Sexual predator charged with two cold case child murders denies charges

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POMONA >> A convicted sex offender awaiting trial for the 1981 slaying of a 6-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a second murder charge stemming from the 1986 slaying of a second young boy, authorities said.
Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson, 53, who was living in Idaho when arrested by cold case investigators in March after DNA evidence linked him to the killing of 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo of Anaheim. Vargo’s body was discovered in Pomona the day after he disappeared while riding his bicycle in Anaheim on July 2, 1981.
After more than 30 years, Rasmuson was linked to the crime by DNA evidence and arrested, Pomona police Lt. Eddie Vasquez said at the time.
As the legal process moved forward in the murder case, DNA evidence linked Rasmuson to another slaying, that of 6-year-old Miguel Antero of Agoura Hills, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said.
Prosecutors amended the felony complaint already filed against Rasmuson for Vargo’s killing to include Antero’s slaying as well, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
His body was found in a wash on April 8, 1986, the same day he went missing from outside his home, prosectors allege.
He pleaded not guilty to the new charges Wednesday in Pomona Superior Court, officials said. He was ordered back to court for another hearing in the case on Jan. 14.
Rasmuson now stands charged with two counts of murder, along the special circumstances that both killings were committed during the commission of lewd or lascivious acts on children, as well as the special circumstance of multiple murders.
Prosecutors are yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty in the case, or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Rasmuson was previously convicted of sex crimes against children in California in the 1980s.

PHOTO: Kenneth Rasmuson, 53. (courtesy)

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Ex-Pomona court clerk pleads guilty to embezzling $6,000 in court fees

LOS ANGELES >> A former Los Angeles County Superior Court clerk pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing more than $6,000 in court fees while working out of the Pomona courthouse between 2010 and 2014, authorities said.
Linda Mascorro, 60, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of misappropriation of public funds in Los Angeles and was ordered back to court Nov. 5 for sentencing, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
Mascorro will receive 500 hours of community service, three years of probation and be ordered to repay $6,345 in restitution to the court, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
She had been free on $100,000 bond pending the legal process.
Mascorro stole the money while processing and collecting fees from individuals filing civil petitions to change their names, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Jane Robison said. The theft did not impact the cases of those petitioning for name changes.
Wednesday’s guilty plea was the result of a negotiated plea arrangement between the defense and prosecution, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
Following Mascorro’s arrest in late July, prosecutors initially charged her with 15 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. The additional 14 counts are expected to be dismissed at sentencing, Robison said.
If convicted as charged at trial, Mascorro could have faced up to 18 years in state prison.

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Armed gang member wearing bullet-proof vest jailed in Pomona

POMONA >> Police arrested a paroled gang member Saturday after he was found prowling around a Pomona neighborhood armed with a handgun and clad in a bullet-proof vest, officials said.
Nathan Daniel Ware, 31, of Pomona is accused of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and possession of body armor by a convicted felon, Pomona police officials said in a written statement.
Police received information shortly before 12:30 p.m. that a man with a gun had been spotted on the roof of a home in the 1400 block of Edgehill Drive, police said. Officers found Ware walking down the street nearby.
“Officers detained suspect Ware and found that he was wearing a ballistic vest and armed with 9mm handgun,” according to the police statement. “The reason he was on the roof was unexplained.”
Ware, described by police as a gang member who is on parole, has a criminal history including a conviction for assault likely to cause great bodily injury in March of 2013, according to San Bernardino County Superior Court records.
In Los Angeles County, he was convicted of transporting drugs in 2003, possession of narcotics for sale in 2007 and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in 2010, records show.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Ware was being held without bail pending his arraignment hearing, scheduled Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court.

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Pregnant woman punched during Pomona robbery; Upland man arrested

POMONA >> An Upland man punched and robbed a pregnant woman before the victim’s screamed attracted the attention of police, who arrested the suspect late Saturday, officials said.
Najune Taevon Hudson was booked on suspicion of robbery, false impersonation and resisting or obstructing arrest, Pomona police officials said in a written statement.
The crime took place about 11:30 p.m. in an alley running just to the south of the 900 block of East Holt Avenue.
An officer heard a woman screaming and spotted the victim, a 22-year-old Hemet resident, emerge from the alley, police said. She told the officer she had been robbed.
“The victim was pregnant and had been punched in the head by the suspect,” according to the police statement. She was taken to a hospital for treatment, but not before she pointed out the fleeing suspect, officials said.
Police chased the fleeing suspect and ultimately found him hiding in the yard of a nearby business.
Officers found a cell phone and purse stolen from the woman discarded in the area.

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Two women die after attending HARD Summer Festival in Pomona

POMONA >> Two young women died of suspected drug overdoses after attending the Hard Summer Festival in Pomona Saturday night, authorities said.
The women, both 19, died after being hospitalized for reported drug overdoses in separate incidents during the first day of the two-day electronic musical at the Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. Fred Corral said.
The identities of the women were not released.

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Woman killed, man severely wounded in Pomona shooting

POMONA >> A woman died and a man was hospitalized in critical condition after they were both found shot in the back seat of a car in a residential neighborhood early Sunday morning, police said.
Vanessa Renee Lopez, 28, of Pomona died at the scene of the 2:50 a.m. shooting in the 1300 block of Caprino Way, Pomona police officials said in a written statement.
Manuel Flores Jr., 30, of Pomona was rushed to a hospital by helicopter and was listed in critical condition, police said.
Officers responding to a report of a shooting found the victims wounded in the rear seat of a car parked in the driveway of a home, according to the statement.
The relationship between the two victims was unclear. No suspect information was available, and no further details were released as Pomona police homicide detectives continued their investigation Sunday.

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Pomona mother and daughter accused of Hacienda Heights burglary

HACIENDA HEIGHTS >> Officials arrested a mother and daughter from Pomona on Saturday in connection with a Hacienda Heights residential burglary earlier in the day.
Deana Stanley, 48, and daughter Maria Tucker, 30, were booked on suspicion of burglary, receiving stolen property, possession of burglary tools and conspiracy to commit burglary, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Gannon said. Ticker was additionally accused of possession of counterfeit credit or access cards.
A witness called deputies about 8:35 p.m. to report seeing intruders inside a neighbor’s home in the 1500 block of Flamstead Drive, Gannon said. The burglars were gone when deputies arrived, but the tipster was able to provide them with a description of the burglars’ car, the lieutenant said.
Pomona police found the car Saturday afternoon parked outside a home on Gordon Street in Pomona, Gannon said.
Deputies arrested the two women and served a search warrant at their home, he said. Officials recovered all of the jewelry and other items stolen in the Hacienda Heights break-in, and also seized a handgun.

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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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