A South El Monte elementary school teacher accused of inappropriately touching five female students denied five criminal charges in court on Thursday, officials said.
Joseph Alfred Baldenebro, 54, of Montebello has served as a teacher at Miramonte Elementary School in South El Monte for the past 21 years, according to Lt. Todd Deeds of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau.
Prosecutors charged him in June with one felony count of committing a lewd act upon a child and four misdemeanor counts of child molestation for alleged crimes against the students, which took place on school grounds between August of 2015 and May of 2017, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. He served as a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher at the time of the alleged crimes.
Following his arrest on June 21, Baldenebro posted $102,000 bail on July 1 and was released from custody pending the trial process, Los Angeles County booking records show.
He pleaded not guilty Thursday during an arraignment hearing in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, authorities said.
Mountain View School District officials said Baldenebro was placed on administrative leave once the allegations came to light.
If convicted as charged, Baldenebro could face up to 12 years in state prison.
PHOTO of suspect Joseph Baldenebro courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
A former janitor at an Industry middle school faces charges of molesting eight female students, authorities announced Thursday.
Michael Anthony Barry worked at Torch Middle School in the Bassett Unified School District for 16 years, according to Deputy Kimberly Alexander of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Information Bureau. Investigators from the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau arrested him July 6.
Barry is accused of molesting eight children, according to a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The alleged molestation charged in the complaint took place between August of 2016 and May of this year.
“The acts Mr. Barry is alleged to have committed involved the inappropriate touching of female students on school grounds,” according to Alexander.
And sheriff’s officials said they are seeking potential additional victims.
Torch Middle School administrators were approached on May 12 by multiple students who said they were touched inappropriately by Barry, Bassett Unified School District spokeswoman Nancy Yeang said. After interviewing the students, school leaders immediately put Barry on administrative leave, she said.
Administrators went to classrooms the same say to inform students Barry was put on leave, as well as to ask if any other students had experienced inappropriate conduct by the janitor, Yeang said. More students came forward with allegations.
Torch Middle School parents were later informed about the incident. Yeang said school officials were cooperating with the sheriff’s department during its investigation.
Barry was first arrested at the sheriff’s Industry station on June 13, but was released the next day without charges, according to Los Angeles County booking records.
Following his re-arrest on July 6, prosecutors filed nine criminal charges against him, according to court documents.
Barry pleaded not guilty the same day to five charges of felony child molestation of a victim under 14 years old, three misdemeanor counts of annoying or molesting a child under 18 and one count of contributing to the delinquency of the minor, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. He’s scheduled to return to the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 10 for a preliminary hearing setting.
In the meantime, Barry is being held in lieu of $1.545 million bail, booking records show.
If convicted as charged, Barry could face up to 75 years to life in state prison.
— Brian Day and Josh Cain
SOUTH EL MONTE >> A 54-year-old Miramonte Elementary School teacher was arrested Wednesday for allegedly inappropriately touching girls at the school.
The alleged incidents occurred in a classroom and on school grounds, according to Sgt. Amy Hanson of the Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau. She didn’t clarify the number of students molested but described them as between 8 and 11 years old.
She said Joseph Baldenebro was arrested on suspicion of lewd or lascivious acts involving children and molesting children.
“He’s been a teacher at the school for the past 21 years,” Lt. Todd Deeds of the sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau said. The grades he teaches are 4th and 5th grades.”
Baldenebro was booked at the sheriff’s Temple Station on Wednesday morning. Deputies did not release a city of residence for him.
Detectives did not release the number of suspected victims or the time frame of the alleged crimes.
Miramonte Elementary School at 10620 Schmidt Road in South El Monte is in the Mountain View School District.
District officials were notified by the principal at Miramonte Elementary about an alleged incident between a teacher and a student, according to a statement from Superintendent Lillian Maldonado French.
She said district officials immediately contacted police and Baldenebro was placed on administrative leave.
“The district takes any allegation of misconduct of any kind very seriously,” Maldonado French said.
“Yesterday the district was informed that Mr. Baldenebro was arrested under the suspicion of lewd acts. The district has and will continue to fully cooperate with the sheriff’s investigation, and out of respect for judiciary due process and privacy laws, we cannot discuss any confidential details about personnel or students within the district.”
She said additional school counselors have been made available to any students who might have been affected by Baldenebro’s removal. She said while they are shaken by the allegations, the district trusts in the legal process and will have no further comment until that process has been completed.
Booking records show Baldenebro is being held at the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles on a bail of $404,000. He will be arraigned Friday at Pomona Superior Court.
Detectives believe there may be more possible victims of the longtime schoolteacher.
“We’re asking for the public help in identifying additional victims,” Deeds said. “If you have a child, or you went to Miramonte Elementary Shoool, and this gentleman was your teacher and you feel like something inappropriate happened, or criminal in nature, please contact the Special victims Bureau.
The sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau can be reached at 877-710-5273. Tips may also be submitted anonymously online to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
— Ruby Gonzales, Hayley E. Munguia, Brian Day
POMONA >> A former part-time wrestling coach at Arroyo High School in El Monte who carried on sexual relationships with three underage students received a one-year jail term on Wednesday, authorities said.
David Vaca Jr., 21, of West Covina pleaded “no contest” earlier this month to one count of oral copulation of a person under 18 years old and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
During Vaca’s sentencing in the Pomona branch of Los Angeles County Superior court, Judge Salvatore Sirna suspended a 3-year, 8-month state prison term and ordered Vaca instead to serve 365 days in county jail, Ardalani said in a written statement. Vaca was additionally sentenced to five years of formal probation, ordered to attend 52 sexual compulsion classes, stay away from his victims for 10 years and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Vaca was accused of carrying on sexual relationships with three female students at separate times between June of 2015 and January of 2017, Ardalani said.
He entered his “no contest” pleas under a negotiated plea arrangement, which included the suspended prison term.
Following his arrest on Feb. 1, Vaca initially faced 20 felony charges: Seven counts of oral copulation of a person under 18, six counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, six counts of penetration by a foreign object and one count of sodomy on a person under 16 years old.
Police first jailed Vaca after learning he had been involved in an inappropriate and illegal sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student of the school, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said at the time.
As the investigation unfolded, police learned of two additional students victimized by Vaca, Luna said.
PHOTO of David Vaca courtesy of the El Monte Police Deparment
ALHAMBRA >> Police arrested a teacher at a Catholic all-girls high school on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, officials said.
Diana Kelly Yniguez, also known as Diana Wendel, 42, of Azusa, was booked on suspicion of child molestation and contacting a minor for the purpose of committing sex crimes following her arrest about 2:30 p.m., according to Alhambra police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. She has been teaching at Ramona Convent Secondary School for the past three years, where the victim attended, and has taught at several parochial schools within the Los Angeles Archdiocese over the past 18 years.
The investigation began Tuesday after a relative of the alleged victim, a 17-year-old student at Ramona Convent Secondary School, found graphic text messages on the victim’s phone and alerted the girl’s father, police said in a written statement. The father turned the phone over to police.
“The investigation revealed the Yniguez had sent the text messages and had been involved in unlawful sexual contact with the minor,” according to the statement.
The alleged illegal relationship took place between March and May, officials said. No violence or threats are alleged on the part of Yniguez.
Yniguez has been placed on leave by the school pending the outcome of the investigation, Alhambra police Sgt. Steven Carr said.
Yniguez was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending her initial court appearance, scheduled Friday in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, booking records show.
Investigators had not learned of any additional victims, but encouraged anyone with information to contact the Alhambra Police Department’s Detective Bureau Tip Line at 626-308-4875. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
COVINA >> A burglar or burglars broke into two classrooms at a Covina middle school overnight, making off with a drum belonging to the band and video equipment, police said Friday.
The break-in at Royal Oak Middle School, 303 S. Glendora Ave., took place sometime between 11 p.m. Thursday and 6 a.m. Friday, when staff discovered the damage and and theft, Covina police Sgt. Tom Tardiff said.
“Two classrooms on the north side of the campus were broken into. Windows were smashed near the doors,” Tardiff said.
Missing were a video camera and other pieces of video equipment, along with a snare drum, the sergeant said.
Some of the stolen video equipment was found discarded on the campus of nearby Quest Academy, he added.
No information regarding the intruder or intruders was available.
ALHAMBRA >> An Alhambra man jumped a fence onto a school campus to confront and assault two students after accusing them of throwing a piece of candy cane at his truck, police said.
Jonathan Torres, 26, was booked on suspicion of trespassing on school grounds and battery on a student several hours after the incident, which unfolded just before noon at William Northrop Elementary School, 409 South Atlantic Blvd., Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said. The school instructs kindergarten through eighth grade.
Torres arrived at the school to pick up a preschool-age student, Johnson said.
“As he pulled into the parking lot, some kids who were on campus — junior high school students — either accidentally or on purpose threw a piece of candy cane at his truck,” the sergeant said. Torres became enraged.
“He ends up going over a fence, on campus, and confronts this group of junior high school students,” “He spits at them, shoves them and curses at them.”
A teacher who saw what happened told the man to leave the campus, and he fled in his truck, Johnson said.
Campus police determined the suspects identity and contacted him by telephone, he said. Torres agreed to return to the campus, where he was arrested shortly after 2:40 p.m.
The two students listed as victims in the incident were “shaken up,” but uninjured, Johnson said.
The sergeant said the school was placed on lockdown for about 15 minutes, before police were able to confirm the suspect had left the campus.
COVINA >> Police are seeking three men who robbed a teenage high school student at gunpoint as he was on his way to school earlier this week.
The robbery took place about 7 a.m. Tuesday in the 800 block of West Griswold Road, Covina police Lt. Rick Walczak said.
Three robbers took part in the crime, and at least one of them was armed with a handgun, the lieutenant said.
“Thank God he wasn’t physically hurt,” said the victim’s mother, Sonia Frasquillo, who is running for a seat on Covina Valley Unified School Board. “He’s shaken up. He’s very paranoid, very jumpy right now.”
Frasquillo said her son was walking to Northview High School when a car pulled in front of him, blocking his path.
Two men with handguns and bandanas covering their faces jumped out of the car and demanded the teen turn over his property, she said. A driver remained in the car.
When her son replied that he had nothing, the men took off his watch and forcefully rifled through his pockets, backpack and sports bag, Frasquillo said, taking nearly everything.
The teen ran home and told his mother about the robbery, and she, in turn, said she notified police and the school district.
Northview parents received an automated phone call notifying of the robbery, though Frasquillo said the recorded message provided an incorrect location of occurrence. District-wide, parents received automated calls advising them to encourage their children to walk in pairs due to the Halloween holiday and earlier sunsets after daylight savings time ends Sunday morning, she said.
Frasquillo said she wanted to make sure parents were aware of the situation so they can better protect their children.
It was unclear if Tuesday’s robbery was related to a spate of four similar robberies and attempted robberies in West Covina on Wednesday and Thursday.
EL MONTE >> Police arrested a 16-year-old Arroyo High School junior Friday after he allegedly posted a threat against two of his teachers online via Twitter, officials said.
School officials first learned of the threat posted on social media about 9:40 a.m. Friday, El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna said in a written statement.
“A 16-year-old student of the school had posted a specific threat via his ‘Twitter’ account to harm two faculty members,” Luna said. Both victims were the student’s teachers.
Though it was not discovered until Friday, “The threat was posted (Thursday) while the student was in class,” Luna said.
Upon learning of the threat, school officials notified the school resource officer, who investigated the threat and ultimately arrested the student on suspicion of making criminal threats, the sergeant said. No harm came to either of the two teachers named in the threat.
No further details were released.