Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Apple Valley man convicted of multiple counts related to domestic violence incident

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – The estranged husband of a female victim was convicted Thursday of multiple counts related to a 2015 domestic violence incident.

Rene Vazquez, 44, of Apple Valley, was convicted of one count of Assault with a Deadly Weapon, one count of Criminal Threats, one count of Stalking in Violation of a Restraining Order, two counts of Vandalism over $400, and Dissuading a Witness from Prosecuting a Crime. Vasquez admitted a prior strike and five prison priors.

According to Deputy District Attorney David Foy, who prosecuted the case, the victim got a restraining order against the defendant, after months of him making implied threats to her.

“After it was served, the defendant saw the victim driving her vehicle in Victorville and began chasing her,” said Foy. “The victim fled and the defendant rammed her car with his vehicle, causing $4,000 in damage.”

Earlier that day, Vasquez bashed in the garage door of the victim’s Victorville home, causing $650 in damage. He was arrested and charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon. He later bailed out.

“Over the next two and a half months, the defendant continued to send the victim unwanted texts, emails and make phone calls to her, threatening things like ‘you will be regret this’ and reminding her over and over again that they will be married ‘until death do us part,’” said Foy.

At one point, Vasquez phoned the victim and urged her to recant her story.

“Unfortunately for the defendant, the victim recorded his call, and it was played to the jury,” said Foy.
Vasquez faces 31 years in state prison when sentenced Feb. 3, 2017. This case was investigated by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department station in Victorville.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Special Victims K9 Unit Receives NACO and CSAC Awards

Today our Special Victims K-9 Unit was recognized by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors for winning NACO & CSAC awards for innovative programs.

San Bernardino gang member convicted of attempted murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.– A San Bernardino gang member was convicted Friday of attempted murder for a 2015 shooting that occurred in the center lane of Base Line street in Highland.

Gonzalo Ibanez, 23, of San Bernardino, was convicted of one count of Attempted Murder, one count of Shooting at an Occupied Building, and one count of Shooting at an Occupied Vehicle, with the jury finding true gun and gang enhancements.

On Nov. 29, 2015, the defendant lost control of the van he was driving through San Bernardino and collided with the victim’s vehicle.

According to Deputy District Attorney Justin Croker, who prosecuted the case, Ibanez immediately tried to flee the scene in his van.

“The victim wanted to make sure the police caught up to the defendant so he engaged in a pursuit while on the phone with 911 operators,” said Crocker.

The pursuit made its way to Base Line Street in Highland, where the defendant pulled into the center lane and stopped the car. The victim made a U-turn and began driving away from the defendant’s location.

“The victim heard several gun shots ring out a few seconds after making the U-turn,” said Crocker.

None of the bullets struck the victim or his vehicle, but one stray bullet flew into a nearby liquor store, missing the people inside.

The victim was able to provide the license plate to the police, which led to locating the van abandoned in a parking stall of a trailer park near where the shooting took place.

Ibanez faces 30 years to life in state prison when sentenced Jan. 27, 2017. This case was investigated by the Highland Police Station.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Why the mother of a murdered Montclair girl is heaving a sigh of relief

By Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun

NORWALK >> It was June 1996 when Jennifer Lundy stood in a Rancho Cucamonga courtroom, faced the man convicted of strangling her 3-year-old daughter, Brittany Lynn, and made him a promise: “You have to get through me before you get out of the prison door because I will always be here.”

Twenty years later, Lundy has kept her promise. After she and others spoke at Chuck Johnson’s hearing Wednesday at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, he was denied parole for the second time.

“I’m relieved,” Lundy said in a telephone interview. “The denial gives me and my children the chance to live our lives and honor Brittany. I couldn’t live with the fact if Chuck Johnson got out or another child ended up getting hurt because he preys on the vulnerable.”

On Oct. 10 1993, Lundy and her then-husband, Darin Riggs, awoke in their Montclair home and couldn’t find their daughter. Frantic, they called police and were horrified when her little body was found inside their home, in the closet of a room Johnson had been renting from the couple.

The autopsy showed Johnson suffocated little Brittany with her own baby blanket as he put pressure on her neck and chest, strangling her.

At trial, the San Bernardino County coroner testified it took at least 2 to 3 minutes of sustained pressure to kill Brittany.

In 2011, Brittany Lynn’s image appeared on a billboard of murder victims in El Monte to raise awareness about violence and victims’ rights.

Frightened Johnson would be paroled into a community near her home and her children’s schools, Lundy worked for more than a year gathering signatures and letters from people in an effort to keep Johnson behind bars.

“Why does his parole plan have him paroled in L.A.?” she asked. “I moved away when this all happened and he still has family in the area in La Verne. Why isn’t he being paroled there? Why L.A., where I am? I was terrified. I felt like he was threatening me and my family.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Lundy, Riggs, Brittany’s younger siblings who never knew their big sister and Connie S. Lasky, San Bernardino County deputy district attorney, all gave reasons why Johnson should not be allowed parole.

“He has still not told the truth about what has happened to poor little Brittany,” Lasky said. “Because he has not yet come to terms with what he did to her, because he’s not admitting what he did, he can’t be safe out in society.”

The parole board agreed, Lasky and Lundy said, and denied him parole for the next seven years.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

DATELINE: A Prosecutor's Moment

Prosecutor Sean Daugherty on his decision to demonstrate to the jury how Erin was killed. Click here to watch the video.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Yucca Valley man was convicted today of the 2011 torture and burning death of his ex-girlfriend, Maria Banuelos.

A Rancho Cucamonga jury found 43-year-old Hector Meza guilty of one count of First Degree Murder, with the jury finding true the special circumstances that the murder was committed during the course or commission of Mayhem, that the murder was intentional and involved infliction of Torture, and that the defendant killed the victim by means of Lying in Wait.

The jury also found Meza guilty of one count of Aggravated Mayhem, one count of Torture, and one count of Arson Causing Great Bodily Injury.

On Oct. 22, 2011, officers from the Ontario Police Department arrived at an apartment complex and found residents administering aid to 34-year-old Banuelos, who was still on fire.

At the scene, the victim identified Hector Meza and three others as her attackers. While in the ambulance her dying words were: “Hector Meza set me on fire. He is abusive and obsessive.”

The Ontario resident was taken to a hospital where she died two days later.

It was later determined by the coroner that the victim had been hit on the head three times with something consistent of a metal bar prior to being set on fire.

Hours after the attack officers arrested Meza on suspicion of attempted murder.

“On this particular night, the victim was leaving her apartment,” said Deputy District Attorney Kent Williams, who prosecuted the case. “She left her apartment and shortly later her family heard screams. They exited the apartment and saw the victim engulfed in flames on the ground.”

Following the death of Banuelos, investigators arrested four other suspects linked to the brutal attack:

Robert Chico Zapata, 24, of San Bernardino
Johnny Eugene Hernandez, 23, (No Known Address)
Johnathan Zuniga, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga
Genese Ramirez Leon, 25, (No Known Address)

The four remaining defendants are scheduled back in court next month.

Meza is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4, 2017. He faces Life in State Prison Without the Possibility of Parole.

Prosecutors and Investigators believe there may be more witnesses. If you or someone you know has information related to this case, please contact Lt. Langford at the Ontario Police Department at (909) 395-2001.