MONROVIA — A 58-year-old chef died Saturday in a fire that destroyed his mobile home in an unincorporated county area near Monrovia, authorities and neighbors said.
Officials did not release the dead man’s name pending positive identification and confirmation that his family had been notified.
The fire was first reported at 8:46 a.m. at a mobile home park in the 2500 block of South Peck Road, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Cheryl Sims said.
Prior to firefighter’s arrival, neighbors did what they could to help, officials said.
“There were residents on the street that were initially trying to knock it down themselves,” Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Larry Burke said.
But the garden hoses and handheld fire extinguishers did little to combat the fire, which fully engulfed the mobile home when firefighters arrived, according to fire and sheriff’s officials.
While it was not immediately clear on arrival whether anyone was inside the burning mobile home, neighbor’s informed firefighters that the occupant’s vehicle was present in the parking lot and he was “unaccounted for,” Burke said.
So firefighters began searching the mobile home as they worked to extinguish the flames, he said. The body as discovered in the rear portion of the mobile home.
It took firefighters about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire, which did not spread to any other units.
The cause of the fire was being investigated by fire department arson investigators, Los Angeles County sheriff’s arson investigators and the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, sheriff’s Sgt. Abel Moreno said.
Sergio Aranda, the manager of the mobile home park, said the resident had lived in the complex for more than five years, but had moved between mobile homes within the park several months ago.
The man lived alone remained very close with his mother and step-father, Aranda said. “He worried about them.”
“He would keep to himself,” Aranda said. “He was nice.”
Neighbors said the man was also struggling with cancer, but was able-bodied.
Aranda said he last saw the man Friday, and nothing struck him as unusual as they exchanged greetings.
“He was friendly,” said the mobile home park groundskeeper, Richard Ross.
MONROVIA — A fire sparked be an electric blanket left an elderly couple homeless Sunday morning, authorities said.
The fire was reported about 9:30 a.m. at a single-story house in the 300 block of South Mayflower Avenue, Monrovia police Sgt. Don Newton said.
“The cause of the fire was determined to be a heating blanket in the bedroom, and the residents tried to self extinguish the fire,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Chris Donovan said. They were unsuccessful, and they were forced out of the room.”
The residents continued trying to extinguish the flames themselves by spraying a garden hose through an external window, also without success, the chief said.
A neighbor called 9-1-1, he said. The home was “fully involved” with flames when firefighters arrived.
Firefighters extinguished the fire and kept it from spreading to other structures, but it was a total loss, Donovan said. They encountered “hoarding conditions” inside the home, which provided ample fuel for the flames.
Officials estimated the fire cause about $250,000 worth of damage to the home and its contents.
Officials were working with the Red Cross and local charities to secure temporary lodging for the displaced couple.
MONROVIA — Police sought a man early Thursday who crashed a possibly stolen car, then ran away.
The man crashed a Honda Accord into a parked Toyota Corolla about 8:10 a.m. in the 200 block of West Hillcrest Boulevard, Monrovia police Lt. Nells Ortlund said.
Both airbags in the Honda deployed in the crash, which pushed the Toyota into the middle of the street, the lieutenant said.
The driver abandoned the Honda at the scene of the crash and ran, Ortlund said. Witnesses reported seeing him headed west on Hillcrest Boulevard. He was described as a black man wearing a white T-shirt and dark-colored pants.
Police were looking into the possibility the Honda was stolen, Ortlund said. The process was slowed by DMV information indicating the car had been sold several times recently.
MONROVIA — A 40-year-old bicyclist went to a hospital with with a possibly broken leg after a collision with a minivan on Huntington Drive Saturday, authorities said.
The crash took place about 10:25 a.m. on Huntington Drive at the Foothill (210) Freeway, Monrovia police Sgt. Dan Verna said.
A 39-year-old woman driving a Honda Odyssey minivan had just exited the freeway and was making a right turn from the offramp onto westbound Huntington Drive when the minivan collided with the bicyclist, Verna said.
The bicyclist was headed west on Huntington Drive across the offramp, the sergeant added.
His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation.
“There were no witnesses,” Verna said. “Both were saying they had a green light.”
MONROVIA — Three men suffered major injuries early Sunday in a fire initially blamed on a small but powerful butane explosion stemming from the processing of marijuana into concentrated hash oil, authorities said.
The fire was first reported about 5 a.m. at a home in the 200 block of East Walnut Avenue, just west of Canyon Boulevard, Monrovia police Sgt. Don Newton said.
“A call came out of a structure fire with subjects trapped inside the house,” Newton said. Callers reported that one of the people inside the home was on fire.
Witnesses also reported hearing what they described as at least one explosion coming from the burning home, police said.
“The explosion was enough to actually move the ceiling and lift the ceiling itself, and move many of the contents of the room around,” Monrovia Fire Department Chief Christopher Donovan said.
Officers and firefighters arrived to find three badly injured burn victims, initially described as men in their 20s, the sergeant said. Two of them had escaped the home themselves prior to the arrival of police or fire, while the third got out just after officials arrived at the scene.
All three men were taken to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where they were listed in critical condition, Donovan said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation, the chief said, however it was initially believed to have been caused by the explosion of one of several spraypaint-sized cans of butane the men were using in a process to extract a concentrated form of hash known as “honey oil” from marijuana.
All three burn victims were in a back bedroom of the home, where the butane was, when it ignited, Donovan added.
Two of the injured men were believed to be residents of the home, Newton said, while the third was believed to be a visitor.
A man and woman who rent space in the home but were unrelated to the burn victims escaped the home without injury, Donovan said. They were inside a room toward the front of the home when the explosion occurred in the rear.
The amount of marijuana found at the home was not available.
Nearby homes were evacuated for several hours following the fire, however residents were allowed to return about 8 a.m., he added.
Officials from nearby police agencies joined Monrovia police and fire officials in the investigation.
MONROVIA — A gunman robbed a man of his wallet Saturday while he was washing his car at a self-service car wash on Duarte Road, police said.
The victim, a man in his 20s, was washing his car shortly before 4 p.m. at a coin-operated car wash in the 400 block of West Duarte Road, Monrovia police Lt. Nells Ortlund said.
The robber displayed a small, black, semi-automatic handgun and demanded the victim’s wallet and cell phone, Ortlund said.
The victim told the robber he had no cell phone, but handed over his wallet, the lieutenant said.
Police described the robber as a Latino man, possibly in his 20s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall with short black hair.
He wore a black T-shirt with an picture of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara on it, baggy blue jeans and Adidas tennis shoes. He was last seen heading west on Duarte Road.
Police searched the area and notified surrounding police agencies of the crime, however the robber was not found, Ortlund said.
Investigators were checking area surveillance cameras for clues.
MONROVIA — The Monrovia Police Department has received a $54,760 grant to fund a year of traffic safety-related enforcement and public awareness efforts, officials announced Wednesday.
The grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Monrovia police officials said in a written statement.
Though statewide traffic deaths declined 39 percent between 2010 and 2011, authorities expect to see a slight increase in 2011 figures once available, according to the statement.
“The Monrovia Police Department will be keeping the pressure on through enforcement and public awareness so that we can contribute to saving lives and reach the vision we all share — toward zero deaths,” according to OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.
Activities that will be funded by the grant are to include specialized training for officers to recognize drunken and drugged drivers; enforcement of seat belt, child safety seat, speed, red light and distracted driving laws; warrant services targeting multiple DUI offenders; and compilations of DUI “hot sheets,” identifying the “worst of the worst” DUI offenders, according to the police statement.
PASADENA – A jury Friday acquitted a former Duarte elementary school teacher of charges that he molested five students over more than a decade, officials said.
After more than a week of deliberation, the Pasadena Superior Court jury found Wade Bughman, 43, of Monrovia not guilty of all nine counts of child molestation, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Bughman, a longtime teacher at Beardslee Elementary School in Duarte, was arrested June 17, 2010, after five students and former students leveled allegations of sexual abuse dating back to 1998.
“Obviously, we’re thrilled and overjoyed that the jury acquitted an innocent man, in our opinion,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Leonard Levine, who represented Bughman.
UPDATE: The FBI has dubbed this robber the “French Tip Bandit,” due to the fingernail polish worn during a Wednesday robbery at a Monrovia bank.
MONROVIA — A bizarrely dressed man claiming to have anthrax in a briefcase robbed a bank branch Wednesday, police said.
The robber wore lip gloss, candy apple red nail polish with a white trim, rectangular glasses, gold hoop earrings, a white bandana, a tan women’s track suit with the hood pulled up and dark-brown UGG Boots when he entered the Chase bank, 690 W. Huntington Drive, about 10 a.m., according to Monrovia police and FBI officials.
He demanded cash from a teller while carrying a briefcase, the lieutenant said. “He said that it had anthrax in it,” Monrovia police Lt. Michael Lee said.
“He indicated the victim should comply with the demands if they wanted to see their family for Christmas,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
After obtaining an unknown amount of cash, the robber fled the bank, Lee said.
The man took the briefcase with him when he left the bank, police added.
“Police do not believe there is a credible threat of anthrax,” Eimiller said. “No weapon was seen.”
The robber was last seen getting into a late-model, silver Chrysler PT Cruiser with a waiting driver, Eimiller said.
No injuries were reported.
Police distributed a bulletin to other area police agencies in hopes of tracking down the unique-looking suspect.
He was described as 28 to 33 years old, 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall and of average build, Eimiller said. He spoke with a deep voice.
Officials were continuing to look into whether the robber was responsible for any other bank robberies, Eimiller said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Monrovia Police Department at 626-256-8000, or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles-area tip line at 888-228-8443.
MONROVIA — Police are warning the public about a suspicious man who tried to lure a 14-year-girl into his car Thursday afternoon.
The incident took place about 4 p.m. at Colorado and Canyon boulevards as the girl, a middle school student, was walking home following an after-school sporting event, according to Monrovia police Sgt. Nick Manfredi.
The man approached the girl in a silver, late-1990s-model, 4-door Honda Civic with a bicycle rack attached to the trunk, police said.
He engaged her in conversation and asked for directions to a high school, saying he was in hurry, Manfredi said. He asked the girl to get into the car with him and direct him to the high school.
“When the student refused, the suspect offered her $200 to get in his car and direct him to the high school, but she refused again and continued to walk away,” Manfredi said. The man then drove away.
Police described the suspect as a Latino man between 20 and 25 years old, 5 feet 9 to 5 feet 10 inches tall and and about 185 pounds. He had black, shaggy, medium-length hair, brown eyes, silver metal framed glasses and was clean shaven. He wore a black T-shirt and khaki pants with a brown camouflage pattern stripes on the legs.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Monrovia police at 626-256-8031 or 626-256-8032. Tipsters can also reach Capt. Alan SanVictores at 626-256-8056.