Nine hurt, two critically, in Monrovia chain-reaction crash

MONROVIA >> Two women remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday following a chain-reaction, three-vehicle crash at major Monrovia intersection Wednesday afternoon that left nine people injured in all, authorities said.
The 12:54 p.m. crash at Foothill Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue involved two cars, a pickup truck and a stroller containing an infant, Monrovia police officials said in a written statement.
“Witnesses stated that the driver of a late-model Mercedes-Benz station wagon was driving west on Foothill Boulevard at a very high speed, failing to come to a stop behind the already stopped vehicles at the intersection,” according to the police statement.
“The driver then drove around the stopped vehicles and through the intersection against a red light, striking (a Toyota sedan) facing east in the number one lane of Foothill Boulevard,” the statement continued.
The Toyota became “airborne” before landing on the hood of a pickup truck, police said.
The Toyota then rolled off the truck onto the south sidewalk of Foothill Boulevard, narrowly missing a mother walking her child in a stroller,” the police statement said.
The baby was thrown from the stroller as the mother reacted to the crash unfolding in front of her, Lt. Heath Harvey said. Paramedics took the infant to a hospital for examination with minor injuries.
The woman at the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz, as well as the driver of the Toyota, were hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive, officials said. The injuries to the other six people did not appear serious.
The crash remained under investigation. Detectives were yet to interview the driver of he Mercedes-Benz, as she was yet to regain consciousness Thursday afternoon, police said.
Witnesses or anyone with information can reach Monrovia police at 626-256-8000.

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Suspects arrested after fleeing police in carjacked minivan in Monrovia


MONROVIA >> Police arrested four suspects who led Monrovia police on a short chase in a carjacked minivan before continuing to flee on foot, prompting a lockdown at an elementary school where one of the suspects was ultimately arrested, authorities said.
A police automated license plate reader spotted a stolen 2006 Ford Freestar about 11:30 a.m. at Mayflower Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, police officials said. The van had been carjacked Saturday from a senior citizen outside Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
The driver of the minivan led officers on a short chase, which circled the neighborhood and came to and end when the minivan stopped abruptly at Lemon and Mayflower avenues, Monrovia police Lt. Heath Harvey said.
Three teens and one young adult — two male and two female — fled from the car and run in four different directions, Harvey said. Two were quickly apprehended, and a third was apprehended with help from Arcadia and Pasadena police during a search of nearby yards.
MONROVIA2As the search for the fourth suspect continued, officials at nearby Monroe Elementary School, 402 W. Colorado Blvd. called police to report a young woman had arrived at the campus and walked into the cafeteria, Harvey said.
The school was placed on lockdown, and officers rushed to the campus where they took the female suspect into custody without a struggle, he said.
Investigators were still looking into whether the four suspects arrested after fleeing from the stolen minivan were involved in the original carjacking five days earlier in Arcadia.
A 68-year-old man was getting out of his car when two teenagers approached him and demanded his car keys, Arcadia police Lt. Mike Castro said.
The young men approached the victim and demanded his keys, and he turned them over out of fear. The carjackers fled in the minivan. No weapon was seen.
The identity of the adult suspect was not available pending the booking process, officials said.

PHOTOS by  Sarah Reingewirtz

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UPDATED: Monrovia man uses statue to knock out home-invasion robber holding elderly father at knifepoint

MONROVIA >> A Monrovia man armed with a statue knocked out a home-invasion robber as he held the man’s elderly father at knifepoint Friday, police said.
Eric Castillo, 23, who is believed to stay in Monrovia, was ultimately booked on suspicion of robbery after being treated for his injuries, according to Monrovia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The incident unfolded about 2 a.m. at a home in the 800 block of Monterey Avenue, Monrovia police Sgt. Daniel Verna said.
The elderly resident answered a knock at their door, Lt. Jaime Alfaro said. Castillo brandished a knife, demanded all his money and forced his way into the home.
“The son comes downstairs and sees his (father) getting held up with a knife. He grabs a bowling ball-size glass statue,” Verna said.
“He slams it into the back of (Castillo’s) head and knocks him down.”
The son struck the intruder several more times until he was knocked unconscious, the sergeant said. The son was described as a man in his 50s.
One, or possibly more, accomplices of the suspect soon began trying to force their way into the home after realizing Castillo was not coming back, Verna said. But the father and son had already locked the doors, and the additional suspect or suspects fled when the family told them police were on their way.
Castillo told police only his girlfriend had accompanied him to the home, but the victims believed at least two additional suspects may have been outside their house.
Officers arrived and took Castillo into custody, Verna said. The family told the subdued suspect they would pray for him prior to the arrival of police, he added.
Castillo was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court, records show.

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UPDATED: Man killed, woman wounded in shooting near Duarte

DUARTE >> A man died and a woman was wounded in a shooting in a residential neighborhood in an unincorporated county area between Duarte and Monrovia late Sunday, authorities said.
Deputies responded to a report of a shooting about 7:05 p.m. at Lincoln and Shrode avenues, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“Upon their arrival, they found a victim, a male Hispanic adult, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper torso,” according to Deputy Kelvin Moody. “The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.”
A woman had also been struck by gunfire, he said. She was hospitalized in stable condition with a gunshot wound to her leg.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were available.
“There is no suspect information at this time,” Moody said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man and woman killed in Pasadena motorcycle crash identified

PASADENA >> Coroner’s officials Friday released the identities of a Monrovia man and Los Angeles woman who died after their motorcycle collided with ah car in Pasadena last week.
Motorcyclist Kirk Allan Mirkamali, 24, and passenger Darling Elizabeth Avila, 26, died at a hospital following the Oct. 2 crash at Lake Avenue and Union Street, Lt. R. Hayes of the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said.
Mirkamali was described as a Monrovia resident, officials said. A city of residence for Avila was not listed at the coroner’s office, however police said she was from Los Angeles.
The man and woman were south on Lake Avenue on a motorcycle when the cycle collided in the intersection with a Mini Cooper making a left turn from northbound Lake Avenue onto westbound Union Street, Pasadena police Lt. Jesse Carrillo said.
A 27-year-old Pasadena woman driving the Mini Cooper suffered no significant injuries, officials said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation by Pasadena police.

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Pasadena man denies slaying of ex-girlfriend in Monrovia

PASADENA >> A man of killing his ex-girlfriend, whose body was found inside a car in Monrovia after she was reported missing in June, denied a murder charge Wednesday in Pasadena Superior Court, officials said.
Jose Roberto Turner, 47, of Pasadena pleaded not guilty to a county of murder for the death of Lajoya McCoy, 31, of Monrovia, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
He was scheduled to return to court Oct. 15 for a hearing in his case.
Prosecutors charged Turner with murder Sept. 3 after several months of investigation into McCoy’s death.
McCoy and Turner had two children together.
After being reported missing June 15, McCoy’s body was discovered June 16 inside her car, which was parked in the 200 block of West Cypress Avenue in Monrovia, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
“According to the criminal complaint, Turner committed the murder on June 10,” district attorney’s office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said in a written statement.
Coroner’s officials have not disclosed McCoy’s official cause of death, citing a “security hold” placed on the case by sheriff’s investigators.
But court documents allege that Turner used a rope or cord to commit the slaying.

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‘Bluto Bandit’ suspect, linked to 4-county bank robbery spree, charged federally


LOS ANGELES >> A prolific serial bank robbery suspect known as the “Bluto Bandit” who was arrested following an ill-fated heist in South Pasadena Thursday has been charged in federal court, officials said Saturday.
Joseph Adel Noriega, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga is accused of eight bank robberies and attempted bank robberies, as well as numerous other incidents of “casing,” spanning Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties since June 10, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
His alleged crime spree came to an end Thursday after he tried, unsuccessfully to rob a South Pasadena bank before being captured minutes later by police in neighboring San Marino, according to South Pasadena police Cpl. Shannon Robledo.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Friday charging Noriega with the South Pasadena crime.
“However, the investigation is continuing and Noriega potentially faces additional charges,” FBI officials said in a written statement.
Crime attributed to the serial bandit have been reported in cities including Monrovia, Duarte, unincorporated Pasadena, Ontario, Chino, Norco, Fontana and Beaumont.
The FBI labeled the then-unidentified robber the Bluto Bandit due to a black fake beard he wore during the crimes, reminding investigators of the villain in the Popeye comic strips, Eimiller said.
The Bluto Bandit’s tactic, or modus operandi, was to pass a note demanding cash to bank tellers, officials said.
“In some robberies, the note advised the teller to remain calm; to remove the money within 15 or 30 seconds; or to avoid deploying security devices,” according to the FBI statement. “The suspect generally did not talk during the robberies.”
When San Marino police apprehended Noriega following a brief car chase Thursday, officers found evidence linking him to the crime spree, including bank robbery demand notes, officials said.
He was still wearing his trademark fake beard, Robledo added.
Noriega appeared in federal court in Los Angeles Friday and was remanded to federal custody pending trial, officials said.

Bank surveillance photo courtesy of the FBI.

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UPDATED: Man found dead inside car in Azusa; suicide suspected

AZUSA >> Investigators suspect suicide after the body of a 53-year-old Monrovia man was found inside a car parked outside an Azusa business Thursday afternoon, police said.
A business owner called police shortly before 3 p.m. after finding, “what appeared to be a deceased male seated in a parked vehicle on the street,” in the 900 block of West 10th Street, Azusa police Cpl. Tom Avila said in a written statement.
Paramedics pronounced the man dead at the scene, he said. An autopsy was pending, but it appeared the man had succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.
A barbecue had been lit inside his vehicle, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
“A check of the vehicle’s information revealed it was associated with a suicidal male who was reported missing to the Monrovia Police Department on (Tuesday),” Avila said.

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Suspect arrested in June slaying of Monrovia woman


MONROVIA >> Detectives arrested a suspect Thursday in the slaying of a 31-year-old Monrovia woman found dead inside her car in June, officials said.
Investigators arrested Jose Roberto Turner, 47, about 8:30 a.m., on suspicion of the murder of Lajoya McCoy, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
McCoy was reported missing June 15, one day before officials found her body inside her car, which was parked in the 200 block of West Cypress Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said at the time.
“He is the ex-boyfriend of Lajoya McCoy,” Deputy Ryan Rouzan of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
No further details were released regarding the investigation into the alleged slaying of the mother of two.
McCoy’s official cause of death has not been released due to a “security hold” placed on the case by sheriff’s investigators, coroner’s officials said. The security hold, which bars coroner’s officials from discussing their findings, remained in effect Thursday.
Turner was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
McCoy’s body appeared to have been left in her Toyota Camry for a period of time, though officials have declined to say exactly when McCoy is believed to have been killed. Detectives initially noted signs of a struggle at McCoy’s apartment, but declined to give further detail.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Two young men sought in attack, attempted robbery of passing motorist in Monrovia

MONROVIA >> Two young men attacked a passing driver in a failed robbery Tuesday afternoon, police said.
A man in his 40s was making a turn onto a side street from the 1300 block of South Myrtle Avenue about 6:10 p.m. when he stopped for a young man of 17 to 19 years old who was crossing the street on a skateboard, Monrovia police Sgt. Dan Verna said.
As the skateboarder passed by, a second young man approached the driver and demanded money, telling the driver that he almost struck his friend, Verna said.
The driver refused and the would-be robber punched him in the face and again demanded money, the sergeant said. The driver sped away.
Police searched the area but did not find the suspect, Verna said.

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