Thursday, April 24, 2014

IN THE NEWS: Trial ordered in DUI crash that killed three

Kylan Allen, left, and Haven Penman, right, were Woodcrest Christian Middle School students who were killed in a Jan. 18, 2013 collision on Main Street in Colton just outside the Riverside city limits. Le Mason, 56, Allen's grandmother who was driving a PT Cruiser, was also killed. They collided with a Mercury Sable driven by Michael Dwayne Hughes, 31, of Moreno Valley.
Kylan Allen, left, and Haven Penman, right, were Woodcrest Christian Middle School students who were killed in a Jan. 18, 2013 collision on Main Street in Colton just outside the Riverside city limits. Le Mason, 56, Allen’s grandmother who was driving a PT Cruiser, was also killed. They collided with a Mercury Sable driven by Michael Dwayne Hughes, 31, of Moreno Valley.

A San Bernardino judge ordered a man to stand trial on murder charges Wednesday in a DUI crash that killed a woman and two Riverside teens going to church in Colton.
Police officers testified during a preliminary hearing Wednesday that Michael Dwayne Hughes, 31, of Moreno Valley, was driving with a blood alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit.

Hughes had said in an interview with police that he was driving home after work, but police said they smelled alcohol on his breath. He failed several field sobriety tests and blew .10 on a Breathalyzer. A blood technician said his blood tested at .14.

The Jan. 18, 2013, crash killed Le Mason, 56, her granddaughter Kylan Allen, 12, and Haven Penman, 13, who were going to a dance at the Sandals Church in Colton. Both girls were students at the Woodcrest Christian School in Riverside.

Nine months after the crash, prosecutors charged Hughes with eight felonies, including three counts of murder. He is being held in lieu of $3 million bail.

The families of the victims sat in court Wednesday wearing T-shirts with pictures of the two girls. Haven’s mother broke down sobbing as the judge ordered Hughes to stand trial on all charges.

He had faced second-degree murder charges because of a previous DUI conviction in Orange County He had also signed a waiver acknowledging that drunken driving could kill others, according to court records.

Just before 7:30 p.m. the night of the Inland crash, Hughes had a suspended license when he was driving his Mercury Sable down Main Street in Colton near the Riverside County line while Mason was in the process of making a left turn in her PT Cruiser.

Hughes was estimated to be driving at 63 mph when he “dynamited the brakes” and skidded about 65 feet before broadsiding the PT Cruiser, California Highway Patrol Officer Donald Finn said.

Click here to read the rest of the case.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fontana Gang Member Sentenced in 2012 Takeover Robbery of a Fast Food Restaurant

Surveillance video from the restaurant shows Daniel Chavira, with weapon in hand, ordering an employee to the ground.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – Nearly a year and a half after a robbery in Ontario, a Fontana gang member has been sentenced to state prison.

Daniel Ruben Chavira, 23, of Fontana, was sentenced Monday to 52 years in state prison by Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court Judge Gregory Tavill for his role in the 2012 takeover robbery of a Farmer’s Boy restaurant in Ontario.

On March 14, Chavira—who also uses the moniker “Demon”—was convicted by a jury of 10 felony counts and gang allegations related to the Sept. 6, 2012 robbery, including Robbery, Assault with a Semi-Automatic Firearm, False Imprisonment, and felon in possession of a firearm.  Chavira is a Fontana gang member who previously served time for robbery.

According to Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough, who prosecuted the case, two other defendants in the case, Ronnie Buzenes and Julio Vega, both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 4 years and eight months and 10 years respectively for their participation in this matter. 

Chavira, who had recently been released from prison following convictions for Robbery and a Narcotic offense, elected to have a jury trial in his case.



Surveillance video inside the restaurant shows defendant Julio Vega grabbing the manager by the neck and forcing her into the back of the restaurant where the safe is located.

 
Statement of Facts
On September 6, 2012, at approximately 10:00 PM, Daniel Chavira, Ronnie Buzenes and Julio Vega parked a vehicle near a Farmer Boy’s restaurant located in the City of Ontario.  Chavira and Buzenes were documented members of a Fontana street gang.  Chavira and Vega covered their faces with ski masks and entered the restaurant together. 
 
Chavira used a stolen .380 cal. handgun to take control of the employees and patrons inside the restaurant while Vega grabbed the restaurant manager and forced her into the back of the restaurant where he demanded that she open the restaurant’s safe. 

The two robbers fled the scene with cash taken from the safe and ran to their vehicle that was being driven by Buzenes.  Two Ontario Police Officers observed the robbery taking place and the suspect’s vehicle was followed.
Shortly thereafter, the suspects were arrested and taken into custody. Inside the suspect’s vehicle, officers located ski masks, gloves, and a stolen handgun along with the money taken from the Farmer Boy’s restaurant. 

Quick Facts
·         Since the inception of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Gang Unit in July 2005, 8,532 cases have been filed across the county; 2 on death row; 4,683 prison commitments; 35,445 years + 240 life terms in state prison; 2,139 gang enhancements have been found true and 317 were found guilty by jury trial.

Additional Links
To learn more about the Gang Unit and high profile gang cases, visit: http://ow.ly/w0egs.

 Daniel Chavira
 Ronnie Buzenes
Julio Vega
 

IN THE NEWS: Ramos praises Brown for overturning release of convicted murderer

By Doug Saunders, The Sun
                                           
SAN BERNARDINO >> Gov. Jerry Brown is being praised by San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos for overturning a recent decision by the parole board to free a Chino man convicted of murdering his wife in 1985.

Although his release was objected by prosecutors, 71-year-old Samuel Dubyak was deemed suitable for parole, but that decision was overturned April 4 by Brown.

“I am grateful that Gov. Brown allowed me the opportunity to recently meet with him and discuss this horrific case on behalf of the victim and her family,” Ramos said. “This was a brutal murder that left one young girl without a mother and a family that continues to mourn the fact that they have never been able to properly bury the body of their loved one.”

Dubyak was sentenced to 27 years to life for the first-degree murder conviction of his wife, Lourdes Dubyak.

“Mr. Dubyak, to this day, shows no remorse for his actions, nor has he revealed the location of the body,” Ramos said. “He has consistently refused to acknowledge that he even committed the murder or address the underlying domestic violence issues while in prison.”

Lourdes Dubyak was last seen on Aug. 11, 1985 and no credit card charges or checking account activity was attributed to her after that date, according to records.

Court records show she and her husband Samuel were sleeping in separate bedrooms in the Chino home they shared at the time of her disappearance and she had discussed with her brother her desire to divorce Samuel.

When Chino police started investigating her disappearance...

Click here to read more.

Monday, April 21, 2014

DA Senior Investigator Schyler Beaty Receives Attorney General’s Commendation


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris awarded Senior District Attorney Investigator Schyler Beaty with a Peace Officer Certificate of Commendation Thursday for his work as a member of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit and as a member of the Inland Regional Corruption Task Force.

The presentation occurred at a regional Zone 6 meeting in San Diego where law enforcement leaders met with Attorney General Harris to share and discuss current trends and encourage collaboration. Zone 6 is composed of San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, Inyo, Mono and San Diego counties.

For the past five years, Beaty has continually distinguished himself through exceptional investigative skills contributing to the convictions of two seated councilmen in two separate cities, said Mike Smith, chief of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation. 

“In the first case, the defendant was convicted of conspiracy, grand theft, a presenting a false claim,” Smith said. “He was sent to state prison and was forever barred from holding public office. In the second case, the councilman pleaded to felony perjury at the arraignment, resigned his seat on the city council, and agreed to admit his guilt in court. He, too, was forever barred from holding a public office.”

While assigned to the Federal Task Force, Schyler spearheaded an investigation into complaints of kickbacks, thefts and bribery related to the development of the San Bernardino International Airport. The matter is currently before the state courts.

“Since joining our office six years ago, Investigator Beaty has demonstrated nothing but investigative excellence in every case assigned to him,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “He not only has an exemplary understanding of the law, but he has a proven record of obtaining positive results when it comes to seeking justice on behalf of the citizens of our county.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Former Teacher Guilty of Molesting Three Girls in Apple Valley

VICTORVILLE, Calif. – A pilot and former teacher who was arrested at the Apple Valley Airport while trying to flee in a private plane was found guilty today of molesting three neighborhood girls.
Paul James Hultman, 57, of Apple Valley, was found guilty of four felony child molestation counts involving the girls, who were ages 10, 12 and 13 when the molestation started. He faces 45 years, 8 months to life when he is sentenced May 22 by Superior Court Judge Eric Nakata.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the two-week trial, said after the verdicts. “The defendant befriended these girls and paid them to do chores around his house. Then after gaining their trust, he paid them cash to perform sex acts.”

Hultman had been a teacher at two Montessori schools in Santa Barbara until 2007, when he moved to Apple Valley and became a professional pilot.

According to trial testimony, he befriended an 8-year-old girl and her younger brother in 2009, buying them clothes and food and paying them to do chores around his house. In 2011, he asked the girl to introduce him to some of her friends.

After she introduced them to two other local girls, then ages 12 and 13, Hultman began paying them to perform sex acts on him at his house in Apple Valley, according to trial testimony. He eventually began paying the younger girl for sex, she testified.

The molestations were brought to light when the younger victim’s brother told her father that Hultman had bathed him and touched his genitals while he was at Hultman’s house, the boy testified. The girl also then told her father about the sexual abuse.

Hultman was arrested June 23, 2013 by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies at the Apple Valley Airport after the victim’s father told deputies he had confronted Hultman at his home, and he believed Hultman might be heading to the airport to flee.

A deputy testified that he saw Hultman’s vehicle and then the private plane that was taxiing on the runway, and the deputy stood in front of the moving plane to get it to stop.

At trial, jurors also saw images recovered during searches of Hultman’s computers: animated images of children having sex, and photographs of youthful females having sex with older men.

“It was very traumatic for the victims to testify,” Foy said. “Thanks to some great victim support and some excellent work by the sheriff’s department and the District Attorney’s Office, we were able to get justice for them.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

15th annual Candlelight Remembrance, hosted by Families and Friends of Murder Victims


Click here to view a full gallery of last night's Candlelight Remembrance

Couple sentenced for workers' comp fraud

VICTORVILLE • A former special needs instructional aide is due in court Tuesday for a hearing on restitution after she pleaded no contest to felony workers’ compensation fraud.

Melinda O’Connor, 56, of Victorville, entered into the plea bargain earlier this year. Her boyfriend, 58-year-old David Muro, also of Victorville, was convicted of aiding and abetting the fraud, court records show.

The charges stemmed from a 2013 investigation by the San Bernardino County Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit, officials said Thursday.

Out of work since April 2009 when she mis-stepped and sprained her ankle, O’Connor filed a claim for benefits and “received medical treatment for several years with little to no improvement,” the District Attorney’s office said in a written statement.

But surveillance video obtained during the course of the investigation showed O’Connor was not truthful about her alleged injuries, officials said.

“On one particular day, the video surveillance revealed O’Connor and Muro arriving at one of O’Connor’s doctor appointments,” Deputy District Attorney Scott Byrd said.

“While previous surveillance revealed O’Connor going about her activities without the assistance of medical devices, she all of a sudden was carrying a cane, wearing an ankle brace and was using a wheelchair.”

Muro “helped O’Connor perpetuate the fraud” by pushing her wheelchair, officials said. Thirty minutes after leaving the doctor’s appointment, the two were seen walking into a local restaurant and O’Connor — without cane, ankle brace or wheelchair — needed no assistance, according to the District Attorney’s office.

O’Connor was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, 30 days in jail and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Meanwhile, Muro was sentenced to 15 days in jail, court records show.

Each had 15 days shaved off their sentences for time served.

District Attorney Michael Ramos said this type of fraud cost the state $360 million in the last fiscal year.

“This type of criminal behavior not only increases costs to law abiding businesses, but ultimately to all of us as consumers,” Ramos said in a written statement. “I urge you to report any suspected fraudulent activity when you see it.”

Individuals who suspect someone is defrauding the workers’ compensation system can report the case to the county’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud unit at 909-891-3344 or DAWorkersComp@sbcda.org.

Visit SBCountyDA.org for more information.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Victim Memorial Boards on Display Across the County


#InTheNews: Killer’s parole hearing is delayed again

The suitability for parole hearing date for the man convicted of killing a 15-year-old Redlands girl 37 years ago has been postponed.

John Zenc, 57, has requested his hearing date be postponed as he is awaiting the removal of psychiatric evaluations from his file, which he claims are fabricated.

Zenc, an inmate at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, is serving a sentence of seven years to life for murdering Paula Hernandez in an orange grove on her way home from school on March 22, 1977.

He was scheduled to have a suitability of parole hearing on May 22, after filing for a request to advance his hearing because of a court order by a Riverside County Superior Judge to remove two psychiatric evaluations and other documents from Zenc’s file.

Zenc has filed additional petitions to have more documents removed from his file, which are pending in court.
This would have been his eighth suitability for parole hearing since he was incarcerated in 1977.

Helen Reynoza, Paula’s mother, said she is relieved.

“I’m so excited. I called all my kids. They’re very relieved for us,” she said.

Click here to read the entire story.

To learn more about our Lifer Parole Unit, click here.