NORWALK >> A man accused of sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing his disabled neighbor in Norwalk before fleeing to Guatemala returned to the U.S. Friday to face charges, authorities said.
Luis Fernando Diofron, also known as Luis Fernando Diofron Lemus, 22, was extradited back to Los Angeles County via LAX following his Dec. 4 arrest in San Miguel, Escuinta, Guatemala, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
Diofron is suspected in the brutal stabbing death of 50-year-old Denise Battey Aug. 10, 2012, at her home in the 11900 block of Allard Street, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials
He’s charged with murder, with the special circumstances of rape and burglary, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
After Diofron allegedly fled the country, federal authorities also charged the suspect with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. But the federal case is expected to be dismissed as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office prosecutes the murder case.
Diofron, who was living near Battey while in the U.S. on a work visa, attacked and sexually assaulted Battery as she watered her garden, according to sheriff’s officials and her twin sister, Annese Battey.
He then dragged her inside her home and stabbed her to death, authorities allege.
Denise Battey worked as a system support analyst for the U.S. Social Security Administration and tutored students in college preparation part time, according to her twin sister, Annese Battey. She was an avid gardener and a classic movie buff.
And the victim was defenseless against her attacker, authorities and family members said. She had just undergone back surgery and suffered from severe sciatica in her left leg.
Diofron was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.
PHOTOS: TOP: Murder suspect Luis Fernando Diofron (courtesy). BELOW: Homicide victim Denise Battey (courtesy)
ARCADIA >> A water leak led to the discovery of about 700 marijuana plants growing inside an Arcadia home Friday, police said.
The out-of-town owner of a home in the 200 block of East Newman Avenue received a call from a neighbor about 7 a.m. to let him know about a water leak at his house, Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement. The homeowner’s realtor checked on the home and discovered it was being used to grow marijuana.
After obtaining a warrant, “Detectives searched the home and found the majority of the residence being used as a sophisticated, indoor marijuana grow operation,” Flores said. “Approximately 700 marijuana plants were being grown in various rooms throughout the house. The grow consisted of multiple rooms with lighting, ventilation, electrical wiring, irrigation and drying bins strewn throughout the residence.”
The home’s electrical system had been rewired to bypass the electrical meter, allowing the growers to steal their electricity, officials added.
Police saw no evidence the grow was medicinal, Flores said.
No one was inside the home when police arrived, and no arrests had been made Saturday, police said.
PHOTOS courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
PASADENA >> An allegedly intoxicated driver being chased by the California Highway Patrol collided head-on with another car on the Colorado Street bridge late Friday, injuring four people, officials said.
Delfino Eddie Rey, 58, of Lancaster suffered serious injuries in the crash and was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and evading police in connection with the 8:10 p.m. crash on the bridge, which spans the Arroyo Seco, CHP officials said.
CHP Officers were chasing a possibly intoxicated driver eastbound on Colorado Boulevard when the suspects Toyota Corolla collided head-on with a westbound Nissan Maxima, Officer Patrick Kimball said. Paramedics treated four patients, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Rey suffered serious injuries, while two adults in the Maxima suffered injuries described as moderate, Derderian said. A child who was riding in the Maxima suffered injuries described as minor.
Firefighters had to free the three adults from the wreckage, she added.
Prior to the chase, a witness reported seeing the Corolla driving erratically and swerving in lanes at 7:52 p.m., Kimball said. CHP officers caught up with the suspect on Colorado Boulevard near San Rafael Avenue in Pasadena at 8:09 p.m.
Officers briefly chased the suspect as he fled at speeds of up to 70 mph, weaving in and out of lanes and occasionally crossed into oncoming traffic just before the collision, CHP officials said in a written statement.
Officials shut down the Colorado Street Bridge as they conducted an investigation Friday night.
*PHOTO courtesy of the Pasadena Fire Department
MONTEBELLO >> A judge sentenced a Montebello doctor to five years in prison Friday for sexually molesting four female patients in his care, officials said.
Arturo Vargas, 44, pleaded “no contest” Friday to two counts of felony sexual battery, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
A jury convicted Vargas in February of two counts of sexual exploitation by a physician for molesting two additional patients, but acquitted him of seven charges involving four other alleged victims, officials said. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury failed to reach verdicts on more than a dozen additional charges.
Vargas entered Friday’s “no contest” pleas during what was scheduled to be a pretrial hearing on the remaining charges.
In addition to being sentenced to five years in state prison, Judge Curtis Rappe also ordered Vargas to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Montebello police first arrested Vargas in Jan. 2012 after a woman reported being molested by him at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices on Towne Center Drive, authorities said. Seven additional women subsequently came forward and made similar allegations of molestation at the Baldwin Park facility, as well as at other medical facilities in Los Angeles County.
PASADENA >> Two men attacked and robbed an elderly coin shop clerk Thursday, fleeing with a loaded revolver and about $15,000 worth of cash and collectible coins, police said.
The crime occurred about 5:50 p.m. at Universal Coin Galleries, 1190 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
Two robbers entered the store and one of the distracted the clerk, an 81-year-old man, Luna said.
“The second suspect wrestled the victim over the counter and onto the floor,” the lieutenant said.
Luna said the victim was wearing a handgun, which the robbers stole. They also helped themselves to cash and coins before fleeing the store on foot.
The robbers were last seen running east along Walnut Avenue toward Hill Avenue, Luna said. No getaway car was seen.
Police said the elderly victim, a Glendora man, suffered injuries including cuts and bruises, but declined to be taken to a hospital. Officers conducted an “extensive search,” but did not find the suspects, Luna said.
Both robbers were described as white or possibly Russian men in their early-20s, Luna said. They had a backpack with them. One stood about 5 feet 10 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall and was of slender, muscular build. The other stood 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall.
PASADENA >> Police plan to field extra officers next week to crack down on distracted drivers throughout Pasadena, officials said.
The extra enforcement campaign will take place April 17, Pasadena police Lt. Pete Hettema said in a written statement.
While most people know that using a cell phone or electronic device is dangerous, “Many drivers see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but do not recognize how their own driving deteriorates,” Hettema said.
“Pasadena Police Department is focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through enforcement, public awareness and education — the same activities that have curbed drunk driving and increased seat belt use,” the lieutenant said.
Funding for the campaign is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
ARCADIA >> Arcadia police detectives are investigating a distraction burglary that resulted in the theft of jewelry, cash and cremated human remains.
A man posing as a utility worker entered the home of an 81-year-old woman at 10:25 a.m. Tuesday in the 1100 block of Valencia Way and took the items, which included the victim’s husband’s remains, Arcadia police Lt. Roy Nakamura said.
“The ashes were kept in a paper bag in the box,” Nakamura said. “I think the thieves thought that, because of the weight, it contained something valuable.”
People should verify who they are talking to if they are approached by anyone wishing to enter their property, Nakamura advised. Ask for identification and call the police if the person does not provide identification.
Arcadia police can be reached at the non-emergency line at 626-574-5123 or by dialing 9-1-1.
– By Melissa Masatani
SKETCH courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department
GLENDORA >> Police emergency medical technicians in Glendora have become the first in the county to carry a nasal spray that can help save the lives of people overdosing on heroin or other opiate drugs, officials said.
Six Glendora police EMTs are now authorized to carry and use Narcan, a nasal spray used to help reverse respiratory arrest cause by overdoses of drugs such as heroin, Vicodin and OcyContin, according to Glendora police Lt. Rob Lamborghini, who helped develop the program for the Glendora Police Department.
“Unfortunately our officers are responding to heroin overdose calls now more than ever before, including the 1970’s,” Lamborghini said in a written statement. Prescription opiate abuse is also a major issue.
A law allowing first responders to carry Narcan became effective April 1, officials said.
Previously, EMTs and other first responders could only use ventilation and oxygen to treat overdoses in the field, Lamborghini said. Only paramedics carried “the life-saving drug.”
In 1997, Glendora police became the first agency in Southern California to issue portable defibrillators to all of its officers, officials said.
PASADENA >> An employee of a Pasadena home accessory store lost her $8,000 Rolex watch to a robber Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The victim, a 55-year-old Pasadena woman, was working about 12:30 p.m. at Salutations Home, 900 Granite Drive, when the robber made his move, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
“She was standing inside of the front door when the suspect approached and forcible removed her wristwatch,” Luna said. The woman suffered no injuries.
The watch turned out to be a Rolex, valued at about $8,000, he said.
The robber was last seen running southeast through a parking lot, Luna said. Police described him as a Latino man between 20 and 30 years old, of medium build, with a reddish-colored complexion and a mustache.
ARCADIA >> A man kidnapped a woman early Wednesday and held her hostage for 11 hours while sexually assaulting her before deputies freed the woman and ultimately arrested the suspect, officials said.
Philippe Lutete, 29, was jailed on suspicion on suspicion of kidnapping and rape, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Trina Schrader.
The incident began about 3 a.m. when Lutete abducted the victim, a 25-year-old woman, as she walked in the area of Longden Avenue and Peck Road, Schrader said.
“The suspect grabbed and carried the victim into his car,” Schrader said in a written statement. “He drove the victim to his home where he continuously sexually assaulted her.”
The woman remained a captive for 11 hours, until she managed to briefly flee from her attacker’s home om the 2800 block of Ashmont Avenue about 2 p.m., officials said.
“The victim managed to escape and briefly speak to a neighbor when the suspect dragged her back into his home,” Schrader said. The neighbor notified deputies.
“When the deputies arrived at the home on a disturbance call, the suspect fled the location through a side window.”
Paramedics took the woman to a hospital for treatment and examination, Lt. Loy McBride said.
Deputies summoned a SWAT team to assist them as they searched the area for the kidnapper,Sgt. Julie Geary said. The search perimeter extended south to Live Oak Avenue and east to Peck Road.
Authorities called off the search about 5 p.m., but resumed several hours later after the suspect was again spotted.
Deputies found Lutete hiding nearby on Mayflower Avenue about 9 p.m., sheriff’s officials said. He was arrested without a struggle.
Wednesday was not the first time Lutete’s was accused of a similar crime, officials said.
“The suspect is currently out on bond with a past similar arrest,” Schrader said.
Local deputies turned over the investigation to detectives from the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau, which investigates sex crimes.