WEST COVINA >> A La Puente woman who befriended an elderly West Covina man, stabbed him to death and set the house ablaze pleaded “no contest” to murder and arson charges Thursday, authorities said.
Brenda Armstrong, 40, is expected to be sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison when she returns to the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing on Dec. 14, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.
She was originally accused of the special circumstance of murder during the coarse of a burglary, but the special circumstance allegation was dismissed under the negotiated plea arrangement, Deputy District Attorney Tony Cho of the D.A.’s Elder Abuse Section said. If convicted as originally charged, Armstrong could have faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors previously decided not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Ralph Simonian, 82, was found dead on Nov. 15, 2012, inside his burning home in the 900 block of Holiday Drive, according to prosecutors and Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators, who assisted West Covina police in the investigation.
“His house had been set on fire and he had been stabbed multiple times,” district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
After a lengthy investigation, detectives determined Simonian, who lived alone at his home, had been slain by Armstrong during a burglary at his home, Sgt. Robert Gray of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said at the time.
She had befriended Simonian while working at J.B. Burgers in La Puente, where Simonian was a regular customer, officials said.
On the day of the slaying, a neighbor’s security camera captured images of a car Armstrong had borrowed arriving on the victim’s street, detectives and prosecutors said. Cell phone data also linked Armstrong to the crime scene.
Detectives first arrested Armstrong in connection with the slaying about two months after it occurred. But prosecutors declined to file charges, citing insufficient evidence. Armstrong promptly moved to Delaware.
Detectives continued gathering evidence and building their case. Prosecutors ultimately filed a murder charge and issued an arrest warrant for Armstrong, who was taken into custody in Delaware during a traffic stop on Sept. 13, 2013.
Deputies found no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home. Detectives learned she had visited the victim on several occasions, Gray said.
There were no signs of forced entry at Simonian’s home, the sergeant said. The fire, which began in the master bedroom where Simonian was fatally stabbed, was believed to have been set in order to destroy evidence.
The entire incident lasted about 45 minutes, Cho said.
Many of the details surrounding the slaying remain a mystery, as there were no witnesses, and Armstrong has not detailed the crime.
Officials said theft was believed to be the motive in the murder, but it was unclear what was stolen.
A small safe was discovered missing from Simonian’s home following the slaying and fire, Gray said.
The safe has never been recovered.
“We don’t know what was in the safe,” Cho said.
Absent of eye witnesses or DNA evidence, the case was largely “circumstantial,” Cho said.
He praised the tenacity of homicide detectives for Thursday’s conviction.
“I would jut credit with the detectives with putting together all the circumstantial evidence in the case,” Cho said.
PHOTO by Keith Birmingham
MONTEREY PARK >> A man who “viciously” stabbed another man to death at a Monterey Park pizza parlor is guilty of murder, a jury ruled Thursday.
The fatal stabbing of 25-year-old Patrick Raymond Ortega took place Oct. 6, 2012, at a Shakey’s restaurant, 1955 S. Atlantic Ave., according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials. He was stabbed 15 times with a large knife, with a blade measuring more than 6 inches long.
“The jury deliberated for two hours before finding Jose De Jesus Ruiz of Bakersfield guilty of second-degree murder,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. The convict is also known as Jose De Jesus Salas.
The jury also found true the special allegation that Ruiz personally used a knife in the slaying.
“To stab an unarmed person so many times and in such a vicious manner is unfathomable,” said Deputy District Attorney Theodore Swanson, who prosecuted the case. “No one should have been killed that day.”
The deadly stabbing took place shortly after 7 p.m., according to sheriff’s investigators and Monterey Park police officials.
Evidence and testimony during the trial showed Ruiz was affiliated with a youth football organization that had met for a gathering at the pizzeria, Swanson said. Ortega was not affiliated with the sports organization and was at the restaurant with friends.
Testimony showed Ortega became “disruptive,” including gang references, the prosecutor said.
Surveillance video footage from a neighboring Bank of America branch showed Ruiz and another man exiting the restaurant just before the fatal attack.
“The defendant then reenters Shakey’s and stabbed the victims 15 times,” Swanson said.
Immediately after, Ruiz left the restaurant and returned to his car.
“He’s seen on video taking of his Dodgers jersey an hiding it under the wheel well of the car,” Swanson said. “He then gets into the back seat of the car and lies down.”
Police found Ruiz hiding in the car and arrested him several hours later, officials said.
The knife used in the killing was found hidden between the tire of a car Ruiz’s car had been parked next to, Swanson said. DNA tests determined blood on the knife, as well as Ruiz’s socks, belonged to Ortega.
The confrontation involved only Ruiz and Ortega, Swanson said. There may have been other arguments or fights among representatives of rival youth football teams, but the fatal stabbing was not believed to be related to the football rivalry.
A Monterey Park police officer fired a shotgun during the aftermath of the shooting, but injured no one, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The officer opened fire as a car drove toward him at high speed, authorities said at the time. A woman at the wheel of the car was arrested on suspicion of assault on a police officer, but she and her passengers were not suspected to be involved with the stabbing.
Ruiz’s trial began June 27.
Ruiz faces a maximum sentence of 16 years to life in state prison when he returns to the Burbank branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for sentencing Sept. 1, Ardalani said.
If he had been convicted of first-degree murder, Ruiz would have faced up to 26 years to life behind bars.
PASADENA >> Three men showed up at a Pasadena emergency room with stab wounds following a large street brawl in northwest Pasadena early Saturday, police said.
The melee took place about 1:45 a.m. in the 100 block of West Claremont Street, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
“We received multiple calls of a large group fighting in the middle of the street,” he said.
The combatants scattered and fled as police arrived, the lieutenant said.
Staff at a local hospital called police about 10 minutes later to report that three stabbing victims had just shown up at the emergency, Mercado said.
A Colton man in his mid-20s suffered stab wounds to his head and neck, he said. A Pasadena man in his late-teens was stabbed in the chest, and another Pasadena man in his early 20s was treated for a slash to one of his arms.
Mercado said all three victims were in stable condition, but “uncooperative” with investigators.
No suspect description was available.
LA PUENTE >> A suspect is in custody after a senior citizen suffered serious injuries after an argument escalated into a stabbing outside a La Puente donut shop late Thursday, officials said.
The victim, a man estimated to be in his 60s, became involved in a confrontation with another man shortly after 8 p.m. in strip mall parking lot in the 400 block of South Azusa Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Edward Lopez said.
The attacker pulled a knife and stabbed the victim in the upper torso, he said.
Paramedics took the injured man to a hospital, where he was rushed into surgery, the sergeant said. The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
Deputies searched the neighborhood and ultimately detained a2 7-year-old Valinda man, Lt. David Infante said. The man was initially held on suspicion of an unrelated misdemeanor, but ultimately booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.
Officials withheld the suspect’s name Friday as they continued their investigation, Infante said.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the stabbing were available.
Anyone with information can reach 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.
PICO RIVERA >> Two men robbed two 14-year-old boys and slashed on of them with a knife along Durfee Avenue in Pico Rivera Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The crime and attack took place about 4:05 p.m. in the 4700 block of Durfee Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
The two victims, both Pico Rivera boys, were walking down the street when two men with the appearance of gang members approached them, the lieutenant said.
One of the robbers brandished a knife as he and his accomplice demanded the teens’ property, Garcia said. The victims handed over three cell phones, a gold chain, two sets of headphones, a skateboard and $4 in cash.
After obtaining the boys’ belongings, the knife-wielding robber slashed at one of the victims, but he managed to dodge the attack, Garcia said. The attacker then turned his attention to the second teen, clashing him on his arm.
The wound was no serious, Garcia said.
The robbers were last seen running south along Durfee Avenue, he said.
One was a Latino man in his early-20s, brandishing a knife, with a black hat covering a bald head, Garcia said. The second robber was a Latino man in his early-30s with short black hair.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
AZUSA >> An man accused of stabbing his father repeatedly stabbing his father in the head during an argument at their Azusa home earlier this week denied criminal charged Thursday, authorities said.
Marlon Enrique Juares, 36, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and making criminal threats during an arraignment in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. Prosecutors also alleged the special circumstances that Juares personally used a knife in the crime, and that he inflicted great bodily injury.
The stabbing took place about 6:20 p.m. Tuesday at the family home in the 300 block of South Scott Avenue, Azusa police Sgt. Andy Sutcliffe said at the time.
After the son and his 60-year-old father got into an argument, “The confrontation escalated and the defendant allegedly grabbed a knife and stabbed his father in the head,” Ardalani said. “A family member was able to successfully intervene and stop the attack.”
Police arrived to find the father suffering from several wounds to his head and shoulder, Sutcliffe said. Jaures was still clutching a knife, but dropped it when confronted by officers.
If convicted as charged, Juares could face life in state prison, officials said.
According to county booking records, he’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He is scheduled to return to court for a hearing on June 15.
POMONA >> Police arrested a 17-year-old boy in connection with a stabbing at a Pomona park that left a 24-year-old man hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
The near-fatal stabbing took place about 1 p.m. at Tony Cerda Park, 450 W. Grand Ave., Sgt. Brian Hagerty of the Pomona police Major Crimes Task Force said in a written statement.
After responding to a call reporting a stabbing, officers encountered the victim, a Pomona man, suffering from “multiple stab wounds,” Hagerty said. Paramedics took the wounded man to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.
Officers identified a 17-year-old boy as a suspect in the stabbing and soon spotted him loitering in the area of Ralph Welch Park, about a mile to the west at 1000 Buena Vista Ave., the sergeant said. He was arrested without a struggle.
“The investigation revealed the suspect and the victim have known each other for several months and were involved in a physical altercation prior to the stabbing,” Hagerty said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Pomona police detectives Edson or Bebon at 909-620-2160. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A judge dismissed charges this week against a man and woman previously accused of murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of an Upland man in South El Monte last year.
Randall Chinchilla, 35, and Andrea Montoya, 37, both of El Monte, were arrested and charged in June in the fatal March 28, 2015, stabbing of 49-year-old Dennis Baltierra.
But during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mike Camacho of the Pomona courthouse dismissed the case against the man and woman, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
At a preliminary hearing, a judge listens to a summary of the case to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to order a defendant to stand trial.
Chinchilla and Montoya were both released from custody Tuesday after spending 11 months behind bars with bail set at $2 million each, county booking records show.
Authorities alleged Chinchilla and Montoya stabbed Baltierra to death when they got into an argument while all three were hanging out at the home of a mutual friend about 11:30 p.m. on March 28 in the 11200 block of Broadmead Street in South El Monte.
Baltierra exited the home and collapsed in the yard with a stab wound to his neck, sheriff’s officials said. He succumbed to his injuries at a hospital a short time later.
Detectives identified Chinchilla and Montoya as suspects and arrested them on June 12.
Anyone with information on the fatal stabbing is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTOS: [TOP] Photo from stabbing scene in the 11200 block of Broadmead Street in South El Monte the day after the homicide on March 29, 2016. (By Brian Day) [BELOW] Dennis Baltierra, 49, of Upland. (Courtesy)
A Covina man who was allegedly stabbed by a Domino’s Pizza delivery man during an argument over late pizza in January is suing the restaurant chain and the driver.
Austin Reilly, 20, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Domino’s and driver Michael Charles Parker, seeking unspecified damages on allegations of negligence, battery and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Also named as plaintiffs are Reilly’s parents, Owen and Christie Reilly, who witnessed the attack on their son, the suit alleges.
A Domino’s Pizza representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Parker delivered a pizza to Reilly’s family home in the 1600 block of North Mangrove Avenue about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, Covina police Sgt. Ryan Davis said at the time.
He became involved in an argument with Reilly, who claimed the pizza was late, the sergeant said. The argument turned into a fight, during which the delivery man allegedly slashed the customer in the neck, wrist and hand with an unknown sharp object.
Paramedics took Reilly to a hospital for treatment of wounds described as significant, but not life-threatening.
Police found and arrested Parker, 31, of Glendora shortly before 1 a.m. the following morning at the restaurant on Glendora Avenue in Covina, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Parker was released the day of his arrest after posting $30,000 bail, records show.
Charges were yet to be filed Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Officials said. The case remained under consideration, officials said.
The lawsuit alleges that Parker used a box cutter intending to “disfigure and slay” Reilly and that his injuries were life-threatening.
Domino’s had an obligation to make occasional checks to see that its stores — including the one in Covina where Parker worked — were hiring people fit for the job of dealing with customers in their homes as opposed to in a normal restaurant setting, the suit states.
- Staff and wire report
- Photo of Michael Charles Parker, 31, of Glendora courtesy of the Covina Police Department.
COVINA >> A 17-year-old boy repeatedly stabbed his 24-year-old girlfriend in an attack late Tuesday, authorities said.
Police arrested the teen on suspicion of attempted murder following the stabbing, which unfolded shortly after 9 p.m. in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 700 block of East Workman Street, Covina police Sgt. Trevor Gaumer said.
The woman suffered multiple stab wounds and was flown to a trauma center by helicopter, where she was rushed into surgery, Covina police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said in a written statement.
Police first received reports of a woman in the parking lot who was bleeding from her neck, officials said.
“Officers located a 24-year-old female who was suffering from numerous stab wounds in her upper torso, neck and face,” Peterson said.
The woman remained hospitalized in “serious” condition Wednesday afternoon, Peterson said. She was described as a Covina resident.
Investigators learned the suspect in the brutal attack was still in the area, the sergeant said. Police found the teenage suspect in a condominium complex in the 600 block of E. Workman Street.
“(Officers) noticed he was bleeding from some cuts to his hands and he also made some statements regarding the stabbing, at which time he was taken into custody for attempted murder,” Peterson said.
Police took the teenage suspect, whose name was not released due to his age, to be treated for his injuries before he was booked at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, Peterson said.
He was being held without arraignment pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Juvenile Court, he added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Covina police detectives at 626-384-5628. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.