WHITTIER >> A man arrested more than 30 years after the 1981 rape and killing of a woman inside her Whittier home pleaded “no contest” to four felony charges Tuesday, on what would have been his victim’s 55th birthday, authorities said.
Joseph Allen Thornton, 53, immediately received a sentence of 24 years to life in state prison after entering his pleas in Norwalk Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Initially charged with murder, Thornton pleaded “no contest” to voluntary manslaughter, rape, sodomy by force and digital penetration by force, district attorney’s officials said.
For more than 30 years, Thornton had gotten away with the June 27, 1981, slaying of 21-year-old Blanca Negrete in her home in the 7900 block of Washington Avenue.
“At the time of the slaying, detectives had exhausted all leads and the case eventually went cold,” Ardalani said in a written statement.
But Whittier Police Department investigators reopened the cold case in 2010, and identified Thornton as a suspect in the crime in January of 2011 via previously unusable DNA evidence, police officials said at the time.
DNA evidence had been collected by investigators after the slaying occurred, however the technology of the time did not allow investigators to match it to a suspect, police said in a written statement. Thornton’s DNA had been entered into a law enforcement database as the result of a domestic violence conviction, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said at the time.
Once identified as a suspect, police turned their attention to locating and capturing Thornton, Miller said.
The trail led them as far away as Topeka, Kansas, where Thornton had stayed for many years after the killing, he said. Detectives ultimately tracked him down and arrested him in April, 2012, at his home in Auburn.
Negrete worked at what eventually became PIH Health Hospital at the time of her slaying, police said. What, if any, relationship that existed between her and her killer was unclear.
The conviction occurred on what would have been Negrete’s 55th birthday, Whittier police Officer John Scoggins said.
In addition to his prison sentence, Norwalk Superior Court Judge Yvonne T. Sanchez ordered Thornton to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Ardalani said.
PHOTOS of convicted killer and rapist Joseph Thornton (above) and his victim, Blanca Negrete (below) courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.
BASSETT >> Deputies are seeking three men who kidnapped a teenage girl from the roadside and sexually assaulted her Saturday, officials said.
The 15-year-old girl was walking about 6:30 p.m. in the 600 block of Van Wig Avenue in the unincorporated county area of Bassett when her abductors stopped their car in front of her, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Beamon said.
“Two suspects exited the car. One of the suspects blindfolded the young lady,” the sergeant said.
The men took the girl to an unknown location where they raped her, Beamon said. They threatened the girl not to report the crime, then released the girl in the same general neighborhood from where she was kidnapped.
Deputies described the attackers as two Latino men in their late-20s, between 5 feet 9 inches and 6 feet tall. A description of the third suspect, who drove the car and never got out, was not available.
They drove an older-model, black Honda Civic with the first three license plate digits of “2WE.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Industry Station at 626-330-3322. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PASADENA >> Police are investigating a report of the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a Pasadena alley earlier this week, officials said.
The alleged attack took place about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, but was not reported to police until Saturday afternoon, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said.
The teen told investigators she was walking down McGrew Alley, which runs just west of Los Robles Avenue, between Orange Grove Boulevard and Parke Street, on her way to a market when she was approached by a young man she did not recognize, the lieutenant said. He was initially described only as a Latino man between 17 and 19 years old and riding a BMX-style bicycle
“This young man came up to her and started a conversation,” Hettema said.
The man ultimately forced himself on the teenage girl, police said. No weapons were reported to have been involved in the attack.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4501.
PASADENA — Detectives arrested a 17-year-old Pasadena boy Friday on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl he met online, authorities said.
The teenage suspect was taken into custody about 1:30 p.m. at a home in the 700 block of Cypress Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said. He was arrested on suspicion of rape and taken to a juvenile hall. His name was not released due to his age.
Investigators had identified him as a suspect in the alleged rape, which took place in Pasadena in recent weeks.
“The suspect met the victim via a social media site,” Luna said. “He lured her to a secluded site in Pasadena where he forcibly raped her.”
The date and location of the alleged crime were not available Saturday.
“Detectives conducted an investigation, and through their investigation, they identified the suspect,” Luna said.
No further details were available.
It was a sad weekend in Hollywood, what with the deaths of Peter O’Toole, Joan Fontaine and Tom Laughlin.
Of the three, men of my generation were probably most affected by Laughlin and his role as Billy Jack, a ex-Green Beret who kicked some serious racist ass outside an Arizona reservation:
Here’s what was posted on his website this morning:
Tom Laughlin passed away at sunset
on Thursday, December 12, 2013
near his home in Thousand Oaks, California.
He was 82.
Tom is survived by his wife of 60 years, Delores,
his three children, and his five grandchildren.
Services have not yet been announced.
Deputies Thursday announced the arrest of a San Dimas man who fled Canada in 1980 pending his re-trial for the alleged rape of disabled child in 1974.
Raymond Douglas MacLeod, 71, was being held on immigration violation and weapons charges as he awaited deportation back to Canada to face charges there, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The fugitive, who officials said had been using a dead person’s social security number, was arrested Monday at his home at the East Shore Recreational Vehicle Park, 1440 Camper View Road in San Dimas, near Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, authorities said. The mobile home park is home to many children.
He had allegedly been hiding from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for more than 33 years.
“They’e eager to get him back in Canada,” Deputy Johnny Jones said, adding that the victim in the 1974 rape case had been informed of his recapture.
Deputy Dan Whitten, who identified MacLeod as a Canadian fugitive, said two rifles and several high-capacity magazines, including a 100-round drum, from an AK-47 rifle that was not found were seized from MacLeod’s mobile home when he was arrested without a struggle. McLeod is a convicted felon due to drunken driving and hit-and-run case stemming from the 1980s and is barred from possessing weapons.
He has been arrested several times in the United States over the past three decades, but not linked by law enforcement to the Canadian case.
Though MacLeod was expected to be charged with weapons violations in Los Angeles County, local officials planned to let the Canadian case be handled first.
“We’re going to go ahead and let (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deport him,” Whitten said. Weapons charged will likely be filed later, generating an arrest warrant should MacLeod ever return to the United States.
MacLeod’s then-5-year-old victim is now married with a family and expressed relief that MacLeod was in custody, Whitten said.
“In 1974, Mr. MacLeod was arrested in Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the rape of a 5 year-old who suffered with cerebral palsy,” officials from the Sheriff’s Parks Bureau said in a written statement.
As he was free on bail pending his trial in Canada, he twice attempted to flee Canada to the U.S. but was stopped, officials said.
“He was tried, and in four days was acquitted due to an error made by the judge,” the statement said. An appeals court ordered a new trial in January of 1980, however MacLeod was not present in court during the appeals process.
“MacLeod was ultimately found to have fled Canada, and a warrant was issued for his arrest by the RCMP,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
The case went cold for more than three decades until January, when Deputy Dan Whitten of the Sheriff’s Parks Bureau became aware of MacLeod’s possible connection to the Canadian case.
After running McLeod’s information in January, Whitten said he noticed a “very vague” entry listed in connection with his name in a national crime database. After three or four hours of research and a call to Canadian investigators, Whitten confirmed MacLeod was the fugitive rape suspect.
Canadian authorities immediately began the lengthy process of extraditing MacLeod back to Canada.
But the deputy said he discovered that MacLeod was using a fraudulent social security number and was living in the U.S. illegally, speeding up MacLeod’s return to a Canadian courthouse.
“Due to the seriousness of the crime he was accused of, Deputy Whitten contacted ICE and the United States Marshals Office,” according to the sheriff’s statement. “Following a 10-month investigation, ICE confirmed Mr. MacLeod’s Canadian Citizenship, which led to his arrest and detention pending deportation.”
Investigators were cautious not to tip MacLeod off to his pending arrest as they continued their investigation. “I was very careful to watch my footsteps,” Whitten said.
MacLeod was believed to have been living the mobile home park for at least eight years.
It was unclear how long the deportation process would take.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Four people are accused of helping hide a gang member wanted for raping an El Monte convenience store employee.
El Monte Police Sgt. Roger Cobian said felony charges were filed Tuesday in El Monte Superior Court against Charlene Godinez, 39, of La Puente, John Godinez, 41, of La Puente, Lisa Beserra, 45, of El Monte and Mario Chavez, 43, Rowland Heights for allegedly assisting Joseph Amaya to evade capture and prosecution.
Booking records show the four suspects were arrested Saturday by El Monte police. Charlene and John Godinez are out on bond. Beserra is being held at the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood on a $90,751 bail which includes bail for two other unrelated cases. The three have a Nov. 5 court date.
Chavez is in custody at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles and his bail is $50,000. His booking slip doesn’t show the date for his next court appearance.
Detectives may seek charges against others believed to have helped hide Amaya for the week following the Oct. 19 rape of a 19-year-old woman in El Monte, according to Cobian.
Prosecutors alleged Amaya was at the mini mart in the 4100 block of Peck Road earlier and left. He returned while the employee was getting ready to close the store.
The woman tried to lock the doors but he allegedly forced his way in. Amaya allegedly barricaded the doors, dragged the woman to the back of the business and sexually assaulted her, authorities said.
Detectives searched for the 18-year-old suspect.
“Amaya had been hiding with family and friends moving from El Monte to La Puente and Hacienda Heights,” Cobian said.
He was arrested in West Covina on Saturday after a traffic stop. Cobian said Amaya was in a vehicle with six adults and one minor.
Amaya remains in custody on $5 million bail. His Wednesday arraignment at Pomona Superior Court was continued to Nov. 13, court officials said.
- Ruby Gonzales
A man was being held in lieu of $4.3 million bail Sunday in connection the the sexual assault of a woman he met up with in Alhambra last weekend after they became acquainted online, police said.
Christian Aceves, 32, was arrested Oct. 21 in connection with the attack, which took place Oct. 19, Alhambra police Sgt. Edward Rodriguez said.
“The victim reported she met Mr. Aceves online and agreed to meet him in Alhambra,” Alhambra police officials said in a written statement.
But when she met Aceves, he pulled a sharp instrument and threatened her, Rodriguez said. He drove the woman to a secluded spot in Los Angeles where he allegedly sexually assaulted her.
Detectives arrested Aceves shortly before 8 p.m. Oct. 21, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
“Detectives believe there may be additional victims of Mr. Aceves that have not yet come forward to report potential crimes,” according to the police statement.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Alhambra police Detective huezo at 626-570-5159.
Aceves was scheduled to appear in Alhambra Superior Court for a hearing in his case.
PHOTO of Christian Aceves courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.
An 18-year-old alleged gang member was being held in lieu of $5 million bail Sunday in connection with the rape of a cashier at an El Monte convenience store last weekend.
El Monte and West Covina police captured Joseph Leo Amaya, who had been sought for a week in connection with the sexual assault, shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday during a traffic stop in West Covina, West Covina police Lt. Dennis Patton said.
Officials Wednesday issued a $5 million arrest warrant for the suspected El Monte Flores gang member.
“El Monte Detectives have been working tirelessly since the attack which happened one week ago,” El Monte police Sgt. Roger Cobian said.
“The residents of El Monte and the surrounding areas can sleep a little better at night now that he’s in custody,” he said.
Cobian said tips from the public helped detectives track Amaya down,
Undercover detectives who had been seeking Amaya spotted him in a car in an unincorporated county area near La Puente and followed it, according to West Covina and El Monte police. The El Monte requested assistance from West Covina police as the car headed into their city.
Officers from both agencies stopped the car in the area of Vincent Avenue and the 10 Freeway.
“He was taken into custody without incident,” the lieutenant said.
Amaya is accused of the Oct. 19 sexual assault of a young woman who was working at a convenience store in the 4100 block of Peck Road, Sgt. Roger Cobian said.
The victim, a college student, was preparing to close the store for the night when an attacker grabbed onto her, dragged her into the back of the store and sexually assaulted her, Cobian said.
Detectives quickly identified Amaya, described as a member of a local street gang, as a suspect in the attack.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Amaya with two counts of forcible rape and three counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object Wednesday, as he remained a fugitive. An warrant was issued.
Following his arrest, “The resident of El Monte and the surrounding areas can sleep a little better at night knowing he’s in custody,” Cobian said.
Amaya was being held in lieu of $5 million bail pending his initial court appearance, which was scheduled for Monday in El Monte Superior Court, according to El Monte police and county booking records.
A search of Los Angeles County booking records indicated Amaya was previously convicted of resisting or obstructing police in June in El Monte Superior Court.
In addition to El Monte and Covina police, agencies that took part in the manhunt included the U.S. Marshals Service Southwest Fugitive Task Force, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crime Surveillance Team, the Los Angeles County Department of Probation and the Los Angeles County AB 109 Task Force.
PHOTO courtesy of the El Monte Police Department
A transsexual woman has filed a federal civil rights claim alleging she was raped by an on-duty El Monte police officer last year.
The complaint, filed Oct. 18, seeks unspecified damages and lists the City of El Monte and an unnamed police officer as defendants. It also named up to eight additional unidentified defendants.
Court documents indicate the alleged attack took place between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. Oct. 23, 2012, as the victim was walking at the northeast corner of Central and Garvey avenues.
The uniformed officer is accused of pulling up alongside the transsexual woman and ordering her to lean into the driver-side window of his marked patrol car. Fearing for her safety if she refused, the victim complied, according to the complaint.
“El Monte Police Officer John Doe groped her breasts,” the complaint alleged. “He then asked plaintiff if she was a ‘nasty she-male.’ Plaintiff responded that she was transsexual.”
The complaint goes on to allege that the officer ordered the victim into a nearby alley, then ordered her to follow him to a deserted and poorly lit loading dock area in the 10000 block of Garvey Avenue.
Once there, “El Monte Police Officer John Doe got out of his car and ordered plaintiff to perform oral sex on him.” according to the complaint.
“After a few minutes, El Monte Police Officer John Doe told plaintiff to stand up and bend over the trunk of the police car,” the complaint stated. The officer allegedly told the victim in course language that he was going to rape her.
The officer called the victim by a pejorative name and told her, “you like this, don’t you,” as the assault continued, court documents claim.
Once the assault was over, the officer allegedly told the woman to “get out of here,” before leaving the area himself in his patrol car.
After walking away from the area, the woman returned to the scene and collected a condom discarded by the officer during the alleged attack, according to the complaint. The condom was turned over the Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators, who are looking into the allegation.
“At all times, plaintiff felt threatened by El Monte Police Officer John Doe’s actions and only complied with his directions out of fear for her physical safety,” the complaint stated. “At no point did El Monte Police Officer John Doe have probably cause to detain the plaintiff.”
In a written statement, El Monte Police Chief Steve Schuster said the department was taking the allegation seriously.
“These allegations are very disturbing and clearly not representative of the expectations we have for the men and women who serve the El Monte Police Department. We take any allegation against our police department or individual police officers very seriously because we hold our officers to the highest standard,” Schuster said.
“The officer in question has been put on administrative leave while an internal investigation (is) conducted. We have asked the Los Angeles (County) Sheriff’s Department to conduct a criminal investigation of the claims and are fully cooperating with that process.”
Department spokeswoman Valerie Martinez said the officer was placed on leave immediately once the allegation was made in October of last year.
Lt. Bob Peacock of the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Bureau confirmed detectives have been investigating the El Monte officer.
“El Monte police requested we conduct a criminal investigation,” he said. He added that detectives expect to turn over their finding’s to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges within the next few months.
Investigators were still waiting on a few bits of evidence, including the results of DNA analysis, Peacock said.
The officer, whom Peacock declined to name, had not been arrested in connection with the investigation.
Rancho Cucamonga-based attorney Robert Kitson, who is representing the alleged victim, said the officer’s identity was not yet known to himself or his client.
He declined to discuss the case in detail, since it is already headed toward litigation. The City of El Monte and it’s police department were served with a court summons Tuesday, records show.
“The complaint is quite detailed. It speaks for itself,” Kitson said.
The El Monte officer is not the only San Gabriel Valley law enforcement officer currently accused of sexually assaulting a woman while on-duty.
In another lawsuit filed in April, a Chino woman alleges that then-Irwindale police Sgt. David Fraijo forced her to perform oral sex on him during a traffic stop on Oct. 20, 2012. The suit, which is pending, seeks $1 million in damages.
In addition to alleging civil rights violations on the part of the officer allegedly involved in the sexual assault, the lawsuit claims that police department supervisors, “failed to properly train and supervise El Monte Police Officer John Doe. Their acts or omissions were the product of a deliberate indifference to the constitutional and legal rights of plaintiff.”