WHITTIER — Police and community members were on high alert Friday following reports of a predator in a red convertible attempting to kidnap girls in Whittier.
The most recent kidnap attempt was reported Thursday near Founders Memorial Park, when an 11-year-old Whittier girl was kidnapped by a masked man, according to Whittier police. She escaped from the suspect’s car and freed another frightened 7-year-old girl already apparently being held captive in the car. <USDEFAULT>The girls didn’t know each other.
Lt. Kent Miller said the suspect also tried to lure three teens into his car during two separate incidents last week.
Police have notified all Whittier school district superintendents and are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.
As a precaution, “Patrol is beefed up in the areas around schools,” Officer Bradley White said.
Area schools notified parents via recorded messages of the situation Friday morning.
A recorded message sent to Whittier High School parents advised, “While this did not involve any Whittier High students,<USDEFAULT> as a precaution for those who walk to school, for your safety, please make every effort to have your students walk in a group and report any suspicious activity.”
Thursday’s kidnapping took place about 2:35 p.m. in front of Founders Memorial Park near Broadway and Citrus Avenue.
Miller said the 11-year-old was walking alone when she was grabbed and put into the back seat of a convertible which had the top up.
“Apparently the suspect walked away from the car. She jumped out,” <NO1><NO>Miller said.
When the older girl opened the door, she and the other girl ran out in opposite directions.
The 11-year-old made her way home and called police.
Police had not found the younger girl Friday, White said. The department hadn’t received any reports of missing children.
Last week a 17-year-old girl was walking by herself in the 1300 block of Broadway at 11:25 a.m. Feb. 5 when the suspect pulled over and asked if she wanted a ride.
“After the victim told him no, he proceeded to stop the car and open the door,” Miller said.
The teen ran and called police.
Then around 4:40 p.m., someone reported a similar incident.
The witness was in the 6700 block of Washington Avenue which is across the street from Central Park. Police said the witness saw two high-school-aged girls get into a verbal confrontation with the suspect who told them to get into his car.
The man fled.
The witness wasn’t able to get the names of the girls and the police received no calls from the alleged victims.
In all three cases, the suspect was seen driving a red convertible with a tan roof. He was described as a Latino, 25 to 35, of medium to heavy build and between 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall.
The kidnapping victim described the suspect as having short black hair with a tattoo of three dots on his left hand.
He covered his face with some sort of mask, “possibly a ski mask,” White said.
Police did not have enough information about the suspect’s appearance to create a composite sketch, White said. But investigators hoped that would change with the help of the public, as well as any victims who have not contacted by police.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9241 or Detective Woods at 562-567-9286.
- Ruby Gonzales (Brian Day contributed to this report)
LONG BEACH — A jury Wednesday convicted two Whittier-area men of the 2009 robbery and murder of a 27-year-old San Pedro woman.
The Long Beach Superior Court jury found Raul Tiscareno, 30, of Whittier and Daniel Martinez, 39, of Pico Rivera guilty of Jan. 30, 2009 slaying of Ginie Samayoa, who was found slumped in her car in an alley near her San Pedro home.
She had been shot in the back of the head, authorities said.
The jury Wednesday convicted the two men of murder and second-degree robbery, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Julian Recana.
They were each expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when they return to court March 25 for sentencing, the prosecutor said.
Martinez was also convicted of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, officials said, however the jury did not find true the allegation that he personally fired the gun that killed Samayoa.
Samayoa’s mother and brother were present in court for the verdict, and the mother plans to read a victim impact statement at the sentencing, Recana said.
It was Tiscareno’s second trial, as a jury failed to reach a verdict in a previous trial.
A third killer, 35-year-old Michael Lee Bonfiglio of Whittier, was convicted by a jury on March 22, 2012 of first degree murder with the special allegation of murder during the course of a robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree robbery. A judge sentenced him in August to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Aug. 13, Bonfiglio was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The men tried to rob Samayoa of her laptop containing credit card numbers and other information related to identity theft, officials said.
Samayoa died of her injuries the day after the shooting.
Though the special allegation of murder during a robbery made the three killers eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors did not pursue it.
WHITTIER — Officials Sunday released the name of a 27-year-old man found fatally shot on a street just outside a hospital.
Robert Guerrero died at the scene after he was found wounded in the abdomen about 4:56 p.m. Friday in the 7800 block of Barnum Avenue, just northeast of PIH Health Hospital, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said. His city of residence was unclear.
Witnesses reported hearing several gunshots before seeing a white Toyota pickup truck speeding away, Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
The truck was found abandoned several blocks away in the 7100 block of Gretna Avenue, police added, but no suspects were located.
No further information has been released.
SOUTH WHITTIER — A man was wounded but expected to survive following a shooting early Saturday in a residential neighborhood in an unincorporated county area south of Whittier, authorities said.
Deputies found the victim after responding to reports of a shooting about 9:40 a.m. at Inez Street and Haley Avenue, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. James Franck said. He was described as a man in his 40s.
He had been shot in the lower back, the sergeant said. “It looks like at least twice.”
The man was conscious and speaking, though not cooperating with investigators, Franck said. The wounds were not initially believed to be life-threatening.
The motive and circumstances of the shooting were not clear, Franck said, however deputies were looking into the possibility the shots were fired from a passing car.
Detectives from the sheriff’s Norwalk Station are investigating the shooting.
WHITTIER — Police shut down the intersection of Lambert Road and Greenleaf Avenue early Saturday as they investigated the scene of a crash that sent three people to hospitals, including a woman who was thrown from one of the cars, officials said.
The three-car crash took place just after 7 a.m., Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Todd Emrick said. The main impact appeared to be between two of the cars, with the third vehicle struck afterward.
A female passenger of one of the cars was thrown from the vehicle in the collision, officials said. The woman, estimated to be in her 20s, was taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood with apparently moderate injuries.
The driver of that car, a man in his 40s believed to be the woman’s father, suffered minior injuries, Emrick said.
A man who was driving the second car involved in the crash was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, the captain added. No injuries were reported from the third car.
The cause of the crash was being investigated by the Whittier Police Department.
The investigation was ongoing early Saturday, however Lt. Mike Pryzbyl said there was no initial indication the crash involved a crime.
WHITTIER — An off-duty police officer suffered stab wounds but was expected to survive following a home invasion on Pioneer Boulevard Thursday afternoon, authorities said.
The stabbing in the 5400 block of Pioneer Boulevard was reported about 3:20 p.m., Whittier police Officer Bradley White said.
The victim, described by Whittier police as an off-duty officer from another police agency, suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening, White said.
“The victim was stabbed multiple times,”he said. It was unclear what type of weapon was used.
Police initially described the attacker only as a black man. He was last seen fleeing north on Pioneer Boulevard in a red sedan.
It was unclear whether the attacker was injured during the incident, White said.
Further details were not available as the investigation continued late Thursday.
WHITTIER — Police are planning to check drivers for sobriety and valid drivers licenses late Friday at a checkpoint.
The checkpoint will take place from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. at an undisclosed location within Whittier, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
As officers screen drivers passing through the checkpoint for signs if impairment and proper licensing, they will “strive to delay motorists only momentarily,” according to the police statement.
In the jurisdiction of the Whittier Police Department, which also includes Santa Fe Springs, “Over the course of the past three years, DUI collisions have claimed 3 lives and resulted in 100 injury crashes harming 156 of our friends and neighbors,” Sgt. Rob Hanson said.
Funding for Friday night’s checkpoint is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Anyone who spots a drunken driver on the road is encouraged to report it by calling 9-1-1.
WHITTIER — A late-night fire that erupted in the kitchen of Polly’s Pies Thursday caused nearly $1 million worth of damage to the restaurant, officials said.
Firefighters responded to a fire at the restaurant, 14136 E. Whittier Blvd., just after 11:40 p.m., Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Frank Garrido said.
About 50 personnel battle the fire, which was confined to the building’s kitchen and attic, the captain said. The steep construction of the restaurant’s roof presented an additional challenge to firefighters.
One extinguished, officials estimated the fire caused $500,000 worth of damage to the structure, and another $400,000 worth of damage to the contents inside, Garrido said.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
PHOTO by Craig Harshbarger
NORWALK — Trial continued Thursday for a Fontana woman accused of fatally stabbing her boyfriend in the South Whittier apartment they shared more than three years ago.
Michelle Pacheco, 29, has been charged with the Nov. 27, 2009, death of 29-year-old Sean Casillas in the 14300 block of Mulberry Drive, just east of Mills Avenue, in an unincorporated area south of Whittier.
“I just want justice for my son. He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Melinda Casillas said.
The trial began Jan. 9 in Norwalk Superior Court, Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez said. The trial continues today with prosecution testimony.
The District Attorney’s Office in 2010 initially declined to file charges against Pacheco.
Pacheco claimed she stabbed Casillas in self-defense when he became aggressive toward her while he was drunk, according to Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
Casillas, who was stabbed in the chest with a steak knife, was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center where he died a short time later.
Only Pacheco, Casillas and Pacheco’s then-5-year-old daughter were present when the stabbing took place, detectives said.
But the investigation continued, spurred by a request from Casillas’ mother to review the case.
Pacheco’s account of events was vague at times, and seemed to be lacking some information, Dolson said.
Detectives arrested her Feb. 17, 2011, in Fontana where she moved following Casillas’ death.
She was charged with murder as well as the special allegation that she personally used a knife in the killing.
Melinda Casillas lived in an apartment in the same complex as her son for three years. On Nov. 27, 2009, she said Pacheco called her. She was told her son was bleeding and needed to be taken to the hospital.
Melinda Casillas is expected to take the stand today.
According to county booking records, Pacheco was being held in lieu of $1.02 million bail as the trial continues.
- Staff Writer Ruby Gonzales contributed to this report.
WHITTIER — A 21-year-old transient robbed a 15-year-old boy of his backpack along Colima Road Saturday, police said.
Joshua Louis Demers was arrested on suspicion of robbery following the 1:45 p.m. crime in the 10000 block of Colima Road, just south of Whittier Boulevard, according to Whittier police and Los Angeles County booking records.
He approached a 15-year-old boy and demanded his backpack, Whittier police Lt. Aaron Ruiz said.
The teen was “threatened physically,” though no weapon was seen, he said.
After the teen handed over his backpack, Demers rifled through it and ultimately took nothing, Ruiz said.
Responding officers detained Demers and arrested him once he was identified by the victim as the robber, the lieutenant said.
Demers was being held in lieu of $50,000 at the Whittier Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, according to booking records.