Jury begins deliberating in case of man accused of La Mirada baby’s murder

NORWALK — The fate of a man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 17-month-old daughter while baby-sitting her in La Mirada was placed in the hands of a Norwalk Superior Court jury Thursday afternoon, officials said.
Mark Vaughn, 22, of Corona is charged with murder and child abuse causing death in connection with the Jan. 24, 2011 death of Jayden Brianne Turner.
After attorneys finished their closing arguments Thursday, the jury began deliberating at 1:30 p.m., court officials said.
The child suffered head injuries while he was watching her in the 15200 block of Valeda Drive in La Mirada. She died at a hospital four days later.
Vaughn told investigators the baby fell from a chair and hit her head, but an autopsy concluded in late March of 2011 that Turner’s death was a homicide.

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La Mirada mayor arrested on suspicion of drunken driving

LA MIRADA — Deputies arrested La Mirada Mayor Gabriel Garcia late Thursday on suspicion of drunken driving.
The misdemeanor arrest came after Garcia crashed his car into a parked vehicle in the 14700 block of Tacuba Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Arnold said.
The accident was “pretty minor,”and Garcia was not injured.
“He was cooperative,” the sergeant said.
“I’m deeply saddened about this,” Garcia said Friday afternoon. “I apologize to my family, colleagues and the community.”
Garcia, 49, became the first Latino to hold the mayoral title in the city’s 53-year history.
After deputies noticed the mayor appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, “he did submit to a chemical analysis,” the sergeant said.
The results of the breath test was not available Friday afternoon.
Garcia admitted to drinking wine at dinner before driving home.
“I was driving and collided with a parked vehicle,” he said. “That’s the story; I’m responsible for my actions.”
After being booked into jail, Garcia was released about 5:30 a.m. Friday with a citation pending a court appearance, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
He was first elected to the City Council in 2009.
Prior to that, he served from 1993-2005 on the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District’s board of education.
Garcia is married with two children and is director of parks and community services for the city of Corona.

- Brian Day and Sandra Molina

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Man on trial for murder in death of toddler in La Mirada

NORWALK — A jury heard opening statements Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 17-month-old daughter while baby-sitting the toddler in La Mirada, officials said.
Mark Edward Vaughn, 22, of Corona was charged with murder and assault on a child causing death after the Jan. 20, 2011, death of Jayden Brianne Turner.
He was watching the child at his girlfriend’s home in the 15200 block of Valeda Drive in La Mirada when the baby suffered a head injury, Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators said.
The child was taken to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, where she later died.
Vaughn claimed the toddler from fell a chair and hit her head, according to Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau. But investigators said the chair was only two feet above ground level and over a carpeted floor.
An autopsy performed by Orange County coroner’s officials ruled the death to be a homicide March 28, 2011.
Deputies from a sheriff’s surveillance and apprehension team arrested Vaughn April 3, 2011, and prosecutors filed charges later in the month, according to officials and county booking records.
Vaughn was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, records show.

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Deputies investigate “unspecified threat” at La Mirada High School

LA MIRADA — Deputies beefed up patrols at La Mirada High School Friday in response to an “unspecified threat” against the school.
Deputies officials learned of the threat some time within the past 72 hours, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“At this point of the investigation, there is no specific information that the threat is credible, or to identify the source or wording of the alleged threat,” according to Capt. Patrick Maxwell. “It appears to be spoken concerns only.”
Deputies planned to keep a heightened presence at the high school throughout Friday — the last day of classes before Winter Break.

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Deputies looking for La Mirada robbery suspect

Investigators are asking for the public’s help in finding a 19-year-old man wanted for a Sept. 29 robbery in La Mirada.
A second suspect is already in custody.
Deputies alleged Levi Tanner Salerno and an accomplice robbed the victims’ of money at knife point in the 12200 block of La Mirada Boulevard around 12:25 a.m. on Sept. 29.
Salerno is believed to frequent a local shopping center, the La Mirada Regional Park and the La Mirada Golf Course.
He was described as white with blond hair, blue eyes, stands 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 185 pounds.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Morris at 562-902-2976 or W2morris@lasd.org
Anonymous tipsters may call “Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-TIPS, or text the letters “TIPLA” plus the tip to 274637, or use http://lacrimestoppers.org

- Ruby Gonzales
PHOTO of Levi Salerno courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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La Mirada burglary suspect rescued after falling into wash

A fleeing burglary suspect tried to climb a fence but fell about 30 feet into a flood control wash Thursday night, deputies said.
Mark Spencer, 38, of Lake Elsinore was hospitalized for treatement of apparently non-life-threatening injuries suffered in the fall pending booking, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Arnold said.
Authorities rescued the injured suspect, hoisting him out of the wash in a basket, officials said.
Sgt. Rob Jones of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said witnesses saw a man breaking into a couple of vehicles in the 16800 block of Trojan Way at 9:43 p.m. They called the station.
Jones said witnesses tried to confront the man who ran and attempted to jump a fence. Instead, the man tumbled down a flood control channel at Trojan Way and Firestone Boulevard.
Jones said Buena Park police also responded since it is a border area.
Two officers qualified to do rescues went down the wash and handcuffed the suspect who was then hoisted up in a basket, according to Jones.

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Bank branch robbed in La Mirada

LA MIRADA — A man fled with cash after robbing a Bank of the West branch in La Mirada Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The heist took place about 2 p.m. at the bank branch on Valley View Avenue, just south of Imperial Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Wilkening said.
The robber entered the bank and passed a teller a note demanding cash, officials said. He received about $2,000 and fled.
No weapon was seen during the robbery, the sergeant said.
Authorities initially described the robber as a Latino man in his mid- to late-20s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and of medium build. He wore a yellow shirt or jacket, and had tattoos on both arms.
Anyone with information was asked to call the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711.
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UPDATED: Fleeing suspect carjacks vehicle, rams patrol car in La Mirada

LA MIRADA — A wanted man escaped sheriff’s deputies Thursdaty after carjacking a vehicle and ramming a patrol car, authorities said.
The incident began about 8:20 a.m. when someone flagged down a deputy to report a suspicious man and woman sitting in a car in the parking lot in the 15200 block of Rosecrans Avenue, east of La Mirada Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans said.
When deputies approached, the man ran and carjacked a nearby motorist of his Acura by force the lieutenant said. No weapon was used in the carjacking.
As a deputy tried to detain the man at gunpoint, he rammed a patrol car with the stolen Acura and possibly tried to strike the deputy before speeding away, Evans said.
Officials later learned the man had an outstanding $15,000 arrest warrant. The crime he was wanted for was not clear.
Authorities found the carjacked Acura abandoned just across the city limit in the 6400 block of Dodds Avenue in Buena Park, Evans said.
Deputies searched the area for more than two hours with the help of K-9s but were unable to find the wanted man, officials said. The name of the man, who was described as being in his 30s, was not released.
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Man pleads not guilty to child’s slaying in La Mirada

NORWALK — A Corona man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 17-month-old daughter while baby-sitting her in La Mirada pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murder and child assault on a child causing death.
Mark Edward Vaughn, 21, appeared in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment, court officials said. After entering his plea, he was ordered back to court Sept. 24 for a pre-trial hearing.
He’s charged with the murder of Jayden Brianne Turner, who died at a hospital four days after suffering head injuries while Vaughn watched over her Jan. 20 at a home in the 15200 block of Valeda Drive in La Mirada, investigators said.
Vaughn told officials the toddler fell off a chair and hit her head, however Orange County coroner’s officials found the injuries to be inconsistent with Vaughn’s story, detectives said.
Coroner’s investigators ruled the death a homicide due to blunt force trauma to the head, and Vaughn was arrested on suspicion of the killing April 3. He has remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bail ever since.
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La Mirada man sentenced for fatal hit-and-run crash

NORWALK — A La Mirada man received a 7-year prison sentence Wednesday for striking and fatally injuring a 72-year-old La Mirada man, then fleeing the scene, authorities said.
Geoffrey Rocha, 28, was sentenced by Norwalk Superior Court Commissioner Michel Schurr after pleading no contest to a charge of vehicular manslaughter in July, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. Rocha also admitted the special allegation of fleeing the scene.
Raul Quintanilla was out for his morning walk about 4:30 a.m. Sept. 20, 2011, when he was struck by a 2003 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Rocha at Santa Gertrudes Avenue and Lawnhill Drive, investigators said.
The though crash was severe and caused “horrific” injuries to Quintanilla, Rocha continued driving and abandoned his car about a mile-and-a-half away, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s traffic investigator Deputy Jeff Tibbets.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors Wednesday dismissed additional charges of driving on a suspended license and hit-and-run were dismissed, officials said.
Quintanilla was a La Mirada resident for more than 40 years, family members his said.
He’s survived by his wife, Elida, who read a victim impact statement at Wednesday sentencing, two sons, a granddaughter, three brothers and two sisters.
Rocha’s brother, 30-year-old Gregory Rocha of La Mirada, died in a crash six months earlier at the same intersection, officials said.
He was a passenger in a pickup truck that crashed March 5, 2011, killing both him and the driver. The cause of the crash was determined to have been caused by drunken driving.
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