Rowland Heights woman rescued after being held by kidnappers for two days

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> After spending two days bound and blindfolded in squalor inside a Rowland Heights garage,a 44-year-old woman grasped one of her rescuers in a firm hug when deputies freed her Wednesday from four suspects accused of kidnapping her for ransom.
Though terrified and weak from having been deprived food and water for two days, the Rowland Heights woman was expected to make a full recovery following her abduction Monday, Capt. Merrill Ladenheim of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Bureau said once the case was made public Friday.
Meanwhile, two men and two women pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of kidnapping for ransom and conspiracy in connection with the unusual crime, according to sheriff’s investigators and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
0809_NWS_SGT-L-KIDNAPhandin1All four suspects live in Rowland Heights, sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said.
“The victim was located in very squalid conditions in a cluttered garage, on the floor,” the captain said. “She was duct taped. Her hands were bound.” The woman had also been blindfolded with duct tape.
“She was not given food or water,” he said. “She was kept their for two full days, deprived of food and water.” The woman was also forced to relieve herself using a bucket.
The four suspects entered their pleas Friday during an arraignment hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, district attorney’s officials said.
They are the victim’s former friend and longtime co-worker Judith Adriana Maldonado, 40; her boyfriend Francisco Inacua-Rosas, 34; Uziel Cuevas Figueroa, 32 and his girlfriend Rocio Inacua, 32, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials. Inacua-Rosas and Inacua are siblings.
0809_NWS_SGT-L-KIDNAPhandin3The suspects were being held in lieu of $2 million bail each, officials added. If convicted as charged, they could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Inacua-Rosas, Inacua and Figueroa were arrested Wednesday shortly after deputies rescued the kidnap victim, Ladenheim said. Maldonado was jailed Thursday.
Figueroa was guarding the victim in the filthy garage when deputies freed her Wednesday.
Ladenheim said the woman’s nightmare began Monday afternoon as she was heading home from work at a factory in Industry, where she had worked alongside Maldonado for “many years,” Ladenheim said.
One of the kidnappers, later identified as Inacua, called victim’s husband of two decades and demanded a $110,000 ransom, Ladenheim said. She threatened to kill or hurt the victim if the demand was not met.
0809_NWS_SGT-L-KIDNAPhandin2“The plot was purely for financial gain,” Ladenheim said.
Maldonado had heard the victim mention that she and her husband had saved up some money, but the family did not have access to the large sum of money demanded by the kidnappers, sheriff’s officials. The victim’s husband immediately notified authorities of the kidnapping and ransom call.
Inacua-Rosas offered the victim a ride as she was walking along Colima Road in Rowland Heights Monday afternoon, sheriff’s officials said. She had just missed her bus home. During the ride, he contacted his alleged co-conspirators via text messages.
Inacua-Rosas drove the woman to a restaurant where he told her he was going to get some food, Ladenheim said.
“Both Rocio Inacuna and Uziel Figueroa then, at gunpoint, forced the victim down the floorboard, bound, gagged and blindfolded her, and drove her to that garage in Rowland Heights,” the captain said. And for two days, she remained a captive.
He described a dramatic scene as deputies entered the garage where the woman had been held.
“Upon being rescued from those squalid conditions, she removed her blindfold, the duct tape, and immediately saw the lead detective, who happened to be in the door of the garage,” Ladenheim said.
“She immediately hugged the detective,” he said. “It was a very, very emotional rescue, and we are happy to report that she is safe and expected to make a full recovery.”
The captain described the kidnapping victim as “very hard-working” and “a very honest citizen.”
Officials said the suspects speak only Spanish, however their immigration status remained under investigation Friday.
Ladenheim said the suspects initially appeared unaware of the seriousness of their alleged offense, or the fact they face potential life sentences behind bars. They asked questions regarding what would happen once they were released from custody.
“While this is a frequent and common occurrence in other countries, we don’t deal with this very often here,” Ladenheim said.
But he added, “I believe it happens more often that is reported to law enforcement.”
Though ransomers generally threaten victims not to contact police, Ladenheim urged anyone who receives such a threat to report it immediately to law enforcement.

VIDEO from press conference: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

KIDNAP SUSPECTS PHOTOS of garage courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

 

 

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UPDATED: Suspicious substance found at Rowland Heights Post Office determined to be baby powder

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — A hazardous materials team responded to the U.S. Post Office in Rowland Heights Sunday after a suspicious white powder — ultimately determined to be baby powder — was found at the facility, authorities said.
The incident began about 9:50 a.m., when someone called from the post office, 1521 Nogales Street, to report finding a “white, powdery substance” in an area where boxes are kept, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Causey said. There was no note or other suspicious material accompanying the powder.
Firefighters who arrived to take a look at the situation summoned a sheriff’s hazardous materials team to continue the investigation, the sergeant said.
Officials ultimately determined that the substance was ordinary baby powder and declared safe about noon.

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Man wounded, suspect arrested in stabbing at Rowland Heights motel

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — Deputies arrested man Sunday after he stabbed an associate in the leg during an argument at a Rowland Heights motel, authorities said.
Deputies booked Anthony Bolhderes, 28, of Lomita on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon following the incident, which took place about 12:40 p.m. in a hallway at the Quality Inn & Suites, 1170 Fairway Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Ed Wells said.
“The suspect and victim knew each other and got into an argument,” Wells said. “The victim was stabbed in the thigh.”
Paramedics took the injured man to a hospital where he underwent treatment for an injury that was not considered to be life-threatening, the lieutenant said.
Responding deputies found and detained Bolhderes nearby, he said.
The victim’s age and city of residence were not available, and the nature of the argument between the men was not clear.

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Rowland Heights man charged with fatal stabbing of El Monte man in La Puente

A Rowland Heights man was charged Tuesday with fatally stabbing another man whose body was found behind a La Puente business.
The District Attorney’s Office filed one count of murder against 27-year-old Andres Aguirre Garcia, according to DA spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
She said the charge comes with the allegation that the suspect personally used a knife to commit the crime.
Garcia’s arraignment was continued to March 11 at Pomona Superior Court.
The victim, 28-year-old Jose Chacon of El Monte, was found lying in a parking lot behind a business in the 15900 block of Old Valley Road in La Puente about 2:45 a.m. Feb. 12. He sustained multiple stab wounds to his upper body and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lt. Steve Jauch of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said Garcia and Chacon were acquaintances. The two had a disagreement which resulted in the stabbing, he said.
But Jauch didn’t say what the disagreement was about or what led deputies to Garcia on Feb. 14. He was arrested that night.
“He confessed and he produced the knife,” Jauch said.
Booking records show Garcia is being held at Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

- Ruby Gonzales

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Father and sons from Rowland Heights sentenced for selling homemade ‘male enhancement’ pills

LOS ANGELES — A father and two sons from Rowland Heights were sentenced this week for illegally importing an erectile dysfunction medication, manufacturing it into pills and selling them nationwide as a “male enhancement” drug, federal authorities said Friday.
United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson sentenced Won Bae Kim, 61, to 11 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay a $10,000 following his conviction for unlawfully importing tadalafil, which is the active ingredient in the commercial erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, U.S. Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
His sons, Jong Ik Kim, 35, and Jong Heon Kim, 34, were each sentenced to one year probation, including six months of home detention. The sentencing took place in federal court in Los Angeles.
The father started a business under the name Kawa Health, which sold pills labeled as “Xzen 1200” via the Internet and adult book stores, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They imported “pounds” of tadalafil from China and sold it as Xzen 1200.
“The packaging for the drugs did not disclose that tadalafil was an ingredient, which prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a warning about the product earlier this year,” according to the statement. “the investigation revealed that the Kims generated sales of more than $300,000 over a one-year period.”
During a search of the family’s Rowland Heights home, officials said, investigators found large amounts of pills, packaging materials for Xzen 1200 and $13,000 in cash.

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150 marijuana plants found in Rowland Heights home

ROWLAND HEIGHTS — A deputy stopped a possible burglary suspect near a house then discovered 150 marijuana plants growing in the residence Friday.
Sgt. Christina Baker of the sheriff’s Walnut/Diamond Bar station said a deputy saw a man acting suspicious around a house in the 1500 block of Greencastle Avenue just before 4 p.m.
The deputy thought the man was a burglary suspect and detained him, she said. The man tried to distance himself from the residence which turned out to be a marijuana grow house, according to Baker.
Raul Villa, 23, was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana. He was being held at the Walnut/Diamond Bar station jail on $50,000 bail.
Villa will be arraigned Tuesday at West Covina Superior Court.

- Ruby Gonazales

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Four accused of helping El Monte rape suspect hide

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

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UPDATED: Walnut man dies in 60 Freeway motorcycle hit-and-run; two drivers arrested

A motorcyclist died and two people were arrested early Sunday following a hit-and-run crash on the 60 Freeway at the 605 Freeway, authorities said.
The fatal collision was first reported about 2:40 a.m. in the westbound lanes of the 60 Freeway, just east of the 605 Freeway in an unincorporated county area near Industry, California Highway Patrol Officer Ed Jacobs said.
The name of the motorcyclist was not released by coroner’s officials pending notification of his family. CHP officials described him as a 28-year-old Walnut man.
Arrested were Ai Ho, 57, of Rowland Heights on suspicion of hit-and-run, as well as Gilberto Flores, 25, of Los Angeles, on suspicion of hit-and-run and drunken driving, California Highway Patrol officer Jennifer Cassidy said.
The motorcyclist was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle at a “high rate of speed” in the No. 3 lane prior to the collision, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
He rear-ended a 1995 Lexus SC300 being driven ahead of him by Ho at about 65 mph, officials said.
“As a result of this collision, (the motorcyclist) was ejected into the No. 3 lane while his vehicle continued travelling westbound,” the statement said.
A 1997 Chevrolet Tahoe being driven by Flores then came upon the scene and struck the motorcycle, according to the CHP.
Paramedics pronounced the motorcyclist dead at the scene, Jacobs said. The Lexus and Chevrolet that were involved in the crash had fled the scene.
Investigators, aided by a license plate that fell off one of the vehicles during the crash, located the cars in Rowland Heights and Los Angeles, and the suspected drivers were arrested, officials said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Ho was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending her initial court appearance, while Flores was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Officials issued a Sig Alert on the westbound 60 Freeway for more than two hours following the crash.

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Ontario man charged with fatal stabbing of Rowland Heights man

Prosecutors filed murder and other charges this week against an Ontario man accused of stabbing his girlfriend’s brother to death with a foot-long Asian ornamental knife over the weekend in Rowland Heights.
Albert Camacho appeared in Pomona Superior Court Tuesday, where he was charged with the murder of 32-year-old Benjamin Cervantes, who died shortly after Saturday’s 1:30 a.m. stabbing at his home in the 1300 block of Gloriosa Avenue in Rowland Heights, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and superior court officials.
Camacho was also charged with four counts of dissuading a witness for threatening witnesses to the stabbing in an attempt to prevent them from calling authorities, Lt. Mike Rosson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
He entered no plea, and his arraignment was continued to Sept. 12, Los Angeles County district attorney’s officials said.
Rosson said Camacho and Cervantes had argued in the past prior to the fatal stabbing.
“They didn’t get along,” the lieutenant said.
He did not know the specific issue the men were disputing early Saturday when the argument escalated into a fight, and Camacho grabbed a 12-inch-long ornamental Asian knife that was already at the home. Cervantes was stabbed several times in the upper body.
Camacho fled the scene following the stabbing, but only after threatening to harm neighbors who witnessed the stabbing if they called authorities, Rosson said.
He remained at-large for more than 10 hours before ultimately turning himself in at the sheriff’s Walnut-Diamond Bar Station shortly after noon, according to officials and county booking records. He had received word from family members that he was being sought by homicide detectives.
Detectives recovered the knife believed to have been used in the stabbing, though Rosson declined to say exactly when and where it was found.
Camacho was being held without bail pending his next court appearance, records show.

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UPDATED: Man stabbed to death in Rowland Heights

0819_NWS_SGT-L-RHSTAVVING1

A Rowland Heights man died early Saturday after he was stabbed by his sister’s boyfriend during an argument, authorities said.
Benjamin Cervantes died at a hospital shortly after the stabbing, which took place just before 1:30 a.m. at a home in the 1400 block of Gloriosa Avenue, Deputy Irys Alvarez of the Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement. He was 32  years old, coroner’s officials said.
His alleged killer, 30-year-old Albert Camacho of Ontario, was booked on suspicion of murder, according to sheriff’s officials and county booking records.
“Detectives have learned that the suspect and the victim were involved in an argument which escalated with the suspect stabbing the victim several times in the upper torso,” Alvarez said.
The wounded man was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Investigator Joyce Kato.
Camacho fled the scene but was ultimately arrested just after noon, Alvarez said.  Further details of how where Camacho was arrested were not available.
Neighbors described Cervantes as a friendly and well-liked man, but added that he and Camacho did not get along.
According to county booking records, Camacho was being held in lieu of $1 million bail pending a scheduled arraignment Tuesday in West Covina Superior Court
RHSTABBING2
PHOTOS: Crime lab technicians work at the scene of a fatal stabbing in the 1400 block of Gloriosa Avenue on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013.
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