Valinda man sentenced for slaying of girlfriend in Monrovia

MONROVIA >> A Valinda man who strangled his girlfriend, sent pictures of her body along with an apologetic message to his mother, and left her body in an SUV parked in her parents’ backyard in Monrovia received a prison sentence of 46 years to life on Thursday, authorities said.
A jury convicted Joel Velazquez, 52, of voluntary manslaughter in May for the Sept. 21, 2014, death of 46-year-old Alice Medina-Kaplan, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He had initially been charged with murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Velazquez strangled the victim, Ardalani said in a written statement.
“Her body was later discovered inside an SUV parked behind a house owned by her parents on the 200 block of Mauna Loa Drive in Monrovia,” she said.
Shortly after the killing, Velasquez sent text messages to his mother, including photograph of her daughter’s body, along with an apology.
Medina-Kaplan reportedly suffered from schizophrenia. She had been living with Velazquez in the SUV when she was killed.
Velasquez has a prior conviction for making criminal threats in 2011, officials said.

* *NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that the killer sent pictures of the victim’s body to his own mother.

PHOTO: Homicide victim Alice Medina-Kaplan, 46. (Courtesy)

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SWAT arrests suspect following Valinda standoff

VALINDA >> A sheriff’s SWAT team and crisis negotiators responded to a Valinda neighborhood after a man who was believed to be armed with a gun holed-up inside home late Friday, officials said.
The incident began shortly about 5 p.m. with a report of a domestic incident involving criminal threats and a gun at a house in the 800 block of Lacon Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Shot were believed to have been fired inside the home, though no injuries were reported, Sgt. Rico Sandoval said.
Several other occupants of the home came out when deputies arrived, but the suspect refused, he said.
Deputies summoned a SWAT team and crisis negotiators to take over the standoff.
A personal drone being flown in the area interfered with the sheriff’s department helicopter during the incident, according to Capt. Tim Murakami. The drone pilot would have gotten off with a warning, but was arrested after deputies discovered he had an outstanding arrest warrant, the captain said.
The suspect surrendered after midnight, officials said. No further details were available.

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No injuries reported in Valinda deputy-involved shooting

VALINDA >> A deputy fired a weapon, but no one was injured, while arresting three gang members on Sunday, officials said.
The incident unfolded just after 1 p.m. at Maplegrove Street and Aileron Avenue, Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau said in written statement.
No injuries were reported, and three male suspects were being detained as the investigation continued Sunday afternoon.
In a post on Twitter, Capt. Tim Murakami of the sheriff’s Industry Station described the three suspects as armed gang members.
No further details were available.

PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Teens robbed at gunpoint in Valinda

VALINDA >> A gunman with tattooed shins robbed a group of teenagers of their cell phones at gunpoint in a residential neighborhood in Valinda on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The crime took place shortly after 1 p.m. as three boys in their late teens were walking in the area of Caldwell Street and Echelon Avenue in the unincorporated county area, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Gina Eguia said.
A robber approached the young men, brandished a black-and-green semi-automatic handgun and demanded their cell phones, the sergeant said.
Two of the boys handed over their phones, and the robber was last seen running east along Caldwell Avenue, she said. No injuries were reported.
Officials described the robber as a Latino man of about 20 years old, of thin build, with brown hair and brown eyes and tattoos on both of his shins, Eguia said. He wore a gray shirt and fray basketball shorts.
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.

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Man sentenced for 2006 La Puente ‘execution’ of Valinda man who failed to pay ‘taxes’ to Mexican Mafia

LOS ANGELES >> A former gang member from Baldwin Park received a 24-year prison sentence this week for his role in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy in which he admitted personally executing another gang member from Valinda who failed to pay “taxes,” or extortion payments, to the Mexican Mafia, authorities announced Thursday.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, a former 18th Street gang member with ties to Baldwin Park and El Sereno, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Los Angeles to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as part of a federal case targeting the Mexican Mafia-controlled Puente 13 street gang.
As part of his plea agreement, Garcia admitted to luring and fatally shooting David Dragna, 44, of Valinda at an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Prichard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente 13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head,” Mrozek said.
Garcia carried out the killing on the orders of leaders of Puente 13, who accused Dragna of keeping extortion payments on drug proceeds, or “taxes,” intended for the Mexican Mafia, officials said. Dragna was a member of the Townsmen gang, which also operates in the Valinda Corridor in the central Can Gabriel Valley.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises.”
At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, the prosecution and defense in the case agreed to recommend Garcia be sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald opted for the high end of the range, sentencing Garcia on Monday to 24 years behind bars, as well as eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
The two Puente 13 gang members who joined Garcia in the killing have since pleaded guilty to the slaying, Mrozek said. Angel “Smiley” Torres is serving a 15-and-a-half-year prison term, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is serving a 10-year sentence.
As part of the same investigation into Puente 13, which began in 2008, longtime gang leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente and his brother, Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonazalez of Rowland Heights, received life sentenced in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted at trial of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses.
The investigation into Puente 13 has resulted in four indictments and the convictions of about five-dozen gang members and associates, officials said.

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La Puente gang injunction meeting cancelled

LA PUENTE >> A meeting previously planned by sheriff’s officials are to discuss La Puente’s gang injunction later this month has been cancelled.
The meeting, which has been scheduled for Oct. 25 at the St. Louis of France Catholic Church, 13935 E. Temple Ave., will be rescheduled for sometime early next year, organizers said.
At the annual meetings, sheriff’s officials, prosecutors and crime analysts meet with the community to discuss and answer questions regardingLa Puente’s gang injunction.
In addition to La Puente, the injunction against the Puente 13 and Bassett Grande street gangs also covers portions of West Covina and nearby unincorporated county areas such as Valinda and Bassett.

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UPDATED: Valinda man killed in two-vehicle crash

VALINDA >> A Valinda man died and a Rowland Heights woman suffered injuries in a two-vehicle crash on Valinda Avenue late Wednesday, California Highway Patrol officials said.
The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. on Valinda Avenue, south of Maplegrove Street, CHP Officer Michelle Bond of the CHP’s Traffic Management Center said.
A 45-year-old Valinda man was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck north along Valinda Avenue when his truck veered into opposing traffic and struck a 2009 Toyota Venza being driven by a 35-year-old Rowland Heights woman, according to Sgt. M. Hammond of the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office.
“(He) suddenly allowed the Chevrolet Silverado to cross over the solid double-yellow lines and travel into the southbound No. 1 lane,” the sergeant said.
The driver of the Toyota veered to the right but was unable to avoid a collision, she said. The front of the truck struck the driver-side of the Toyota.
Firefighters rushed the truck driver to a hospital but he succumbed to his injuries, officials said. His identity was not available.
The woman at the wheel of the Toyota suffered injuries Hammond described as minor.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer C. Jones at the CHP’s Baldwin Park area office at 626-338-1164.

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Memorial planned for Fontana man allegedly slain by girlfriend in Valinda


FONTANA >> A memorial service is planned today for a Fontana man who died after his girlfriend allegedly intentionally ran him down with a car in Valinda.
A service in memory of Randolph “Randy” John Morales, 51, is planned for 1 p.m. at Saint Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church, 9112 Oleander Ave., daughter Priscilla Morales said. The family only recently received his ashes.
Randolph Morales died after his girlfriend, 52-year-old Sharon Hood of La Puente, struck him with a car during an argument during the early-morning hours of May 8 outside a motel in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
Hood is being held in lieu of $2 million bail pending trial, records show. Her next court appearance was scheduled Aug. 30 in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In addition to his daughter, Morales is survived by son Randy John Morales, mother Doralene Weitz, father Richard Morales, brothers Richard and Raymond Morales and sister Yvette Guerrero

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UPDATED: Man shot to death outside San Gabriel Valley house party in L.A. County’s sixth homicide in 12 hours

EAST VALINDA >> Gunfire erupted following a house party in East Valinda early Saturday, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.
The slaying was the sixth deadly shooting reported in Los Angeles County in less than 12 hours.
The deadly shooting took place just before 2:50 a.m. in the 400 block of Shipman Avenue, in the unincorporated county area between La Puente and West Covina, according to Deputy Guillermina Saldana of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Both victims had just attended a house party.
“As the party ended and the guests dispersed, the victims were leaving the location but were confronted by an unknown suspect,” Saldana said in a written statement. “The suspect produced a handgun and opened fire fatally striking one victim in the upper torso. He died at the scene.”
The man’s identity was not released pending positive identification and notification of family, coroner’s officials said.
The second victim suffered gunshots to his “upper and lower torso,” she said. He was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
No suspects were in custody, Saldana said. Investigators sought a white SUV seen speeding away from the shooting scene. It was last seen heading west on Northam Avenue.
No further details were available.
The attack was the last of six deadly shooting reported within 12 hours in Los Angeles County. Five men and one woman lost their lives in the afternoon and overnight violence.
Three of the deadly shootings occurred in the same neighborhood surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt Park in an unincorporated county area just east of Los Angeles, officials said.
A man died in a 1 a.m. shooting in the 7600 block of Miramonte Avenue in an unincorporated county area just east of Los Angeles, according to the sheriff’s department.
“The victim was working on a car parked along the curb in front of a residence when an unknown suspect approached him,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. “The suspect produced a firearm and opened fire striking the victim.”
The victim succumbed to his injuries at a hospital, authorities said.
Another man died in a 12:30 a.m. shooting in at Union Pacific Avenue and Bonnie Beach Place in East Los Angeles, Saldana said.
Deputies responding to reports of “shots fired” encountered a man lying on the sidewalk suffering from a gunshot wound, she said. He died at a hospital. No further details were available.
A woman died in an ambush attack in a 12:10 a.m. at Carson Street and Evonda Avenue in Carson, authorities said.
“…the victim was walking west on Carson Street when an unknown suspect approached her from behind,” according to a statement issued by the sheriff’s Information Bureau. “The suspect produced a firearm and opened fire striking the victim. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.”
Two men were shot, one fatally, three hours earlier in the 1900 block of East 78th Street, less than a mile from the scene of the Miramonte Avenue shooting.
The victims were standing in a driveway with several other people when two men approached on a minibike, Deputy Trina Schrader of the sheriff’s Information Bureau said.
“One of the men on the minibike produced a handgun and opened fire. Following the shooting, the suspects rode away westbound and out of view,” according to Schrader.
Two men were struck by the gunfire, she said. One of them succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, while the other was hospitalized with injuries described as “serious.”
Friday’s violence began with a 3:47 p.m. shooting in the 7500 block of Compton Avenue in unincorporated Los Angeles, around the corner from the shooting on Miramonte Avenue.
The victim was riding his bike along the sidewalk when his attacker exited a white car parked along the curb and began shooting, Schrader said.
“The suspect got back into the vehicle and drove away southbound Compton Avenue to eastbound 76th Street and out of view,” she said.
The victim, who was shot multiple times, died at a hospital.
No suspects were in custody, and no suspect descriptions were available in any of the shootings.
And in Boyle Heights, a young girl, reportedly 10 years old, was wounded in the head by an errant bullet from a nearby shooting.
A male suspect in a vehicle shot at a bicyclist, also described only as male, about 6 p.m. Friday at Chicago Street and Rogers Avenue, Los Angeles police Officer Rosario Herrera said.
The gunfire missed the intended target, but a bullet struck the girl in the head, officials said.
An update on the girl’s condition was not available Saturday, but her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Herrera said.
Anyone with information on any of the deadly shootings is asked contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anyone with information regarding the Boyle Heights shooting can reach the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station at 323-342-4100.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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UPDATED: La Puente woman charged with murder after running over boyfriend with car during argument

VALINDA >> Prosecutors charged a La Puente woman with murder Tuesday for running over and killing her boyfriend with a car outside a Valinda motel over the weekend, officials said.
Sharon Kay Hood, 52, is accused of killing her boyfriend of six years, 51-year-old Randolph “Randy” John Morales of Fontana, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and coroner’s officials.
The alleged vehicular slaying took place about 2:25 a.m. Sunday in the parking lot of a motel in the 500 block of North Azusa Avenue, in the unincorporated county area of Valinda.
Morales had rented a room for the couple, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said in a written statement.
Hood and Morales got into an argument, and Hood abruptly left the room, officials said.
“Morales reportedly followed the defendant out of the room to her car where the two continued to quarrel, according to the statement. “At that point, Hood allegedly ran over Morales with her car.”
0512_NWS_SGT-L-CAR18701The 2015 Nissan Altima backed over Morales, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Paramedics pronounced Morales dead at the scene.
An autopsy found he died from “blunt force injuries of the head,” and the death was ruled a homicide, Winter said.
Investigators formally arrested hood in connection with her boyfriend’s death about 10:45 a.m. Sunday, county booking records show. But sheriff’s officials initially declined to discuss the case, and the arrest was not made public until prosecutors filed charges Tuesday.
Hood entered no plea at her appearance in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ardalani said. Her arraignment hearing was postponed until June 8, and bail was set at $2 million.
In addition to murder, prosecutors accuse Hood of the special allegation that she personally used a deadly weapon — a car — in the attack, Ardalani said.
If convicted as charged, Hood faces up to 26 years to life in state prison.
Morales left behind two devastated children: a daughter, 28, and son, 23, from a prior marriage of 26 years, his daughter Priscilla Morales said.
“He was my best friend,” she said.
“He was a people person. He got along with everybody,” she said.
Born in Los Angeles, Randy Morales grew up in the La Puente area, his daughter said. He then moved to Orange County before settling in Fontana about 5 years ago.
Randy Morales had a sarcastic and silly sense of humor, often quoting a line from “I Love Lucy” and telling loved one’s, “Don’t get too crazy,” Priscilla Morales said. “He was kind of a nerd.”
“He was my musical soulmate,” she added. Priscilla Morales said her father loved classic rock, such as Led Zeppelin, and classic blues such as Roger Johnson and Muddy Waters.
Randy Morales had an encyclopedic knowledge of music history and trivia, Priscilla Morales said. The father and daughter enjoyed attending concerts together, and spent countless hours at the old Tower Records store in West Covina.
Randy Morales has worked as a plumber, a contractor and recently graduated school for welding, his daughter said. He was working in a warehouse at the time of his death.
“He was a big Rams fan,” she added. “He was so excited they were coming back to L.A. We were talking about going to the games.”
Priscilla said
But all of the family’s plans changed Sunday morning.
“He’s not going to see me get married. I don’t have kids yet,” Priscilla Morales said through tears. “He always told me he wanted me to have a big wedding.”
Family member are still watching the investigation and waiting to learn exactly what took place in Valinda on Sunday.
“It seems weird… I have no anger. I just want to know what happened.”
Randy Morales and Hood had a “tumultuous relationship,” and Priscilla Morales described the woman as “very angry,” and “possessive.”
The couple argued often, and Hood would sometimes slap her Randy Morales, his daughter said.
On one occasion several years ago, Hood slashed all four tired of his car on the day he was supposed to begin a new job, Priscilla Morales said. He lost the job as a result.
But although she said she didn’t think the relationship was healthy, she never imagined Hood was capable of the violence of which she’s now accused.
When she was first informed of her father’s death, her first question was whether Hood was with him, and whether she was OK, Priscilla Morales said. The daughters said she was “shocked” to learn Hood was accused in the killing.
Fund to help the Morales’ family lay Morales, known to loved ones as Randy, to rest are being collected online at

PHOTOS: [TOP] – Randolph “Randy” Morales, pictured with daughter Priscilla Morales. (Courtesy) [BELOW] –  Randy “Randolph” Morales, 51, of Fontana. (Courtesy)

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