SAN DIMAS >> A judge sentenced a man to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday for hiring a man to kill his wife at the San Dimas home they shared more than 25 years ago after learning she planned to leave him, authorities said.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in Pomona convicted Shanker Chhaganbahi Patel, 57, on Jan. 24 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 19, 1991, death of 29-year-old law student Usha Patel, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. The jury also found true the special circumstance of lying in wait at the conclusion of a trial that stretched on for two-and-a-half months.
Shanker Patel arranged for another man, 66-year-old Miguel Angel Garcia, to attack Usha Patel as she was on her way to pick up the couple’s 7-year-old daughter from school, Ardalani said.
“The assailant fatally stabbed the victim in the chest and neck, duct taped her mouth and nose and bound her feet,” she said. “(Garcia) then placed the victim’s body in the trunk of her car and drove the vehicle to a nearby middle school, where he abandoned the car.”
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy discovered the car, and subsequently the body, later that day.
The investigation went cold until 2010, when detectives reopened the then-19-year-old murder case and reexamined evidence, “including gloves discovered in the front passenger seat of the victim’s car,” according to Ardalani.
Detectives were able to match DNA from the gloves to Garcia, who was charged with Usha Patel’s murder in 2012 and ultimately pleaded “no contest” to a count of first-degree murder, officials said. He is serving a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.
But the investigation continued, and detectives soon learned that Shanker Patel had paid a “middle man” $7,500 to orchestrate his wife’s murder, Ardalani said.
“The defendant told the co-conspirator when and where to be in the family’s home to kill Usha Patel,” she said. The middle man sub-contracted the murder-for-hire to Garcia. Prosecutors charged him with murder in 2013.
“According to evidence presented at trial, the defendant was having an affair on his wife prior to the killing,” Ardalani said. “Additionally, Usha Patel, a law school student, was planning to leave her husband after she passed the California Bar Exam.”
After identifying Shanker Patel as a suspect in the murder, detectives found and arrested him in Atlanta, officials said.
Though the special circumstance of lying in wait made Shanker Patel eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors did not seek capital punishment in the case, Ardalani said.
PICO RIVERA >> A 17-year-old Pico Rivera boy previously charged as an adult in connection with the fatal stabbing of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend is now being tried as a juvenile as a result of the passage of Proposition 57, passed by California owners in November.
Rory Murga is accused of murder for the death of 16-year-old Elena Lillian Moore, who was stabbed to death during the early-morning hours of Aug. 12, 2016, inside her home in the 9800 block of Shade Lane, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said. Murga and Moore had dated for about a year and broken up about two weeks prior to the stabbing.
Detectives first labeled Murga a “person of interest” in the slaying. After he was found and taken into custody four days later, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office elected to charge Murga as an adult.
In the month that followed the slaying, California voters approved Proposition 57, which made more convicts deemed “nonviolent” eligible for parole and early release, and also requires that a hearing be held before a juvenile court judge when determining whether a minor will be charged as an adult when accused of a serious crime.
Such a hearing was held Feb. 10, and the case was returned to juvenile court for further proceedings, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
A motions hearing was scheduled in the case in juvenile court on April 27, she said.
But prosecutors plan to again seek that Murga be charged as an adult, according to Ardalani.
Moore’s mother was asleep upstairs when she heard her daughter scream Murga’s during the attack name before making her way upstairs and collapsing in the hallway, Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. The girl had been stabbed several times.
It appeared Murga entered and exited the home through the back door, though it was unclear whether he forced his way in or was let in.
Investigators found a steak knife believed to be the weapon used in the slaying at the scene, officials said.
Deputies found and arrested Murga on Aug. 16, 2016, after finding him sitting beneath a railroad underpass along Rosemead Boulevard, near Slauson Avenue, Hernandez said.
A motive in the slaying has not been released.
PHOTO of Rory Murga courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTO of crime scene by Keith Durflinger.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> Two men beat and stabbed a teenager after he refused to turn over his property during a robbery attempt at a South Whittier park late Saturday, officials said.
The victim, a 15-year-old boy, was walking through Amelia Mayberry Park, 13201 Meyer Road, about 10 p.m. when two would-be robbers approached, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Hank Ortega said.
“The suspects accosted him and demanded he give them whatever he had,” the sergeant said. The teen refused.
One of the attacker punched the teen in the face, while the other pulled a knife and stabbed him in the upper arm, Ortega said.
The teen was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Ortega said both attackers were last seen running east from the park.
One was described as a white man, between 20 and 25 years old, 150 to 170 pounds, with blond hair.
The second suspect, who wielded the knife, was described as Latino man between 20 and 25 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 150 pounds, with a beard and mustache.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Norwalk Station at 562-863-8711. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PICO RIVERA >> A man slashed another man in the back of the head during a dispute at a Pico Rivera gym on Friday night, authorities said.
The incident unfolded about 9:10 p.m. at L.A. Fitness, 8909 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
Rdylan Jordan Chavez, 26, of East Los Angeles was using the gym when he became involved an argument with another gym patron, described as a man estimated to be in his 20s, the lieutenant said.
At some point during the dispute, Chavez slashed the victim in the back of the head with a knife, he said.
The victim left the gym and went to the nearby sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station to report the stabbing, Garcia said.
Deputies found Chavez still at the gym and took him into custody without a struggle. He directed deputies to a pocket knife which he hidden in the gym.
The victim suffered a significant gash, but his injuries were not life-threatening, Garcia said.
The suspect and victim were acquainted with one another through the gym, he added.
Chavez was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, county booking records show.
EL MONTE >> Coroner’s officials have released the identity of a 22-year-old man who was fatally stabbed as he walked along Peck Road with his cousin on Sunday.
Alejandro Rojas died at a hospital about an hour after the stabbing, which took place about 11:40 a.m. Sunday outside a liquor store in the 4200 block of Peck Road, Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said. He died four days after his 22nd birthday.
He was walking down the street, accompanied by his cousin, when a car heading north along Peck Road pulled up alongside them, according deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau.
An attacker exited the passenger side of the car and confronted the cousins before pulling a knife and stabbing Rojas in the chest, the deputy said.
The killer returned to the vehicle, which sped away, officials said. A detailed description of the attacker and their car was not available. The motive was unclear.
Rojas was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries.
His cousin was unhurt in the attack, Navarro-Suarez said.
The sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is assisting El Monte police with the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact homicide detectives ar 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
EL MONTE >> A man died in a stabbing outside a liquor store in El Monte on Sunday, authorities said.
The deadly stabbing was reported just before 11:45 a.m. in the 4200 block of Peck Road, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Information Bureau.
“The victim and his cousin were walking south on Peck Road when a vehicle headed northbound on Peck Road pulled alongside them,” Navarro-Suarez said in a written statement.
A man exited the front passenger seat of the car and confronted the two men, she said.
“The suspect produced a knife and stabbed the victim in the chest,” according to Navarro-Suarez. “The suspect then re-entered the vehicle and fled away north and out of view.”
The wounded man and his cousin ran north along Peck Road before the stabbing victim collapsed, officials said. Paramedics took him to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, officials said. The cousin was not hurt.
The motive in the stabbing was unclear, and no further descriptions of the attacker or the getaway driver were available.
Investigators had yet to determine the motive in the fatal attack, and no further details were available.
The sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is helping the El Monte Police Department with the investigation.
Anyone with information 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.
COVINA >> A Los Angeles woman was sentenced Thursday to 16 years in prison after admitting to fatally stabbing her 61-year-old mother at a senior living facility in Covina two years ago.
Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said 44-year-old Athina Sumi Rivera pleaded guilty on Thursday to the second-degree murder of Margaret Yamaguchi.
Ardalani said Rivera also admitted a special allegation that she personally used a deadly weapon, a knife, during the crime.
The fatal stabbing occurred Sept. 7, 2015 at Atria Covina in the 800 block of West San Bernardino Road.
Rivera, who lived in Los Angeles, was staying at her mother’s home for the night, according to Deputy District Attorney Lauren Guber, who prosecuted the case.
Rivera woke up in the middle of the night, retrieved a kitchen knife that she had previously taken from within her mother’s home and hidden and stabbed the victim several times, Guber said.
Yamaguchi was believed to be asleep, “or at least in bed,” when the attack began, she said.
The mother managed to activate a body-worn safety alar she was wearing during the stabbing, drawing facility staff to the room, Guber said.
The staff found Yamaguchi bleeding from multiple stab wounds, and her daughter still in the room. Paramedics pronounced Yamaguchi dead at the scene.
Guber said Rivera, who has a history of mental illness, made no attempt to flee and freely admitted that she had stabbed her mother. The small kitchen knife used in the slaying was found at the scene.
The killer mentioned to specific motive for the killing, but rather a general anger at her mother.
“She indicated when she was interviewed by police after she was arrested that she felt that her mother caused her a lot of pain in her life, and she wanted to cause (her mother) as much pain to her as she had caused,” the prosecutor said.
An autopsy determined Yamaguchi died from “multiple sharp force injuries,” according to Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner records.
Despite a history of mental illness, Guber said there was no doubt she was aware of her actions and the ramifications.
“She was definitely lucid,” Guber said.
Rivera could have faced more than 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, as initially charged.
In considering the totality of the circumstances of the case, however, prosecutors decided to accept a second-degree murder plea proffered by the defense.
The Covina Police Department investigated the slaying.
— Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales
ROSEMEAD >> Police arrested a suspect in Rosemead on Friday in connection with the fatal stabbing of two senior citizens at a Chinatown social club on Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
Detectives tracked down and arrested double-murder suspect Vinh Quok Dao, 37, about 4:30 p.m. in Rosemead, Los Angeles police officials said in a written statement.
The deadly attack took place about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday at the Hop Sing Tong Benevolent Association club at 428 Gin Ling Way, between Broadway Avenue and Hill Street,
Dao had previously been a member of the club, but had just returned to Los Angeles after being estranged for several years, officials said. He entered the club Thursday afternoon and demanded that one of the members, whom he knew, give him $400 to pay for vehicle impound fees.
“When the member refused to cooperate, Dao exhibited a 6-inch, Buck-style knife and attacked him,” according to the statement. “Another member tried to come to the victim’s aid, but Dao also attacked that person.”
Both victims died from their wounds at the scene.
The attacker fled the scene, initiating a manhunt. A bloodhound was brought into join in the search, but the suspect was not found on Thursday.
The attacker left behind a trail of blood, investigators said. It was not initially clear if the suspect himself was wounded, or if the blood was that of the victims.
“Central Homicide Detectives, along with the support of a joint apprehension task force, located Dao in Rosemead, California, around 4:30 p.m. (Friday) afternoon,” the statement said. “He was taken into custody without incident.”
Further details regarding Dao’s apprehension were not available late Friday.
Dao was expected to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court for an arraignment hearing on Tuesday.
The identities of the two victims, both described as club members in their 60s, were not released Friday pending positive identification and notification of their families, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner officials said.
“The victims are both of Chinese descent and longtime members of the club,” according to the LAPD statement. “They spent most of their days at the club playing mahjong and visiting with friends.”
Anyone with information can reach LAPD Detective Tricia Hauck at 213-996-1878, or the LAPD’s 24-hour tip line at 877-527-3247. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
PHOTO via the Associated Press
COVINA >> A man refused to cooperate with deputies after he was found stabbed in a residential neighborhood near Covina early Saturday, officials said.
The incident was first reported about 1:45 a.m. as a stabbing victim spotted wounded in the street in the 4600 block of West Bellbrook Street, in an unincorporated county area just outside of Covina, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Bertha Payes said.
Deputies found a man in his late-30s suffering from at least one stab wound to his back, she said. But he would not tell investigators what happened or who stabbed him.
The victim was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, Payes said.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s San Dimas Station at 909-450-2700. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
TEMPLE CITY >> Prosecutors filed murder and other charges against a Temple City man accused of killing a woman with a Samurai sword and stabbing two other people amid a violent crime spree on Wednesday.
John Ralph Perales, 44, is accused of murder, three counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the series of alleged attacks, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement. He’s also accused of the special allegation of personal use of weapons during the crimes.
He showed up at the home of 44-year-old neighbor Diane Christine Alarcon in the 6000 block of Temple City Boulevard about noon, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said. A 42-year-old San Gabriel man, described as a friend of Alarcon’s, was also visiting.
“While spending some time there with Alarcon and another male guest, an argument ensued and Perales allegedly struck both Alarcon and the male with a wrench,” according to Ardalani.
Perales then grabbed an ornamental samurai-style sword hanging on the wall at the victim’s home and stabbed both Alarcon and her visitor with it, Corina said. Alarcon died at the scene. The wounded man was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Alarcon’s 10-year-old son was home at the time of the attack, but was unhurt, Corina said.
Perales surrendered to deputies as deputies were searching the neighborhood for him, officials said.
Hours earlier, detectives and prosecutors allege Perales stabbed his ex-girlfriend and her adult son at their home in the 3400 block of Whistler Avenue in El Monte.
He arrived there about 2 a.m., El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said.
“After spending some time there, Perales allegedly crawled on top of his ex-girlfriend as she was sleeping, woke her up and then stabbed her,” Ardalani said. The woman’s 22-year-old son tried to intervene and was also stabbed and injured. An update on the conditions of the mother and son was not available Friday.
Detectives were also investigating Perales in connection with a Rosemead carjacking that occurred in between the two stabbing incidents, however charges had not been filed for that alleged crime.
Perales has a lengthy criminal record including convictions for false imprisonment by violence in 2014; carrying a concealed dirk or dagger in 2011; being a prisoner in possession of a weapon and auto theft in 2001; attempted burglary in 1996; burglary in 1992; and acting as an accessory to a crime after the fact in 1991.
He entered no plea in court on Friday. His arraignment hearing was postponed to Feb. 2 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said. In the meantime, bail has been set at $6.21 million.
If convicted as charged, Perales could face a sentence of life in prison.
PHOTO by Walt Mancini