UPDATED: El Monte rape suspect captured in West Covina

Joseph Amaya

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

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El Monte police officer accused in federal lawsuit of raping transsexual woman while on-duty

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.”

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Man acquitted of slaying woman whose body was found in Pico Rivera sentenced for rapes

A judge earlier this week handed down a prison sentence of 30 years to life to a man acquitted of murdering a woman found slain at a Pico Rivera park 15 years ago, but convicted of raping two other women several years later, officials said.
A Los Angeles Superior Court Jury convicted Shawn Lavaway Rankin, 46, of Los Angeles in May of two counts of rape, as well as one count of forced oral copulation in connection with two attacks that took place in Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001, said Deputy District Attorney Alison Meyers, who prosecuted the case.
But the jury acquitted him of the rape and fatal stabbing of 41-year-old Wyesser Cook of Los Angeles, whose body was discovered in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 1997, at Bicentennial Park in Pico Rivera, Meyers said.
The investigations into both Cook’s slaying and the two rapes all ran cold until 2005, when DNA tied all three crimes together and provided detectives with new clues.
He had been arrested and convicted of a Los Angeles sexual battery in 2000, but at the time, a system was not in place to collect DNA samples from felons, Meyers said. Rankin fulfilled his registration requirements as a convicted sex offender following his conviction and release from prison.
In 2005, detectives announced that the same man’s DNA had been found at the scenes of the slaying and both rapes. But Rankin was not linked to the crimes.
“The case remained unsolved, essentially because Mr. Rankin’s DNA had never been taken and put into the system,” Meyers said.
Interviews with the surviving rape victims allowed LAPD sketch artist Marylin Diaz to create a composite drawing of the suspect, which Meyers described as “one of the best composite’s I’ve seen.”
In the years that followed, a detectives did collect a DNA sample from Rankin and entered it into their database, Meyers explained. Rankin was arrested when his DNA was found to match the profile of that in all three cases in September of 2007, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
His trial began in April and drew to a close in May, when the jury found Rankin guilty of the sex crimes against the two surviving victims, but not guilty of raping and murdering Cook, Meyers said.
He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison for each count of rape, officials said, as well as another eight years, to be served concurrently, for the forced oral copulation charge.
In the 2001 attack, Rankin offered a woman a ride in his car, then assaulted her once she was inside, Meyers said. In the 2002 case, you gave a woman a ride home, then returned to her home later in the day to sexually assault her.
Rankin’s defense attorney Lawrence Forbes declined to comment Friday.
Meyers said the murder case was less straight-forward than the rape cases for two primary reasons.
More than one man’s DNA was found in connection with Cook’s body, and a defense witness testified that another man, who is now dead, may have been responsible for the slaying.
Meyers said she believed, “a combination of the two created in the jurors minds a reasonable doubt.”
Meyers said at his sentencing, Rankin offered an apology in court, though the victims were not present to hear it.
“I’d like to think it was sincere,” she added.

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Transient accused of attempted rape of Pasadena woman

PASADENA — Police arrested a 26-year-old transient late Saturday on suspicion of attempting to rape a young woman last week as she walked along a Pasadena sidewalk.
The suspect, a transient whose name was withheld Sunday as detectives continued investigating the case, was arrested without a struggle and booked on suspicion of attempted rape after a police sergeant spotted him about 10:30 p.m. at Colorado Boulevard and Hill Street, Pasadena police Lt. Jason Clawson said.
The alleged attack took place about 9 p.m. Sept. 29 as a Pasadena woman in her 20s was walking along the sidewalk of Hudson Avenue at Del Mar Boulevard, the lieutenant said.
“The suspect passed her,” he said. “As he passed her he grabbed her and forced her into the shadows. He attempted to remove his clothing but was unsuccessful.”
Clawson said the attacker abandoned the crime and fled when startled by a passer-by.
Officers searched the area with the aid of police dogs but the suspect was not found, he said.
But a break in the case came Saturday afternoon when Pasadena City College police officials contacted Pasadena police after recognizing the suspect from a sketch being circulated among law enforcement agencies, Clawson said. It was not clear Sunday if the suspect was, or had been, a student at PCC.
Once detained by police Saturday night, the alleged attacker was arrested once the victim identified him as the man who assaulted her last week.

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Officials announce arrest of alleged Norwalk predator pastor

Jorge CastroSheriff’s officials Thursday announced the arrest of a Norwalk associate pastor accused of molesting as many as 20 female church members over the past eight years.
Jorge Juan Castro, 54, of Norwalk is charged with six felony counts in connection with the alleged sexual assaults of four women between ages 18 and 39 while he worked as an associate pastor and counselor at Las Buenas Nuevas Church, 11910 Alondra Boulevard, Sgt. Al Garcia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau said.
The alleged crimes took place between 2004 and 2012, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
He was placed on leave in April, immediately after 20 women came forward to report to a church official that they had been sexually assaulted by Castro, Garcia said.
“Multiple victims reported the sexual abuse to a church official, who in turn, reported it to us,” the sergeant said.
But only four of the women were willing to speak with detectives as of Thursday, Garcia said.
Castro’s alleged victims were primarily Spanish-speaking, undocumented immigrants, the sergeant said.  He was believed to have threatened them not to come forward.
“The suspect, after the assaults, threatened to have the them deported,” Garcia said. “He also threatened to subject them to public ridicule.”
Castro also worked as an associate pastor at an affiliated church, the Oasis Community Church in Moreno Valley, Garcia said. Authorities in Moreno Valley have been notified of the situation, however no victims from Riverside County have been identified, Garcia said.
After more than five months of investigation, deputies served an arrest warrant and took Castro without incident Sept. 13 at his Norwalk home, Garcia said.
Prosecutors charged him the same day with one count of rape, four counts of oral copulation by force and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales. The charges involve two victims, and the charged crimes occurred in January of 2004 and April of 2010.
“The criminal complaint includes a special allegation of multiple victims and states that the defendant committed the offenses by use of force, violence, duress, menace and fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury,” Davila-Morales said.
Castro started working for the Las Buenas Nuevas church in Norwalk shortly after immigrating to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, Garcia said.
Garcia said Castro took advantage of his position of authority to sexually assault the women. Some of the alleged attacks took place as he visited the women.
“Some crimes occurred at the church, some crimes occurred at the victims’ homes,” Garcia said.
Detective encouraged the 16 other alleged victims already identified, as well as any others who may not have come forward, to cooperate with investigators to bring Castro to justice.
“We’re here to tell the victims, and other potential victims, that law enforcement is here to help them. We will not report (them to) immigration. We’re not going to deport them.” Garcia said. “We want to help them deal with these heinous crimes and prevent him from doing it again.”
Garcia said Castro had no criminal history in the United States that investigators were aware of, however he did not know if he had a record in Argentina.
Castro was initially scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court for an arraignment the day of his arrest, however the hearing was continued to Oct. 16, Davila-Morales said.
According to county booking records, Castro was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.

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Baldwin Park man sentenced for Orange County kidnappings, rapes

Jose Luis Capacete, 40, Baldwin Park

A former security guard from Baldwin Park received a sentence of 75 years-to-life in prison Friday for tying up and raping three prostitutes in 2011 with the use of a stun gun, authorities said.
Jose Luis Capacete, 50, received the sentence following his June 6 conviction on five felony counts and one misdemeanor, according to Orange County Superior Court Records and Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said.
A jury convicted him of two counts of sodomy by means of force, rape, oral copulation by force or injury, sexual penetration by a foreign object and battery. The jury also found true special, sentence-enhancing allegations of binding his victims, kidnapping and attacking multiple victims.
All three of Capacete’s victims were prostitutes he picked up in Santa Ana, officials said. All three were immigrants and in their 20s.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke said he was satisfied with the prison term.
“The 75-to-life was actually what I had recommended as an appropriate sentence in the case,” he said.
With about 25 years behind bars for each of his three victims, “It ensures that he’ll never get out.”
The crimes took place between June 1 and December 24, 2011, Emami said.
Capacete employed similar tactics in each of the three crimes, Burke said.
“All three testified he brandished a (stun gun),” the prosecutor said. “All three testified that he tied them up with a rope.”
A handgun was brandished in at least one of the crimes, officials said.
Though Capacete worked as an armored car driver for Brink’s in Orange County at the time of the crimes, Burke said the company did not provide him with the stun gun.
Authorities began investigating Capacete following a kidnapping and rape that occurred on Christmas Eve of 2011.
The victim reported the crime to police, who quickly identified Capacete as a suspect due to a vital clue he’d left behind.
Capacete tossed some money at the woman after completing the assault, but accidentally left a receipt from a gasoline purchase with the bills, Burke said.
The gas had been purchased with a credit card, which allowed detectives to zero in on Capacete, Burke added.
Shortly after the arrest, detectives suspected their were additional victims based on the “brutality and sophistication displayed during the Christmas Eve attack, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said at the time. That suspicion would prove correct
While searching his home in Baldwin Park, investigators discovered six cell phones which Capacete admitted belonged to prostitutes, he said.
Two additional victims were subsequently identified.

BOOKING PHOTO of Jose Luis Capacete: Courtesy

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Pasadena Food 4 Less employees detain alleged attempted rapist

PASADENA — Supermarket employees came to the aid of a woman who was being attacked in a restroom Wednesday and held the culprit until officers arrived, police said.
The woman was using a restroom at the Food 4 Less in the 1300 block of North Lake Avenue just after 8 a.m. when a man entered.
Pasadena Police Lt. Pete Hettema said the man knocked the woman to the ground and tried to assault her. She fought him off.
The store employees heard the woman’s screams and held the man for police, according to Hettema.
He said Villaporo Cruz-Molina, 20, was arrested on suspicion of attempted rape. The suspect’s city of residence wasn’t known.
The victim, a 24-year-old woman from Walnut Park, complained of neck pain and was taken to a hospital to be checked out, Hettema said.

– Ruby Gonzales

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UPDATE: Man sought for ‘brutal’ rape of woman inside Rowland Heights apartment

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — Sheriff’s officials Thursday sought the public’s help in tracking down a man who attacked and raped a Rowland Heights woman inside her apartment last week.
The crime took place about 6 a.m. Saturday in the 1500 block of Jellick Avenue, according to Sgt. Richard Ruiz of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau.
“This was a brutal rape,” Sgt. Richard Ruiz of the Special Victims Bureau said.
“The (29-year-old) victim was awakened by the suspect after he gained entry through an unlocked sliding glass door and then proceeded to assault and rape her,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The woman was beaten and suffered serious injuries in the attack, sheriff’s officials said.
The rapist was described by the victim as a Latino man between 30 and 35 years old, Ruiz said.
A further description or a composite drawing was not available Thursday, he said.
“It happened in the dark. She couldn’t see much,” Ruiz said.
In was also unclear Thursday whether usable samples of the rapists DNA had been recovered, pending ongoing crime lab examination, he added.
In the meantime, Ruiz said, investigators are reaching out to the public in search of anyone who has information or saw anyone suspicious around the time the crime occurred.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously be calling L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Updated: Family of Rowland Heights rape suspect helps deputies make arrest

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — Deputies arrested a man with the help of his family on suspicion of raping a young woman at a Rowland Heights park Saturday, authorities said.
Joey Vasquez, 21, who claimed residency in Baldwin Park, was arrested just after 4 p.m. Saturday in a residential neighborhood near Carolyn Rosas Park in the 18400 block of Farjardo Street, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Greg Stegner said.
A four-hour manhunt came to a conclusion after Vasquez was ultimately chased down, captured and turned over to deputies by his uncle, the deputy said.
Vasquez is suspected of the early-morning rape of a young woman at Gloria Heer Park, at Galatina and Gallineta streets, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Angie Wilkinson said.
A woman in her 20s was at the park with an acquaintance and another man she did not know prior to being attacked, the sergeant said.
After the woman’s acquaintance left, leaving her alone with the other man, he sexually assaulted her, Wilkinson said.
The attack was reported to authorities, who began searching for the suspect.
Deputies contacted the suspect’s family Saturday and they directed him to Gloria Heer Park, where they spotted Vasquez, Stegner said. Vasquez ran from the deputies, who responded by setting up a search perimeter in the area.
During the search, the deputy said, Vasquez called his uncle and asked the relative to pick him up.
The uncle complied, but after taking Vasquez back to his home, he told Vasquez to turn himself in and the suspect again ran.
Family members called deputies to report where Vasquez was while the uncle chased after him, grabbed hold of him and handed him over to deputies who were arriving in the area, Stegner said.
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Police continue seeking man who sexually assaulted South Pasadena woman in her home

58452-SOUTH PASADENA SEX ASSAULT SKETCH-thumb-300x395-58451.jpeg
SOUTH PASADENA — Police are continuing their search for a man who broke into a young woman’s home and sexually assaulted her.
The 18-year-old victim awoke about 2:50 a.m. Wednesday in the 600 block of Monterey Road and found a man in her room, South Pasadena police officials said in a written statement. He sexually assaulted her.
Police launched an investigation and released a composite sketch of the attacker to the public in hopes someone would recognize the man.
“The police department is currently soliciting, processing and following up on leads generated from the initial preliminary investigation along with those received from the public,” according the police statement.
“Information we have been able to develop during the course of the investigation suggests the suspect may have either resided in or frequented the 600 block of Monterey Road,” the statement said.
Investigators are also awaiting the results of DNA analysis of evidence collected from the crime scene, officials said.
Patrols in the area where the assault took place have been beefed up, according to the police statement, “even though we do not have any specific information to suggest the suspect may return.”
The attacker was described as a white man in his 40s, about 5-feet 11-inches tall, 190 pounds, with brown eyes, curly brown hair and facial hair. He wore a red hooded sweat shirt during the crime.
Police advised the public to keep in mind that the suspect may have altered his appearance, such as changing hair length or color, to avoid capture.
Anyone with information is asked to call South Pasadena police at 626-403-7270.
SUSPECT SKETCH courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department
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