Election day charges for Mussenden in Holt Ave hooker case

LOS ANGELES — James Mussenden, the former El Monte city manager caught up in a Pomona prostitution sting, will face misdemeanor solicitation charges, officials said Tuesday.

Mussenden, 59, of Glendora, was one of 18 men caught in the Holt Ave. hooker sting on Oct. 15. He likely faces a fine in the case. No court date has been set.

“It’s one count of soliciting,” DA spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said Tuesday. “All the men arrested in the case have been charged with the same count.”

Mussendin, who had been city manager since 2006, resigned his job two days after the arrest. He additionally resigned his post as a commissioner for the Trails of the Valley Boy Scouts council.

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El Monte’s very own Thelma and Louise

From the Associated Press:


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Two women have been charged with what police describe as a “Thelma and Louise”-style crime spree after officers discovered a van with loot in Los Angeles.

Police said Thursday that Myra Lopez and Latascha Bulmer went on a six-day string of carjackings, purse-snatchings and holdups after fleeing a halfway house over the Labor Day weekend.

Police say Lopez was wearing stolen diamond earrings when she was stopped last week in a minivan containing loot, including computers and a jewelry box filled with Mexican silver.

Bulmer was arrested the next day.

Both remained jailed Thursday after pleading not guilty to robbery and carjacking. Lopez also was charged with burglary.

Police say the parolees met in prison and fled an El Monte halfway house.

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Woman with slit throat dumped in Whittier

WHITTIER – A woman who was beaten, had her throat slit and was left for dead this morning survived her harrowing ordeal.


She sought help by knocking on doors in the 6000 block of Altmark Avenue about 3 a.m. today.

Three El Monte men, who police said the victim knows, were later arrested.

The victim, a 20-year-old Bellflower woman, was able to describe the events to investigators before she was taken to County USC Medical Center. She underwent surgery and is in critical condition at the hospital.


View Woman dumped in a larger map

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Steven Parent: El Monte teen, Manson family victim

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Friday morning August 8, 1969.

The sun is fully visible at 6:10 a.m.

At 7:50 a.m. Steven Earl Parent, 18, leaves his parents’ El Monte home on Bryant Road for work at Valley City Plumbing in Rosemead.

A recent graduate of Arroyo High School, Parent works two jobs. He plans on attending Citrus College in the fall semester.

Parent’s co-workers say he is “clean-cut” and “intelligent.” “A good worker.”

He splits work at 5:15 p.m. and heads to the second job, at Jonas Miller Stereo on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

At 7:48 p.m. sunset envelopes Southern California.

Sometime after 11 p.m., Parent gets off work. He’s driving his dad’s 1966 AMC Rambler.

Parent heads up Beverly to Sunset, then jogs north again on Benedict Canyon Road.

A waning crescent moon barely lights the night sky. Oleanders and scrub oak line the unlit road. He turns again on Cielo Drive.

At 11:45 p.m., Parent demonstrates an AM/FM Sony Digimatic clock radio. He hopes to sell it to Bill Garretson, his 19-year-old friend.

The two met several weeks earlier, when Parent picked up Garretson hitchhiking and drove him home.

Garretson lives in the back house at the estate on Cielo Drive. He takes care of the owner’s dogs.

Garretson declines to buy the radio. Parent drinks a can of beer. He calls a friend.

It’s now Saturday morning August 9 – 12:15 a.m. Parent leaves.

In the dark, he walks back to his dad’s white Rambler. He starts his car and heads toward the gate.

He rolls down the window to use a push button gate opener.

A figure approaches.

“Halt,” a man calls out. The man’s got a buck knife in one hand and a .22 in the other.

Parent pleads with the man, “Please don’t hurt me. I won’t tell anyone.”

The man slashes at Parent with the knife, slicing the teen’s wrist. Then, he opens fire with the revolver. Shots strike the El Monte teen in the head and chest. By 12:30 a.m. Parent is dead.

He would become the first victim in a two-night killing frenzy led by Charles Manson and carried out by members of his LSD-crazed “family.”

Within minutes, Parent’s murderer, Charles “Tex” Watson, and three women would enter the main house at Cielo Drive and kill actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, film producer Wojciech Frykowski and hair dresser Jay Sebring.

In hopes of inciting a race war that Manson called “Helter Skelter,” the killers struck the next night at the Los Feliz home of and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Parent’s body was discovered about 24 hours after he left his parent’s El Monte home for work. His mom and dad were disturbed that LAPD officials didn’t notify them of their son’s death for several hours.

His dad wondered what Steven was up to.

“I just can’t understand what he was doing up there in the first place,” Wilfred Parent said. “Hell, Steve wasn’t a poshy kind of kid. I didn’t even know he knew any of those people.”

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Cop’s kick to suspect’s head could cost cash-strapped El Monte $5 million *

For a city that’s got no money and is laying off cops left and right, an officer’s kick to a prone suspect’s head may end up being pretty costly. *Here’s a copy of the claim:

And the story:

EL MONTE – The parolee who was kicked in the head by an El Monte officer in May is demanding $5 million from the city.

Lawyers for Richard Rodriguez, 24, filed a claim at El Monte City Hall on Thursday claiming Rodriguez suffers from headaches, blurred vision, back problems, inability to sleep and dizziness since his arrest on May 13.

“Mr. Rodriguez presents symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as flashbacks, frightening thoughts, depression, worrisome, easily startled, and on edge,” the 12-page claim states.
The claim comes nearly two months after news cameras caught a police pursuit of Rodriguez – which ended with Rodriguez being kicked in the head and pepper-sprayed.
The chase started after El Monte Police Officer George Fierro attempted to pull over Rodriguez. Rodriguez did not stop, and instead led police on a car and foot-chase.
The chase ended when Rodriguez became trapped behind a condo complex and then surrendered by laying face down on the grass.
Moments later, Fierro kicked Rodriguez in the head and pepper-sprayed him in the face.
Fierro has since been removed from patrol.
Police Chief Tom Armstrong said that video does not always relay the entire story.
“I believe firmly that a police officer is entitled to the same due process as a criminal,” Armstrong said. “We will let justice decide.” 

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Defense goes on offense in alleged street racing trial

POMONA — A detective testified Wednesday he forgot to have a blood sample of a defendant in a alleged fatal El Monte street racing crash case tested for alcohol as defense lawyers sought to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
El Monte residents Robert Canizalez, 20, and Martin Morones, 22, are each charged with three counts of murder in connection with the Oct. 8, 2007 crash.
Dora Groce, 41, and her children, Robert, 8, and Catherine, 4, were killed in the fiery crash after Canizalez and Morones allegedly crashed into their Nissan Altima while racing against each other on Parkway Drive at Elliot Avenue.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday, and the defense attorneys called their witnesses, which included investigators from the El Monte Police Department.
Defense attorneys Gary Meastas, who represents Canizalez, and Henry Bastien, who represents Morones, attempted to cast doubt on the testimony of other witnesses and the credibility of law enforcement.
When asked why blood samples taken from Canizalez shortly after the crash had not been tested for alcohol content, El Monte police Detective Rick George responded, “I forgot.”
The case is complex, he said, and that piece of investigative work was simply overlooked. Neither defendant has been charged with drunken driving.
During prosecution cross-examination, El Monte police Traffic Investigator Darrell Carter testified the crash appeared to have been caused by street racing.
“It was my opinion at the time,” he said, “that the preliminary collision factor was racing,” he said.
The officials cause of the crash was ultimately determined to be running a stop sign, with a secondary factor of excessive speed, which Carter said was related to racing.
Though witness Victor Uruena, 18, testified last week that he saw Canizalez get out of his crashed Mustang and run away following the crash, Carter told the court Wednesday that Uruena initially told him he could not identify the driver of the Mustang immediately following the crash.
The defense attorneys also pointed out that witnesses who testified about details such as Canizalez fleeing the scene, denying being the driver of the Mustang and threatening a witness did not mention any of those things to police during initial interviews following the crash.
Carter said the crash crash scene was bustling with activity following the crash.
“I don’t know if chaotic’s the word, but it was a very stressful situation,” he said.
Both the defendants and the Grove family lived in the same mobile home park only a block from the crash scene.
The trial will continue Thursday, court officials said, when closing arguments are expected.

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El Monte grad night party ends with slaying

Details still streaming in from this one. Essentially a 20-year-old man was shot to death early this morning outside a graduation party he was attending in El Monte. There is speculation at the scene that the man caught a bullet that wasn’t intended for him. 

No memorials have been established at the scene and Sheriff’s homicide investigators have yet to return calls. Here’s what we know now:

EL MONTE – A man was shot to death about 1 a.m. Thursday outside a graduation party, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said.

The Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is investigating the death of a 20-year-old man who was shot in the street at the corner of Fairview Street and Elrovia Avenue.

The victim was taken to USC-Medical Center and was pronounced dead at the hospital, officials said. 
Neighbors said the party started following Arroyo High School’s graduation. The school is at the other end of Fairview Street, just a block away.
Residents of the home hosting the party said no one in their family was harmed in the shooting.

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El Monte man charged in federal child porn case after applying for job with CHP

From an FBI press release:

EL MONTE MAN WHO ALLEGEDLY MOLESTED MINORS AND IS
CHARGED FEDERALLY WITH PRODUCTION & POSSESSION OF CHILD
PORNOGRAPHY ATTEMPTED TO WORK FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

Los Angeles – An El Monte man who was arrested for molesting a minor, has been charged federally with the possession and production of illegal pornographic images of his victim. The SAFE Team (Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement), which includes investigators with multiple state, local and federal agencies, is releasing the man’s photograph in order to locate additional victims that may not yet have been identified.

This investigation was initiated when investigators with the California Highway Patrol uncovered alleged criminal activity during a preliminary employment background check. Written responses made during the applicant process led to a CHP investigation of Christian Hernandez, 29, for the alleged molestation of a five year-old child. According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Hernandez applied to be an officer with the California Highway Patrol in October 2008.
Hernandez admitted on an employment questionnaire that he had accessed illegal pornography on the Internet, and had viewed illicit photos of a minor as recently as one-month prior to applying for employment, according to the complaint.

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Tuesdays Column (Memories of El Monte)

Serious questions need to be asked of the El Monte Police Department’s brass.

Last Wednesday the department came under scrutiny after one of its officers kicked a prone suspect in the head. That the kick came at the end of a high-speed pursuit offers little — if any — justification.

Richard Rodriguez, 22, of El Monte, a tattooed member of the El Monte Flores street gang took the full force kick to the head in stunning hi-def on live television.
Rodriguez was subsequently booked for parole violations, evading police and several other crimes. He is being held in Men’s Central — probably waiting for a bus back to state prison, where he belongs.

The officer who delivered the kick, identified as George Fierro, returned to work the next day. Fierro, come to find out, owns a clothing company that caters to gang members and glorifies the Mexican Mafia.

His “brand” so sickens good cops that at least one tried to warn California gang investigators about a potential rogue in their midst.

“Has anyone seen or know about this gang clothing that a police officer is selling to gangsters,” LAPD Detective David Espinoza wrote. “I understand the gangs really love this cop. I understand the clothing has hiding places for contraband, guns and dope. Things that can hurt our real cops on the street.”

It’s hard to believe, El Monte police Chief Tom Armstrong had no knowledge of Fierro’s extracurricular activities.

There are many other questions Armstrong needs to answer.

At a press conference the day following Rodriguez’s beat down, Armstrong sent Lt. Ken Alva to face the music. He read from a prepared statement, took a limited number of queries, then retreated to the safety of the police station.

On Friday, Armstrong and Alva took the day off. That came despite the fact that both men are very highly paid public servants and their department is facing a crisis.

Armstrong refused Monday to release a tape of the pursuit, which is a public record.

Why?

Did Fierro have a reason other than the catch-all “parole violation” for pulling over Rodriguez? Certainly a tape would show that.

What about the department procedures regarding so-called “distraction blows?”
The policy seems pretty vague compared to professional standards required by the LAPD and county Sheriff’s Department.

The City Council also needs to be questioned. For too long those who have taken campaign cash from police department sources have done nothing to improve its image.

Those who don’t get the money have been whining for years about public safety.

If there was ever a chance to clean house in El Monte, now’s the time.

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