Suspects charged in 2006 slaying of Iraq War veteran


SOUTH GATE >> Detectives Sunday announced the arrests of two suspects in the cold case slaying of a 24-year-old Iraq War veteran from Rowland Heights found slain inside his burning car in South Gate in 2006, authorities said.
U.S. Army veteran Jesse Aguilar was found dead inside his car, which was found on fire on Oct. 26, 2006, in the Los Angeles Riverbed near Paramount Boulevard in South Gate, Detective Ray Lugo of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Prompted by evidence in the case, prosecutors Wednesday filed charged of murder and torture against Anthony Silvas, 36, and Juan Vallejo, 40, Lugo said. Silvas, who has been considered a person of interest in the case since shortly after it occurred, while Vallejo was identified as a suspect in recent months.
After nine years waiting for justice, Aguilar’s mother, Nancy Aguilar, said she was glad to see the investigation move forward.
“It’s been a relief that there’s going to be accountability,” she said. “I want to look into the killers’ eyes. I want to see them.”
Vallejo, who lived in La Mirada at the time of the slaying, was arrested Wednesday at a home where he was living in Hawaiian Gardens, Lugo said. Silva, a South Whittier resident at the time of Aguilar’s killing, was already in custody in Orange County for an unrelated drug offense.
Lugo declined to discuss details of the killing, due to the ongoing investigation, but said it was motivated by a dispute over money. He said Aguilar and Silvas were 1109_NWS_SGT-L-AGUILAR2friends, and described the victim and Vallejo as acquaintances.
Nancy Aguilar said she herself new little about her son’s death. “I don’t even know how they killed by son,” she said.
Information will emerge as the legal process moves forward.
“Do I want to know everything? No. But I have to,” the mother said.
Aguilar, who grew up in La Mirada and joined the Army in March of 2001, took part in the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, his mother said.
“He went to war and came back in one piece, and I was so thankful,” she said.
He had been back in the U.S. less than two years and was working at the Automobile Club of Southern California in Costa Mesa when he was killed, according to the detective and Jesse Aguilar’s mother.
He never returned home after going to work Oct. 25, Lugo said. After being reported missing, his bound body was found the following day inside his car, which had been set ablaze.
Lugo, along with a team of fellow detectives, has been investigating Aguilar’s slaying since it occurred.
“We weren’t going to give up on this case,” he said.
1109_NWS_SGT-L-AGUILAR3Nancy Aguilar thanked detectives, and particularly Lugo, for their dedication.
“God sent Ray (Lugo) for this case because he never quits,” she said.
In addition to his parents, Nancy and Frank Aguilar, Jesse Aguilar is survived by two daughters, ages 9 and 14, three sisters and two brothers.
Nancy Lugo said in the years following son’s slaying, she has found comfort and solace in support groups, such as Parents of Murdered Children’s Orange County chapter.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Vallejo is being held in lieu of $1.01 million bail and is scheduled for arraignment Monday in Los Angeles Superior 1109_NWS_SGT-L-AGUILAR4Court. Silvas remained in custody in Orange County pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, officials said.


PHOTOS: [TOP TO BOTTOM] 1. Jesse Aguilar, 24, of Rowland Heights, was found slain inside his burning car in South Gate on Oct. 26, 2006. Two suspects were charged with his killing nine years later on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Courtesy)  2. Jesse Aguilar poses with an Iraqi boy while serving overseas with the U.S. Army following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (Courtesy)  3. Jesse Aguilar spends time with one of his two daughters shortly after returning home from a U.S. Army deployment to Iraq. (Courtesy)  4. The gravesite of Jesse Aguilar, 24, of Rowland Heights, who was found slain inside his burning car in South Gate on Oct. 26, 2006. Two suspects were charged with his killing nine years later on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (Courtesy)  5. Jesse Aguilar, a 24-year-old U.S. Army veteran found slain in 2006, is pictured upon his graduation from the Wilshire School of Continuing Education in Fullerton. (Courtesy)


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Suspect jailed in connection with series of 15 armed robberies in L.A., Orange counties

Detectives arrested La Mirada man earlier this week who is believed to be responsible for 15 recent armed convenience store robberies throughout southeast Los Angeles County and north Orange county, officials said Friday.
The arrest came Tuesday following the suspect held up a business in Buena Park, according to Lt. Martin Rodriguez of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau.
After determining the suspect in the Buena Park heist appeared to be the same as that in the previous 14 robberies, detectives began scouring the neighborhoods along the border between La Mirada and Orange County where previous crimes had been reported, the lieutenant said.
Deputies spotted a man and car matching the description at a liquor store at Stage Road and Alondra Boulevard in La Mirada, he said. They then followed the car to Hawaiian Gardens, where they pulled it over and arrested the suspect.
Rodriguez said. A search of the 38-year-old suspect’s home in La Mirada turned up a .40-caliber handgun resembling the one used in the string of robberies.
Seven of the crimes took place in Los Angeles County, while the other eight took place in Orange County.
The name of the suspect was not released Friday as the investigation continued. Sheriff’s officials described him as a longtime resident of Hawaiian Gardens who had been recently living in La Mirada.
He was being held in lieu of $110,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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UPDATED: Man arrested following standoff near La Mirada

LA MIRADA >> Deputies took a man into custody after he holed-up inside a home along the La Mirada border in unincorporated Orange County Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The standoff began about 1 p.m. when deputies responded to deal with a man who had outstanding arrest warrants and was believed to be armed with several rifles or shotguns, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
Orange County deputies continued trying to persuade the man to surrender more than four hours later, Smitson said. Los Angeles County deputies helped close off nearby streets and evacuate nearby homes.
Orange County sheriff’s officials announced about 5:45 p.m. that the suspect had surrendered and been taken into custody.

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Home, cars struck by gunfire in La Mirada drive-by shooting

LA MIRADA >> Bullets pierced an occupied house and three cars in a drive-by shooting in a residential neighborhood Thursday, but injured no one.
Deputies received reports of gunfire about 11:20 a.m. in the 11900 block of Dilworth Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
A dark-colored sedan passed by and someone fired about 12 shots, striking a house with six people inside and three cars parked nearby, the lieutenant said.
The motive in the shooting remained under investigation.

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Man denies charges in fatal Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet stabbing

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> The second of two defendants denied murder and assault charges in connection with the fatal stabbing of a La Mirada woman during a fight over a parking space at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet last month, officials said.
Reggie Cervantes, 22, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon for the Oct. 17 stabbing in the parking lot of the swap meet at 13963 Alondra Boulevard, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
Cervantes is additionally accused of the special allegation that he personally wielded a knife in the crime, officials said.
Cervantes’ co-defendant Brenda Jasmine Rangel, 19, of South Los Angeles pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges Oct. 21 in Norwalk Superior Court.
The two suspects are accused of fatally stabbing 43-year-old Elizabeth Yanez of La Mirada during a dispute over a parking space about 9;30 p.m., Whittier police officials said.
Yanez was in a vehicle with her two adult children when she got into an argument with Cervantes and Rangel, who were in another car, police and district attorney’s officials said.
“At some point, Cervantes exited his car and attempted to stab Yanez’s son, but was unsuccessful,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “Cervantes then allegedly walked over to Yanez and stabbed her,”
Yanez succumbed to her injuries at an area hospital.
Investigators found and arrested Cervantes and Rangel in connection with the fatal stabbing the following morning at a South Los Angeles apartment, according to Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
Prosecutors said Cervantes was previously convicted of robbery in 2009 and receiving stolen property in 2010.
Both face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted as charged, officials said.
Cervantes and Rangel were being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending trial, according to booking records. They were scheduled to return to court Dec. 15 for a preliminary hearing.

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UPDATED: La Mirada woman killed in weekend stabbing at Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A La Mirada woman died after she was stabbed in front of her adult children during a dispute over a parking space at the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet late Friday, Whittier police officials announced Thursday.
A man and woman face murder charges in connection with the stabbing, which took place about 9:30 p.m Friday. at the swap meet, 13963 Alondra Boulevard, Whittier Police Department officials said in a written statement.
Elizabeth Yanez, 43, died at the hospital shortly after the stabbing, police said.
Police found and arrested Reggie Cervantes, 22, and Brenda Jasmine Rangel, 19, both of South Los Angeles, in connection with fatal stabbing early Saturday in South Los Angeles, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Prosecutors filed murder charges against both suspects Tuesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Whittier police officers, who provide police service for Santa Fe Springs, first responded to the swap meet after receiving a report of a fight in the parking lot, Whittier police officials said.
“When officers arrived, they located a female victim lying on the ground with multiple stab wounds to her neck and back,” according to the statement. Police rendered first aid to the woman, who was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. She succumbed to her injuries a short time later.
“As the investigation developed, it was determined that she had been stabbed by a male and female over a dispute involving a parking space within the lot,” the police statement said. The woman’s 22- and 23-year-old children were present during the incident.
Investigators identified a possible suspect vehicle and two potential suspects, who were tracked to South Los Angeles, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
Cervantes and Rangel were arrested as they were exiting an apartment shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, according to police and county booking records.
The weapon used in the stabbing remained outstanding Thursday, Miller said. It was unclear what type of stabbing implement was used.
Police did not disclose the stabbing or the arrest until Thursday, two days after charges were filed against the suspects.
Yanez’s mother, Sally Yanez, said the family was still in shock over the sudden tragedy.
“It’s beyond senseless,” she said. “It’s beyond words.”
“In just the blink of an eye, everything’s changed,” Sally Yanez said.
Elizabeth Yanez’s granddaughter was treated for minor injuries following the incident, Sally Yanez said. Her grandson was struck in the head, but did not go to a hospital.
The 43-year-old woman was a dedicated mother who spent a lot of time with her children, her mother said. “She really based everything around them.”
Elizabeth Yanez grew up in South Gate before moving to La Mirada in 1987, Sally Yanez said. She graduated Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton in 1988. She worked in accounting at an Orange County construction company.
“She had a terrific personality, a terrific sense of humor. She was just a force to be reckoned with,” her mother said.
“She loved her Dodgers. She was a die-hard Dodger fan.”
Elizabeth Yanez is survived by her parents, Sally and Larry, her children, 22-year-old Renee Crable and 23-year-old Daniel Crable, and the children’s father, Donnie Crable, who lives out-of-state.
Services were yet to be scheduled.
Prosecutors charged Cervantes and Rangel each with murder and assault with a deadly weapon Tuesday in Norwalk Superior Court, Ardalani said.
Prosecutors also allege that Cervantes personally used a knife in the commission of the crime, and that he has prior felony convictions for robbery and receiving stolen property, according to the felony complaint filed against him and Rangel.
Rangel pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday and was ordered back to court Oct. 29 for preliminary hearing, Ardalani said. Cervantes entered no plea Tuesday. His arraignment was postponed until Nov. 20.
Cervantes and Rangel were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each.



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La Mirada man killed in freeway crash in Pomona

POMONA >> A La Mirada man died early Thursday after his speeding Honda Accord rear-ended a big rig on the 10 Freeway in Pomona, authorities said.
Cody Tyler Campbell, 25, died following the 12:52 a.m. crash on the westbound 10 Freeway, just east of Kellogg Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The driver of the big rig involved in the collision, a 42-year-old Corona man, was uninjured, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
Investigators said Campbell was driving at “a high rate of speed” in the right-hand lane when his 2002 Honda Accord rear-ended the big rig.
“As a result of Mr. Campbell’s unsafe speed for prevailing road and traffic conditions, the left front of (the Honda) collided with the right rear of (the big rig),” according to the CHP statement.
Despite wearing a seat belt, Campbell was thrown from his car and suffered major head injuries, CHP officials he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials shut down all but the left-hand lane of the westbound 10 Freeway for several hours following the crash.
The collision was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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86-year-old La Mirada woman fatally struck by pickup truck

LA MIRADA >> A pickup truck fatally struck an 86-year-old La Mirada woman Thursday morning, officials said.
Amparo Garcia died at the scene of the collision, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Courtney Morrow said.
The collision took place just after 7 a.m. at an unmarked intersection at Rosecrans Avenue and Jacana Drive, Lt. Eric Smitson of the sheriff’s Norwalk station said.
He said Garcia crossing Rosecrans Avenue got hit by a pickup truck heading eastbound. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
Smitson didn’t know how fast the vehicle was traveling before the collision.
The 40-year-old man driving the pickup stayed at the scene. He wasn’t arrested. The investigation was ongoing.

– By Ruby Gonzales and Brian Day

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Man with baseball bat robs La Mirada liquor store

LA MIRADA >> A man armed with a baseball bat robbed a La Mirada liquor store late Wednesday, authorities said.
The robber fled with several hundred dollars following the 8:30 p.m. robbery at Palisades Liquor, 15827 Imperial Highway, just east of Santa Gertrudes Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Stephen Moreno said.
He brandished a baseball bat and threatened the clerk while demanding cash, officials said. The clerk was not injured.
The robber was described as a Latino man, about 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and blue jeans, Moreno said. He was last seen driving east on Imperial Highway in a black, four-door car similar to a Honda.

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UPDATED: 20 tickets, no arrests, reported at La Mirada checkpoint

LA MIRADA >> Deputies issued 20 tickets but made no arrests during a sobriety and driver’s license checkpoint Saturday night in La Mirada, officials said.
The checkpoint was held from 5 p.m. to midnight on westbound Imperial Highway, just east of Santa Gertrudes Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Eric Smitson said.
No drivers were arrested during the checkpoint, however 19 tickets were issued for driving without a license, and one was issued for driving on a suspended license, sheriff’s officials said. Thirteen cars were released to other licensed drivers at the checkpoint.
Deputies impounded six vehicles for one day, and a one vehicle was impounded for 30 days, he added.
Funding for the checkpoint was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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