Routine traffic stop leads to arrest of alleged car thief in South Pasadena

SOUTH PASADENA >> A routine traffic early Saturday led to the arrest of a man driving a stolen car through South Pasadena, along with drugs, burglary tools and an outstanding warrant for auto theft, police said.
The arrest took place about 1 a.m. after an officer pulled over a 2017 Nissan Rogue SUV for a traffic violation at Mission Street and Fairview Avenue, South Pasadena police Sgt. Spencer Louie said.
The vehicle was equipped with paper license plates, but when the officer ran the SUV’s vehicle identification number, he learned it had been reported stolen in South Pasadena in late-June, according to the sergeant.
Police took the driver into custody without a struggle and also discovered a small amount of methamphetamine and burglary tools inside the stolen SUB, Spencer said. Additionally, the man had an outstanding warrant related to an auto theft case.
Joel Ramirez, 26, of Los Angeles was booked on suspicion of auto theft, possession of burglary tools and possession of methamphetamine, and was also being held in connection with his warrant, Louie said.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court and booking records, Ramirez pleaded “no contest” on March 3 to a charge of taking a car without the owner’s consent, stemming from an arrest two days earlier . He was sentenced to 120 days in county jail and three years of formal probation. He served three weeks in jail before being released on March 23.
More recently, in May, he was convicted of methamphetamine possession, records show. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of summary probation. He was released after serving seven days.
Ramirez criminal history also includes convictions for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia in 2017; two counts of taking a car without the owner’s consent, petty theft, and methamphetamine possession in 2016; two counts of methamphetamine possession, possession of a switchblade knife and possession of drug paraphernalia in 2015; and violating a restraining order in 2014.
Ramirez was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Community mourns slain South Pasadena boy at memorial in Arcadia

ARCADIA >> hundreds of community members rallied around the family of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy found dead, allegedly at the hands of his father, after going missing for two months.
At a memorial at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden provided an outlet for the community to mourn Aramazd “Piqui” Andressian Jr. one day after the young boy’s funeral.
Concerned neighbors from near and far, many of whom had no personal connection to Andressian Jr. or his family, joined in the relentless multi-county search for “Piqui” as the days stretched into weeks, and eventually months, with no sign of the child. And news that the boy had been found dead not only devastated the family, but elicited both sorrow and anger from the community members who also remained hopeful that Andressian Jr. would be found safe.
“He touched the lives of so many people and became everybody’s child,” said his mother, Ana Estevez.“The outpouring of prayers, love kindness and support is awe-inspiring. The support received has brought my family and me great comfort, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving my son,” the mother said.
The body of Andressian Jr. was discovered June 30 near Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County, where he was believed to have been taken by his father, 35-year-old Andressian Sr. The father, who was in the midst of a divorce with his son’s mother when they boy vanished under suspicious circumstances in late-April, has since been arrested in Las Vegas and pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles County.
Andressian Sr. is scheduled to appear Aug. 1 in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for a hearing in his case, records show. He’s being held in lieu of $10 million bail pending trial.
“I think of my son often,” Estevez said. “Piqui is the love of my life, today, tomorrow and always,” she said. “I’m so proud and honored that I was chosen to be his mama.”
Many of those gathered to mourn Andressian Jr. on Wednesday had a personal connection with the family.
Ernie and Gloria Preciado of Alhambra came to the event to show their respects. Ernie Preciado is a co-worker of Andressian Jr.’s uncle.
“We have a 5-year-old grandson that reminds me a lot of (Andressian Jr.),” he said.
A large number mourners had never known the family personally, but were nonetheless compelled to take an interest in their struggle.
Among them was Irene Carrillo of Valencia, who had a 6-year-old son.
“He just reminds me a lot of my boy,” she said. I just fell in love with the little boy, and I don’t even know him.”
Carrillo said she normally tries not to get personally involved in local news stories, but couldn’t help becoming wrapped up in Andressian Jr.’s case.
She said she made a shrine of candles at her home to pray for the little boy and his family.
In addition to sympathizing with a horrific situation affecting a local family, the University of Southern California’s National Center for School Crisis Bereavement Director Dr. David Schonfeld said there are psychological factors at play that affect the communities in the wake of tragedy.
While grief is generally considered to be a personal experience felt by those directly impacted by a loss, the community at-large can also experience a “shared experience of loss,” he said.
One phenomenon at play is that of, “the loss of the assumptive world,” he explained.
People rely on assumptions about the way the world should work in order to get through daily life, Schonfeld said. They range from assuming that other drivers will remain on the correct side of the road, to assuming that children are safe at school or with their parents.
“When we hear that one of those assumptions has been violated, even if it’s someone we don’t know, it affects us,” the doctor said. “It makes us realize that could happen to someone we care about. It makes us feel vulnerable.”
Following a tragedy that seemingly upends accepted assumptions, there’s a natural urge for community members to want to learn as much as they can about what took place, he said.
“They want to understand exactly what happened,” he said. There is often a sense that, “If I understand it better, I can protect myself and those I care about.”
Additionally, while many community members may not personally know a family affected by tragedy, it’s natural for people to identify with the pain of loss they’ve experience in their own lives.
“There is comfort in coming together as a group and as a community,” Schonfeld said.
The NCSCB, which specializes in dealing with crisis affecting students and schools, has published information to help parents and teachers speak with children about crisis and loss online at
During Wednesday’s memorial service, loved ones shared happy memories of how Piqui had changed their lives for the better.
Uncle Shaun Estevez recounted his birth, his first holidays and other milestones.
“You still make my eyes water with joy and excitement, because I was blessed to be your uncle,” he said.
“In five years, you left a lifetime of memories,” the uncle said through tears. “I ask you for one favor my baby boy,” the uncle said through tears. “Please watch over my baby sister, your mama.
Other family members, family friends and Andressian Jr.’s school teachers lined up to eulogize the boy.
In addition to remembering the good times with Piqui, Ana Estevez also spoke of justice.
“His legacy is worthwhile. My son is worthwhile,” she said. “His death will not be in vain. There will be justice and accountability for Piqui, not only for the evil that caused this atrocity, but for the system and the individuals within the system that permitted this tragedy to happen. That is my promise to my son.”
She asked the community to keep her son in their thoughts, and not forget the lessons he taught.
“Please continue to love my son as I do, and always remember that one person can make a difference,” Estevez said.. “My son, a 5-year-old, made a difference in the lives of thousands. So in the spirit of Piqui, see you soon, alligator.”

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Body of missing South Pasadena boy, Aramazd Andressian Jr., found in Santa Barbara County

Detectives searching for the body of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy missing for more than two months, and allegedly killed by his father, discovered the child’s remains Friday in Santa Barbara County, authorities said.
The remains of Aramazd Andressian Jr. were discovered Friday during the latest of several searches of the area near Lake Cachuma on Friday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. His identity was confirmed Saturday morning.


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Detectives return to Santa Barbara County park in search of missing South Pasadena boy

Investigators from all over Southern California descended on the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County Saturday to continue their search for signs of a 5-year-old South Pasadena boy who vanished under suspicious circumstances in late April.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was reported missing April 22 after his father failed to bring him to a scheduled custody exchange, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials. His father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was found unconscious earlier the same day near his car, which was parked at the Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena. His car was doused in gasoline and there was a rag sticking out of the gas tank. The father told investigators he had taken prescription pills belonging to someone else and had no idea what happened to his son.
The father and son were last seen together at Disneyland on April 21, officials said. Witnesses also reported seeing the boy and his father on April 21 at the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area, as well as near Solvang and Nojoqui Falls.
Authorities have already made repeated searches of the parks in South Pasadena and Santa Barbara County without results.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials were joined in Saturday’s search by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the South Pasadena Police Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and law enforcement agencies from through the San Gabriel Valley, Deputy Don Walker of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said in a written statement.
Search and rescue teams and search dogs were brought in from throughout the region to help.
But at the conclusion of Saturday’s search on Friday, no signs of the boy had been found, officials said.
“This search was coordinated and executed in hopes of locating any new evidence in the case,” Deputy Sara Rodriguez said in a written statement. “During the search, investigators located possible areas of interest and will resume the search in the future.”
Saturday’s search covered roughly 30 miles of road between Nojoquu Falls, Solvang and Lake Cachuma, Rodriguez said.
“Homicide investigators would like to thank the more 235 personnel who rejoined to the search,” she added.
In the weeks since the boy disappeared, family members and volunteers have canvassed the region and handed out fliers, and detectives have served search warrants at the homes of both Andressian Sr.’s South Pasadena home, and the home of the boy’s paternal grandmother in Montebello.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has offered a $10,000 reward for information in the case.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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FBI seeks ‘Dual Valley Bandit’ in string of bank robberies from Woodland Hills to South Pasadena

LOS ANGELES >> The FBI is seeking a serial bank robber they’ve dubbed “The Dual Valley Bandit” in connection with five robberies in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys in recent weeks.
The bandit, who earned his moniker due to he geography of his heists, is believed to be responsible for two bank robberies in Burbank and South Pasadena on May 15, and three more in North Hollywood, Woodland Hills and Tarzana on May 27, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
“During the robberies, the suspect passes a note demanding cash in several denominations and makes oral demands for cash as well,” Eimiller said in a written statement.
No weapon has been seen during the crimes, officials said.
The Dual Valley Bandit is described as a white man, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, 170 to 180 pounds.
He had stubble during the robberies and was neatly dressed in casual clothing, including a baseball cap and Wayfarer-style sunglasses.
Anyone with information is urged to avoid direct contact with him and call 911 or the FBI’s 24-hour Los Angeles hotline at 888-226-8443. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.


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UPDATE: Woman found safe in South Pasadena after going missing in Alhambra

ALHAMBRA >> Police found a woman safe in South Pasadena after went missing in Alhambra on Tuesday night.
Wei Li, 71, was last seen about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 100 block of North Third Street, Alhambra police officials said in a written statement.
“Li does not have a cellular phone and does not speak English,” according to the statement.
She’s described as Asian, 5 feet 4 inches tall and 138 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
But she was found safe in South Pasadena on Wednesday afternoon and reunited with her family, police said.

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Mystery chemical odor prompts evacuation at South Pasadena adult school

SOUTH PASADENA >> A mysterious odor possibly linked to nearby sewer work prompted the evacuation of an adult school facility in South Pasadena on Wednesday after nine people reported feeling ill, authorities said.
People first reported the odor just before noon at the Almansor Transition and Adult Services/Employment Services, 211 Pasadena Ave., Verdugo Cities Fire Command Chief Mario Rueda said.
“Several people reported nausea. That triggered our response for a hazardous materials incident,” he said.
Nine people at the adult school who reported feeling sick were examined, according to the chief. Most of the patients soon reported feeling better, but two continued feeling nauseous and were taken to a hospital.
Firefighters from South Pasadena and several nearby cities thoroughly inspected the building and found no signs of anything dangerous, Rueda said.
The source of the odor, which witnesses described as reminiscent of some kind of cleaning agent, was not found, he said. But officials suspected it may have been related to some sewer work being done about a block away.
Fire officials ventilated the building and declared it safe to reenter a little over an hour after the incident began, Rueda said.

PHOTO by Walt Mancini

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Bandit sought in bank robberies in South Pasadena, Burbank

Police and federal agents are hunting for a man who robbed banks in South Pasadena and Burbank on Wednesday afternoon.
The bandit first carried out a heist in Burbank about 4:20 p.m. before turning up at another bank branch 15 miles away in south Pasadena 45 minutes later, according to Burbank and South Pasadena police officials.
In both crimes, the robber handed tellers notes demanding cash, officials said. No weapons were seen during the robberies.
The first crime occurred at the U.S. Bank, 1750 W. Olive Ave., Burbank police Sgt. Derek Green said in a written statement.
“He approached a bank teller and passed a note demanding cash, threatening to harm people inside the bank if his demands were not met,” Green said. “Fearing for his safety and the safety of others, the bank teller provided the suspect with the money.”
Police said the robber was believed to have fled the area in a black Ford Flex with an undisclosed amount of cash.
The bandit then showed up shortly after 5 p.m. at a Wells Fargo branch, 1000 Fair Oaks Ave. in South Pasadena.
Again, the robber handed a teller a note demanding cash, South Pasadena police Sgt. Spencer Louie said.
The female teller handed over several thousand dollars, and the robber was last seen exiting the bank.
Police described the serial robbers a man, possibly of Armenian descent, of about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 200 pounds. He wore a white long-sleeve shirt, a gray baseball cap with a white stripe along the brim and aviator-style sunglasses. He had a short beard and mustache.
The Ford Flex seen in connection with the Burbank robbery was black, with a silver top, a moonroof and aluminum paneling on the sides.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Burbank police detectives at 818-238-3210 or South Pasadena police at 626-403-7270. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Burbank Police Department.

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South Pasadena burglary suspects arrested following crash in Alhambra

SOUTH PASADENA >> Police arrested two South Pasadena burglary suspects after they crashed their getaway car in Alhambra on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The incident began about 3:15 p.m. when a witness called police to reports a break-in at a home in the 1000 block of Milan Avenue, South Pasadena police Sgt. Spencer Louie said.
Responding officers caught sight of a vehicle matching the suspect description driving away from the area, he said. As officers attempted to catch up with the car, but before they tried to pull it over, the car crashed into another car at Fremont Avenue and Mission Road in Alhambra, the sergeant said.
Both suspect were arrested at the crash scene, he said. One complained of pain and was examined at a hospital prior to booking.
A man at the wheel of the car the fleeing suspects struck was unhurt, Louie added.
The suspects’ identities were not available pending the booking process.

PHOTO courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department

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Man and woman from Bakersfield accused of San Gabriel Valley mail, ID theft spree

SOUTH PASADENA >> Police in South Pasadena arrested a man and woman from Bakersfield on suspicion of stealing packages, mail, credit cards and other items on Wednesday.
Corey Ryan Bihm, 26, and Lauren Helstrom, 29, were booked on suspicion of residential burglary, grand theft, conspiracy and identity theft, according to South Pasadena police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Police were first summoned to a Vons market at 1129 Fair Oaks Avenue about 5:30 p.m. for a report of shoplifting, South Pasadena police Cpl. Craig Phillips said in a written statement.
“During the shoplifting investigation, officers found dozens of Amazon packages not addressed to either subject inside the vehicle,” Phillips said. Police soon confirmed the packages, valued at $2,700, has been stolen from the front porch of a home in Arcadia.
The suspects’ rental moving van was littered with “bags full of mail,” as well as dozens of stolen credit cards and many items with price tags still attached, according to Phillips. Police determined some of the mail had been stolen in South Pasadena and Arcadia.
Officers also recovered methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia from the suspects, he said. The moving van used by the suspects was later determined to have been stolen.
According to booking records, Bihm was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance. Booking information for Helstrom was not available Thursday afternoon.

PHOTOS courtesy of the South Pasadena Police Department

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