Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Supervising Investigator Jerry N. Villanueva receives 2015 Tristan D. Svare Vulnerable-Victim Advocate Award & Scholarship

Supervising Investigator Jerry N. Villanueva was selected by the California District Attorneys Association Elder Abuse Committee for this award, which was presented by Mike Ramos and Eve Wang (Tristan’s wife) at the National Elder & Dependent Adult Abuse Conference Dec. 1 in Anaheim.

Villanueva is being honored for his years of service, dedication and training, side by side with Tristan Svare, in developing our Elder Abuse prosecution unit prior to the creation of the Family Violence Unit. They were a great team and it is so very fitting that he was selected as the first recipient of this new, annual award in Tristan’s honor.
The following nomination was submitted to CDAA by Chief Mike Smith:

Recognize the name Lt. Colonel Charles Bussey? He was a proud; dedicated, and decorated military hero, remembered best in life as a member of the storied Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Colonel Bussey was awarded The Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action; The Bronze Star for bravery; and The Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.

Fifteen years ago, Tristan Svare and Jerry Villanueva met Colonel Bussey. He was the victim of elder abuse! Colonel Bussey suffered dementia; was deeply in debt; had lost his home, and suffered financial and emotional abuse committed by a family member. He also fell victim to ineffective systems and services intended to help dependent elders.

It was the year 2000, when Tristan and Jerry Villanueva volunteered to become part of a newly created Elder Abuse Unit. The pair had not previously worked any cases together, but according to Jerry, he and Tristan hit it off at their first meeting.

“He had his role, I had mine,” said Jerry. “I told him he was clearly the brains on the team…we talked every day.”

Jerry was impressed with Tristan’s intelligence and vision of where the case should go – providing direction – respecting his investigator’s skills – yet guiding as the two learned every day.

What they learned – was that elderly victims were not well-served by the system. In fact, what they learned, according to Jerry, was that “the system was broken!” Local law enforcement did not have the training or any specialized units designed to help or investigate elder abuse crimes. Physical abuse went to a “Crimes Against Person Unit” – financial crimes went to a “Paper Unit” and anything in between seldom received any attention, or was referred to a county agency. The Public Guardian, Adult Protective Services, County Counsel, the District Attorney’s components, (including victim advocates, attorneys and investigators), various social services and local law enforcement were not effectively communicating or sharing. The elderly were also victims of a broken system, not effectively serving those in need.

The concept of a Multi-Disciplinary Team or “MDT” as it came to be known – began in a discussion about “needs” – but grew to become a “reality.” Largely through the efforts of Tristan and Jerry, professionals responsible for elderly oversight came together in San Bernardino County. Jerry recalled: “We wanted to start small, and figure it out, but it started with such great interest that at least twenty-five representatives attended our first meeting. Social Services at the time, received funding for closing cases, but they learned that most served with real problems in their systems, did not go away."

Jerry shared that there were too many examples of cases like Colonel Bussey – where the victim was moved from one location, or from one county to another, to avoid scrutiny and conceal the abuse from authorities. As Tristan and Jerry worked with involved participants in the MDT, they accepted where they could improve. They discovered where they were perhaps negligent. Bonds of common interests formed – the word spread – and an audience of professionals took notice.

Paul Greenwood, Deputy District Attorney and Head of Elder Abuse Prosecutors, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, described (in part) Tristan Svare as follows: “He was champion of elder rights, and a tireless advocate who quietly, but effectively pursued justice in the courtroom on behalf of abused seniors….he unselfishly shared his wealth of experience with whomever came asking…Tristan was and will remain a pioneer in elder abuse prosecutions.”

Supervising DA Investigator Villanueva was also a pioneer – a pioneer in elder abuse investigations. He was Tristan’s investigator. He also was (and remains) a champion of elder rights, who unselfishly shared his wealth of experience with whomever came asking – and over the years- many came asking. They came from California – and across the nation. When Tristan passionately wrote the first MOU for stakeholders in protecting the elderly in San Bernardino County – Jerry prepared a list of duties and responsibilities for the District Attorney Investigator. When Tristan moved the agreement of the MOU to create the Elder/Dependent Abuse Inter-Agency Task Force, Jerry contributed to the extensive written guidelines for the law enforcement role.

He worked tirelessly to build the MDT into a cohesive group of agencies dedicated to the detection, investigation, and prosecution of those who preyed on the elderly. Noteworthy is that Jerry discovered during the course of a starvation case, that District Attorney Investigators had been mistakenly excluded from the law as “peace officers” entitled to records and documents maintained by the Department of Aging and Adult Services. Jerry contacted two members of the Assembly to address the problem. He provided corrective language, and as a result AB 255 was written to include District Attorney Investigators in California.

While Tristan’s experience and expertise was shared at CDAA from Napa to Newport Beach, Jerry’s investigative experience was shared in presentations to the California District Attorney Investigators Association (CDAIA) training at those same venues. In fact, Jerry became a recognized expert at the national level, instructing "Interviewing Techniques for Elders and Dependent Adults” not only to law enforcement, but to social service professionals, medical doctors, psychologists, nurses and others.

In the early days, Jerry and Tristan presented at a large gathering of mental health professionals from across the country at the Riverside Convention Center. The “Older Adults Mental Health Conference” brought wide attention to this team outside of the CDAA experience. As a result, Jerry became the conference keynote speaker in Bellevue Washington, “Making the Case for Justice-Investigating Crimes Against Elders and Vulnerable Adults” followed by an invitation to present “Protecting Vulnerable Adults” at an Adult Protective Services Conference held in San Antonio Texas. He was noticed by Dr. Nora Baladerian of the Disability, Abuse and Personal Rights Project & CAN/DO Project, and was asked to serve as an advisor on various projects to train first responders about interviewing disabled adults and/or elderly persons.

Over the years, and continuing today, Jerry is a sought after expert who is always available to provide assistance to those who ask, and his training remains available with Dr. Balderian on the national list server for elder abuse.

He has been recognized by his peers, supervisors, and local police chiefs for his steadfast commitment to train and help them be better in their response to elder crime. He was nominated for The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Peace Officer Training; acknowledged by CDAA, (along with Tristan) for a series of one-day workshops held in Sacrament, Fresno, and Costa Mesa when CDAA received a USDOJ grant from the Office of Violence Against Women to do programs and a DVD on Victims with Cognitive and Communicative Disabilities.

Described by many as resourceful, experienced, and knowledgeable, Jerry simply describes himself as “just part of the prosecution team.” As has been mentioned, his work is locally and nationally distinguished, and truly exemplifies quality public service and investigative excellence.

It has been said that a law enforcement officer is an ordinary person called upon to do extraordinary things. Although the comment speaks to a profession, doing “extraordinary things” puts into perspective the influences of Tristan Svare on the life’s work of Jerry Villanueva.


* Photos courtesy of Investigative Tech Mercedes Padilla

Monday, December 14, 2015

San Bernardino man sentenced to 180 years to life in state prison for sexually assaulting a child


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.– A San Bernardino man who sexually assaulted a 9-year-old child was sentenced today to 180 years to life in state prison.

Last month, a jury found 39-year-old Daniel Mateen Jr. (pictured above) guilty of one count of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child and three counts of Lewd Act Upon A Child.

According to Deputy District Attorney Jane Templeton, who prosecuted the case, the charges stem from multiple events that occurred in 2006.

It wasn’t until the victim was fifteen years old that she finally came forward, fearing that she would have to face the defendant again.

“Thanks to the courage of the young victim in this case, the defendant will be locked away for at least 180 years to life, and never have the chance to harm another child,” said DDA Templeton.

The San Bernardino Police Department was the investigating agency.

Former cheerleading coach pleads guilty to molesting girls on his squad

A Chino cheerleading coach was sentenced Friday to 18 years in state prison for molesting girls on his Pop Warner cheerleading squad.

Kristofer Bland (Booking Photo)
Kristofer Bland, 34, of Chino pleaded “no contest” to 13 felony counts, including one count of sexual penetration on a minor age 14 and 12 counts of lewd act on a minor aged 14 or 15. The 13 charges involved three girls on his squad.

Bland was a cheer coach with the Chino Pop Warner league, a non-profit football and cheering organization for children ages 5-15.

“The defendant is a true predator,” said Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who prosecuted the case. “He used his position as a cheerleading coach to win the trust and compliance of the girls under his care. His influence was so strong that some of the children whom he molested continue to defend him, because they love him so much.”

The mother of one of the girls called Chino police in Feb. 2014 after overhearing her discussing part of what Bland had done to her. The 14-year-old told police that Bland had committed acts of molestation on her while giving her a ride home from cheer practice. He had also told her that he had molested two other girls on the squad.

Bland admitted to police that he molested the 14-year-old. He also admitted to molesting two 15-year-olds on the squad. The crimes were committed over a span of five months between Aug. 2013 and Jan. 2014.

During the investigation, Bland was charged with molesting six additional girls on the team, aged 12 and 13. However, those charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
At the time of his arrest, Bland was a private first class of the California Army National Guard in Azusa, working in intelligence analysis. His security clearance was pulled at the time of his arrest, and he will now receive a general discharge, other than honorable, according to his commanding officer.

The courtroom was packed with victims and their friends and family members, along with family members and supporters of the defendant.

The mother of the 14-year-old spoke at the hearing, stating, “I do not believe that he is sorry. I believe he is just sorry he got caught. Kristofer Bland is a sexual predator and threat to our community. I don’t know what the future holds for my daughter but I do know that as of today she will no longer be a victim of Kristofer Bland but a survivor of Kristofer Bland. She is the strongest and bravest person I know. I know she will not let this destroy her.”

District Attorney’s Gang Resistance Intervention Partnership (GRIP) celebrates graduation ceremony in San Bernardino City Unified School District

 

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Gang Resistance Intervention Partnership (GRIP), in partnership with the San Bernardino City Unified School District, hosted another graduation ceremony for second and fifth grade students from Hunt Elementary School in San Bernardino today. 

“This is a proactive partnership between our educators and students that allows us to make a positive impact in the lives our children,” District Attorney Ramos said. “By effectively using time and resources today to teach our students, we can steer them away from the dangers and influences of gangs tomorrow.”

 

Chief of Victim Services Flerida Alarcon introduces the Special Victims K9 Unit. Both Lupe and Dozer and their handlers were on hand for the celebration  
 
  
  
  

Ontario man convicted of Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Miguel Contreras (Booking Photo)
An Ontario man was sentenced to 3 years’ probation and 120 days in jail Dec. 8 for committing workers’ compensation insurance fraud and stealing wages from his workers, both felonies. Miguel Contreras, 36, the former owner of Ontario-based National Drywall, Inc., was also ordered to pay his insurance carrier $262,535 in underpaid workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

According to Deputy District Attorney Michael Chiriatti, who prosecuted the case, during the course of the prosecution, Contreras’ workers were repaid $160,000.88 in stolen prevailing wages.

The conviction stems from a 2011 project in which Contreras was awarded the contract to install drywall at Joe Baca Middle School in Colton.

“Because this was a ‘Public Works’ project, Contreras was required to pay his employees the current prevailing wage,” Chiriatti said. “However, he employed two schemes to avoid doing so.”

One method required some of his workers to “kick back” a portion of their pay on a weekly basis in order to keep their jobs. The other required some workers to alter their time cards to falsely indicate that their primary job duties included “stocking/scrapping,” which was paid at a much lower prevailing wage, when in fact they were framing and hanging drywall, which was paid at a much higher prevailing wage.

While this theft of wages was occurring, National Drywall submitted false payroll reports to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, ICW Group, which resulted in a fraudulent reduction of its insurance premium.Contreras was originally arrested on Oct. 23, 2014. A year later, on Oct. 23, 2015, Contreras entered pleas to workers’ compensation insurance fraud, and theft of prevailing wages, and admitted his conduct was subject to California’s white collar crime enhancement.

Underground Economy

In March 2015, the Little Hoover Commission issued a report highlighting the magnitude of California’s underground economy problem.An underground economy is one that includes activities that businesses try to hide from government licensing, regulatory, tax and law enforcement agencies, and is subsidized by businesses that otherwise would be legal operators but who are breaking the law to gain a leg up on their competition.

The Little Hoover Commission believes California’s underground economy is costing the State upwards of $10 billion in annual tax revenue, money that could be used for funding education, law enforcement, and infrastructure improvements, or reducing taxes and insurance premiums for Californians who play by the rules.

According to District Attorney Mike Ramos, the theft of prevailing wages and workers’ compensation premium fraud that took place in this case are the types of illegal activity that feed California’s underground economy.

“We will not tolerate employers who steal from their hard-working employees or break the law in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors,” Ramos said. “Our office will continue to ensure that all workers are protected and that the playing field is level for law-abiding businesses who wish to conduct business in San Bernardino County.”

Please PostIf you suspect Workers' Compensation Insurance Fraud or believe you are a victim of workers' compensation insurance fraud in San Bernardino County contact the District Attorney at DAWorkersComp@sbcda.org or call (909) 891-3523.

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! 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In the News: Man gets 40 to life in baby's murder

By Staff reports (Victorville Daily Press)
Posted Oct. 9, 2015 at 4:34 PM   

VICTORVILLE — A 40-year-old man was sentenced Friday to 40 years to life in state prison for murdering his girlfriend’s 9-month-old baby in Hesperia eight years ago.

Judge Eric M. Nakata sentenced Arthur Lee Holmes for the murder of 9-month-old William Lacey after jurors found Holmes guilty in August of one count of second degree murder and one count of assault on a child causing death.

Deputy District Attorney Kathy DiDonato, who prosecuted the case, said the child died from blunt force head trauma with a skull fracture, bleeding of the brain and retinal hemorrhages.

“The pathologist testified that the injuries to the victim were consistent with injuries seen during car crashes where the victim is not in a safety seat properly,” DiDonato said in a statement released by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office. “These types of injuries are consistent with shaken baby impact.”

William’s grandfather, Charles Hill, read a victim impact statement in court.

“He was such a good baby,” Hill said in an excerpt of the statement provided by the DA. “He was just starting to walk around the coffee table, laughing and having a good time. William and his sister would have such a good time playing peek-a-boo. I guess that’s gone now that he was taken away from us.”

According to previous Daily Press reports, Holmes was arrested Dec. 14, 2007 after authorities responded to a report of an unconscious baby in the 17400 block of Sequoia Avenue in Hesperia. San Bernardino County Sheriff's officials found William with a fractured skull and swollen brain.

William was pronounced dead at Loma Linda University Medical Center, officials said.

Investigators learned from the baby's mother, Kristina Blair, that Holmes and William were left alone together for about 20 to 30 minutes while Blair took a shower. Blair later found William breathing strangely and called 911, Sheriff's Sgt. Thomas Hutchins earlier testified.

Authorities said Holmes told multiple stories to investigators, including that he had no idea how Williams got hurt, that a computer fell on the baby's head, and finally that the infant hit his head on the kitchen counter when Holmes attempted to comfort him after the computer fell. Holmes also told investigators he kept the story from Blair because he was scared of losing her, according to Hutchins.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

DA Mike Ramos Responds to New York Times Editorial Board for Attack on Prosecutors Across America



On Sept. 29 and 30, 2015, The New York Times published two editorials suggesting there are “lots” of “dishonest prosecutors.” As a 30-year prosecutor and the current President-elect of the National District Attorneys Association, District Attorney Ramos felt compelled to speak out on behalf of his fellow prosecutors who work tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

New York Times Articles
The Prison Problem: http://ow.ly/SRV9C
Dishonest Prosecutors, Lots of Them: http://ow.ly/SRVa8

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chief Fagan and the 600-mile Coastal Bike Cruise to Support the Arthritis Foundation

by Lead Deputy District Attorney Doug Poston

A number of you may remember that earlier this year, Chief DDA Fagan committed to riding his bicycle nearly six hundred miles, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation.  Because we all know how leisurely a costal bike cruise can be, (I mean, who hasn’t ridden a bike on the paths of Newport or Huntington Beaches, right?) I issued the challenge to Gary, to make the ride more fun and interesting for all involved, to ride at least a hundred miles wearing a rainbow clown wig! 

In exchange, the staff of the then-Hospitality Lane office committed to donating up to $1,000 toward Gary’s fundraising goal of $3100. 

I’m very glad to report that many of you, including our own DA Mike Ramos and his Executive Staff, eagerly and generously responded. Gary accepted the challenge, and raised over $3,600, well above his goal!

Last week, I purchased and delivered to our Chief his very own, personalized, one-size-fits-all rainbow clown wig, and, I’m now even more pleased to report that the first of the evidentiary photos are in---Gary indeed is meeting the challenge!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Assistance Dogs of the West finds role for its grads in the courtroom

 
 
 
 
An abused 8-year-old boy would only talk to one living creature — Russell the golden retriever.


The boy’s family in Tucson, Ariz., made him stay outside with the animals, said Kathy Rau, executive director of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center in Tucson. She said the boy was so traumatized that he would not allow investigators to interview him.

But he connected with Russell. “We just let the boy come to the center and have time alone where he could just sit and talk to Russell. He figured it was a safe place for him to come and talk,” Rau said in an interview Tuesday.

Russell is a 2013 graduate of the Assistance Dogs of the West program that is based in Santa Fe. He is one of a growing number of assistance dogs that child advocacy agencies and courthouse staff train to provide emotional support for children who are either victims or witnesses in cases involving physical, domestic and sexual abuse.

“The court system can be cold and scary, even for adults,” said Jill Felice, founder and program director of Assistance Dogs of the West. “Dogs in the courtroom can help children find their voice to tell their story.”

Assistance Dogs of the West will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a graduation ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday at the James A. Little Theater on the campus of the New Mexico School for the Deaf. The ceremony will be hosted by actress and animal activist Ali MacGraw.

Long an organization that has trained dogs to give emotional and physical support for clients with disabilities, Assistance Dogs of the West began placing dogs in judicial districts in New Mexico, Arizona and California in 2010. That move followed the founding of Courthouse Dogs in Washington state in 2008.

New canine graduates Dozer and Lupe are about to begin work for the Bureau of Victim Services in San Bernardino County, Calif. Flerida Alarcon, the victim services chief for that bureau, is in Santa Fe this week to attend their graduation ceremony.

Alarcon said she already has introduced the two dogs to court personnel, including judges and prosecutors, to give them a sense of how the canines can be of help in cases involving children. She also has involved the dogs in preliminary interviews with some children who are either witnesses or victims.

“For them being in court is a sensitive situation. … So having a dog there does lighten the mood for them,” Alarcon said. “I tell the kids, ‘The dog is here to listen to you.’ ”

The Americans with Disabilities Act allows assistance dogs to be permitted in any public building. But Alarcon said in California, lawyers have the right to object to their presence, citing concern that the dog may draw sympathy from the jury.

Dogs have a history of being allowed in court cases requiring sensitivity. In the late 1980s, for example, a seeing-eye dog named Sheba provided comfort for child victims of sexual abuse at the district attorney’s special victims bureau in the Queens borough of New York City.
Felice said dogs working in the courts have to exude patience and tolerance. “They have to be sensitive, but not needy,” she said.
 

Victorville man sentenced to 366 years to life in state prison for sex crimes with a child

A Victorville man was sentenced to 366 years and 8 months to life in state prison for sex crimes with a child.

A San Bernardino County jury found 32-year-old Luis Gilbert Sanchez guilty of 29 counts of child sexual assault Aug. 24.

Sanchez was convicted of 20 counts of Oral Copulation With a Child 10 Years of Age or Younger, 1 count of Sodomy of a Child 10 or Under, 1 count of Sex With a Child 10 or Under, 5 counts of Lewd Act on a Minor, 1 count of Possession of Matter Depicting a Minor Engaging in Sexual Conduct and 1 count of Exhibiting Harmful Matter to a Minor.

According to Lead Deputy District Attorney Kathy DiDonato, who prosecuted the case, the charges date back to 2009 when the victim was six-years-old and the sexual abuse lasted until she was eight.

IN THE NEWS:

LA TIMES: One of San Bernardino County's 'worst' child sex cases ends with lifesentence

PRESS ENTERPRISE: Defendant in child sexual assault sentenced to lengthy term

DAILY PRESS: Victorville man gets 366 years

SAN BERNARDINO SUN: Victorville man sentenced to 366 years for sex abuse

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ontario man convicted for toddler’s 2013 death

Michael Lucero (Booking Photo)
Michael Lucero, 22, of Ontario was convicted Monday of beating his girlfriend’s 2 ½-year-old son to death in April 2013. After deliberating for five hours, a Rancho Cucamonga jury found Lucero guilty as charged of second-degree murder and assault on a child causing death. He faces 25 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 20. Judge Gregory Tavill ordered Lucero remanded into custody after the verdict. Lucero had been free on bail since July 2013.

The victim, Xzavier Taccati, was brought to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Ontario on April 4, 2013, after he lost consciousness at his home in the 1100 block of East Philadelphia Street. He was later transferred to Loma Linda University Medical Center where he died following emergency surgery.

The cause of death was blunt force head injury with a contributing cause of blunt force abdominal injury. Dr. Frank Sheridan, the county’s chief medical examiner, testified that Xzavier suffered a skull fracture with subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage to the brain, causing his brain to swell. Dr. Sheridan said that the child was either hit with a heavy object or his head was slammed against something. Xzavier also suffered a previous injury, laceration of the pancreas and damage to his bowel, caused by blunt force from a strong blow to the abdomen.

Lucero provided child care for the victim while his girlfriend was at work. 
Xzavier Taccati

At trial, Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss presented evidence that Lucero was extremely jealous and controlling of the victim’s mother. During the days before Xzavier’s death, Lucero complained bitterly in text messages about having to clean up the ill child’s mess when he threw up. He was also angry at the mother for staying at work later than he wanted her to stay, which was a reoccurring theme in their relationship.

Xzavier’s face and body were covered with bruises when he was rushed to the hospital. The defense claimed that Lucero never struck the child and his mother was responsible.

“It was a long, difficult trial, which was very hard on the child’s mother and grandmother, who had to endure repeated attacks on their character,” said Schmauss. “Fortunately, Xzavier finally got justice.” 

Schmauss praised the Ontario Police Department for its thorough investigation, and said she was grateful for the help of the lead detectives, Sgt. Justin Johnson and Det. Jeff Wentz. “I could not have won this case without them,” she said.


In The News:

ABC: Ontario man found guilty of beating girlfriend's 2-year-old son to death

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Ontario man convicted of beating 2-year-old to death

Press Enterprise: Mom's boyfriend convicted of murder in toddler death

Monday, September 14, 2015

Riverside man sentenced for 1986 cold case murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Larry Hite, 59, of Riverside was sentenced today to state prison for the 1986 murder of Nancy Klinger.

San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Jefferson Powell sentenced Hite to 25 years to life in prison and ordered him to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Victim-Witness Assistance Program.

In July 2015, a jury found Hite (pictured left) guilty of killing Klinger. This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the Cold Case Unit—a collaborative team consisting of two San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorneys and two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives.

“Thanks to the hard work of our Cold Case Unit and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, we were able to solve this case and bring the family some sense of closure after all these years,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “As for Nancy, the victim in this case, we were able to obtain the only thing we could, justice.”

Statement of FactsIt 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.”

That night, after dropping her children off, Klinger (pictured right) never returned.

Her skeletal remains—which were identified through dental records dating back to 1986—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.

“For every unsolved murder there is a victim without justice and killer amongst us,” Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum said. “Today Nancy finally gets her justice and the defendant will no longer walk amongst us.”

Victim Impact Statement

Prior to sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Yoakum read the following Victim Impact Statement on behalf of Nancy’s son, Douglas McGraw, who did not attend the sentencing.

“I can't explain how hard it was for me and my sister to sit through the trial. Being in the same courtroom listening to all the things my mom went through before he murdered her, hurts me. During the trial I saw him smile, laugh and joke while I sat quietly there listening about the last moments of my mom's life and how her blood was on his clothes. He showed no remorse, he isn't sorry for murdering her.

“It scares me to know that he could go free one day. It would be unimaginable for another family to have to sit in a courtroom and feel the pain we feel. He belongs behind bars for the rest of his life and maybe the rest of us can sleep at night knowing he is in a place where he can't harm any other women and no one else's life has to be ruined. I pray that you see he has no business on the street and belongs behind bars for the rest of his life and it is clear that he has done evil things too many times. Please your Honor do not let him ruin anyone else's life. He is a real life monster.”

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Labor Day weekend safety reminder


 
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – As we take time to celebrate Labor Day, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office would like to remind everybody to make safety a part of their weekend. If you choose to drink alcohol, please drink responsibly and designate a sober driver. Please take the necessary steps to make sure this extended weekend is a safe one for everybody on the road. If you see a drunk driver on the road, please pull over and call 911.

“I have seen far too many cases in my 25-year career as a prosecutor that either ended with someone severely injured or killed because of drunk driving,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “Please drink responsibly this weekend for your sake and the sake of others on the road.”
 
 
Quick Facts
  • Last year the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 140 DUI-related cases that occurred during the Labor Day weekend.
  • Of this amount, 7 involved serious injury.
  • In 2014, 7,586 DUI-related cases were filed by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. 
  • Of this amount, 268 cases involved death or serious injury.
“Labor Day 2015” (high resolution image): http://www.sbcountyda.org/Portals/8/PressReleases/2015/LABOR DAY 2015.jpg?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

LA TIMES: 2 men to stand trial in fatal shooting of 4-year-old boy in Highland

San Bernardino County Superior Court judge on Monday ordered two men to stand trial for the killing of a 4-year-old boy who was shot and killed in July while playing in his grandmother's yard.
According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, Daniel Munoz, 4, was the unintended victim of a dispute between a drug dealer and men who regularly gathered across the street from the grandmother's home.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

According to the testimony of San Bernardino County sheriff's Det. Scott Thies, a man named Jordan Roberts told detectives that he and a friend had driven to the neighborhood to sell marijuana when he saw a sheriff's vehicle and pulled over to avoid getting stopped. He was approached by Daniels who told him to leave, Thies said.

Roberts did so briefly, but soon returned to conduct a previously arranged drug sale, bringing along a gun for protection, he told detectives. When Daniels saw that he had returned, he pulled a gun and began shooting at Roberts' car, Thies said.

Roberts told detectives he returned fire farther down the street, but detectives believe it was a bullet from Daniels' gun that killed Munoz. Roberts identified Daniels as the shooter and said Kelley was at the scene when Daniels told him to leave the neighborhood.

Another witness, a woman who lives in an apartment complex nearby, told detectives she saw Kelley at the scene of the shooting along with Daniels, Det. Jonathan Woods testified.

The woman told detectives that Kelley came to her after the shooting and showed her a gun, Woods said. Kelley told the woman "we just used this on somebody," and asked her to hide it. Five minutes later, he returned and took it back, the detective said.

Click here to continue reading the story.

IN THE NEWS:

SBSUN: Pair ordered to stand trial for 4-year-old boy’s death in Highland

PE: Defendants to stand trial in 4-year-old's death

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

InTheNews: LA TIMES - Victorville man faces 366 years in 'most bizarre' child sex case



In the more than 10 years that San Bernardino County prosecutor Kathy DiDonato has prosecuted family sex and violence cases, she’d never had one like this.

The Victorville man’s crimes against the girl were meticulously planned, carried out and covered up so the girl’s mother could never find out.

After his arrest, he admitted to photographing and recording the abuse and told investigators he liked “messy sex,” DiDonato recalled Tuesday.

“I’ve done a lot of terrible cases. This was one of the worst cases I’ve prosecuted,” DiDonato told The Times. “You can’t articulate [what] was seen in this case. It’s the most bizarre sexual conduct I’ve ever seen.”

Authorities say that for two years starting in 2007, when the girl was just 5 years old, Sanchez abused the girl while the mother was away from the home.  The abuse was only discovered when the mother came home early, interrupting Sanchez, and the girl explained what had happened, DiDonato said.

The mother immediately grabbed her daughter and the girl’s sister and drove to a her parents' home, where she called police.

Click here to read the whole story.

SBSUN: Victorville man faces nearly 4 centuries in prison in sex abuse case

KTLA: Victorville Man Faces 366 Years to Life in Child Sex Case Prosecutor Calls ‘One of the Worst’

Monday, August 24, 2015

San Bernardino Restorative Youth Court is Coming!



Volunteer To Be A Judge In This Exciting Restorative Program!

ATTEND OUR TRAINING ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

×         Provides an alternative to suspension, expulsion and police citation

×         Builds on a student’s strengths and increase student competency

×         Gives students an opportunity for community service, leadership and career development through the new Student Leadership Academy

×         Creates student awareness of the impact of their actions on others in their school and community

×         Utilizes district and community resources to build student capacity rather than punishment
 
 
WHO CAN VOLUNTEER: Adults with experience in the judicial/legal system
WHY:   To be a Youth Court Judge
WHEN:   9/1/2015 at 3:30p.m.
WHERE: San Bernardino Adult Education Building
              1200 North E Street, San Bernardino, CA 92405