UPDATED: Idaho man arrested in 1981 Pomona slaying of Anaheim boy

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POMONA >> A California sex offender living in Idaho is in custody in connection with the 1981 slaying of a 6-year-old Anaheim boy who disappeared while riding his bicycle before being found strangled to death the following day in Pomona, police announced Saturday.
Cold case detectives traveled to Sandpoint, Idaho, to help in Friday’s arrest of Kenneth Rasmuson on suspicion of the July, 981, strangulation death of 6-year-old Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vargo, Pomona police Lt. Eddie Vasquez said. Rasmuson was linked to the crime by DNA evidence.
He was convicted three times of violent sex crimes in California in the 1980s, according to a Bonner County, Idaho, sex offender registry.
Jeffrey Vargo was last seen alive riding his bicycle about 5:30 p.m. on July 2, 1981, near a fireworks stand at Imperial Highway and Santa Ana Road in Anaheim, Vasquez said.
“At approximately 7:20 p.m., his parents found his bike abandoned in an alley near the fireworks stand,” the lieutenant said in a written statement.
The following day, “Two construction workers found the child’s lifeless body near 34 Edgebrook Drive in the city of Pomona,” Vasquez said.
An autopsy concluded Vargo had been strangled to death, Vasquez said. “DNA evidence was confirmed and linked to Idaho resident Kenneth Rasmuson.”
The boy had reportedly been sexually assaulted.
Leads in the investigation dried up, and the case went cold for more than 30 years, Vasquez said.
DNA evidence collected during the initial investigation was not able to identify a suspect based on the technology of the time, Vasquez said.
In 2014, as technology continued to improve, Pomona police cold case investigators resubmitted the their DNA evidence. Forensic analysis was able to link the sample to Rasmuson.
0329_NWS_IDB-L-COLDCASE2Jeffrey Vargo’s mother, Connie Vargo, said the family was pleased to learn of the long-awaited arrest.
“It’s bittersweet, of course. We’re glad he has been captured and cannot hurt anyone else, but it also brings up a log of memories and things.”
“The Pomona PD never gave up on it. I really want to thank Detective (Jennifer) Turpin, who really has worked hard on this case,” the mother said.
Rasmuson was a stranger to the family, she said.
In addition to his mother, Jeffrey Vargo is survived by his father, Bob, and older brother, Michael.
Connie Vargo described Jeffrey as “brown-haired, brown-eyed, happy little boy.”
“He was only 6 years old. He had just started the first grade,” she said.
“He was a happy little guy,” Connie Vargo said. “Jeffy just liked to be outside. He loved anything with wheels. His skateboard, his big wheels.”
That’s why when she discovered Jeffrey’s bicycle abandoned while searching for him, she knew something was seriously wrong. “He wouldn’t leave that bike anyplace.”
According to Bonner County’s sex offender registry, Rasmuson was convicted of kidnapping for the purpose of committing a sexual offense in California in late-1981, as well as committing lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14 years old in 1987.
Sandpoint police, the FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Bonner County District Attorney’s Office and the Anaheim Police Department took part in the investigation and subsequent arrest, police said.
Rasmuson was being held in the Bonner County Jail in Sandpoint, Idaho, pending extradition proceedings to bring him back to California to face charges, Vasquez said.
Connie Vargo said she was looking forward to seeing justice for her son.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process, but hopefully, justice will be served and he’ll never be able to hurt anyone ever again,” she said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Pomona police detectives at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO: [TOP] Kenneth Rasmuson, 53, of Idaho. (Courtesy) [BELOW] Jeffrey “Jeffy” Vardo, 6, of Anaheim. (Courtesy)

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Car of missing LAPD officer sought in connection with fatal Pomona shooting found

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POMONA >> Police seeking a missing rookie Los Angeles police officer who is being sought in connection with a fatal Pomona shooting found the officer’s car abandoned in Pomona on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
Investigators found a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta belonging to LAPD Officer Henry Solis, 27, of Pomona just before 1 p.m. at Main Street and Monterey Avenue, Pomona police Lt. Ron McDonald said.
The car was parked along the street several blocks north of the scene of Friday’s shooting, which took place about 3:30 a.m. at Main and Third streets, the lieutenant said. Police towed the car away so investigators could examine it in detail for evidence.
Police have described Solis as a “person of interest” in the shooting, which claimed the life of 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr. of Ontario. But investigators have not labeled the LAPD officer a suspect in the slaying.
A gunman shot and killed Rodriguez during a fight, police said. Witnesses reported seeing a compact car fleeing the scene.
Further details regarding the circumstances of the shooting were not released.
Solir, who joined the LAPD in June, was assigned to the LAPD’s Devonshire Division, LAPD Officer Rosario Herrera said.
Solis has not shown up to work since the shooting, officials said.

PHOTO of LAPD Officer Henry Solis courtesy of the Pomona Police Department.

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Deputies to canvass Pomona neighborhood seeking witnesses in La Verne double-slaying

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POMONA >> Sheriff’s homicide detectives investigating the mysterious slaying of an Elderly La Verne couple in their home late last year plan to canvass a Pomona neighborhood Friday for motorists, pedestrians and train passengers who may have key information to help solve the case, officials said.
Armie “Troy” Isom, 89, and wide Shirley Isom, 74, were found fatally stabbed and beaten on Dec. 26, inside their home at the end of secluded Roughrider Road in an unincorporated near La Verne, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials.
The case remains unsolved.
““We have not determined a motive,” Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said last week.
“We’re still working all the clues that came in,” the lieutenant said. “We have multiple leads we are following.” Coleman declined to discuss what those leads were.
The search continues for a man spotted by neighbors walking away from the Isoms’ sprawling estate shortly before the couple was found mortally wounded.
The man, who has since been labeled a suspect in the killing, was last reported to be walking south from the isolated neighborhood where the victims lived. But he has not been found.
In an effort to develop new leads in the investigation, and track down the mysterious suspect, deputies plan to pass out fliers to drivers in the 3100 block of Garey Avenue in Pomona Friday.
The flier will include a composite sketch of the suspect previously released to the public in early January, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. The canvassing will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in the 3100 block of Garey Avenue, just south of the Isom’s neighborhood.
The operation is being held on the same day of the week as the killing, and covering the same time of day. Troy and Shirley Isom were discovered slain shortly after 1 p.m. on the day after Christmas.
“As people come through, we’ll hand out fliers and ask them a couple simple questions,” Lt. Andy Berg of the sheriff’s San Dimas Station said.
Deputies will ask drivers and pedestrians if they were in the same area on the afternoon of Dec. 26, and whether they’ve seen the man pictured in the sketch.
Deputies will strive to delay motorists as briefly as possible, Berg said. Deputies will not be looking for traffic violations, he said. They will not even ask driver’s names, unless they have information pertinent to the double-homicide investigation. Homicide detectives will be on-hand to interview anyone who may be able to help.
At the same time, deputies will be aboard commuter trains on the nearby San Bernardino Line passing out fliers and questioning passengers, Nishida said. No trains will be delayed as a result of the canvassing.
Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
— Staff writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.

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Man killed after crashing car into Caltrans truck on 10 Freeway offramp in Pomona


POMONA >> A man died on an offramp of the 10 Freeway in Pomona Thursday after rear-ending a Caltrans truck while allegedly fleeing the scene of a previous minor collision, officials said.
The crash took place about 1:50 p.m. on the Fairplex Drive offramp of the eastbound 10 Freeway, California Highway Patrol Officer Rodrigo Jimenez said.
The name of the dead man was not released pending confirmation of his identity and notification of family members, he said. CHP officials initially believed to be a 36-year-old Palm Desert man.
He had been involved in a less-severe collision involving only minor injuries on the eastbound 10 Freeway just before the fatal collision, Jimenez said.
It appeared he was fleeing the scene of the first crash when he rear ended an elevated work platform truck stopped in a coned-off section of the offramp to work on electrical lines, the officer said.
The driver of the Caltrans truck was unhurt, he said. There was no one inside the bucket of the elevator truck.
Firefighters cut the Honda driver free of his 2001 Honda Civic before pronouncing him dead at the scene, according to Jimenez.
A 40-year-old Whittier man driving the car that the Honda initially struck and his passenger, a 49-year-old Moreno Valley woman, suffered apparently minor injuries, he added.
Officials shut down the offramp as they investigated the scene, Jimenez said. Traffic on the 10 Freeway was slowed as a result of the crash, though none of the traffic lanes were blocked.
The crash remained under investigation by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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Man dies in crash on connector road between 10, 71 freeways in Pomona

POMONA >> A man died after being thrown from his pickup truck in a crash on a freeway transition road in Pomona early Sunday, authorities said.
The crash took place about 1:20 a.m. on the transition road between the eastbound 10 Freeway and the southbound 71 Freeway, Officer D. Johnson of the California Highway Patrol’s Baldwin Park office said in a written statement.
The identity of the dead man was not available. He was initially described as a man in his mid-20s.
Johnson said he was driving a 1991 GMC Sierra at “an unknown excessive speed” in the right-hand land of the transition road just prior to the crash.
The GMC sideswiped a 2008 Toyota Tundra pickup truck traveling in the left-hand lane of the transition road, Johnson said.
“(The GMC driver) then lost control of his vehicle, entered the dirt reverse gore point area at the end of the connector road and overturned,” the officer said.
The man, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the pickup truck, Johnson said. He died from his injuries.
A 28-year-old Moreno Valley woman who was driving the Toyota truck involved in the crash suffered no injuries, officials said.

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So Cal businesses accused of selling cosmetic contact lenses without prescriptions; some lenses tainted with dangerous bacteria

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LOS ANGELES >> Federal prosecutors charged 12 people and businesses this week with selling illegal and potentially dangerous cosmetic contact lenses, including some contaminated with a virulent strain of bacteria capable of blinding wearers, authorities said.
The charges stem from an investigation into the sales of cosmetic contact lenses without prescriptions in the weeks leading up to Halloween dubbed “Operation Cat Eyes,” Assistant United States Attorney Amanda Bettinelli said.
“The goal was to protect consumers in advance of Halloween,” Bettinelli said.
Cosmetic contact lenses used to change the wearer’s eye color have been growing in popularity, officials said. They range from subtle color changes to ornate designs. But while contact lenses are illegal to sell without a prescription, non-presciption, or “misbranded,” lenses have been increasingly popping up in beauty salons and costume stores.
“They’re so easily available, and they can do horrific injury to your eye in a short period of time,” Bettinelli said.
1108_NWS-SGT-L-LENSES1Without being properly fitted to each individuals eyes, contact lenses have the potential to cause abrasions, lesions and other serious injuries, Bettinelli explained.
There are no guarantees regarding the quality of the lenses or the conditions in which they are manufactured, which are sometimes “filthy,” she said. And in some cases, the lenses and the fluid they are stored in have been found to be contaminated with dangerous pathogens.
Mike Honabach, 45, of Highland is accused of selling lenses contaminated with a “particularly insidious” strain of bacteria at a booth at the recent Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona called Halloween and Party Discounters Inc., Bettinelli said.
Lenses seized from the booth in September, sold under the brand name “I Color Complete,” were found to be contaminated with the bacteria Bacillus cereus, the prosecutor said. No injuries had been directly linked to the contaminated batch of contact lenses.
“The Bacillus cereus bacterial strain can cause severe infections that, even with prompt treatment, can lead to blindness,” U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Honabach is charged with introducing adulterated devices into interstate commerce, receipt of bacteria-adulterated contact lenses and sale of misbranded products. Honabach’s supplier, Intertrade Imports Inc. of Jacksonville, Florida, along with Intertrade manager Eunju Kang Savvidis, 53, of Jacksonville, are charged with introducing adulterated devices into interstate commerce, Mrozek said.
1108_NWS-SGT-L-LENSES2Eight other people and businesses are names as defendants for allegedly selling misbranded contact lenses to undercover investigators in the series of cases resulting from “Operation Cat Eyes.”
Doris Owusa Ansah, 53, of West Covina, who owns Sunset Beauty Salon in West Covina, is charged with selling misbranded contact lenses; CKL Fashion, Inc., a Corona company that operated a business called “T-Shirt Mart in Glendale, along with manager Young Kim, 51, of of La Cresenta is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; Jung Rae Jo, 60, of Cerritos, who owns Fashion Young in Westminster, is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; Halloween Superstore in Glendale, as well as owner Zinaida Khrimyan, 25, of Glendale and manager Patrick Abedi, 30, of Glendale, are accused of selling misbranded contact lenses; and Hong Kong-based Aspirational International Inc. is accused of selling misbranded contact lenses online.
All 12 people and businesses are scheduled to appear for arraignment hearings in federal court in Los Angeles Dec. 9, Mrozek said. If convicted, each defendants faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and for each count, along with a $100,000 fine for individuals and $200,000 fine for corporations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Consumer affairs took part in the investigation.

PHOTOS courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice

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La Verne police arrest Pomona man, 3 teens, in connection with robbery and carjacking spree

LA VERNE >> La Verne police arrested a man and three teenagers early Sunday accused of a crime spree including an armed carjacking in La Verne, as well as armed robberies in La Verne, Pomona, Claremont and Upland in recent days.
Officers arrested Edwin Miguel Garcia, 18, of Pomona, and three teenage boys from Pomona were arrested in connection with the series of crimes after tracking them down in Pomona about 2:30 a.m., according to La Verne police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. Officials withheld the names of the juvenile suspects due to their age.
A man called police just before 11 p.m. Saturday to report being robbed and carjacked outside the Shogun Restaurant, 2123 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne, La Verne police Sgt. Sam Gonzalez said.
“Upon arrival, officers received information that three armed suspects demanded money and a cellular phone from the victim before forcibly taking his vehicle and fleeing the scene,” Gonzalez said.
A short time later, police received a second call from a bicyclist reporting he had been robbed by a group of young men in the 1900 block of Dover Way, police said.
“A preliminary investigation revealed the same subjects from the earlier carjacking were also responsible for the incident on Dover Way,” Gonzalez said.
Police found the four suspects in the area of Towne Avenue and the 10 Freeway in Pomona, Gonzalez said. Officers arrested them without a struggle.
They were found with the carjacked car, as well as a second car that had been reported stolen.
“Upon further investigation it was discovered the suspects arrested were responsible for similar crimes in the cities of Claremont, Pomona, and Upland,” Gonzalez said.
All of the crimes took place within recent days, he added.
In addition to the two stolen cars, the suspects were in possession of a loaded gun, two replica guns, stolen property and drugs, Gonzalez said.
Garcia was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail and the La Verne Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, records show.

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La Mirada man killed in freeway crash in Pomona

POMONA >> A La Mirada man died early Thursday after his speeding Honda Accord rear-ended a big rig on the 10 Freeway in Pomona, authorities said.
Cody Tyler Campbell, 25, died following the 12:52 a.m. crash on the westbound 10 Freeway, just east of Kellogg Drive, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The driver of the big rig involved in the collision, a 42-year-old Corona man, was uninjured, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
Investigators said Campbell was driving at “a high rate of speed” in the right-hand lane when his 2002 Honda Accord rear-ended the big rig.
“As a result of Mr. Campbell’s unsafe speed for prevailing road and traffic conditions, the left front of (the Honda) collided with the right rear of (the big rig),” according to the CHP statement.
Despite wearing a seat belt, Campbell was thrown from his car and suffered major head injuries, CHP officials he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officials shut down all but the left-hand lane of the westbound 10 Freeway for several hours following the crash.
The collision was being investigated by officers from the Baldwin Park office of the CHP.

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Four wounded in shooting at Pomona restaurant drive-through

POMONA >> Four men were hospitalized in stable condition after gunfire erupted in the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant Saturday, police said.
The shooting took place just after 6:40 p.m. at Alberto’s Mexican Food, 1925 West Holt Ave., east of Fairplex Drive, Pomona police Sgt. Steve Congalton said in a written statement.
The victims were inside a car that was in the drive-through of the restaurant just before the shooting
“An altercation took place between the occupants of the vehicle and suspect that were on foot,” Congalton said. “Moments later, shots were fired and four individuals were hit.”
A motive in the shooting remained under investigation, though detectives suspected it was gang-related, Congalton said.
All four wounded men were flown by helicopter to area hospitals, where they were listed in stable condition, police said. Their ages or cities of residence were not released.
No description of the suspects was available.
Police were investigating the shooting as attempted murder.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Pomona Police Department detectives at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously via L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: Man critically wounded in Pomona shooting

POMONA >> A man was critically wounded in a shooting at his Pomona home Friday afternoon, officials said.
The shooting took place about 4:45 p.m. in the 200 block of West Willow Street, just east of Garey Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Art Marrujo said.
Paramedics rushed the wounded man to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment, Marrujo said
The victim, who had been shot several times, immediately underwent surgery, Pomona police officials said. The man, who was described as being in his 30s, remained hospitalized in critical condition Saturday.
“The motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, but it appears that the victim was possibly specifically targeted and at this point detectives do not believe that it was a random act,” Pomona police Sgt. Lena Becker said in a written statement.
No suspect description was available.
The shooting was not believed to be gang-related, Lt. Chuck Becker said. It was unclear if anything had been stolen from the victim or his home.
Police released no further details.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Pomona Police Department Detective Bureau at 909-620-2085. Tips may also be submitted anonymously by contact L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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