Thursday, July 12, 2018

Rialto man who sexually assaulted 12-year-old child sentenced to state prison

A Rialto man who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old child over a three-year period has been sentenced to 45 years to life in prison Monday.

On April 20, a jury found Hazim Ahmad guilty of 2 counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child - Rape and one count of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child – Oral Copulation.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Morrissa Cardoza and the West Valley Division support staff and investigated by the Rialto Police Department.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Man convicted for his role in the burning death of Ontario woman

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A 25-year-old man was convicted Tuesday for his role in the 2011 torture and burning death of Maria Banuelos.

A Rancho Cucamonga jury found Johnny Hernandez (pictured left) guilty of First Degree Murder of Maria Banuelos, with the jury also finding true the special circumstance that her murder was committed during the course or commission of Mayhem, as well as one count of Torture, one count of Mayhem and one count of Arson Causing Death. 

Following the death of Banuelos, investigators arrested four other suspects linked to the brutal attack: 45-year-old Hector Meza of Yucca Valley, 27-year-old Genese Ramirez of Banning, 25-year-old Robert Zapata of San Bernardino, and 30-year-old Johnathan Zuniga of Rancho Cucamonga.

On Oct. 22, 2011, officers from the Ontario Police Department arrived at an apartment complex and found residents administering aid to 34-year-old Banuelos, who was still on fire.

At the scene, the victim identified Hector Meza and three others as her attackers. While in the ambulance her dying words were: “Hector Meza set me on fire. He is abusive and obsessive.”

The Ontario resident was taken to a hospital where she died two days later.

Hours after the attack officers arrested Meza on suspicion of attempted murder.

According to Deputy District Attorney Kent Williams, who prosecuted the case, it was later determined by the coroner that the victim had been hit on the head three times with something consistent with a metal bar prior to being set on fire.

Meza was sentenced Jan. 4, 2017 to Life in State Prison Without the Possibility of Parole.

Zuniga was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison March 24, 2017.

Ramirez is due back in court later this week for a status hearing.

Zapata is scheduled to appear in court for a Pre-Trial Hearing June 29.

Hernandez faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole when sentenced Aug. 31, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Ontario Police Department.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Team Photo: Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California is the largest public awareness vehicle and grassroots fundraiser with more than 3,500 officers in Southern California championing acceptance and inclusion.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is represented in all 50 U.S. states, Canadian provinces and 46 nations with 97,000 officers around the world, raising more than half a billion dollars since its inception in 1981.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run in Southern California is one of the leading programs in the world, raising $1.52 million in 2016 with participants representing 200 law enforcement agencies.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Two men sentenced to life in state prison for attempted murder of a correctional officer

Two men convicted of shooting a corrections officer were sentenced to life in state prison today.

In June 2017, a jury found 36-year-old Anthony Gomez of Riverside, and 29-year-old Christopher Marquez of Riverside, guilty of the 2013 attempted murder, and found true gun and great bodily injury causing paralysis allegations. Marquez was sentenced to 34 years to life and Gomez was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison.

According to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cecilia Joo, who prosecuted the case, the victim was on his way to work at Chino Prison when he stopped to get gas in the city of Colton.

“The two defendants, who had been drinking at a nearby club, decided to stop at the same gas station,” said SDDA Joo.

They parked their vehicle in front of the victim’s vehicle, which was in the middle of the island. The victim was pumping fuel into his truck, when the defendants started asking him for directions.

“For some unknown reason, defendant Marquez, who was in the front passenger seat, got out and unloaded his six-shot revolver at the victim,” said SDDA Joo. “Marquez then immediately jumped back into the car driven by defendant Gomez and fled the scene.”

Both defendants were later arrested in the city of Riverside by Riverside Police officers.

Immediately following the shooting, Colton police officers were dispatched to the scene and observed the victim motionless on the ground. Despite being shot in the head, the victim managed to show the officers his Correction patches. The officers immediately transported the victim to ARMC where medical staff were standing at the ready for life saving treatment.

The victim underwent a number of surgeries and rehabilitation. He was ultimately paralyzed on his left side and had a metal plate placed in his head. He was unable to walk and speak for months. However, the victim and his wife were present during the entire trial.

The victim has since regained limited ability to walk and speak again. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pimp sentenced to ten years in prison for human trafficking

A 29-year-old pimp from San Bernardino was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in state prison for trafficking a 19-year-old victim.

David Williams pleaded guilty May 24, 2018, to three felony counts: Human Trafficking, Pimping and Pandering.

“Thanks to the great work of our county’s Human Trafficking Task Force, we were able to take another predator off the streets and provide another victim with resources to get her life back on track,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos.

According to Deputy District Attorney Cassandra Helmuth, who prosecuted the case, in Nov. 2017, investigators with the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force received information regarding a possible minor being posted in an escort advertisement in San Bernardino County. Investigators located the advertisement and contacted the listing. The victim was located and found to be an adult.

According to San Bernardino Police Department Detective Kim Hernandez, who is a member of the Task Force, Williams had been physically abusive with the victim and had deprived her of her liberty for the purpose of pimping and pandering.

The San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force is made up of investigators from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, San Bernardino Police Department, Ontario Police Department, San Bernardino Unified School District Police, Office of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Arizona man convicted of the 2015 killing of a Phelan man

An Arizona man who murdered 39-year-old Allan Godfrey Jr. has been convicted of first degree murder.

On May 11, a jury found 47-year-old Dale Brewster (pictured left) guilty of the 2015 crime, and on Wednesday, Brewster’s priors conviction for Assault with a Firearm was found to be true. Brewster faces 55 years to life when he is sentenced June 22 in Victorville Superior Court.

According to Major Crimes Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker, who prosecuted the case, the defendant beat the victim, tied him up, and put duct tape around his mouth.

“He then strangled the victim to death and buried him in the desert fourteen miles from the defendant’s home,” said Deputy DA Crocker. “Eight months later, the victim’s body was discovered.”

During trial it was noted that the victim had lived in a trailer on the defendant’s property in Phelan. On the morning of the murder, a former business partner came to the property to serve the victim on a small claims case.

The victim was not home but Brewster was, and he listened to all the negative things the woman had to say about the victim. Brewster immediately texted the victim and told him to come home. At 2 p.m. that same day, the victim responded and said he was home.

“The victim’s phone went offline shortly after and he was never heard from again,” said Deputy DA Crocker.

The defendant’s cell phone records from the night the victim went missing showed that Brewster traveled to the remote area of the desert where Godfrey was found buried. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office MADD 2018 Prosecutor of the Year

Deputy District Attorney Jack Liu’s work this year has had a significant and lasting impact on the quality and success of DUID prosecutions throughout San Bernardino County. As our OTS/DUID grant prosecutor, Jack embarked on a yearlong campaign to provide training for our entire office on how to effectively prosecute DUID trials. His training is available on video and will be used to train a steady stream of new prosecutors every year.

He also provided our office’s first POST-certified 72-hour DRE training class, presented free of charge, to over 40 of our local law enforcement officers. Because of Jack’s dedication and hard work, we have a full contingent of prosecutors who have the knowledge and skills to effectively present a DUID trial, and we have substantially increased the number of law enforcement officers who can testify as fully certified DREs. Jack’s approach has inspired countless prosecutors and law enforcement officers to be the best they can be when it comes to DUID investigations and prosecutions. He has encouraged our prosecutors to take up the challenge of DUID trials, especially marijuana DUIDs, which are increasing at an exponential rate due to Prop. 64.

Jack’s efforts to combat DUID don’t stop there. He conducted many other law enforcement trainings throughout the year, coordinated an on-call prosecutor system to assist in major DUI cases, and held our county’s first SoCal OTS Regional Roundtable. The Roundtable brought together over 30 SoCal prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and criminalists for training and strategic planning on how to more effectively fight intoxicated driving statewide. And he did all this while personally handling a caseload of serious felony DUI cases.

Jack’s extraordinary commitment to strong and effective enforcement of DUI and DUID laws has earned him the title of MADD’s 2018 Prosecutor of the Year.

District Attorney’s Office urges opposition to Kevin Cooper’s request for clemency

Thirty-three years ago, a San Diego County jury convicted Kevin Cooper of the brutal murders of Doug Ryen, Peggy Ryen, 10-year-old Jessica Ryen, 11-year-old Chris Hughes, and the attempted murder of 8-year-old Josh Ryen.

Cooper’s case was reviewed in detail by the California Supreme Court, who determined the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office agreed in 2001 to give Cooper the benefit of post-conviction DNA testing. Cooper’s own DNA expert participated in the selection of the items to be tested. The defense expert selected items that he represented had the best chance of excluding Cooper as the perpetrator of these horrific crimes.

DNA testing was conducted in 2001 and 2002. Although Cooper’s defense team claimed the DNA testing would show his innocence, it proved the exact opposite. Rather than exonerating Cooper, the results of the testing proved Cooper was in the Ryen home at the time of the murders, that he smoked cigarettes in their station wagon after he stole it, and that his blood and the blood of at least one victim was on a t-shirt found by the side of a road leading away from the murders.

Cooper’s execution was stayed in 2004 because he represented once again that a simple scientific test, and further examination of some of the evidence, would show he was innocent. Again, Cooper was given the benefit of additional scientific testing and expert examination of physical evidence collected in the case.

Despite Cooper’s claims that these tests and examination would demonstrate his innocence, a reviewing judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California determined that Cooper alone was responsible for these terrible murders.

“The guilt or innocence of any defendant charged with murder should be determined by a jury in a court of law where the rules of evidence apply, not by an uninformed or deliberately misleading editorial in the New York Times,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos.

Cooper now requests that “Touch DNA” testing be performed on one of the murder weapons, the hatchet, the hatchet sheath, the t-shirt and the prison button. These items were all collected by law enforcement, examined by experts and entered into evidence at trial. They were sent into the deliberation room without restriction, as the trial took place decades before the advent of Touch DNA testing. The hatchet, button and t-shirt were subjected to serological testing in 1983-84 and DNA testing in 2002. Additionally, the hatchet and protective sheath were touched by the owners of the hideout house, their families, visitors and guests whenever the hatchet was used to chop firewood. Consequently, many people have touched the exhibits outside of laboratory conditions. DNA data bases, unlike fingerprint data bases, contain the profiles of certain convicted felons, but not law-abiding citizens. Therefore, Touch DNA testing cannot provide relevant information in this case and cannot exonerate Cooper as claimed. It’s simply another attempt to avoid punishment.

Laws and procedures afford convicted defendants the opportunity to request post-conviction DNA testing. Cooper has already received the benefit of post-conviction scientific testing several times. Each time the testing has shown his claims of innocence are false and instead confirm the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

“The families of the victims and the surviving victim have waited patiently for thirty-five years for justice in this case,” said District Attorney Ramos. “They have endured not only the loss of their loved ones, but also the repeated and false claims from Cooper and his propaganda machine designed to undermine public confidence in the just verdict.”

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office is opposed to any clemency or further testing for Cooper based on continued distortions and misrepresentations of the facts in this case, and asks California Governor Edmund G. Brown to respect the decisions of the jury, trial judge, California Supreme Court, United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom have concluded that the evidence in this case overwhelmingly demonstrates Cooper’s guilt. Further delay only mocks the criminal justice system and the victims and their families in their long-lasting grief, as well as the will of the voters who enacted Proposition 66.

Today, the District Attorney’s Office is filing a formal opposition to Kevin Cooper’s request for clemency with the Governor’s Office. The entire document will be released by the District Attorney’s Office later this week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Two gang members sentenced to life for senseless shooting murder

Two criminal street gang members were each sentenced Monday to 50 years to life in state prison for the shooting murder of Guy Estrada who was riding his bicycle in Fontana. After being shot, the victim was left to die in the middle of the road.

Aureliano Mendez, 21, and David Avina, 29, both of Fontana, were each found guilty April 2, 2018, of one count of first degree murder and one count of street terrorism. The jury also found true firearm and criminal street gang allegations.

“I am proud of the work our Gang Unit is doing every day to hold these local terrorists responsible for their actions,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos. “With the help of all our law enforcement partners and the Board of Supervisors, we will continue our fight. We won’t back down.”

Since the Gang Unit’s inception in July 2005, 11,560 cases have been filed; 3 on death row; 7,195 state prison commitments; 53,956 years + 322 life terms in state prison; 3,458 gang enhancements have been found true and 458 were found guilty by jury trial.

The sentencing of Mendez and Avina today raises the number of life terms to 324 life terms.

Statement of Facts

On April 26, 2015, Victim Guy Estrada, 35, was riding his bicycle in the City of Fontana when he was shot and killed. Four days later, Avina led Fontana Police Department officers on a dangerous pursuit from Fontana to San Bernardino, accompanied by his passenger, Mendez, in his Lexus sedan. Avina and Mendez were wanted in connection with a separate murder out of Fontana, believed to be gang-related and involving the Lexus sedan, based on an April 19, 2015 incident.

According to Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Robbins, who prosecuted the case, officers located a SKS rifle in the trunk of Avina’s vehicle. Mendez and Avina were taken into custody on the April 19 case.

“During trial, it was noted that both defendants wanted to shoot the victim, a random man on a bike,” said Deputy District Attorney Robbins.

Mendez indicated that Avina first shot at the victim but missed before they ultimately pursued him in Avina’s Lexus, while the victim “rode for his life” on the bicycle. Mendez also noted that he held the steering wheel so that Avina could shoot and kill the victim.

Deputy District Attorney Robbins added that the defendant Mendez described how he and Avina laughed about the incident, before driving around the block to ensure the victim was dead. The other case for both defendants is still pending. 

Other Notable Information Related to Gang Unit

California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program

Last year, as part of the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program (CalWRAP), our office assisted in the relocation of 24 total witnesses and family members. Eight of those cases were gang-related.

In one notable case, the defendant was living with his father and other family members, including four minor children. The defendant, a gang member, stabbed his elderly father multiple times while the father’s grandson watched. The father died as a result of this attack. Another of the four children saw the defendant after the attack, walking through the residence with blood on him and carrying a bloody knife.

First Quarter Gang Stats

The latest gang statistics for the first quarter of 2018 have been compiled by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Statistics for the quarter of Jan. 1, 2018, through March 31, 2018, show that 100 cases were filed from all divisions. There were 116 state prison commitments obtained with a total of 1,024 years of state prison and 10 life terms. 71 gang enhancements were found true and 10 were found guilty by jury trial.