Two charged in Azusa tot slaying

From Sandi Gibbons at the DA’s Office:

POMONA – Two men were charged with murder by the District Attorney’s office today in last week’s shooting death of a 6-year-old boy who was killed while playing outside his home in Azusa.

Arraignment for both was scheduled for some time after 1:30 p.m. today in Department N. Pomona Superior Court.

Richard Paul Joseph Gomez, 21 (dob 10-17-1988), of Azusa, and Mathew Steven Loza, 20 (dob 11-3-1989), of West Covina, were charged in case No. KA 089283 with one count of murder. The boy, identified by authorities as Jessie Valencia, was shot to death outside his home in the 300 block of South Azusa Avenue on Jan. 8. The complaint alleged that Loza personally used a firearm, a 30-30 rifle, to commit the crime.

The complaint also charged Gomez, who authorities said lived across the street from the boy’s home, with one count of being an accessory after the fact. Gomez additionally was charged with one count of unlawful firearm activity for having a 30-30 rifle in his possession. The complaint alleged that the defendant had been convicted of a misdemeanor count of spousal battery.

Bail for each defendant was recommended at $1 million. If convicted, both could face possible maximum state prison terms of life with the possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney Duke Chau was assigned to prosecute the case.

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Azusa couple charged in No Cal murder

This from the Woodland Daily Democrat:

Tears were shared among family members of the suspect accused of accessory in the murder of a 17-year-old Woodland boy, when the release or reduced bail request was denied Monday.

Rachelle Pease, 19, is being held on $1 million bail for her alleged role in the murder of Cache Creek High School student Billy Martinez in late June. She appeared in court with her husband, Marcelino Michel, who allegedly shot Martinez in the head at the Crossroads Village apartment complex.

Pease and Michel, 29, fled after the shooting and were located in Azusa, in early August. The couple remains in custody, but their defense counsel asked that Pease be released on her own recognizance or granted a reduced bail because, “the individual she aided after the fact is in custody.” The defense went on to say Pease has a 3-year-old daughter waiting for her at home.

Deputy District Attorney Garrett Hamilton said Pease’s involvement extended beyond aiding her husband after the fact. Hamilton said he has statements from Pease’s brother and one other family member, confirming that it was she who handed Michel the gun used to kill Martinez.

Further, “She and her extended family led police officers on a wild goose chase.” Hamilton said. “This is absolutely a big deal.”

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Busy day in the SGV

Deputies shoot a burg suspect in Azusa;

Shooting in Rosemead leaves six injured; one gravely;
Dead woman turns up in Morris Dam; Sheriff’s dive team headed up Highway 39 to search for second car
Housekeeper accused of burg string that extends over a decade;
Monrovia man arrested in connection with San Bernardino County homicide;
Suspected “Baby Boomer” Bandit caught in Pasadena.
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Crime’s down … just not around here

Call this a round-up of sorts…

Sheriff Lee Baca says crime is down county-wide, except near Industry where homicides are up. 
Here’s a snippet:
Despite the mostly good news, there remain problems in some areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department. Most notably in the communities serviced by the Industry Station, violent crime is on the rise.

Moving on… Women have been targeted by robbers in Azusa and Baldwin Park.

Authorities said the same car was used in a robbery of an ice cream vendor in West Valinda and a 16-year-old boy in Rosemead on Monday.

The notorious Avenues gang gets hit again in a federal raid.

Pico Rivera’s fifth homicide is a whodunnit …just like the other four this year.

And, finally DNA catches a man suspected of raping a blind Norwalk woman in May. Here’s how he was caught:

DNA led to the arrest of a suspect in the May 1 rape of an 82-year-old legally blind woman, authorities said Monday.

Antonio Durell Freeman, 31, of Norwalk was booked Friday on suspicion of rape, kidnapping and burglary. He is being held at the sheriff’s Century Station in lieu of $1 million bail. He has a court appearance today at Bellflower Superior Court.

Freeman appeared in the DNA database after Long Beach Police arrested him July 11 on suspicion of spousal assault and took a DNA sample from him, according to Maxwell.

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Azusa #station fire meeting scheduled

From Martin Quiroz at Azusa City Hall:

We have been requested by P. Michael Freeman, L.A. County Fire Chief, to assist them in hosting a community meeting on the Station Fire.  The Fire is heading back eastward toward the Foothill Communities including Azusa, Duarte, and Bradbury.  This meeting is to inform residents and officials so we can prepare.

The meeting will be on Friday, Sept. 4, at 7:00 p.m. at the Azusa Senior Center.
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Florencia 13 gang members guilty in federal conspiracy case

La Eme connected Florencia 13 members were convicted Monday in a federal RICO case that included allegations of attempte murder, firearm violations and drug charges. A large component of the case rested on the gang targeting blacks, according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice.

Here’s the release:

Ten members and associates of Florencia 13 (F13), a street gang involved in narcotics distribution and shootings of African-Americans, were convicted today on a host of federal criminal charges, including racketeering and narcotics distribution.

The 10 defendants were found guilty today after a 3-month trial. They are among 102 defendants named in four F13-related indictments that were returned by a federal grand jury in the fall of 2007. The investigation into F13, which was called Operation Joker’s Wild, led to the largest gang takedown in American history, with 96 of the 102 defendants being taken into custody. Seventy-six of the defendants have now been convicted, either at trial or as the result of guilty pleas, with the remaining defendants pending trial.


“The investigation into Florencia 13 demonstrated the power of law enforcement coming together to combat organized street gangs,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “This gang – which targeted African-Americans, whether or not they posed a threat to the gang’s drug-trafficking operations – posed an imminent danger. As a result of this prosecution, the residents of South Los Angeles can live a little easier knowing that these dangerous gangsters have been taken off the street.”

John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, stated: “We are very pleased with the verdicts today. This sends a clear message that the community will not tolerate the heinous activity perpetrated by Florencia 13. These convictions will go a long way toward reducing violence and returning peace to the neighborhoods.”

Azusa PD and Baldwin Park PD officers took part in the operation, officials said.

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Teacher exonerated

This from Bethania Palma:

AZUSA — A judge Tuesday dropped lewd conduct charges against a local substitute teacher, calling the accusations “implausible,” officials said.
Virgil Cleon Harper, 66, of Azusa, faced nine counts of committing lewds with a child, stemming from allegations when he substituted for the fourth grade teacher at W.R. Powell Elementary School in Azus March 21.
A jury deliberated for three days before failing to reach a decision Monday. Seven jurors believed Harper was guilty while five believed he was not.

The District Attorney’s office will not refile the case officials said.

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Closing arguments presented in Azusa molestation case

The state’s case against Virgil Cleon Harper went to a Jury Wednesday after both sides presented closing arguments.

Harper, a substitute teacher in Azusa, is accused of nine counts of sexual molestation involving youngsters in his classroom.

Our reporter Bethania Palma attended Wednesday’s court session and interviewed Harper. These excerpts are from her story:


Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel<NO1>cq <NO>told the jury there was solid evidence Harper touched the 9-and-10-year-old boys and girls in a sexual manner.
“The truth lies in the evidence,” he said. “He touched a total of 17 body parts that are sexual in nature.
The fourth graders had stated Harper touched genital areas, rear ends, breasts and thighs, Vellakkatel said.
Defense attorney Victor Salerno said the accusations were false and added they resulted from peer pressure and a “snowball effect.”


Harper said he had been a teacher and substitute teacher for years in various settings, including high schools and colleges. At one point he taught at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
He also worked as an adjunct professor at APU and served on the city’s architectural barriers commission.
Harper said he began teaching at grade schools about a year ago so he could get more hours.
He said if cleared of charges, he would not teach children again “unless there are cameras or another adult present.”

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Crime Spree!

A one-man crime wave threatened the lives of several San Gabriel Valley residents early Friday morning. Here’s the top of our updated story:

A string of violent crimes including one shooting, five carjackings and two home-invasion robberies reported early Thursday in the northeastern San Gabriel Valley may have been the work of the same criminal, authorities said.

Crimes were reported in Arcadia, Azusa, El Monte and Rosemead, police and sheriff’s officials said.

Similar suspect descriptions and a trail of abandoned stolen vehicles seemingly connect the crimes, though the cases all remain under investigation, authorities said.

Additionally Brian Day put together a Google map that details the suspected spree:


View Larger Map

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