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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

District Attorney’s Office Hosts National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Memorial


Doctors from the Children’s Assessment Center receive the Award for Exemplary Service to Victims of Crime. From left to right: Dr. Amy Young, District Attorney Mike Ramos, Dr. Clare Sheridan and Dr. Mark Massi.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – District Attorney Michael Ramos joined a crowd of hundreds of victims of crime and community leaders today in the San Bernardino County Government Center Rotunda to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Sponsored by
the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, the event took place from 12-1 p.m., and started with an invocation by Bishop Gerald Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino.

Community organizations dedicated to providing resources and programs for victims were on hand outside the county building to share information with the public.



Sheriff John McMahon leads the audience in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”


Following the presentation of the Colors by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Honor Guard, Sheriff John McMahon led the crowd of approximately 400 in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
Members of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard march in to present the Colors.
 
District Attorney Ramos then discussed the importance of having such an event.
“As prosecutors, fighting for victims is our passion every day of the year, but this day is an important time for all of us to come together and raise awareness in support of victims’ rights,” District Attorney Ramos said. “We need to show the families who have lost loved ones that that we care about their losses and that we realize their pain is something that lasts an eternity.”
Under the direction of Rita Stephens, members of the Redlands East Valley High School Choir sing the “Star Spangled Banner”

Guest speaker Russell Perry delivers a message of hope.



Throughout the event, members of the Redlands East Valley High School Choir—under the direction of Rita Stephens and Dr. Ed Yarnell—performed songs of tribute and reflection.

Speakers included District Attorney Ramos and Russell Perry. Perry is the son of Upland church Deacon Phillip Perry, who was murdered in 1992.


After Russell Perry spoke, Ramos presented the Award for Exemplary Service to Victims of Crime to the Physicians of the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC). Doctors Clare Sheridan, Amy Young and Mark Massi accepted the award on behalf of the CAC.
Located in San Bernardino, the primary function of the Children’s Assessment Center is to provide forensic interviews and evidentiary medical exams for sexually and physically abused children in a child-friendly environment.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the excellent work taking place at the Children’s Assessment Center, as well as our partnership with Loma Linda University Medical Center,” District Attorney Ramos said, “The work that each of these doctors performs on a daily basis not only allows us to better serve the child victims with the dignity they deserve, but it also strengthens our prosecutions against the perpetrators who prey upon them in the first place.”


The event was capped off with a powerful tribute to our county’s fallen law enforcement officers, as Deputy Sheriff John Hayes—standing beside the bronze Officer Down memorial—played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.



Deputy Sheriff John Hayes presents “Amazing Grace” at the end of the memorial.

Quick Facts

Violent Crime in San Bernardino County

Last year the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office filed the following:

·         88 murder cases
·         191 attempted murder cases
·         55 manslaughter cases
·         2,932 domestic violence cases
·         2,635 cases related to Assault, Rape, Carjacking, Torture, Kidnapping, Mayhem, False Imprisonment and Battery

Bureau of Victim Services

·         In 2013, the Bureau of Victim Services served 10,575 victims in San Bernardino County.

·         In the fiscal year 2012-13, the Bureau of Victim Services Claims Unit processed 3,690 claims and over $3.1 million dollars was paid out on behalf of victims.

·         In 2013, the Bureau of Victim Services Restitution Unit secured $829,833 in restitution and fine orders for the Victim Compensation Program.

·         The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Bureau of Victim Services provided assistance to over 200 victims every single week for a total of 10,575 victims.

Photos
To download all photos, please visit: http://www.sbcountyda.org/Newsroom/PhotoGallery.aspx

Additional Links
For more information regarding this event and others taking place during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, please visit: http://ow.ly/ujsiF

Social Media
Throughout the week we will release links via Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #NCVRW

Sunday, April 6, 2014

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY: Fighting prostitution with humiliation


Last April, the first mug shot appeared on the San Bernardino County district attorney’s Stop the John Project website.

A 32-year-old Alhambra man had been convicted of soliciting a prostitute, a misdemeanor. He was the first in a photo gallery now numbering 20, the result of District Attorney Mike Ramos’ decision to wield humiliation to decrease the number of customers — the johns — and thereby reduce prostitution.

A year later, Ramos said it is difficult by statistics alone to measure the effectiveness of his campaign of shame, on either the number of prostitutes operating on the county’s streets and offering their bodies via the Internet, or the number of men seeking their services.

But Ramos is convinced that johns are well aware that their faces could wind up on the World Wide Web if they attempt to pay for sex in his county.

He said of the 20,000 page views the Stop the John website received in the first week, and 50,000 views in three weeks, one-third came from links on two websites that have forums where people are known to discuss prostitution and rank the women who sold them sex.

“I will guarantee you this: If you are a john in this county and you have friends and family members and you are a local resident, you are going to think twice about going out and committing this crime, because the world is going to see who you are,” Ramos said.

Focusing on the customers is a relatively new tactic in law enforcement. Human trafficking has grown significantly over the past several years, Ramos said. But arresting and convicting pimps has proven difficult because of their mobility and prostitutes’ reluctance to testify out of fear of retaliation. And prostitutes who are arrested are quickly back on the streets.

So now, Ramos said, “The biggest part for us is the deterrence factor.”

Additionally, he said, other district attorneys noticed the website and are considering adopting San Bernardino’s model. And he has received praise for his anti-prostitution efforts during speeches to community groups, Ramos said.

Defendants who used to quickly plead guilty to a crime and avoid publicity are now dragging out their court cases in hopes that prosecutors will agree to a plea deal that will keep their faces off the DA’s website, Ramos said.

Partly because that strategy isn’t working, Ramos said, there are 160 soliciting cases still in the pipeline. Prosecutors also are obeying Ramos’ decree not to plead the misdemeanor crime down to an infraction, which carries no jail time.

The 20 johns on the website have received sentences that typically include two to three years’ probation, more than $800 in fines, two days in jail and sometimes orders to stay away from the hotels where they were arrested, according to court records. They are not required to register as sex offenders.

“That’s why I came up with the Stop the John Project,” Ramos said. “I was frustrated. There really isn’t a lot you can do to them.”

PIMPING PROBLEM

Reducing the demand for prostitution is important to the safety of the prostitutes themselves, law enforcement officials say. Contrary to the glamorous lifestyle promoted by pimps and sometimes portrayed in the movies, prostitutes, some as young as 12, are subjected to physical and emotional cruelty and wind up with little of the money they collect.

Click here to read more.

Monday, March 24, 2014

#InTheNews: San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office assists victims’ families

By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: |

REDLANDS >> District Attorney Mike Ramos started the Lifer Parole Unit in 2003, after being elected to the post in 2002.

Ramos had graduated from Redlands High School the year before the rape and murder of 15-year-old Paula Hernandez while walking home from Redlands High School on March 22, 1977.

More than 25 years later, he decided to establish the unit in Paula’s honor, almost naming it for her, with the purpose of assisting victims and families of victims whose offenders are sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

“Her spirit remains as an inspiration to help families of murder victims,” Ramos said.

Prosecutors assigned to the Lifer Parole Unit attend so-called suitability hearings for parole held for inmates sentenced to life for crimes committed in San Bernardino County.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights Law of 2008, or Marsy’s Law, was approved by California voters in November 2008 to ensure victims and families of victims are informed of all parole procedures and the parole process.

Victims have the right to provide information to be considered by the parole board and to be notified of the parole or release of an offender.

Prior to Marsy’s Law, the maximum parole denial was five years. Now, inmates can be denied for seven, 10 and 15 years.

Over the years, Paula’s family has been notified of the scheduled parole hearings for John Zenc, now 57, who was convicted of the girl’s murder. A prosecutor has also attended the hearings.

“They’re there to answer our questions, to help us if we need anything. They’re there for us,” said Ruth Lopez, Paula’s sister.

In the 1990s, Ramos met with Paula’s family and attended a parole hearing.

At the time, Ramos said, Zenc was not remorseful and showed no effort toward rehabilitation.

“I was very concerned this individual would not only get out, but I wanted to make sure he was punished — he took the life of Paula at a very young age, and also that he doesn’t harm any other citizens upon being release from prison,” Ramos said.

With a parole hearing for Zenc approaching, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Dawson is preparing her case on why he should remain behind bars.

Dawson has been assigned to Paula’s case and attends Zenc’s hearings on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

To read more articles in the series, click on the links below:

Redlands family fights for justice for Paula Hernandez, 37 years after murder

Paula Hernandez murder impacted community of Redlands

The day Paula was murdered on her way home

Convicted murderer John Zenc to be considered for parole May 22
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

#InTheNews: Fourteen prosecutors added in San Bernardino County


Fourteen new prosecutors have been hired to work for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. From Left to Right: Leonard Chang, Thomas Perkins, Cassandra Helmuth, Alicia Marrujo, Philip Stemler, Angela Gerovac, Julius Abanise, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith, District Attorney Michael Ramos, Justin Crocker, Rebecca Goodrich, Evan Acker, Nasim Razmara, Kevin Christensen, Shannon Wainwright, and Colin Child.

Posted: |

For the first time in years, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has added prosecutors to its team.

Fourteen attorneys have been hired in the past four months — a number that will help ease attorney case loads and better serve the community, officials said.

“This will be a tremendous help,” District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said. “For the office, it’s a morale booster to have this fresh energy. It gets us all motivated again.”

When they first put out the announcement last year, more than 600 people applied, Ramos said. They eventually whittled that down to the 14 new hires.

“These lawyers we hired are just amazing,” Ramos said.

But this hiring move is focused on replacement, not addition. The new hires are meant to fill vacancies created by other attorneys who retired, became a judge, or left the office. The department is still far from previous staffing levels, Ramos said.

It’s been years since fresh faces have been brought in to the District Attorney’s office and the recent hiring has garnered optimism among the current staff.

“It allows us to serve the community a lot better,” said Bruce Brown, chief deputy district attorney based in Victorville. “Even though we had a cutback in staff, specifically in prosecutors, there has not been a cutback in crimes. In fact, there has probably been a little bit of an upward tick.”

The new attorneys came in to San Bernardino County knowing it was a busy district.

“Yes there’s a large case load,” said Cassandra Helmuth. “But I think the cases are very interesting.”

“The case load may be large but there’s always something going on and it keeps you on your toes. I like staying busy.”

Helmuth, who is currently based in the West Valley Superior Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga, went to UC Santa Barbara for undergraduate school and the University of San Diego for law school.

The 29-year-old, originally from the Beaumont area, said she always found criminal law interesting.

“I think the work is fulfilling and it’s a job that matters,” Helmuth said. “As soon as I started interning I loved being in the courtroom.”

Colin Child, another new hire, said he wanted to be a prosecutor since he was a freshman in college.
The 28-year-old San Bernardino resident was a criminal justice major at Sacramento State University before he attended McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.

He said he originally intended to work for the FBI, but that changed when he heard a Sacramento County prosecutor speak.

“He spoke with us at length about the office and the cases he tried, some of the impacts his cases had on victims of crime,” Child said. “My jaw was on the floor, I was just very impressed with him. That was kind of my epiphany.”

Child said he came back to Southern California after law school because there were no job prospects in Sacramento.

Child said he was overwhelmed at first by the case load in San Bernardino County.
“But once you start doing the cases, learning the ropes, it gets a lot easier. You learn to manage it,” he said.

Click here to read the rest of the story.