WHITTIER >> Police jailed a teacher from Vail High School in Montebello on Friday on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with a then-17-year-old student of the school, officials said.
Brian Lee Ward, 46, of Whittier was booked on suspicion statutory rape following his 2:30 p.m. arrest at his home on Comstock Avenue, Whittier police officials said in a written statement.
“Ward had developed a sexual relationship with the student over the course of several months in 2016,” according to the statement. “Though she was not his student, she did attend Vail High School at the time, where Ward is a teacher.”
Montebello Unified School District officials notified Montebello police upon learning of the allegation in December, police said. Montebello police turned the investigation over to their counterparts in Whittier after learning the alleged crimes took place at Ward’s home in their jurisdiction.
“Whittier Detectives were able to develop enough information to file for an arrest warrant out of Norwalk court,” the police statement said.
He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, officials said.
Ward’s employment status with the MUSD was unclear late Friday.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Whittier police at 562-567-9255. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
BOOKING PHOTO of Brian Lee Ward courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> A Pico Rivera man received a seven-year prison sentence for fatally stabbing hid ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend during a fight in South Whittier in 2015.
George Delgado, 54, pleaded “no contest” to a charge of voluntary manslaughter on Sept. 14 in for the Sept. 26, 2015, stabbing death of 42-year-old Tyler Duran of San Gabriel, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
The plea was the result of a negotiated plea arrangement, she said. Delgado was initially charged with murder, which carries a minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in October of 2015.
Friday’s sentence was handed down in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles Court by Judge Joseph R. Porris.
Duran was at his girlfriend’s home in the 13500 block of Trumball Street, in the unincorporated county area of South Whittier, prior to the stabbing, prosectors said in a written statement.
Delgado, the woman’s ex-boyfriend, showed up and confronted the couple, officials said. Duran left, but returned a short time later.
“When Duran came back to the home, he was allegedly faced by Delgado again and the two men got into a fight,” according to the statement. “During the physical struggle, Delgado reportedly stabbed Duran.”
Duran soon succumbed to his wounds at a hospital, officials said.
Delgado fled and was sought as a fugitive for 11 days before he was ultimately captured in Pico Rivera.
PHOTOS: [ABOVE]George Delgado, 54, of Pico Rivera, left, pleaded “no contest” to a manslaughter charge on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, for the fatal stabbing of Tyron Duran, 42, of San Gabriel, right, during a fight in South Whittier on Sept. 26, 2015. (Photos courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the DMV) [BELOW] Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials investigate in the 13500 block of Trumball Street in South Whittier where Tyron Duran, 42, of San Gabriel, left, was fatally stabbed during a fight on Sept. 26, 2015. (Photo by Brian Day)
WHITTIER >> A school bus driver who left an autistic 19-year-old alone a school bus for about seven hours, resulting in his death from overheating, pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of dependent abuse, authorities said.
Armando Abel Ramirez, 37, of Apple Valley, pleaded guilty to a county of felony dependent adult abuse resulting in death, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
“The defendant additionally admitted an allegation of proximately causing the death of the victim,” she said.
The charge stems from the Sept. 11, 2015 death of Hun Joon “Paul” Lee, 19, of Whittier, who was found dead on a school bus parked in a Whittier Union High School District parking lot on Mulberry Drive, between Painter and Greenleaf avenues.
*VIDEO of guilty plea
Ramirez, who had been free on bond pending the trial process, was remanded into custody Friday pending sentencing, Davila-Morales said.
Ramirez was ordered to return to the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Jan. 30 for sentencing before Judge Joseph R. Porras, according to Davila-Morales. He is expected to receive a sentence of two years in state prison under the negotiated plea arrangement.
If convicted at trial, Ramirez could have faced a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.
Lee, who had autism and was described as non-verbal, was a student at Sierra Vista Adult School.
After boarding the bus for school, he never got off, according to prosecutors and a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lee’s family against the school district and it’s contracted bus company, Pupil transportation Cooperative.
Lee’s family began seeking him after he failed to return home from school in the afternoon.
Ramirez returned to the bus after being informed that a student was missing before Lee was found unresponsive. Temperatures day topped 90 degrees.
An autopsy determined that Lee died of hyperthermia, or overheating, and the death was ruled accidental.
Police arrested Ramirez in late-March, and he subsequently denied the criminal charge filed against him.
In a statement issued by family attorneys Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Lee’s mother, Eun Ha Lee, addressed the conviction.
“Whatever prison sentence the bus driver ultimately receives, our family cannot be content or satisfied as the life of our precious son was taken away as a result of his negligence,” she said. “Paul cannot return to our family and, today, we feel the pain of losing him even more. We hope that Paul’s death will not be in vain and that our community will work together to help, love and provide justice to children of special needs.”
Following Lee’s death, new legislation aimed at preventing similar tragedies from taking place in the future.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, requires all school buses in California to be equipped with a child-safety alarm system in the back of the vehicle that must be turned off by the bus driver, in order to ensure the drives check each seat.
It also requires drivers to receive training in child-safety check procedures upon the annual renewal of their school bus driver licenses. Lee’s family commended the legislation.
Lee’s mother expressed gratitude to the community for its support.
“We want to thank everyone who worked, mourned and prayed with us in the months following the death of our beloved son Paul,” she said.
EAST WHITTIER >> Deputies are seeking the rightful owner of a “considerable amount” of money someone found in East Whittier and turned in to the sheriff’s station last month.
“An honest and respectable citizen found the money in the month of December in the unincorporated East Whittier/La Habra area and turned it in to the sheriff’s department in hopes the money would be returned to the owner,” Sgt. Andy Ruiz of the sheriff’s Norwalk Station said in a written statement.
Ruiz did not give the amount of found cash, but described it as “a considerable amount of cash.”
Anyone who believed they may have lost the money can contact Detective Potts at (562) 466-5418.
WHITTIER >> A pair of masked burglars broke into a Marie Callender’s restaurant, a BevMo! liquor store and MoneyGram branch during an early-morning burglary spree over the course of an hour in Whittier on Thursday, police said.
“The (modus operandi) is the same in all of them,’ Whittier police Lt. Jim Uhl said.
In all three cases, two men wearing masks, gloves and hooded sweatshirts pried open the doors of the business to gain entry, he said. They drove a full-size pickup truck.
The first break-in occurred just after 2 a.m. at Marie Callender’s, 12402 Washington Blvd., Uhl said. The burglars forced their way into the restaurant, but fled without taking anything.
About 30 minutes later, another break-in was reported at BevMo!, 15525 Whittier Blvd., the sergeant said.
The two burglars targeted high-end liquor, making off with about $6,000 worth of booze, he said.
About 20 minutes after the BevMo! break-in, the pair forced their way into a MoneyGram branch at 14030 Lambert Road, Uhl said. Again, the burglars forced their way in, but fled empty-handed.
Detectives were working to obtain video surveillance footage from the burglaries, Uhl said.
Anyone with information can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
SOUTH WHITTIER >> A stubborn house fire early Thursday tore through a South Whittier home and sent a firefighter to the hospital with minor injuries, authorities said.
The fire was first reported at 6:57 a.m. in the 12000 block of Colima Road, in the unincorporated count area, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Richard Licon said.
Heavy smoke and fire poured from the two-story, hillside home when firefighters arrived.
Packrat conditions provided ample fuel for the flames, officials said.
Firefighters worked for more than an hour-and-a-half before declaring the blaze “knocked down” at 8:32 a.m., Licon said.
All residents of the home were safely accounted for, however one firefighter was taken to a hospital due to fatigue, the inspector said. The injury was considered minor.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Fire Department
SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A man died of unknown causes after his daughter stabbed both him and his girlfriend at the mobile home all three shared in Santa Fe Springs, police said.
Janette Buena, 27, was booked on suspicion of murder following the 9:45 p.m. incident in the 8000 block of Sorensen Avenue, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Her father, 63, suffered a minor stab wound to his hand in the incident but initially declined medical treatment, Whittier police Lt. Kent Miller said.
But about 15 minutes later, the man collapsed in apparent cardiac arrest, officials said. He was taken to a hospital, where he was soon pronounced dead.
The man’s name was not available Wednesday pending notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
The man’s girlfriend, a 46-year-old woman, suffered stab wounds to head, arms and hands, Whittier police officials said in a written statement. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
“According to the victims, Buena, for unknown reasons, began to attack her father and his girlfriend,” according to the statement.
The suspect’s father and girlfriend locked themselves in the bathroom of the mobile home and called 911.
Arriving officers encountered Buena at the mobile home’s doorway, officials said. She retreated back into the mobile home and began trying to get into the locked bathroom where the two victims were hiding.
“Whittier Police Officers followed her inside the residence and deployed three bean bag rounds from their shotgun, hitting Buena, but she did not drop the knife,” the statement said. “Officers then used their Taser. Buena fell to the ground long enough for the officers to take her into custody, although she was still resistive.”
Police recovered to large, butcher-style kitchen knives from the scene, Miller said. It was yet to be determined whether one or both knives had been used in the alleged attack.
Based on the victims’ injuries, it appeared the female victim was the primary target of the attack, and the suspect’s father may have been injured while trying to pull a knife away from her, Miller said.
The motive behind the stabbing was unclear.
The investigation now largely hinges on the findings of coroner’s investigators, who are working to determine the man’s specific cause of death.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Buena was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Whittier Police Department’s jail pending her initial court appearance.
(Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)
WHITTIER >> The Whittier community grieved Sunday as authorities continued their investigation into what caused a massive eucalyptus tree to topple onto a wedding party at Penn Park in Whittier on Saturday night, leaving one woman dead and five other people injured, including a 4-year-old girl who was hospitalized in critical condition.
Witnesses reported the group was taking pictures beneath the 100-foot-tall tree at Penn Park, 13950 Penn Street, when it suddenly uprooted and fell, transforming what began as a celebration into a scene of tragedy.
The identity of the woman killed in the freak accident was not yet available Sunday, Los Angeles County Department of Medical-Examiner Investigator Rudy Molano said. The relationships between the woman who died, as well as the badly injured child, to the bride and groom were unclear.
“The important thing is to focus on the family, to let them know that this community is behind them, and that we’re praying for them,” Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said.
“It was supposed to be one of the most exciting days of their lives, and instead, it turned into what it turned into,” he said.
“There’s so many people in Whittier… who are upset, as am I, asking, ‘What can we do?’” the mayor said. “The best we can do right now is pray for that family and pray for that child, and let the family know that we care.”
Penn Park will remain closed to the public indefinitely as authorities investigate what caused the large eucalyptus tree to fall, City Manager Jeff Collier said.
An arborist is expected to inspect the scene on Monday or Tuesday, he said.
It was too early to say what may have caused the tree to fall, according to Collier.
“We can’t speculate until we have the arborist come out here and investigate,” he said.
Until then, officials will not remove the debris.
“We want to preserve the scene at this point. We want to make sure we have a chance to see everything as it exists today,” Collier said.
While the city already has an ongoing program to maintain and inspect trees, officials are also in the process of double-checking the integrity of the many other towering trees in Penn Park, City Manager Jeff Collier said.
Police guarded the scene to keep away trespassers Sunday morning, as crews went through the debris to retrieve belongings of the victims.
The park, which is staffed by city officials seven days a week, is a popular site with wedding parties and other celebrations. Groups can often be seen posing for pictures beneath the park’s giant trees.
“What’s intrinsically wonderful about it is those trees,” Vinatieri said.
As the investigation progresses, “The important thing is to focus on that family,” Vinatieri said. “There’s an outpouring of concern, sadness and prayer.”
Injuries due to sudden tree falls are uncommon, but not unheard of in the region.
Eight children were injured, two of them critically, when an 85-foot-tall Italian stone pine tree toppled over at the Kidpace Museum in Pasadena on July 28, 2015.
That incident also occurred following a bout of heavy rain amid years of drought.
Saturday’s accident in Whittier took place within days of the Southern California’s first significant storm of the winter.
An arborist concluded the tree in Pasadena likely fell because it was taking in more water than it could release, increasing its weight, coupled with weak roots on two sides of the tree.
The family of 6-year-old twins injured in the incident have since filed a lawsuit against the museum alleging the incident was the result of negligence and failure to maintain the tree. Kidspace Museum subsequently filed a claim against the city of Pasadena, arguing that the city is liable for any legal costs or damages associated with the incident.
WHITTIER >> One person died and five more were injured after a tree fell onto a group of people at Penn Park in Whittier on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
•Video: Tree falls on group of people in Whittier
The incident was first reported about 4:40 p.m. at the park, 13950 Penn Street.
Firefighters treated six patients in all, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said via Twitter.
“The injured were transported to local area hospitals where it has since been reported one of the victims has succumbed to their injuries,” Whittier police officials said in a written statement. “Another, described only as a 4-year-old female, is in critical condition as a result of head trauma.”
Witness Gilbert Duran, who was photographing a Quinceanera celebration at the park, said the tree toppled as a wedding party was taking pictures beneath it.
Families, including children, went rushing out from under the tree, he said. Some had to be pulled free from the by good Samaritans and rescuers. Witnesses performed CPR on at least one injured woman.
“It’s nuts. This tree is humongous,” he said. “I can’t believe this.”
“They’re taking pictures under this tree and all of a sudden it jut collapsed,” Duran said. We just watched some little kids go flat underneath that tree.”
Duran said he and his group had been standing under the tree only minutes before, but had moved to another spot in search of better lighting for their own photography.
“I hope they’re going to be OK. Pray for these families at Penn Park in Whittier,” he said.
The cause of the mishap was yet to be determined.
“This is an ongoing investigation and it is unknown at this time as to what may have caused the tree to fall,” according to the police statement.
No further details were immediately available.
PHOTO via Keith Durflinger
WHITTIER >> A mother driving with her son died after two suspected street racers lost control and crashed along Colima Road in Whittier, sending one of the speeding vehicles slamming into the woman’s car on Friday night, authorities said.
Police arrested Corey James Kiefer, 22, of Whittier, and Jacob Zamora, 22, of Anaheim on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter following the 8:40 p.m. crash in the 7700 block of Colima Road, just north of Mar Vista Street, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“It appears as though the individuals arrested were street racing,” Lt. Bryan Ellis said.
The identity of the woman who died in the collision was not released Saturday pending positive identification and notification of her family, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said. She was initially described as a woman estimated to be in her 40s.
Investigators believe the fatal crash resulted from an illegal street race between a white Hyundai and a black BMW, which were both traveling at “a high rate of speed,” police said in a written statement.
“As the vehicles accelerated adjacent each other, one lost control and struck the other, causing a spin that sent the white Hyundai into opposing lanes, striking an oncoming Honda Accord,” according to the statement. “ The female driver was later pronounced deceased at a local hospital, while her juvenile son was transported to UCI Medical Center as a precautionary measure for minor injuries.”
Kiefer, who was driving the BMW, suffered no injuries in the crash and was arrested at the scene, officials said.
Zamora, who was driving the Hyundai, as well as a passenger, were taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries, officials said. Zamora was later arrested in connection with the deadly crash.
Authorities were yet to determine whether DUI played a role in the collision.
According to county booking records, Kiefer was released from jail Saturday morning pending his initial court appearance after posting $50,000 bail. Zamora remained in custody in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his arraignment hearing.
Anyone with information on the crash can reach Whittier police at 562-567-9200. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.