditated and deliberate act.
At a hearing in March, a judge ruled that Hermosillo was mentally competent to stand trial following assertions by her attorney that she was not.
She charged with murder and child abuse in connection with the Aug. 22, 2011 incident at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
Seven-month-old Noe Medina Jr. died two days after plummeting from the parking structure, investigators said.
He suffered from treatable medical conditions that required him to wear a helmet.
Though Hermosillo contends she was insane when she killed her baby, “There are a number of facts which are very goal-oriented,” Simmons said.
It’s alleged that Hermosillo drove her son to the fourth floor of the parking structure and removed his helmet before throwing him off.
Before fleeing the scene, Hermosillo went inside the hospital and validated her parking, officials said
Parking validation was necessary in order for vehicles to leave the closed parking area, Simmons said, and the validation of her parking demonstrates she knew what she was doing.
Shortly before the incident took place, the baby’s father and Hermosillo’s husband called La Habra police to report them missing.
An officials motive has not been released, however the infant’s father, Noe Medina, has said that his wife suffered from postpartum depression and had difficulty accepting Noe Medina Jr. because of his medical problems.
Hermosillo has two other children.
Orange police officers arrested her when she drove by the hospital more than three hours later, as officials continued to investigate the scene, officials said.
Because she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the potential exists for two trials, Simmons explained.
In the first trial, a jury will determine guilt or innocence, he said. If convicted, the jury will again listen to evidence and determine whether Hermosillo was legally insane at the time of the crime.
Hermosillo could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.

PHOTO: Sonia Hermosillo, 32, of La Habra. (courtesy)

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Teens find $800 on La Habra street, turn it in to police

LA HABRA — In what officials described as a highly unusual service call, a young man called police Friday to report finding an envelope containing about $800 on a La Habra street.
Gerardo Marquez, 18, of La Habra said he and some friends were walking to a store in the 300 block of North Harbor Avenue when one of his friends found an envelope on the ground.
Inside, they found about $800 in cash, La Habra police Lt. Jason Forgash said.
Marquez admitted the thought of keeping the money crossed his mind.
“But we thought deeper into it,” he said. “We thought, what if belongs to a family that’s really in need?”
So Marquez called La Habra police about 10:30 p.m. to report funding the cash, Forgash said.
“We were all pleasantly shocked because it’s not something you see very often,” the lieutenant said. “It’s a nice time of the year for the rightful owner to be getting this amount of money back,” he added.
That rightful owner remained unidentified Saturday, police said.
Anyone with information about who the owner of the money might be was asked to contact the watch commander’s office at the La Habra Police Department at 562-905-9777.

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La Habra stabbing victim won’t cooperate with police

LA HABRA — A man was hospitalized in stable condition but refused to cooperate with investigators following a stabbing Thursday, officials said.
Officers responded to a report of a stabbing just after 8 p.m. in the 500 block of South Euclid Street, according to La Habra police Sgt. Brian Miller.
They discovered a man in his 30s who was suffering from a stab wound, the sergeant said. Rescuers took the man to UCI Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition.
“The victim was uncooperative with police and investigators are still trying to determine if the incident was gang related,” Miller said. No further details were available.
Anyone with information was asked to contact La Habra police at 562-905-9700.

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UPDATE: 70-year-old La Habra woman killed in Whittier Boulevard crash identified

LA HABRA — A 70-year-old La Habra woman died Wednesday in a two-vehicle collision on Whittier Boulevard, authorities said.
Faustina Vital died at the scene of the crash, La Habra police spokeswoman Cindy Knapp said.
The crash took place just before 6 p.m. as the senior citizen was making a left turn from westbound Whittier Boulevard onto Cypress Avenue in her 1987 Toyota Corolla, Knapp said.
A 27-year-old Chino woman was driving 2003 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck eastbound on Whittier Boulevard when the two vehicles collided, she said.
Paramedics pronounced the driver of the Toyota dead at the scene, Knapp said. The woman driving the pickup truck was treated at the seen for minor injuries but not taken to a hospital.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, Knapp said, however intoxicated driving was not initially believed to be involved.
Witnesses are asked to contact La Habra police at 562-905-9700.

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“Desperate Bandit” strikes for seventh time Friday in La Habra

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LA HABRA – Wearing a blond wig, a serial bank robber dubbed the “Desperate Bandit” hit a local bank Friday afternoon.

It was the seventh robbery tied to him since August.

La Habra police said the suspect used a note demanding money during the heist but didn’t say how much money was taken.

Officers were called shortly after 2 p.m. to a robbery in progress at the Bank of the West, 1330 S. Beach Blvd., Suite A. The robber had already fled.

The FBI dubbed the robber “Desperate Bandit” because some of his demand notes claimed he is armed and desperate.

Unlike the earlier robberies, he wore a wig and was on foot this time.

He was seen driving a late model white 4-door Toyota Corolla with a factory spoiler in the other robberies.

The bandit may ask to cash a company check as part of his modus operandi, according to the FBI. He also presents a typed demand note threatening he has a gun and verbally demands cash.

The bandit first struck Aug. 8 at the US Bank, 12801 Central Avenue in Chino.

He also robbed the Bank of the West at 3021 Yorba Linda in Fullerton on Aug. 14, the US Bank at 3800 E. La Palma in Anaheim on Sept. 5, Bank of the West,701 E. 1st Street in Tustin and Bank of America, 2601 Green River in Corona on Sept. 14 plus the US Bank at 201 E. Yorba Linda in Placentia on Sept. 28.

The robber was described as a white man, 40 to 50, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall and weighing 180 to 200 pounds. He has short brown and gray hair.

In the La Habra rbbery, he wore a wig, a blue baseball hat, a green T-shirt with white “NUTRISHOP” insignia and khaki pants.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 310-477-6565 or the La Habra Police Department at 562-905-9750 or anonymously at 562-905-9611.

- Ruby Gonzales

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