MONTEBELLO >> A homeless man who sparked a 384-acre wildfire in the Rio Hondo Riverbed in Montebello last year pleaded “no contest” Thursday to a charge of recklessly causing a fire, prosecutors said.
Arturo Miallan Aguilar, 46, was immediately sentenced to a year in county jail and three years of probation and ordered to attend a year-long live-in drug treatment program after entering the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. A restitution hearing was yet to be scheduled.
Aguilar sparked the fire while cooking food in the riverbed near the Whittier Narrows Reservoir about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16, Montebello police Lt. Michael Bergman said.
The blaze quickly exploded out of control, ultimately scorching 384 acres in Montebello and nearby unincorporated county area before firefighters contained it days later. No structures were damaged.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire, including three who were hurt when a helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier, and one who suffered heat exhaustion, officials said.
PHOTOS: [TOP] A fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [MIDDLE] Seen from Irwindale on the 605 Freeway, a fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [BELOW] A “Super Scooper” Quebec 1 scoops water to fight the Lincoln Fire burning in Montebello Hills as people cool off in the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale on Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
MONTEBELLO >> Police seized more than 1,200 marijuana plants valued at more than half-a-million dollars Tuesday and arrested two men after raiding two commercial properties neighboring a Montebello school, authorities said.
Police arrested Nicholas Stone, 23, off North Hills and Artin Khudanyan, 32, of Glendale on suspicion of cultivating marijuana following the busts, which took place Tuesday afternoon and evening at two commercial units in the 3300 block of West Beverly Boulevard, Montebello police officials said in a written statement.
The illicit indoor farm was separated only by an alley from Eastmont Intermediate School, which had already let out for the day when police carried out the raid.
• VIDEO: A look at the pot farm in the Montebello building
An anonymous tip spawned the rapidly-developing investigation, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncanon said. Police then began a stake-out outside one of the two adjacent, unmarked business units.
“During the surveillance, we saw the suspects in or about the business complex,” the lieutenant said.
Officers stopped a car occupied by Stone and Khudanyan nearby shortly after 3 p.m. and detained them pending further investigation, Vuncanon said.
Investigators then obtained a search warrant for the first business.
“Once inside the commercial property, investigators identified a fully operational marijuana grow equipped with artificial lighting, ventilating fans/temperature control, an odor control system and soil/nutrients for the plants,” according to the police statement.
The rear portion of the business, where the marijuana was growing, was separated from the front by a metal security door, Vuncanon said.
But the investigators were not finished. The investigation led detectives to obtain a warrant to search the business next door as well, where officers uprooted another 500 to 700 marijuana plants, officials said.
“Once inside the (second) commercial property, investigators once again identified a fully operational marijuana grow equipped with same type of operation and set up as next door,” the police statement said.
Vuncanon described the setup as a “very sophisticated, very clean operation.”
According to Los Angeles County booking record, Stone and Khudanyan were both released from custody Wednesday pending their initial court appearances after posting $50,000 bail each.
PHOTOS: Nicholas Stone, 23, of North Hills [MIDDLE] and Artin Khudanyan, 32, of Glendale [BELOW] were arrested on suspicion of cultivating more than 1,200 marijuana plants in two commercial buildings in the 3300 block of West Beverly Boulevard in Montebello on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. (Courtesy, Montebello Police Department)
(Courtesy – Montebello Police Department)
NORWALK >> A judge sentenced a Montebello man to death three times over Friday for a 2010 AK-47 attack on his ex-girlfriend’s family in Hawaiian Gardens, leaving three people dead and another seriously wounded.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Raul Sahagun ordered Joseph Mercado, 32, to death row for the early-morning May 6, 2010 triple-slaying that claimed the lives of his ex-girlfriend Serena Tarin, 23, her brother Alfredo Tarin Jr., 19, and her father Alfredo Tarin Sr., 54, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Also critically wounded in the rampage at the family’s home in the 21900 block of Devlin Avenue was Serena Tarin’s mother, who survived. Six additional family members fled from the home, some of them hiding on the roof of the home, which Mercado had doused with gasoline and set afire before breaking in through the back of the home and opening fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, authorities said.
A Norwalk jury convicted Mercado in November of 10 felony counts. They included three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder, first degree burglary, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, arson of an inhabited structure and child abuse.
The jury also found true the special circumstances of multiple murders, lying in wait and engaging in arson — each one making him eligible for the death penalty. The jury also found true the special allegations that Mercado personally used a firearm in the crimes and personally inflicted great bodily injury.
He was acquitted of a single count of assault with a deadly weapon.
The jury recommended Mercado be put to death for his crimes during the penatty phase of the trial, Ardalani said.
Following the shooting, Mercado was arrested after being shot by a sheriff’s deputy after exiting the home with his rifle still-in hand, officials said.
Mercado and Serena Tarin had an infant son together, sheriff’s investigators said. The 9-month-old child was unharmed in the incident.
Authorities said the shooting took place amid a custody dispute between Mercado and Tarin, who had been separated for several months.
MONTEBELLO >> A small white dog pulled from a dumpster by Montebello police Tuesday night had to be euthanized after it was determined the animal had been badly wounded in an attack by a coyote or another dog, officials said.
Police found the dog Tuesday night, abandoned in a dumpster behind a business in the 600 block of West Whittier Boulevard, Montebello police Sgt. Marc Marty said.
“We were saddened that someone would do such a thing, but we were happy that we were able to rescue the dog,” police said in a written statement. “The dog appeared to be in good condition at the time and was taken by our partners at (the South East Area Animal Control Authority) to be cared for.
But upon calling SEAACA to check on the dog, police received sad news.
“We were extremely saddened to find out that after the dog was cleaned up several untreatable puncture wounds were located on his neck, possibly from a coyote or a dog,” according to the police statement. “Due to these wounds, the dog had to be humanly euthanized.”
Officials thanked community members who expressed concern for the dog and eagerness to adopt it, as well as their partner’s at SEAACA.
A listing of animals available for adoption is available online at www.seaaca.org.
MONTEBELLO >> Police found and rescued a small white dog abandoned in a dumpster behind a Whittier Boulevard restaurant Tuesday night, officials said.
A tipster called police to report a possibly abandoned dog in a dumpster behind Alondra Hot Wings, 616 W. Whittier Blvd., Montebello Police Sgt. Marc Marty said.
“Officers found a small white dog in a large trash dumpster,” he said. “Officers rescued the dog which appeared to be unharmed and in good condition and turned the dog over to (South East Area Animal Control Authority).”
Police referred anyone interested in adopting the dog to SEACCA, at www.seaaca.org.
MONTEBELLO >> A car thief stole a minivan with a 1-year-old boy inside of it from a Montebello recycling center Thursday afternoon before being found unharmed, along with the abandoned vehicle, four hours later in Pico Rivera, authorities said.
The theft and possibly unintentional kidnapping took place about 3 p.m. at S.A. Recycling, 1545 Gage Road, Montebello police officials said.
One-year-old Caleb Castro, who was passenger in the red 2003 Honda Odyssey minivan when it was stolen, was found safe inside the minivan nearly four hours later after it was abandoned outside a Pico Rivera McDonalds restaurant, according to police.”
“The child was found inside (the minivan) safe and unharmed and is at a local hospital being looked at,” police said in a written statement.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert following the initial carjacking, Montebello police Lt. Michael Bergman.
“The suspect approached the parked vehicle, while three children sat in the car. Their mother stepped away approximately 10 feet and was going to recycle some items,” according to a police statement.
“The suspect approached the vehicle, ordered two girls — 6- and 4-year-olds out of the car,” the statement continued. But the woman’s 1-year-old son remained in the minivan.
The thief drove off in the minivan, which had the keys still in the ignition, police said.
“The mother screamed that her baby was in the car, however the suspect fled with the vehicle out of the parking lot and southbound on Gage Road,” according to the statement.
A witness who had seen the Amber Alert spotted the stolen minivan shortly before 7 p.m. in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant, 9333 W. Slauson Ave. in Pico Rivera, officials said.
The carjacker remained at large, officials said. He was described as a Latino man, about 30 years, with spiked hair. He spoke Spanish.
Suspect photo courtesy of the Montebello Police Department
PASADENA >> A Montebello man received a sentenced of more than 8 years in prison this week for allegedly threatening, kidnapping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend at an El Monte motel before she jumped from a moving car on the 60 Freeway to escape him, authorities said.
Benny Torres, 30, pleaded “no contest” Tuesday to two counts of making criminal threats, two counts of cruelty to a child, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of domestic violence in connection with the series of crimes that unfolded in October of 2014, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Darrel Mavis immediately sentenced Torres to 8 years and 4 months in state prison, and ordered him to stay away from the victim for 10 years, Ardalani said.
Following his arrest, Torres was charged with 14 criminal counts. A judge dismissed the kidnapping charge and a burglary charge following Torres’ preliminary hearing Ardalani said.
Under Tuesday’s negotiated plea arrangement, which was made with the approval of the victim, additional counts including rape and false imprisonment, were dismissed, Ardalani said.
Torres first threatened his girlfriend, a Monterey park woman in her 20s who he had dated for several months, on Oct. 3 2014, during a domestic violence incident, Ardalani said. “The defendant strangled his ex-girlfriend and warned her that he would kill her in front of her two children.”
Just over three weeks later on Oct. 27, Torres called the victim and ordered to pick him up and bring him to an El Monte motel, according to prosecutors and Monterey Park police officials.
“In fear for her life, the victim did what Torres asked,” Ardalani said.
Once at the motel, Torres refused to allow the victim to leave, threatened to kill her again and struck her in the head with a handgun.
Police alleged Torres assaulted the woman both physically and sexually while keeping her captive overnight. The following day, he took her car keys and ordered her to get into the passenger seat of her car as he drove. The terrified woman saw a chance to escape as Torres drove down the 60 Freeway in El Monte, near the 605 Freeway.
“During the car ride, the victim believed Torres would ultimately kill her,” Ardalni said. “As a result, she jumped out of the moving vehicle.”
The victim sought help and was treated for injuries suffered in the attack and escape, officials said.
Monterey Park police Lt. Bill Cuevas said at the time that the woman, “bravely, by her own actions, basically saved her own life.”
The multi-agency West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force found and arrested Torres without a struggle on Nov. 4, 2014, at a relative’s home in East Los Angeles.
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> Police jailed two men and a woman late Wednesday in connection with an armed robbery at a Santa Fe Springs liquor store.
The heist took place about 8:20 p.m. in the 11000 block of Washington Boulevard, Whittier police officials said.
Responding police officers spotted the suspects fleeing the area and tried to pull it over, officials said.
“The suspects attempted to flee, but crashed into parked car in the 8300 block of Vanport (Avenue),” police said in a written statement. The handgun used in the robbery, as well as cash, were recovered from the vehicle.
Arrested were Matthew Hoge, 22, of Montebello; Willie Jefferson, 20, of Long Beach; and Shauntel Jewel Peterson, 18, of Long Beach, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Hoge was released from custody early Thursday pending his initial court appearance after posting $50,000 bail, records show. Jefferson was being held in lieu of 75,000 bail, while Peterson was being held with a bail of $50,000.
MONTEBELLO >> A man jailed on suspicion of attacking two police officers in Whittier over the weekend is the same man sought in connection with the “senseless” and “unprovoked” beating death of a homeless man in Montebello last month, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
Eric Daniel Deleon, 28, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to attempted murder and other charges in connection with Saturday’s attack on two Whittier police officers, which sent the lawmen to the hospital with minor to moderate injuries.
At the time of the Whittier incident, Deleon was being sought on an arrest warrant in connection with the Nov. 23 beating death of 54-year-old Fabian Ramirez, who body was discovered in a parking lot behind the 300 block of South Vail Avenue, according to Montebello police and Los Angeles County coroner officials.
Detectives arrested a second suspect in the Montebello slaying — 33-year-old Martin Bautista of Pico Rivera — the day after it occurred. He’s scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing Dec. 16 to answer to a murder charge.
No motive was known in the fatal beating, Montebello police Sgt. Julio Calleros said.
“It appears to be a totally unprovoked incident. Quite honestly, it’s really alarming how senseless it is,” Calleros said.
Ramirez was sitting in the parking lot when, without a word, two men began beating him for no apparent reason, he said.
An autopsy determined Ramirez died from blunt force trauma to his head, Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said. The death was ruled a homicide.
Authorities were already hunting Deleon in connection with the Montebello case when Whittier officers responded to a report of a suspicious person Saturday afternoon in the 7900 block of Bright Avenue.
As the first arriving officer approached Deleon, “the suspect violently attacked the officer. A significant physical altercation took place, during which the suspect threw a metal barbecue set on top of the officer and struck the officer with a chair,” Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
A second officer who arrived a short time later to assist was also injured as officers wrestled DeLeon into custody, officials said.
Deleon was yet to be charged in connection with the Montebello homicide case. He was being held in lieu of $1.07 million bail pending a Dec. 15 hearing on the Whittier case.
Montebello detectives planned to continue building their case before presenting their findings to prosecutors for consideration of charges in the Montebello slaying.
Bautista was being held in lieu of $1.02 million bail pending a scheduled arraignment hearing Dec. 16, records show.
PHOTOS: Martin Baustista, 33, of Pico Rivera (left) and Eric Daniel Deleon, 28, of Pico Rivera have been arrested in connection with the allegedly unprovoked beating death of a homeless man Montebello parking lot on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. (Courtesy of the Montebello Police Department)
MONTEBELLO >> Police Sunday announced that detectives have arrested one suspect and are seeking another in connection with the slaying of a man in a Montebello parking lot last week.
Detectives arrested Martin Emmannuel Bautista, 33, of Pico Rivera Wednesday on suspicion of murder in connection with the Nov. 23 slaying, Montebello police officials announced Sunday. Alleged accomplice Eric Daniel Deleon, 28, of Pico Rivera, remained at large.
“It is believed Deleon is being assisted by acquaintances to avoid being located,” Montebello police Sgt. Julio Calleros said in a written statement.
The body of the victim, described as a man in his 50s, was discovered shortly after noon in the 300 block of South Vail Avenue, Montebello police Sgt. Larry Jackson said.
His name remained withheld over the weekend as authorities continued working to notify his family, coroner’s officials said. The man’s cause of death also remained unknown pending an autopsy.
Officials have said it appeared two men assaulted the victim, though the nature of his injuries have not been disclosed. Police distributed sketches of two possible suspects the day after the killing.
Police arrested Bautista on suspicion of the slaying about 9 p.m. Wednesday, Los Angeles County booking records show. Further details regarding the circumstances of his arrest or his alleged role in the slaying were not released.
Deleon is described as Latino, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 165 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Montebello police Detective C. Adams at 323-887-01313, ext. 256 or Detective R. Zabala at 323-887-1313, ext. 254. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-8477.
Bautista is scheduled to appear Tuesday at an arraignment hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, records show. He was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Montebello Police Department.