Friday, June 24, 2016

Special Victims K-9 Unit Wins 2016 Achievement Award

The National Association of Counties (NACo) is pleased to grant San Bernardino County a 2016 Achievement Award for its program titled “Special Victims K-9 Unit” in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

Congratulations to everyone involved, all of whom were able to help develop this innovative program! Your hard work will yield positive results for San Bernardino County residents!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Victorville man sentenced to life in prison for AM/PM Murder

Eric Robbins (Booking Photo)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Victorville man who shot and killed a convenience store employee in 2013 was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

Victorville Superior Court Judge Colin Bilash sentenced 38-year-old Eric Robbins to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of store clerk Daniel Olivera, 26, of Hesperia.

In April, a Victorville jury found Robbins guilty of first degree murder and found true the special circumstance of lying in wait and the special allegation of discharge of a firearm causing death. The jury also found him guilty of the attempted murder of the security guard.

According to Deputy District Attorney Alberto Juan, who prosecuted the case, Robbins pulled up to the convenience store in a white pickup truck on Aug. 11, 2013 and attempted to enter the store.

“The defendant was denied entry by a security guard because the store had just temporarily closed to conduct a count of the cash drawer,” said Deputy DA Juan. “After the confrontation, the defendant walked back to his pickup truck and drove off.”

Forty minutes later, while Olivera was standing outside talking to the security guard, the defendant laid prone in a dirt lot 140 yards away and shot Olivera in the chest with a .308 rifle. 

At the time of the shooting, no witness saw any suspect, gun, or fleeing vehicle.

According to Deputy DA Juan, Olivera died within minutes and left behind a fiancé and four children.

"It was only through the diligence of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Homicide Team and the help of the public in identifying the defendant in a surveillance video released to the press that Daniel Olivera's killer was able to be identified and held accountable for his actions," said Deputy DA Juan.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lead Deputy District Attorney Doug Poston recognized by the California District Attorneys Association

Lead Deputy District Attorney Doug Poston, who oversees the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit, was recently recognized by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) for his contributions to environmental enforcement.
The recognition ceremony took place at the annual CDAA Advanced Topics in Environmental Enforcement conference. 
The acknowledgement results from prosecuting environmental cases against offenders locally and statewide, as well as instructing for CDAA, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the California Certified Unified Program Agencies who regulate hazardous materials, California Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the California Hazardous Materials Investigators Association, all in effort to help others become better in making the State more environmentally sound and safe for us and the generations to come.  


Friday, June 10, 2016

Desert Division Attorneys and Investigators Greeted with a Surprise...

Deputy District Attorneys and DA Investigators in Victorville were treated to a surprise Thursday when they walked into the office.

The support staff in Victorville held a first-ever Deputy District Attorney and DA Investigator Appreciation Day in response to Administrative Professionals Day.

"For weeks we had planned the secret day and every support staff member pitched in some way," said Investigative Tech III Miki Marhoefer, who helped plan the event. "

Each Deputy DA and Investigator received a personalized "Thank You for Being Awesome" note on their desk along with breakfast, lunch and afternoon sweets.



Rialto mother reunited with son 20 years after his abduction

Steve Hernandez wipes a tear from his mother's eye after seeing her for the first time in 20 years.

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.– Thursday morning, after clearing the immigration checkpoint between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, 22-year-old Steve Hernandez was accompanied by district attorney investigators to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office to see his mother Maria for the first time since 1995.

According to Senior Investigator Karen Cragg, who is assigned to the Child Abduction Unit, Hernandez was abducted by his father Valentin Hernandez from their Rancho Cucamonga residence in 1995 when he was 18-months-old. Since that time, 42-year-old Maria Mancia (who eventually relocated to Rialto) has searched for her son to no avail.

“The couple was having problems in their relationship at the time of Steve’s abduction,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “The mother went to work one day, only to return home to an empty residence with the father and child gone.”

Sr. Investigator Karen Cragg and Investigative Tech. Michelle Faxon react after seeing both mother and son embrace for the first time in 20 years
Valentin Hernandez, 54, had taken all the pictures of Steve, along with any other paperwork identifying the child—even an ultrasound.

According to Cragg, Mancia had to write her aunt in El Salvador requesting a photograph she had sent her of her son.

“That became the only photograph she had of Steve for the last twenty-one years,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg.

Over the years, following Steve’s abduction, investigators from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit tracked several leads in different parts of the United States.
Information surfaced that the father and abductor was no longer alive—although his death remains unverified. As a result, Valentin Hernandez currently has a $750,000 warrant in the system for kidnapping and child abduction.

In Feb. 2016, investigators received a tip that Steve Hernandez, a United States citizen, was possibly living in Puebla, Mexico.


Rialto mother reunited with kidnapped son 21 years later

IN THE NEWS: San Bernardino Sun

How DNA helped a mom find her kidnapped son 21 years later

“We weren’t positive we located the right person,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “So we used a ruse and told Steve we were conducting an investigation related to the disappearance of his father. During the conversation, we found several similarities in his history that matched that of our missing boy.”

Cragg and Investigative Tech. Michelle Faxon worked to get a DNA sample from Steve in order to find out if he was in fact the missing boy. After extensive coordination and planning they persuaded the Department of Justice and Mexican officials to assist in the collection of a DNA sample from Steve in Puebla, Mexico. That swab, along with the mother’s swab, was sent to the lab for analysis.

On May 31, Sr. Investigator Cragg was advised that “Steve in Mexico” was in factthe missing child from 1995.

“We contacted the mother and she was overcome with emotion and very thankful,” said Sr. Investigator Cragg. “She had never given up after all these years, but had accepted the fact that she may never know her son. Maria never gave up, and neither did our office. Our committed teamwork paid off and we finally found Steve. To be able to return him to his country and his mother is an indescribable honor.”

Steve Hernandez talks to members of the District Attorney's Office and the media about being able to reconnect with his mother.

IN THE NEWS: Los Angeles Times

Mother reunites with son — more than 20 years after he was abducted from California home

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Pelican Club of Yucca Valley met on Monday June 6th and featured the San Bernardino County Sheriff Executive Staff and the Morongo Basin Courthouse.
Pictured from left to right: Victim Advocate Iris Robertson, DDA Ellen Jackman, DDA Michelle Bergey, Supervising DA Ron Webster, Supervising DA Denise Trager-Dvorak, Supervising Investigator Paul Garcia, Sheriff John McMahon, The Honorable Rod Cortez.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Upland man convicted of sexually assaulting child

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Rancho Cucamonga jury on Friday convicted Mario Anthony Hernandez of five felony counts of molesting a young relative between the ages of 8 to 10.

Hernandez, 59, of Upland, was convicted of three counts of Sodomy with a Child Aged 10 or Younger, one count of Oral Copulation with a Child Aged 10 or Younger, and one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.

According to Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss, who prosecuted the case, the victim stated that Hernandez would withhold food and privileges from him unless he submitted to sexual acts, telling the boy “You owe me.” 

Hernandez would also refuse to sign the boy’s school planner or homework if he did not submit to sexual acts. Occasionally, the defendant would threaten the boy with harm if he did not cooperate.

“The victim’s eleven-year-old brother told police that he had observed one incident of sodomy through the blinds that separated the boys’ room from the defendant’s room, and that he had heard the bed shaking another time,” said Schmauss.

The defendant and his wife became legal guardians of the two boys after they were temporarily removed from their parents. The victim said the defendant had started molesting him when he was only 3, and that the abuse escalated when he turned 8. The defendant also showed the boy pornography. The molestations always occurred when the defendant’s wife was out of the house, usually at work. 

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s courtroom comfort dog, Lupe, assisted both the victim and his brother during their courtroom testimony. This trial was the first in the county to use the comfort dog during a jury trial.

“It was very difficult for the victim, now age twelve, to testify about the terrible abuse he suffered at the hands of the defendant,” said Schmauss. “He was on the stand for three days, two of which were under cross-examination. But he did a great job, and the jury said they believed him completely. The defendant will never be able to harm another child.”

The trial took 20 days over a 7-week period before Judge Stan Reichert. The jury deliberated three days before returning its verdicts. The defendant faces 106 years to life in prison when he is sentenced June 28.

The Upland Police Department was the investigating Agency.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Yucaipa man in good Samaritan’s death sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole

Vincent Deleon (Booking Photo)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  A Yucaipa man who robbed a Cherry Valley woman and then stabbed her rescuer to death was sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole in state prison Friday.

Vincent Alex DeLeon, 28, was found guilty in April of one count of Attempted Murder and one count of Murder.  Jurors also found true two special allegations that a deadly and dangerous weapon was used in the commission of the attempted murder and the murder.

According to Lead Deputy District Attorney Cary Epstein, who prosecuted the case, on April 27, 2014, DeLeon left a local drinking establishment, targeted a woman leaving a nearby grocery store and attempted to rob her of her purse. 

During the struggle for her purse, DeLeon stabbed the 26-year-old female victim in her chest. A nearby 47-year-old good Samaritan, Troy Cansler of Yucaipa, came to her aid and chased after DeLeon.

“In attempting to thwart the robbery, DeLeon stabbed the good Samaritan in the chest as well,” said Epstein. “The defendant then fled back to the local drinking establishment and discarded the purse, knife and hoodie he was wearing.”

Both victims were transported to the hospital where Mr. Cansler was later pronounced dead.

The investigating agency was the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Homicide Division.

Friday, June 3, 2016

American Kennel Club: Canines in San Bernardino County Comfort Victims in Court

Two black Labrador Retrievers employed at the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office have been instrumental in making child victims feel comfortable testifying in court.

Dozer, 3 years old, and Lupe, 2 years old, work as part of a Special Victims Canine Unit, comforting victims during the court process by sitting with the individuals testifying in the witness box.
Dozer and Lupe work in the office with District Attorney Michael Ramos, in addition to their handlers, one of whom, Yesica Cioli, is a child advocate.

The two canines were officially sworn into the unit by placing their paws on a California criminal law book, last August, according to PBS.

Since then, both Dozer and Lupe have had significant success with the victims they have assisted.
Dozer worked in a juvenile court case last year, helping two young girls who are victims of abuse.

"I couldn’t be right there, where the mom is supposed to be," Pearl Curiel, the mother of the girls, told PBS. "But [Dozer] was. He was able to say, you know what, I’m not going to leave you... He is a superhero. Like, for my girls, I know he is."

In April, Lupe worked with two young boys in a mock-trial run-through. Thanks to Lupe, "[the boy] was able to relax, didn't have the anxiety, and he was able to tell what happened to him," Ramos said.
Dozer and Lupe are not the first dogs in the nation to help ease the pressure and anxiety of victims testifying in court. Learn more about therapy dogs working in the judicial system here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Miranda: More than Words

Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court
On May 6, several members from the District Attorney’s office participated in Law Day at courthouses throughout San Bernardino County. The event was coordinated by court staff and representatives from each participating agency.
According to Deputy District Attorney Jane Templeton, who served as the volunteer coordinator for the District Attorney’s office, 440 5th graders from all over the county participated in the event.

This year’s theme was “Miranda: More than Words.”

“The goal of the event was to expose kids to the courtroom and familiarize them with the roles and responsibilities of each participant,” said Templeton. “First, the judge and attorneys explained Miranda to the kids, and then the bailiff simulated an arrest on one of the kids, and read him or her their Miranda rights. Next, each attorney participant was provided a packet with some scenarios that were discussed with the kids.”

Following a brief question and answer session with the attorneys, judge and bailiffs, the kids were given a tour of the courthouse and some of the Sheriff’s vehicles.

Overall, 20 Deputy District Attorneys, 2 Supervising Deputy District Attorneys and 1 Chief Deputy District Attorney participated in Law Day.