Monday, November 23, 2015

Hesperia man convicted of Second Degree Murder and Assault on a Child Causing Death

Scarlett, approximately two months
before her death
A 25-year-old Hesperia man was convicted Thursday of killing a one-year-old child, by placing his foot on her chest area and pressing down with most of his weight.

A jury found Daniel Ruiz guilty of one count of Second Degree Murder and one count of Assault on a Child Causing Death.

On Aug. 28, 2013, Daniel Ruiz returned home from work and found that his girlfriend, Terra, was not there, so he went to her friend Andrea’s apartment, around the corner—knowing she would most likely be there.

When Daniel Ruiz arrived, both Terra and Andrea asked him to watch Andrea’s two children while they went to the store to pick up milk. One of the children was one-year-old Scarlett, the victim in this case. Both ladies were gone for approximately 30-45 minutes.

“During his interview with law enforcement, the defendant stated that it felt as if the two ladies were taking advantage of him,” said Lead Deputy District Attorney Kathleen DiDonato, who prosecuted the case.

According to DiDonato, Ruiz walked over to Scarlett, who was lying on the floor, propped up on a pillow watching television.

“He then placed his left foot on her chest, applying most of his 230 pounds of weight on her body,” DiDonato said. “Scarlett began gasping for breath.”
Ruiz (pictured right)  then released his foot, walked over to the TV and began changing the channels for 2-3 minutes. When the defendant turned around, he noticed Scarlett was having what appeared to be a seizure. He tapped Scarlett on the cheek, trying to get her to snap out of it. After a few more minutes, Ruiz heard the mother returning home and ran outside to tell her that Scarlett was having a seizure and that the baby needed to go to the hospital. 

Andrea was unable to contact 911, so she scooped up Scarlett in her arms and ran directly across the street to the fire station. Scarlett died at the hospital a short time later. Two days later, the internal injuries that Scarlett suffered were discovered during the autopsy.

At first, Ruiz said that he didn’t know what happened, other than the seizure. After further investigation by the Hesperia Police Department, the defendant eventually admitted to purposely stepping on Scarlett due to stress and the fact that he felt the ladies were taking advantage of him.

“The defendant stated that he actually felt better after stepping on the victim, as he sat there watching television,” DiDonato said. “The whole time, Scarlett was behind him, lying on the floor trying to catch her breath. Fighting for her life.”

Ruiz faces 25 years to life in state prison when sentenced Jan. 15, 2016 in Victorville Superior Court. Click here to download a copy of the Information.
Scarlett, approximately two months
before her death


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit Hosts Training Session

Members of our Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit (CEP) hosted a Courtroom Testimony and Demeanor training session Tuesday in our new training room.

The course was well-attended by Environmental Regulators from across the state.

"It was great to meet the need of the statewide Haz Mat Investigators Association and bring them to our DA's office to conduct this class," said Lead Deputy District Attorney Doug Poston. "One of our biggest yet, nearly fifty of our enforcement partners attended.

According to DDA Poston, CEP DDA Rick Lal's presentation (pictured above) was well done, with light humor and practical tips that really showed them how to do their best when faced with the challenge of formal testimony.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

LA TIMES: California lawmaker would end statute of limitations for rape cases

by Patrick McGreevy

State Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) said Monday that she will introduce legislation that would eliminate the statute of limitations for rape and some other sexual crimes to increase the chance that victims will get justice.

California law generally limits the prosecution of a felony sexual offense to 10 years after the offense is committed, but more time can be provided if new DNA evidence is found.

Leyva said a bill she will introduce when the Legislature reconvenes in January would eliminate the deadline for prosecuting crimes including rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, oral copulation, sexual penetration and continuous sexual abuse of a child.

“Survivors of sexual offenses, including rape, deserve to know that California law stands on their side as they seek justice,” Leyva said in a statement. “A sexual predator should not be able to evade legal consequences in California for no other reason than that the time limits set in state law have expired.”

Lleyva cited a study by the U.S. Department of Justice that found only two in 100 rapists will be convicted of a felony and spend any time in prison. The proposal is being co-sponsored by the California Women’s Law Center and San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos.

“The law should not make the criminal justice system more difficult for victims, nor should it allow sexual predators the ability to escape justice,” Ramos said.
Click here to read the full story.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Michigan man sentenced in 1991 cold case murder

Alfred Woods, 53, of Westland, Michigan, was sentenced today to state prison for the 1991 cold case murder of 22-year-old Horace Shaw at the Rimrock apartment complex in Highland.

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Harold Wilson sentenced Woods to 30 years to life in state prison. After deliberating for just over 30 minutes, a jury found Woods—also known as “Julian Cane” and “Houdini”—guilty of murder on Sept. 28.

“One witness, a 14-year-old boy who had been living with Woods at the time, saw the victim flip the defendant’s hat off his head and call it a ‘woman’s hat,’” said Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who prosecuted the case.

According to the witness, the defendant then retrieved a shotgun from his apartment. He then loaded the weapon and walked back outside. Although the witness didn’t see the actual shooting, he heard shots fired just outside the closed door.

At the time of the murder, other witnesses saw an individual known as “Julian Cane” running from the scene with a shotgun.

“Cane” eventually fled the state. In 2012, investigators with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Cold Case Unit developed information that led them to believe “Julian Cane” was actually Alfred Woods and he was living in Michigan.

“Along with the senseless murder of Mr. Shaw there are so many other sad parts to this story,” said Yoakum. “The 14-year-old witness who had been living with the defendant had done so because he had no parents to take care of him. After the defendant fled to another state, the young boy continued to live in the apartment by himself until CPS found him and placed him into foster care.”

According to Yoakum, one day prior to the guilty verdict being read, the victim’s mother also passed away.

“While she wasn’t there to hear the verdict the next day, justice still had been served for her son’s killer,” said Yoakum.

Prior to sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Yoakum read impact statements on behalf of those family members who lived out of state and were unable to attend:

Excerpted from Thomaso Watson (Horace Shaw’s brother):

“While [Alfred Woods] was on the run living his life, when his only problem was getting brought to justice, my mom and our family suffered our loss and thought this day would never come. Now that the day has come, it’s bittersweet to now have lost my mom as well. I can only say my mom and brother are together again. To me a life sentence is too good for a coward who shoots a 22-year-old in the back 5 times, then goes on the run, as if my brother’s life didn't matter.”

In the News: San Bernardino police officer killed in on-duty traffic collision in Rancho Cucamonga

By Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun
A San Bernardino police officer was killed early this morning in a traffic collision at Fourth Street and Etiwanda Avenue, on the border of Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino police confirmed.

The officer was identified as Bryce Hanes, 40, of Redlands. He is a 12-year veteran of the department.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of one of our officers in an overnight traffic collision,” San Bernardino Chief Jarrod Burguan said, via Twitter.

Hanes leaves behind a wife and three children under the age of 12, Burguan said, at a morning news conference. He described Hanes as a good officer who was well-liked.

The incident happened near the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where initial reports indicated Hanes had just dropped off an inmate.

Police officials say Hanes’ vehicle was broadsided by another motorist in a possible DUI-related collision. At the scene, the patrol car was pressed into a traffic light pole.

The other driver is 27 years old, from Fontana, and will be booked on suspicion of felony DUI, according to Ontario police. Authorities did not release the name of the second driver, who they say was driving a 2008 Dodge Charger.

Click here to read the full story.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

#InTheNews by NBC: Man Convicted of Hacking Prostitute to Death With Butcher Knife

A 27-year-old father was convicted of hacking a prostitute to death with a butcher knife during a dispute at a Southern California motel in 2012.

A jury on Friday found Kameron Hamilton guilty of second degree murder in the killing of 30-year-old Priscilla Santana, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office said.

On the day of the slaying, prosecutors say Hamilton bought a large butcher knife at a 99 Cents Only store, then arranged to meet a prostitute at a Redlands motel.

Hamilton put his two children down for a nap, then left to meet the woman. Once inside the motel room, Hamilton and Santana agreed on a price, but at some point the two began to argue, prosecutors said.

Hamilton demanded his money back and began to stab the victim, prosecutors said. She tried to flee and made it out the door, only to be dragged back into the room and attacked again.

A motel maid heard Santana's cries for help, prosecutor Melissa Rodriguez said. As the maid moved closer to the room, the door slammed shut and the maid noticed blood splattered on the window. She called the front desk for help.

Click here to read the entire story.

Consumer & Environmental Protection Unit Provides Training to Students at the Advanced Environmental Crimes Training Program

Members of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Consumer & Environmental Protection Unit just returned from several days of training at the Advanced Environmental Crimes Training Program in San Luis Obispo.

Lead Deputy District Attorney Douglas Poston and Deputy District Attorney Rick Lal served as instructors in the intensive two-week program which is hosted by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
The training is for regulators, scientists and law enforcement personnel whose jobs involve the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes.

Students take part in the mock search
warrant being executed
According to Lead DDA Doug Poston, the training involved a (mock) hazardous waste spill, interviews, a search warrant and a mock trial. A graduate of the preliminary one-week course, San Bernardino County Senior District Attorney Investigator Steve Rivera was among the students this year.

Having instructed the class once before this past spring, Poston and Lal were invited back to join their colleagues and once again share their knowledge and experience with statewide environmental justice-seekers.

“It is an honor and privilege to be invited by the US EPA to join them in training professionals from all around the State to do their jobs better,” Poston said. “Our participation continues to demonstrate San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos’ commitment to leadership in statewide environmental law enforcement.”

Friday, October 30, 2015

Appellate Services Unit captures 24-year fugitive

It’s not often that a member of our Appellate Services Unit gets to capture a nearly 24-year fugitive from justice and have him be held accountable for his crimes. Thanks to the efforts of DDA Grace B. Parsons, Investigator Tim Day, and West Valley Division DDA David Collins, however, a convicted child molester was recently apprehended, sentenced to six years in prison, and ordered once again to register as a sex offender.

According to the facts to which the defendant stipulated when entering his plea, back in October of 1990, a 14-year-old female reported that her sister’s husband had sexually assaulted her approximately twice per week for the past two years, threatening to harm her and her sister if she told. 

When arrested, the defendant gave the name of Jose DeJesus Ibarra. He initially denied the allegations, claiming he only touched the victim on her rear end by accident. Upon further questioning, however, and after being played a tape recording of Ibarra talking to the victim on the telephone, which tape made clear Ibarra had indeed been molesting the victim, Ibarra admitted to fondling the victim on numerous occasions. Ibarra maintained the victim “wanted it.”

Jose DeJesus Ibarra was eventually charged, and in November 1990, he pleaded guilty to one count of committing a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14. In December 1990, Ibarra was placed on five years of supervised probation under several terms and conditions, to include he serve a 365-day jail term (with 66 days of credit). He was also ordered to register as a sex offender. 

In July and August of 1991, however, Ibarra failed to appear at the probation office after he was released from jail. Records show that in September of 1991, Probation visited Ibarra’s last known address and found his house vacant and padlocked, with a “for sale” sign on the lawn. Ibarra was violated on probation, and was not to be seen or heard from again—until nearly 24 years later, when he filed a motion to vacate his plea in May of 2015. 

In responding to the motion to vacate, DDA Parsons uncovered through state and federal records the fact that Ibarra’s true name was not Jose DeJesus Ibarra, as he had been prosecuted under, but was instead Calixto Topete Ibarra. 

DDA Parsons also discovered that Ibarra had violated his probation in 1991, and that an arrest warrant had been issued. After confirming with the Sheriff’s Department that the arrest warrant was still active, DDA Parsons asked for an investigator to be assigned to the case in order to locate Ibarra and have him apprehended. Investigator Tim Day of our Rancho Cucamonga office was assigned. Day used some good old fashioned police work to locate Ibarra, who was found living in Ontario with a new wife and several children. Day then arranged for the Ontario Police Department to arrest Ibarra. 

After receiving DDA Parsons’s opposition to Ibarra’s motion to vacate his plea, Ibarra’s counsel decided to withdraw Ibarra’s motion and asked to instead proceed on the probation violation. Ibarra was held on a no bail warrant, and now faced a three-, six-, or eight-year sentence. 

West Valley Division DDA David Collins was assigned to handle the Probation Violation hearing. Stressing the violent nature of Ibarra’s crimes, the two-year length of time Ibarra had molested his former wife’s young sister, and his failure to register as a sex offender for 24 years, DDA Collins asked the judge to sentence Ibarra to eight years in prison, while Ibarra’s attorney asked for the three years. Ibarra was sentenced to six years in state prison and his true name was also corrected on the record. He was again ordered to register as a sex offender.

Defendant in Redlands motel murder found guilty of 2nd degree murder

A 27-year-old Rialto man was convicted Friday for the brutal 2012 murder of a woman at a Redlands motel.

A jury found Kameron Hamilton (pictured left) guilty of second degree murder. The jury also found true an allegation that Hamilton used a knife in the commission of the offense.

The day of the murder, the defendant purchased a large butcher knife at the 99 Cent Only store in Redlands. Hamilton then arranged a date with the victim, who had been working as a prostitute out of a local motel.

After arranging the date, Hamilton put his two three-year-old children down for a nap and drove to the motel. Once there, he went to the victim’s room, where they agreed upon a price.

“At some point during the date, there was a dispute and the defendant demanded his money back,” said Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez, who prosecuted the case.  “During the dispute, the knife was produced and was eventually used on the victim.”
Despite having been stabbed, the victim was able to make it out the door, but she was pulled back into the room by the defendant, where he continued to stab her.

During trial, the defendant claimed it was actually the victim who produced the knife. He claimed the victim cut him one time on the arm and that he wrestled the knife away from her and stabbed her multiple times.
The victim was stabbed a total of 59 times, with multiple stab wounds in the back and skull. Hamilton faces 16 years to life when sentenced Dec. 2 at the San Bernardino Justice Center.

Victor Valley Footprinters Association recognizes Lead DDA Kathy DiDonato with Top Prosecutor Award

Lead DDA Kathy DiDonato (pictured left) receives
Victor Valley Footprinters Association Award
(photo courtesy of Miki Marhoefer)
Lead Deputy District Attorney Kathleen DiDonato is assigned to the Family Violence Unit in the Victorville Office.  She has been a prosecutor for over 14 years.  As the Lead Attorney, she handles the most serious cases in this unit, including the Major Crimes Against Children cases.  Ms. DiDonato lives in the high desert.  She is married and has one son, who is in college.

Recently, Ms. DiDonato has completed three back-to-back jury trials that were all very significant cases.  People v. Ellery Thomas was a case where the defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting his biological daughter over a five-month period.  The defendant was convicted and received 64 years, 8 months in prison.  The next trial was People v. Arthur Holmes.  This defendant was charged with second degree murder and child abuse causing death.  The defendant was the part-time boyfriend of the victim’s mother. 
The victim, a 9-month-old baby boy, died of shaken baby syndrome.  Despite the fact that this was a challenging case to prove who caused the injuries, Ms. DiDonato was able to obtain this conviction.  The defendant is awaiting sentencing and is expected to receive 25 years to life.    Ms. DiDonato also did the People v. Luis Sanchez trial.  This case received considerable media coverage.  The defendant was convicted of 29 counts of sexually assaulting his step-daughter, who was only 6 years old at the time that the molestation began.  The defendant received 366 years, 8 month to life for these crimes. 

Kathleen DiDonato shows incredible dedication to pursuing justice for our most vulnerable victims.  She is sensitive to the needs of the victims and has an excellent demeanor when working with small children.  She makes every effort to protect her victims and minimize the trauma while testifying.  She has a passion for these cases and she works diligently with law enforcement to make the strongest cases possible.  She has developed an expertise and frequently teaches on this topic at the Sheriff’s Academy, college classes, and domestic violence shelters.  Ms. DiDonato is an outstanding recipient of this award and she has certainly earned it!