Man accused of kidnapping, raping Monterey Park woman; victim escaped by jumping from moving car on freeway in El Monte

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MONTEREY PARK >> A task force arrested a man Tuesday in East Los Angeles whom Monterey Park police had been seeking for kidnapping, raping and assaulting his ex-girlfriend last week, authorities said.
The terrified victim may have saved her own life by jumping from a moving car on the 60 Freeway in El Monte on Oct. 28, the day after she was kidnapped at gunpoint by ex-boyfriend Benny Torres, 29, Monterey Park police Lt. Bill Cuevas said. Torres’ last listed address was in Montebello, though he was believed to have most recently been transient.
The woman, a Monterey Park resident in her 20s, was treated for serious but non-life-threatening injuries she suffered at the hands of her captor, as well as in her escape, Cuevas said.
“She bravely, by her actions, basically saved her own life.”
Prosecutors Wednesday filed 11 felony charges against Torres, according to a felony complaint filed in Alhambra Superior Court.
The charges include kidnapping, two counts of rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by a foreign object, two counts of making criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapons, assault with a firearm, burglary and false imprisonment.
The victim had recently broken up with Torres amid allegations that he had assaulted her in an incident of domestic violence in Montebello, Cuevas said.
Torres arranged to meet his ex-girlfriend on the afternoon of Oct. 27 in Los Angeles, Cuevas said.
But when she arrived, Torres pulled a handgun, got into her car and ordered her to start driving, officials said.
The attacker eventually took the wheel of the woman’s car himself and drove her to a motel in El Monte, where he held her captive overnight, the lieutenant said.
“The victim was both sexually and physically abused,” Cuevas said.
Torres ordered the woman back into her car the following morning and began driving her somewhere, police said. The woman did not know where Torres was taking her.
“The victim was in fear for her life,” Cuevas said.
As the car travelled down the 60 Freeway, near the 605 Freeway in El Monte, the woman saw an opportunity to escape.
“At one point, while they were driving, she was able to jump out of the vehicle,” Cuevas said.
It was unclear how fast the car was driving when she leapt.
A good Samaritan found the woman wandering in the area and took her to a hospital, officials said. The hospital notified authorities once they determined the woman had been the victim of an attack.
The woman suffered injuries both at the hands of Torres, as well as when she jumped from the moving car, Cuevas said. She had since been treated and released from an area hospital.
Detectives began hunting for Torres with help from the West San Gabriel Anti Crime Task Force, which is made up of officers from the Monterey Park, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, El Monte police departments, as well as officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation, task force coordinator and Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said.
Task force members found and arrested Torres about 1:40 p.m. Tuesday at a relative’s home in the 4000 block of E. 2nd Street in East Los Angeles, according to officials and booking records. Officers arrested him without a struggle.
Torres entered no plea at an appearance Wednesday in Alhambra Superior Court, court officials said. His arraignment hearing was postponed to Nov. 24.
If convicted as charged, Torres could face life in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Torres remained behind bars Wednesday at the Monterey Park Police Department’s jail in lieu of $2.35 million bail, officials said.

PHOTO of Benny Torres, 29, courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.

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Police car struck, officers unhurt in Monterey Park shotgun ambush

MONTEREY PARK >> Two police officers escaped injury when their car was struck by two shotgun blasts in an ambush late Thursday in Monterey Park, officials said.
An unknown attacker opened fire just before 10 p.m. as the officers were stopped in a commercial parking lot at the northeast corner of Garvey and New avenues, Monterey Park police Lt. Scott Wiese said.
The officers were watching over the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store across the street when their car was struck from behind by gunfire, the lieutenant said.
“All of a sudden, they heard two shots,” Wiese said. “They said it was really loud, like a shotgun blast. They felt the impact on the back of the patrol car.”
The officers sped out of the parking lot to escape the gunfire, he said. They didn’t see the shooter.
Monterey Park police, joined by officers from neighboring cities, swarmed the area in search of the attacker, Wiese said. The shooter remained at-large early Friday morning.
The shots were fired from north of the parking lot where the shooting took place, Wiese said. The area is occupied by a gated commercial lot, a vacant lot and the rear area of an apartment building.
Police summoned crime lab officials to the scene to examine the forensic and ballistic evidence.
Anyone with information can reach the Monterey Park Police Department at 626-573-1311. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Killer sought in fatal stabbing of man in Monterey Park

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MONTEREY PARK >> Homicide detectives sought clues Wednesday into the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old man in the parking lot of a business.
Edward Mendoza, 35, died at a hospital after he was wounded in the stabbing about 9:10 p.m. Tuesday at the corner of Portrero Grande and Arroyo drives, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. He was believed to have been staying in Monterey Park.
1016_NWS_PSN-L-STABBING1Few details were available regarding the stabbing. No description of the killer was known.
After being stabbed, Mendoza managed to call 9-1-1 from a cell phone to seek help, Corina said.
Responding police officers and paramedics found Mendoza collapsed at what was believed to be the scene of the stabbing in the parking lot of a business park, Corina said.
Paramedics took Mendoza to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries at 10:11 p.m., Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
A friend and co-worker of the victim at the city of Alhambra, who did not want to be identified, said that the victim worked with children as a physical education coach.
1016_NWS_PSN-L-STABBING2“It’s a huge loss to the family. We are very close,” he said.
Alhambra city officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A second man, who identified himself as the victim’s childhood friend, believes the victim may have been leaving from the home of his mother, who lives in the area.
According to the man, the victim not drive and took public transportation to get around. He also said the victim was found with his backpack and wallet.
The motive in the fatal stabbing remained under investigation.
“Right now, it doesn’t look like he was robbed,” Corina said.
The circumstance leading up to the killing also remained unclear Wednesday. “We don’t know what he was doing there,” Corina said.
Mendoza had been staying several blocks away, but within walking distance, from the parking lot where he was stabbed, the lieutenant said.
Other than that he needed help, Corina declined to discuss what Mendoza said during his call to 9-1-1 after being stabbed, citing the ongoing investigation.
The weapon used in the killing had not been recovered Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Detectives Wednesday continued reviewing surveillance cameras at nearby businesses for clues, Corina added.
Virginia Schellberg, an employee at Southern California Funeral Service located in the business complex, said the victim’s girlfriend and best friend were at the scene at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
“They said there was no reason for him to out walking (at that hour) and they don’t understand how it happened,” Schellberg said. “They stopped by because they wanted to see where it happened. They’re devastated.”
Anyone with information is asked to call LASD Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
Friends set up an online fund to collect donations to benefit Mendoza’s family at www.gofundme.com/fvoges.

- By Venusse Navid and Brian Day

PHOTO of crime scene by Venusse Navid

PHOTOS of Edward Menoza, courtesy

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Former Monterey Park elementary school special education teacher sentenced for molesting four students

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ALHAMBRA >> A former Monterey Park special education teacher convicted of molesting four students received a 16-year prison sentence Friday, authorities said.
Ex-Repetto Elementary School teacher Jose Jesus Mosqueda, 45, of Los Angeles, was sentenced by Alhambra Superior Court Judge Jared Moses, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
He pleaded guilty in July to three counts of committing lewd acts on a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, she said.
“The defendant sexually molested special education students in fourth grade between 2008 and 2011,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
Some of the molestations took place during class time, according to attorney’s representing the victims in pending civil lawsuits against the Alhambra Unified School District.
Mosqueda was first arrested in October of 2011 after a students reported her teacher had sexually assaulted her, according to Ardalani.
Mosqueda posted bail and was released from jail before a second girl came forward and made similar allegations, officials. Police re-arrested Mosqueda.
While still behind bars for the second time, a fourth special education student reported being molested by Mosqueda, Ardalani said.
After initially pleading not guilty to eight felony charges, Mosqueda accepted a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to four of the charges July 29, Ardalani said. Additional charges of child molestation and dissuading a witness were dropped under the “negotiated plea.”
Mosqueda was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Ardalani said. He was scheduled to appear at a restitution hearing Dec. 4.
He passed a state-mandated background check when he was hired by the AUSD five years prior to his arrest, district officials said shortly after his arrest.
Mosqueda was placed on compulsory leave once the allegations first emerged.
His employment was expected to be terminated upon conviction, however AUSD officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
Two additional criminal cases alleging sexual misconduct by AUSD personnel are pending, along with civil claims filed against the district by the parents of Mosqueda’s victims.
Another AUSD teacher is awaiting trial on accusations of carrying on a seven-year-long sexual relationship with a former student.
Garfield Elementary School teacher Jeffrey Yoshitake, 43, is charged with five counts of committing lewd acts on a child for carrying on a sexual relationship with a teenage formers student.
Yoshitake was arrested in February, district attorney’s officials said. Prosecutors allege he began a sexual relationship in April of 2005 with a then-15-year-old former student, who was in high school at the time.
The tenured teacher, who first joined AUSD as a substitute teacher in 1996, has denied the charges.
Yoshitake has been released from custody on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in Alhambra Superior Court Sept. 23 for a preliminary hearing setting, according to booking records.
Yoshitake was also placed on leave at the outset of the investigation.
Meanwhile, former Alhambra High School assistant principal Andrea Cardosa, 40, is awaiting trial in Riverside County on 16 counts of child molestation that allegedly took place while she worked with the Riverside Unified School District and the Val Verde Unified School District in years past.
Cardosa resigned from her position in January after on of her two alleged victims posted a YouTube video in which Cardosa appears to admit having a sexual relationship with the now-adult woman when she was a in middle school and high school between 1997 and 2001.
A second woman came forward days later to report she was also victimized by Cardosa when she was a high school student in 2009 or 2010, officials said.
Cardosa, who is being held in lieu of $5 million bail, is scheduled to appear in Riverside Superior Court Oct. 22 for a felony settlement conference, court records show.

PHOTO of Jose Mosqueda courtesy of the Monterey Park Police Department.

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Two jailed in connection with bear hug robbery in Monterey Park

MONTEREY PARK >> Police arrested a man and woman in Los Angeles late Friday less than an hour after they robbed a man in Monterey Park, authorities said.
A Los Angeles man in his 20s was walking on a sidewalk at Emerson and Moore avenues about 9 p.m. when he was approached by the two suspects, Monterey Park police Lt. Tina Montoya said.
“The victim was approached by a male suspect who placed him in a bear hug,” the lieutenant said.
While the man held the victim, the woman went snatched his wallet and iPhone 5 from his pockets, police said. The robbers then fled in a white car. The victim was unhurt.
Police were able to quickly track the iPhone’s location and found the suspects driving on Pico Boulevard in Westlake Village, officials said. The stolen items were found in the car.
Juan Jose Cruz, 18, of Montebello and Michelle Salinas, 20, of Los Angeles were arrested on suspicion of robbery, Montoya said.
Cruz and Salinas were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, scheduled Friday in Alhambra Superior Court.

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Chino man convicted of follow-home robbery spree targeting women in the western San Gabriel Valley

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ALHAMBRA >> A Chino man is expected to face more than two-and-a-half centuries in prison after a jury convicted him Wednesday of a string of robberies targeting women arriving home throughout the western San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury found Jose Lewis Avila, 32, guilty of all counts he was charged with, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
They included nine counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of dissuading a witness and one count of child abuse, Ardalani said. The jury also found true the special allegations that Avila used a dangerous weapon during the crimes, which was ultimately determined to be a BB gun following Avila’s arrest, and that one of his victims, an Arcadia woman was shot with the BB gun, suffered great bodily injury. An Alhambra woman was pistol whipped during one of the robberies.
The robbery spree took place in March and April of 2011 in Alhambra, San Gabriel, Monterey Park and Arcadia, Ayvazian said.
“All of these are basically follow home robberies,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Gabriel Kim.
He targeted women outside their homes as they arrived home alone, investigators said. In the first robbery in Alhambra, a husband and wife were robbed as they arrived home together.
All of the victims targeted by Avila were Asian, Ayvazian said.
Avila was ordered back to court Sept. 26 for sentencing, Ardalani said.
Prior to receiving his sentenced, a judge will review Avila’s criminal history to confirm his status ass a third-strike offender, Ayvazian said.
He’s expected to receive a minimum sentence of 250 years to life in state prison, officials said. The maximum sentence Avila faces is 259 years behind bars.
The 12 charges stemmed from eight incidents, the prosecutor explained. Three robberies, one which involved two victims, occurred in Alhambra. Another three took place in San Gabriel, while one occurred in Arcadia and one took place in Monterey Park.
One of his victims was holding a child in her arms when robbed, resulting in the child abuse charge, officials said.
Avila threatened another of his victims and told her not to contact the police, resulting in a charge of dissuading a witness, Ayvazian said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge stemmed from the Arcadia robbery, Ayvazian said. When the victim’s daughter overheard the commotion and came out so check on her mother, Avila shot her with the BB gun.
0724_NWS_PSN-L-AVILA2As the spree was ongoing, Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park police banded together and formed a task force to identify and capture the serial robber.
He was arrested April 20, 2011, after an officer spotted a man and vehicle matching the suspect description driving on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra and stopped it for a broken tail light, Ayvazian said. After learning the driver, later identified as Avila, was on parole, officers searched his car.
Investigators found a realistic-looking BB gun, bandanas, latex gloves and other items that indicated he was searching for new victims when stopped by police, Ayvazian said. A wealth of evidence including eyewitness statement, credit card records, cell phone records and surveillance camera footage also linked Avila to the crimes, officials said.
Additionally, even though Avila covered his face during his crimes, several witness were able to identify him due to his “very unique” eyes and eyebrows, Ayvazian said.
At the time of his arrest, Avila was already on parole in connection with a similar robbery spree that took place in the same area in 2005, Ayvazian said.
He had been arrested and charged with 19 criminal counts, but ultimately admitted two of the robberies under a plea agreement, the prosecutor said. As in the more recent case, some victims identified the masked robber based on his eyes and eyebrows.
While Avila was charged with robbing nine people in the 2011 spree, the police task force assembled to investigate the case capture the serial robber had also looked at Avila in connection with more than ten additional robberies, reaching into Pasadena and South Pasadena, officials said shortly after Avila’s arrest. No charges have been filed in connection with those robberies.
The prosecution presented 22 witness during Avila’s three-and-a-half-day trial, Ayvazian said.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours before finding Avila guilty an all charges.
“The evidence was on out side,” Ayvazian said. “The jury obviously, in our opinion, did the right thing by bringing justice for our community.

PHOTOS:(Above)  Photo of Jose Avila courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department. (Below) Sketch of serial robber released to the public prior to Avila’s arrest in connection with a follow-home robbery spree continued in the western San Gabriel Valley in April of 2011, courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.

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Men killed in Monterey Park crash identified

MONTEREY PARK >> Coroner’s officials have released the names of two young men who died in a high-speed solo-car crash in Monterey Park earlier this month.
Driver Brian Anthony Gomez, 19, of Los Angeles died at a hospital shortly after the crash, which took place about 3:40 p.m. July 10 in the 500 block of Monterey Pass Road, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator S. Dixson said.
His passenger, 21-year-old Nicholas Ivan Gonzalez of Montebello, died at the scene of the crash, according to coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral.
Autopsies determined both men died of “traumatic injuries,” and the deaths were ruled accidental, coroner’s officials said.
The Infiniti Q60 was travelling at high speed when is struck a parked car and overturned, Monterey Park police officials said. At least one witnesses indicated the car was traveling in excess of 100 mph when it crashed.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation by traffic officers from the Monterey Park Police Department.

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UPDATED: Person killed in Monterey Park car crash

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MONTEREY PARK — One person died and another was hospitalized with major injuries following a crash on Monterey Pass Road in Monterey Park Thursday afternoon.
The crash was reported at 3:43 p.m. in the 500 block of Monterey Pass Road, just southwest of Fremont Avenue, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.
The investigation remained in its early stages, however it initially appeared a car travelling on Monterey Pass Road struck parked vehicle, the lieutenant said.
Witnesses indicated the car, which appeared to be an Infiniti sedan, had been travelling at a “very high rate of speed,” prior to the crash, Kim said. One witness estimated the Infiniti was travelling in excess of 100 mph before crashing.
No one was inside the Nissan SUV struck by the speeding car, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced one person dead at the scene, Kim said. A second person was hospitalized in critical condition.
The two occupants of the car were initially described only as male.
A utility poll was struck in the crash, and the sedan that struck the parked car ultimately struck a nearby commercial building, creating a hole in the wall about the size of two basketballs, before coming to a rest upside down.
Monterey Pass Road was shut down in both directions as police conducted an investigation.
No further details were available.

PHOTO by Keith Durflinger

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Man sentenced for Monterey Park double-slaying

A judge sentenced a man to spend the rest of his life in prison Thursday for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in Monterey Park in early 2010, authorities said.
Richard Tauch, 49, of Corona received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in Pasadena Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
A jury convicted him in November of two counts of first-degree murder for the Jan. 19, 2010, shooting deaths of Jenny Sor, 40, of Los Angeles and Wenwa Chao, 53, of Alhambra. The jury also found true the special allegations of multiple murder and lying in wait.
Officials described Tauch as a casino security guard who was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Sor.
“Tauch and Sor were in a relationship for a year before she broke up with him in December 2009 and started dating Chao,” according to the district attorney’s office statement.
On the day of the killings, Tauch went to Sor’s workplace at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood and hid himself in her car, investigators said. He remained concealed in her car as she drove to an assisted living facility in the 200 block of Northj Chandler Avenue in Monterey Park, where Chao was visiting his father.
“When Sor arrived at the care home, she went inside and Tauch followed,” according to the district attorney’s office statement. “The defendant then accosted Sor and Chao and shot them multiple times. The victims died at the scene.”
Tauch fled the scene following the double-slaying, but detectives arrested him the following day.

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Firefighters douse small brush fire in Monterey Park

MONTEREY PARK — Firefighters made quick work of a small brush fire in Monterey Park Friday afternoon, extinguishing the flames before the fire grew larger than a quarter-acre, officials said.
The fire was first reported at 5:17 p.m. in a brush area along the 1400 block Monterey Pass Road, Verdugo Fire Communications Center Dispatch Supervisor Lynda Sims said.
Firefighters declared the fire “knocked down” at 5:34 p.m., she added, and began mop-up operations.
The fire came during the third day of a Red Flag Warning in Los Angeles County due to increased fire risk presented by high temperatures and low humidity levels.

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