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.


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): 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.


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