Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guilty verdict in 1986 cold case murder trial

 

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – After five hours of deliberation, a San Bernardino county jury has found a 59-year-old Riverside man guilty of first degree murder for the 1986 cold case murder of Nancy Klinger.

Larry Hite, who was arrested and charged in November of 2009, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 18 in Dept. S-18 at the San Bernardino Justice Center. He faces 25 years to life in state prison.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Cold Case Unit. The Cold Case Unit consists of two prosecutors and two detectives.

       Larry Hite (Booking Photo)

Statement of Facts
It was Aug. 29, 1986, and 28-year-old Nancy Klinger left her three children with a babysitter so she could meet up with Larry Hite—a man she had met while tending bar in Riverside.

According to Deputy District Attorney Yoakum, Hite had told Klinger that he worked as an undercover investigator for the Sheriff’s Department.

“He said he was going to bust a black market baby ring and she could assist him by posing as his wife undercover,” Yoakum said. “He promised her she would get paid for the job. He had also identified himself as an undercover officer to others, even showing a badge.”

Hite was never employed by the Sheriff’s Department of any law enforcement agency.

That night, after dropping her children off, Klinger never returned.

Her skeletal remains were found nearly two years later in a dirt field in a remote area of East Highland.

According to Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, when investigators recovered the victim’s body in 1988, they were unable to determine a definitive cause of death due to decomposition.

During the initial investigation, detectives focused on Hite as a potential suspect but were unable to link him to Klinger’s death. Hite eventually relocated to Arizona, where he was convicted for assaulting two other women. Following his release from an Arizona prison, Hite relocated to Riverside.

Members of the Cold Case Unit reopened the case in 2009 and began examining the evidence and conducting follow-up interviews with Larry Hite. Eventually, they were able to gain a confession from Hite and link him to the murder of Nancy Klinger. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

District Attorney releases summer safety Public Service Announcement: Dogs Die in Hot Cars


 
 
District Attorney Mike Ramos released a public service announcement today to remind the public that when dogs are left in hot cars, they can succumb to heatstroke and ultimately death within minutes.
“The short video we released today is a humorous approach to a very serious topic,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “That shouldn’t change the overall message, though. While this particular PSA focuses on dogs, the same can be said for all animals and even children, which we see far too often. Please do not leave any animal or child alone in a hot car.”
On a warm day, temperatures inside of a vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous levels. For example, on a day where the temperature is 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a vehicle with the windows opened slightly can reach nearly 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After approximately 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.
“Cars literally turn into ovens in a matter of moments, regardless of whether the windows are rolled down or not,” said Claudia Swing, coordinator for the San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACT). “What many pet owners don’t know is that dogs can’t release their body heat like people do who naturally sweat to help their bodies cool down. They regulate their body temperature by panting, so a small closed space such as a car doesn’t provide enough fresh air for their bodies to remain at a safe level."
Swing added that animals can sustain brain damage or even die in as little as fifteen minutes. Staying cool is extra tough for dogs because they can only reduce their internal temperature by panting and sweating through their paw pads. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, please contact nearby security or your local law enforcement agency immediately. Be prepared to provide a vehicle description and license plate number.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Montclair man sentenced to 145 years to life in state prison for lewd acts with a child


Jorge Gutierrez Jr. (Booking Photo)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  Jorge Gutierrez Jr., 24, of Montclair, was sentenced Tuesday to 145 years to life in state prison for molesting two young brothers over a period of five years.
Judge Stanford E. Reichert imposed the maximum possible sentence on Gutierrez, who was convicted by a jury last month of four counts of sodomy with a child aged 10 or under and three counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14. 
The boys were molested at their Montclair home while Gutierrez lived with the family and when he came home on leave from the Air Force. Gutierrez was in the Air Force Reserves when he was arrested in March 2013. 
The brothers, now ages 13 and 15, were between the ages of 7 and 10 when they were molested. At the sentencing hearing, the victims, their elder brother, and both their parents made victim impact statements.
“I’m happy that this is all going to be over with,” said the younger victim. “I’m excited to finally move on with my life and be a normal teenager. I used to have really bad nightmares. I used to dream Jorge got out of jail and came to hurt me again. I hope I never have those nightmares, but even if I do I know he can’t get out and he will never hurt me again.”
Said the older victim: “I hope what he did to us, eats him alive. I’ve never felt so much hate towards a person but I remind myself that Jorge Gutierrez is not a person and he is the devil. I have to admit I felt bad for him at first but seeing how he had no emotions during trial and how hard he has tried to convince everyone that he is innocent made my sorrow turn into anger.”
Their 19-year-old brother, who had originally befriended the defendant, told the court, “I cannot even imagine the pain he has done to my brothers both physically and emotionally and it aches my heart every time I try. They were only kids when this all happened, and even now they may put on this big kid front, but they are still babies and it only makes things hurt that much more. What he did to us was worse than what a murderer can do.”
The victims’ mother told the court, “Jorge Gutierrez disguised himself very well; he convinced me all he wanted was a family to love him and accept him. He wasn’t looking for a family to love, he was looking for a family to victimize. I will forever feel guilty for leaving my kids in the hands of this devil, for being so na├»ve and thinking with my heart and not my head.”
“I ask with all my heart that Jorge Gutierrez is sentenced to the maximum penalty possible and that my family and I can begin to heal knowing that we did the right thing by allowing justice to be served,” said the victims’ father. “I ask that Jorge Gutierrez may never have an opportunity to hurt anyone else ever again, that Jorge Gutierrez pays the price for what he did to my children.”
Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who prosecuted the case, played for the court a jail call where the defendant called the victims “stupid little (expletives)” and another where he described a scheme to avoid paying court-ordered restitution to the victims.  She characterized the defendant as a sociopath who exhibited absolutely no remorse or concern for his victims.
The defendant did not address the court. He told the probation officer who wrote the presentence report, “My life is over.” He said there is not much else to say, and denied committing the offenses.

Friday, June 19, 2015

San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force wins national award

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office won a 2015 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) for its program titled “Animal Cruelty Task Force” in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

The NACo Achievement Award Program, now in its 44th years, recognizes groundbreaking programs and innovative county government programs across the nation.

The San Bernardino County Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACT) is a unique multi-disciplinary collaboration, designed to promote community awareness, education, investigation and prosecution of animal fighting and abuse in San Bernardino County.

Created by the District Attorney’s Office in 2012, ACT is comprised of over 40 agencies from counties all throughout Southern California.

According to District Attorney Mike Ramos, in recent months, ACT has started focusing more on the link between animal violence and human violence.

“We’re starting to see a strong connection between domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and animal abuse,” District Attorney Ramos said. “A batterer’s first victim is usually an animal followed by a child or partner.”

Ramos added that this overlap in crime—also known as the LINK—shows the overwhelming need for collaborative efforts between various partners, including social services, law enforcement and the community.


The award is scheduled to be presented at NACo’s 2015 Annual Conference and Exposition July 10–13 in Mecklenburg County, N.C.

Educational Symposium on Medical and Provider Fraud in the Workers’ Compensation System



The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office in association with the Employers’ Fraud Task Force and Floyd, Skeren & Kelly presents: An Educational Symposium on Medical and Provider Fraud in the Workers’ Compensation System.

Learn from law enforcement officials and workers’ compensation professionals, who’s gaming the system and what you can do about it.
Click here to register.



MCLE and CE Credits Offered

Thursday August 27, 2015
8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Ontario Police Department
2500 S. Archibald Ave.
Ontario, California

Freeway Jumper Convicted of Child Molestation faces 80 years to life in state prison


Daniel Bernal (Booking Photo)
A child molestation suspect who led police on a high-speed pursuit that ended with him trying to jump off a freeway overpass in Ontario faces more than 80 years to life in prison following his conviction.
A jury convicted Daniel Cortez Bernal, 56, of Hesperia, of 12 felony counts late Monday in Victorville Superior Court, ending a four-year legal battle that involved three child sex victims in Orange and San Bernardino counties.
“This defendant molested his nieces when they were ages 6 to 13 years old, taking advantage of a position of trust,” Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the case, said.
The jury found Bernal guilty of two counts of forcible oral copulation and seven counts of lewd act with a child for attacks on one niece; one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child in connection with another niece, and one count of lewd act with a child for fondling a third niece. He was also found guilty of felony evading police.
Foy said that due to the forcible sex acts, plus allegations of multiple victims being found true, Bernal could get 80 years, 8 months to life when he is sentenced August 7 by Judge Debra Harris.
According to testimony during a seven-day jury trial that ended Monday, Bernal sexually assaulted one niece two to three times a week from 2002 to 2007, when she was ages 6 to 11, while she lived with him in Garden Grove. The family moved to Hesperia in 2007, and the sexual assaults continued on her until she was 13, in 2009, she testified.
The victim told school authorities about the molestations on May 10, 2011, prompting an investigation by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. When a patrol deputy tried to stop Bernal’s SUV as it headed south on U.S. 395 in Hesperia, Bernal caught the I-15 through the Cajon pass and ran a vehicle off the road during the high-speed pursuit, according to trial testimony by Sgt. Jerry Davenport.
Bernal got as far as the I-10 overpass in Ontario, where he was apprehended by another sheriff’s deputy as he tried to jump off. Bernal later confessed that he orally copulated the niece.
After the arrest, two other victims came forward to disclose molestations that occurred in Orange County.           

Friday, June 12, 2015

Welcome to Lupe and Dozer


Say hello to the newest members of our DA family! Lupe and Dozer arrived last Friday and will soon be assisting our most vulnerable victims—our children—when they go to court. Thank you to Assistance Dogs of the West for their valuable expertise, time and training this past week. Victim Advocates DJ and Yesica are now ready to take on this special task.



Coming soon: An official meet and greet with DA Ramos and the entire Special Victims K9 Unit! More details to follow soon.


Lupe and Victim Advocate DJ Ross will be assigned to the Central Division

Dozer and Victim Advocate Yesica Cioli will be assigned to the Desert Division
 
 
 

Part of the training entailed working around children. Pictured are members of Assistance Dogs of the West, Victim Advocates Yesica Cioli and DJ Ross and Lupe and Dozer, who are answering questions at Mariposa Elementary School in Redlands.

District Attorney Mike Ramos introduced Lupe and Dozer Friday to Presiding Judge Marsha Slough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

DA Ramos swears in three new prosecutors



Pictured left to right: Deputy District Attorney Kristopher Baughman, Deputy District Attorney Jason Gueltzow and Deputy District Attorney Kim Bui.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

San Bernardino man convicted of Kidnapping and Criminal Threats


Jessie Ray Jackson Jr. (Booking Photo)
 
After five hours of deliberation over two days, a jury Friday convicted a 34-year-old San Bernardino man for the kidnapping of a 26-year-old Moreno Valley woman.

A jury found Jessie Ray Jackson, Jr., guilty of one felony count of Kidnapping and one felony count of Criminal Threats.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

On March 27, 2014 at 12 pm, San Bernardino Police Vice Officer Aaron Jones and Detective David Baughman saw Jackson standing in a residential driveway, gripping the female victim by the neck and arm, and forcing her towards—and ultimately pushing her in—the rear seat of his car which was parked approximately 15 feet away.

When the defendant entered the driver’s seat a few seconds later, the victim jumped out of the vehicle and ran towards an intersection.

According to Deputy District Attorney Tamara Ross, who prosecuted the case, when the victim got out of the car, she appeared to be in distress.

“She was crying and seemed confused,” said Ross, who is also a member of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. “The defendant immediately followed after her. Although walking, he was catching up to her. He looked very angry, and appeared to be shouting at her as he pointed his finger in her direction.”

The officers detained Jackson as he followed the victim into the intersection of G and 9th streets (See below).



According to Deputy District Attorney Ross, Jackson did not immediately comply with their orders to get on the ground, and shouted, “Why are you stopping me? What do you want?”

Det. Baughman replied, “Because we saw you beating on that girl.”

Jackson responded, “I only slapped the bit--, I didn’t beat her up!”

Officer Jones contacted the victim, who had continued walking away from the scene as the defendant was being detained. He observed a fresh slap mark on her face, and noted that she was shaking, crying and unable to speak without taking deep breaths.

“She appeared afraid,” Ross said. “The redness from the slap was still on her face when they took photographs of her two hours later at the station.”

Jackson is scheduled to appear June 9 at the San Bernardino Justice Center for a prior strike trial.

Monday, June 1, 2015

IN THE COMMUNITY: Workers' Comp Fraud Unit

 
On Thursday, Deputy District Attorneys Scott Byrd and Mike Chiriatti of the Workers’ Comp Fraud Unit gave a presentation to over 120 employees of the Victor Valley Transit on the subject of the workers’ compensation system. 

A number of topics were discussed including procedures, benefits, fraud reporting, etc.  This was part of the Unit’s ongoing dedication to education in the community. We are committed not only to fighting fraud where it is found, but also in reducing the instances of fraud through education and outreach.