Pico Rivera woman killed in West Whittier head-on crash


WEST WHITTIER >> A 22-year-old Pico Rivera woman died after the car she was riding in as a passenger collided head-on with another car on Mines Boulevard in West Whittier early Saturday, authorities said.
Cassandra Marie Arango died in the 4:40 a.m. crash at Mines Boulevard and Duchess Drive in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
The driver of the 1995 Honda Civic in which Arango was riding suffered “major” injuries in the crash, CHP Officer Tim Zaspal said in a written statement. He was described as a 24-year-old Whittier man.
A young man and woman riding in the other involved vehicle, a 2015 Dodge Charger, were treated for minor injuries, Zaspal said.
The Honda was westbound on Mines Boulevard and the Dodge was eastbound just prior to the crash.
“The Honda and the Dodge were involved in a head-on collision and came to rest blocking lanes at the intersection of Mines Boulevard and Duchess Drive,” Zaspal said.
It was not yet clear which vehicle crossed over into opposing traffic lanes.
Paramedics pronounced Arango Honda dead at the scene, Zaspal said.
Neither she nor the driver of the Honda were wearing seat belts, he said.
No arrests were made as the investigation continued.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Officer Renteria of the CHP’s Santa Fe Springs-area office at 562-868-0503.

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Victim’s teenage son, friend guilty of murder in fatal Pico Rivera home-invasion robbery

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PICO RIVERA >> Two Pico Rivera teens could face life in prison at their sentencing later this month after being convicted of murder and other charges for fatally stabbing and strangling one of the teen’s father during a home-invasion robbery nearly two years ago, authorities said Friday.
A Norwalk jury convicted Sergio Anthony Gutierrez, 19, and friend Angel Emilio Estrello, 17, of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of home-invasion robbery each in connection with the Sept. 20, 2014, slaying of 50-year-old Sergio Gutierrez at his home, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said. Emilio was additionally convicted of burglary.
“Gutierrez and Estrello were found guilty all counts and the special circumstance found to be true,” Risling said.
Prosecutors alleged that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery, Risling said. But because both killers were juveniles at the time of the killing — Gutierrez was 17 and Estrello was 15 — they cannot receive the death penalty under California Law.
Gutierrez and Estrello each face a maximum sentence of life behind bars when they return to the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior court for sentencing on Sept. 19 and Sept. 23, respectively.
In addition to stealing money, Sergio Anthony Gutierrez took part in the attack and robbery of his father because he was angry with his father for “disrespecting” him, Risling said.
“It was not just one argument, but a history of conduct that he felt disrespected by,” he said. “Such as: the decedent (removed) the door of his bedroom (and) made him sleep outside if he got home late.”
0921_nws_wdn-l-stab1-241x300The two teens were tried in one trial, but by two separate juries.
A third defendant in the case, 20-year-old Jesus Rafael Adame, declared in July that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial, according to Risling. A mental competency hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Prosecutors have elected not to seek capital punishment in Adame’s case, Risling said.
All three suspects were friends who attended El Rancho High School together.
Deputies, and ultimately homicide detectives, responded to the Gutierrez family’s home in a gated community in the 3700 block of Oaklawn Lane about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 20.
Video: Homicide detectives discusses fatal Pico Rivera home-invasion robbery
They discovered the elder Sergio Gutierrez suffering from stab wounds to his torso, officials said at the time. He was rushed to Beverly Hospital in Montebello where he succumbed to his injuries.
An autopsy later determined the victim died from sharp force trauma and neck compression, and the death was ruled a homicide, said Ed Winter, Assistant Chief of Operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
The victim’s son wielded the knife in the attack, Risling said.
“However, the stab wounds were superficial and were not the cause of death,” he said. “The stranglehold employed by defendant Angel Estrello was the main cause of death.”
Cash, credit cards and the family’s 2000 Infiniti sedan were missing from the home.
Lt. Holly Francisco of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Homicide Bureau initially stopped short of labeling the younger Gutierrez a suspect in the killing, but pointed out that he was believed to have been present during the deadly home-invasion robbery, and could not be found in the hours following the killing.
Deputies arrested Gutierrez and Adame in connection with slaying the following day, and Estrello turned himself in to authorities the same afternoon.

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Teenage girl fatally stabbed inside her Pico Rivera home; ex-boyfriend sought

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PICO RIVERA >> A 16-year-old girl died after being stabbed in her Pico River home early Friday, and homicide detectives are seeking her ex-boyfriend as a possible suspect in the slaying, authorities said.
• PHOTOS: Deputies descend on Pico Rivera home where teen girl was stabbed to death
Elene Lillian Moore died at the scene of the 3:15 a.m. stabbing in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
“Detectives learned that the victim’s mother was suddenly awoken by her daughter’s screams that she had been stabbed as she staggered into her bedroom and collapsed,” Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
“(The mother) believed she had been stabbed by her ex-boyfriend,” Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
• VIDEO: Sheriff’s deputy talks about teen’s stabbing death in Pico Rivera, neighbor recalls victim

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies investigate the early morning stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl on the 9800-block of Shade Lane in Pico Rivera on Friday August 12, 2016. Investigators are looking for the former boyfriend of the girl. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)

The attacker had fled the home before deputies arrived and remained at-large Friday afternoon.
“Based on the victim’s statements to her mother prior to her collapse, the victim’s ex-boyfriend is being sought to determine f he was involved in the attack,” Saldana said.
Detectives identified the “person of interest” as 17-year-old Rory Murga.
Moore and Murga had dated for about a year, Hernandez said. “They broke up recently, about two weeks ago.”
The circumstances of the fatal stabbing remained unclear, officials said. The stabbing took place on the first floor of the home, while the mother’s room was upstairs.
“At this point, we’re not sure if he forced his way in or was let in by the victim,” Hernandez said. “We’re not sure if there was an argument that precipitated that stabbing.”
Moore had been stabbed multiple times, Winter said.
Both Moore and Murga attended Ruben Salazar High School in Pico Rivera, neighbor Jaime Lugo said.
“She was a really nice girl,” he said. “She was always really friendly. She was always really open with people.”
“Just shocking. I think that’s like really the only word that can describe it,” Lugo said.
Anyone with information is urged 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.

PHOTOS/VIDEO by Keith Durflinger

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Bomb threat briefly shuts down Pico Rivera Walmart store


PICO RIVERA >> Deputies briefly evacuated a Pico Rivera Walmart store Wednesday evening after the business received a phone call claiming there was a bomb inside, officials said.
The phone call was received shortly after 8 p.m. at the store, 8500 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
Officials evacuated the store and deputies searched it, Garcia said. Officials found nothing unusual, and the store was reopened about half an hour later, he said.
An investigation into who placed the anonymous, threatening phone call was ongoing.

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Gunman robs Pico Rivera 7-Eleven store


PICO RIVERA >> A man with a handgun robbed a Rosemead Boulevard convenience store early Saturday morning, officials said.
The crime took place about 3:30 a.m. at 7-Eleven, at Rosemead Boulevard and Telegraph Road, Sgt. B. Creta of the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station said.
A man entered the store and demanded money from the clerk, she said. The employee hesitated at first, but complied when the robber displayed a handgun tucked into his waistband.
The robber fled with about $400, Creta said. The clerk was not injured.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man between 25 and 30, wearing a black jacket, a hooded sweatshirt and black pants. He fled the areas in a gray sedan fitted with paper license plates.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Man robbed of bicycle at knifepoint in Pico Rivera


PICO RIVERA >> Three men robbed a bicyclist of his wheels at knifepoint in Pico Rivera early Sunday, officials said.
The crime occurred about 9 a.m. as the victim, a 25-year-old man, was riding his mountain bike at Paramount and Whittier boulevards, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva said.
A 1990s-model Honda sedan pulled up next to the victim and two robbers got out, he said. A third accomplice — the driver — remained in the car.
One of the robbers brandished a knife as they took the man’s bicycle, loaded it into the car and fled, the lieutenant said. The victim suffered no injuries.
Deputies found the stolen bicycle later in the morning, abandoned on a Montebello Bus Lines bus in East Los Angeles, Villanueva said.
Detailed suspect descriptions were not available.

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Teenage boys robbed at knifepoint, attacked in Pico Rivera


PICO RIVERA >> Two men robbed two 14-year-old boys and slashed on of them with a knife along Durfee Avenue in Pico Rivera Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime and attack took place about 4:05 p.m. in the 4700 block of Durfee Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
The two victims, both Pico Rivera boys, were walking down the street when two men with the appearance of gang members approached them, the lieutenant said.
One of the robbers brandished a knife as he and his accomplice demanded the teens’ property, Garcia said. The victims handed over three cell phones, a gold chain, two sets of headphones, a skateboard and $4 in cash.
After obtaining the boys’ belongings, the knife-wielding robber slashed at one of the victims, but he managed to dodge the attack, Garcia said. The attacker then turned his attention to the second teen, clashing him on his arm.
The wound was no serious, Garcia said.
The robbers were last seen running south along Durfee Avenue, he said.
One was a Latino man in his early-20s, brandishing a knife, with a black hat covering a bald head, Garcia said. The second robber was a Latino man in his early-30s with short black hair.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Ex-border protection officer from Pico Rivera sentenced for immigration bribery scheme

LOS ANGELES >> A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, who also ran an immigration consulting service, received a sentence of more than three years in federal prison late Thursday for his role in immigration bribery scheme, officials said.
George Wu, 63, was convicted in August of conspiracy to bribe a public officials and five counts of bribing a public official following a week-long trial.
At his sentencing Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald handed down a sentence of 37 months behind bars, U.S. DOJ spokeswoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
He faced a maximum penalty of up to 80 years in prison.
“This defendant attempted to corrupt our nation’s immigration system by offering bribes in exchange for benefits. It is critical to our national security that our nation’s immigration system functions properly and free from corruption such as this defendant’s,” Central District of California U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said.
Wu worked as a CBP officer until 2012, then started an immigration consulting business called Great Eastern immigration Services, authorities said.
Wu and co-defendants paid tens of thousands of dollars in bribes, which they solicited from at least seven clients, to immigration officials top help secure citizenship and permanent legal status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mrozek said.
In one case, a client of Wu’s, “was allowed to pass an English proficiency exam even though she could not speak English,” he said.
Co-conspirator Michael Bui, who ran another immigration consultation firm, has already been convicted of conspiracy and bribery in connection with the case and sentenced to one year and one day in prison, officials said.
Eleven defendants in all are named in the case, and seven of them have already been convicted, Mrozek said. They include an attorney who paid bribes to a senior USCIS officials and arranging “sham marriages”; an ex U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who lied to federal investigators about accessing immigration filed and providing the information to an immigration attorney; and a former USCIS officials who accepted an “illegal gratuity” from an immigration attorney after helping an immigrant gain legal permanent residence, officials said.

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Glendale woman sentenced for DUI crash that killed Whittier man in Pico Rivera

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PICO RIVERA >> A Glendale woman who triggered a fatal crash when she drove through a red light in Pico Rivera while drunk has begun serving a six-year prison term for the crime, officials said Wednesday.
Christine Vahe Mesdjian, 28, pleaded “no contest” to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated during a pretrial hearing on Thursday in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
“She was immediately sentenced to six years in state prison,” Ardalani said.
An additional count of felony DUI was dismissed in connection with the Feb. 15, 2015, three-vehicle crash that claimed the life of David Andrew Jaramillo, 59, of Whittier.
Mesdjian initially told investigators she fell asleep at the wheel prior to the crash, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Jose Marquez said. But skid marks created in the street prior to the collision contradicted her story, he said.
Mesdjian was driving a Toyota pickup truck north along Paramount Boulevard about 8 p.m. when she blew through a red light and hit the passenger side of a Toyota Scion heading east on Slauson Avenue, according to Marquez.
The force of the collision pushed the Scion into a Toyota Camry heading west on Slauson Avenue.
Jaramillo, who was driving the Scion, died at the scene.
Mesdjian and three people inside the camera were treated for injuries as well, officials said.
Deputies did not arrest Mesdjian the night of the crash, but ultimately turned over the findings of their investigation to prosecutors, who obtained an arrest warrant for Mesdjian in late June of 2015. She turned herself in to authorities June 30.

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Man struck by train in Pico Rivera


PICO RIVERA >> A man suffered major head injuries after he was struck by an Amtrak train in Pico Rivera early Saturday in what was being investigated as a suicide attempt, authorities said.
The incident took place about 8:35 a.m. on a set of tracks behind the 7600 block of Industry Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
The Amtrak train was headed from San Diego to Los Angeles, he said.
The conductor reported seeing the man, described as a Los Angeles man in his 20s, lying near the tracks, with his arms crossed and his head sitting upon one of the rails, Garcia said. The conductor was unable to stop in time to avoid striking the man.
Paramedics rushed the severely injured man via helicopter to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, the lieutenant said.
The Amtrak train resumed its journey with its passengers a little over an hour later, Garcia added.
Metrolink trains, which use the same tracks, were also delayed as a result of the incident, officials said.

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