Friday, July 28, 2017

Barstow man sentenced to life in prison for double murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Barstow man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole today for the double murder of his father, 56-year-old Prospare Landry, and his father’s girlfriend, 36-year-old Laurel Roberts.

In April, 24-year-old Frank Joseph Covin (pictured left) was convicted of two counts of murder following a jury trial. This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Shannon Faherty of the Major Crimes Unit.

Prior to today’s sentencing, District Attorney Victim Advocate Alma Arenas, who was assigned to the case, read a victim impact statement written by Landry’s sister.

I have a great sense of loss and sadness remembering how my brother's love of Jesus had brought him great hope for the future and for his kids. Please understand that my desire for Joseph to find forgiveness and know the love of Jesus, does not diminish my love or the pain of loss for my big brother. But I think that my brother would echo this message if he were here right now.

– Ramona Taylor (excerpted)

The details of the crime date back to June 1, 2015. On the day of the crime, Covin was seated on the couch watching television, when he became upset by the noises he heard coming from the television.

After his father walked past him and into the bedroom, Covin grabbed a handgun and shot his father in the back of the head. Roberts left the kitchen, where she had been baking a cake, to investigate. As she entered the bedroom, Covin walked in behind her and shot her in the back of the head.
Covin then placed the handgun and each victim’s cell phone into a backpack. He gathered up the expelled cartridges from the floor, threw them in the kitchen trash can, and then went back to watching television.

At the request of a family member, Sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check at the Hinkley home. Upon entering the home, they found Roberts’ body on the bedroom floor, face down in a pool of blood, with a single gunshot wound to the head. Covin had barricaded himself and refused to come out of the house.

After a lengthy stand-off, the Sheriff’s SWAT team made entry into the house and arrested Covin without incident. During a warranted search of the house, Landry was found in the same bedroom lying face-up, with a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.

Prior to today’s sentencing Victim Advocate Arenas also read a victim impact statement prepared by Laurel Roberts’ nephew Ben Abel:

We hope he sits in prison and relives that day over and over again. Joseph could have chosen a different path without killing two amazing people like Laurel and Frank. His selfishness has caused two families traumatic heartbreak. What he has done has not only proved he is selfish but also a coward. We hope he sits there for the rest of his miserable life and asks himself was this worth it.

- Ben Abel (excerpted; some family members also referred to Prospare Landry as Frank)

Program to feature 1976 cold case murder

Cynthia Hernandez
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – On August 26, 1976, Cynthia Hernandez left her home to catch a movie at the Fox Twin Theaters in Covina. Hernandez, a recent Charter Oak High School graduate, never came home.

The next morning, her family located her unoccupied vehicle in the theater parking lot. Fearing for her safety, they immediately filed a missing person’s report with the Glendora Police Department.

Nearly 40 years after her disappearance, 61-year-old Larry James Allred was charged with her murder. On Oct. 17, 2016, Allred was sentenced to life in prison.

On Sunday, July 30, the story of her shocking murder will be featured on “On the Case with Paula Zahn” at 10 p.m. PDT on Investigation Discovery, and highlight the efforts of the Glendora Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit. Following Allred’s sentencing in Oct. 2016, Yoakum described her motivation for never giving up on this case.

“For forty years we had a victim without justice, a family without answers and a killer amongst us,” Yoakum said. “Cindy’s family didn’t know whether she was alive or dead. This is exactly why the Cold Case team never gives up.”

Yoakum, who believes there are potential other victims of Allred, is hoping the show will bring forward other witnesses to help solve other cases.

To learn more about the case, you can visit the District Attorney’s website:

To learn more about the upcoming show, visit

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Man found guilty of posing as police officer to sexually assault three women

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Big Bear City man has been convicted of posing as a police officer, threatening three women with a handgun and sexually assaulting them.
A jury found 53-year-old William Hernandez (pictured left) guilty today of four counts of Forcible Oral Copulation, four counts of Forcible Rape, two counts of False Imprisonment by Violence, and one count of Sodomy by Use of Force. Multiple allegations were found true.
The first incident occurred in Feb. 2016, when Hernandez identified himself as a police officer to a woman who he then threatened with a handgun and sexually assaulted in a Rancho Cucamonga motel.
The second assault occurred in Victorville. Hernandez once again identified himself as a police office to another victim and then threatened her with a handgun and sexually assaulted her.
Afterwards, the second victim’s friend called her and she answered the phone. Hernandez pointed a gun at her and demanded that she tell her friend to come over. Once she arrived, Hernandez threatened her with a gun and sexually assaulted her.
Hernandez faces 188 years to life in prison when sentenced Aug. 22.
This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Lisa Crane and the West Valley Division support staff. Rancho Cucamonga Police Department and Victorville City Police Department were the investigating agencies.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

San Bernardino man who claimed a "Government Mind Control Project" caused him to kill a store clerk convicted of murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – A San Bernardino man was convicted Thursday for the 2010 violent murder of a grocery store clerk.
A jury found 35-year-old Junior Tejeda (pictured left) guilty of one count of Murder and two counts of Robbery, and found true two firearm allegations.
On Nov. 8, 2010, a masked man wielding a shotgun—later identified as Tejeda—entered a San Bernardino market, pointed the shotgun at the clerk and asked him to open the register. Before the clerk could respond, Tejeda shot the clerk one time in the head. The defendant, who had just been released from prison 24 hours earlier, never grabbed any money and ran out of the market.
According to Deputy District Attorney Cecilia Joo, who prosecuted the case, it wasn’t until approximately a year and a half later that investigators were able to identify Tejeda as the suspect after he committed another armed robbery.
Tejeda entered the same market, which now had different owners, and demanded money from the store owner. At first, the owner didn’t want to cooperate, but a second victim came out from the back and gave Tejeda some money from the register.
Officers with the San Bernardino Police Department found Tejeda a few blocks away, hiding, with the money and gun dumped nearby. Tejeda attempted to blame a “Government Mind Control Project” as having been the reason for all the crimes.
Tejeda faces 54 years to life when sentenced Aug. 11 at the San Bernardino Justice Center.

Monday, July 24, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Congratulations to Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker

These are the 30 most influential people under 30 in Eloise Reyes’ assembly district

Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes selected 30 people under age 30 for awards at Saturday’s celebration at the Garcia Center for the Arts, 536 West 11th St., San Bernardino. The event lasts from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free. Based on descriptions from her staff, this is who they are:

Justin Crocker is a Deputy District Attorney for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office assigned to the Hardcore Gang Unit in the San Bernardino office. He has prosecuted hundreds of cases throughout the county and conducted 35 jury trials in his three and a half years with the office, including charges of murder, attempted murder, vehicular manslaughter, and other violent felonies. In addition to his work in the courtroom, he has also volunteered each year as a scoring attorney for the county’s high school mock trial competition and participates in programs such as Every 15 Minutes.

Click here to read the entire article.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Moreno Valley man found guilty of murder in DUI crash that killed three

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- A Moreno Valley man was found guilty Tuesday of multiple counts related to a drunken driving crash that killed a woman and two young girls in Jan. 2013.

A San Bernardino jury convicted 34-year-old Michael Dwayne Hughes (pictured left) at the San Bernardino Justice Center of three counts of murder. Hughes was facing murder charges—also known as a “Watson murder”—due to a previous DUI conviction i...n which he signed a waiver acknowledging that drunken driving could potentially kill others and lead to murder charges.

The victims were 13-year-old Haven Penman, of Mira Loma, and 12-year-old Kylan Allen, of Riverside. Allen’s grandmother, 56-year-old L.E. Mason of Riverside, who was driving a PT Cruiser, was also killed.

Hughes faces 45 years to life in state prison when he is sentenced in October, following post-trial motions on August 10. This case was prosecuted by Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd and investigated by the Colton Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Our Problems With Human Trafficking Don't End With an Arrest

by Melissa Rodriguez,
Special to Route Fifty
July 14, 2017

"As we crack down on human trafficking in our country, state and local leaders need to review their assumptions and proactively collaborate," according to the head of the San Bernardino County, California, District Attorney's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

This is part of an ongoing series from the
National District Attorneys Association highlighting local criminal justice issues. Previous articles can be found here.

Once viewed as just an international problem, human trafficking has now been identified as a crime reaching epidemic proportions in the United States. Along with this change, prosecution of human trafficking cases has become increasingly more challenging. 

This can be attributed in part to the dynamics of human trafficking cases, which oftentimes present the same challenges as gang, domestic violence and sexual assault cases combined, but also to the transitory nature of the crime and the need for heightened cooperation among state and local governments.

When it comes to sex trafficking, many of the general assumptions about the “standard profile” for victims are incorrect. There are, however, certain vulnerabilities that can make one more susceptible to victimization. A high percentage of victims who are targeted by traffickers have a history of sexual and/or physical abuse, and many minor victims lack familial support or are homeless.

Recent studies also suggest that a significant number of human trafficking victims suffer from mental health challenges, to include post-traumatic stress disorder, memory loss, depression, and anxiety and mood disorders. Many victims also lack formal education and have learning disabilities. Given the adversities that many victims have already endured, and the daily trauma that they are exposed to, drugs and/or alcohol are frequently used as a coping mechanism. 

Victims are also typically manipulated by their traffickers. Many traffickers initiate a romantic relationship as a means of controlling and exploiting the victims. In return, many victims believe that they have a special relationship with their trafficker, and that testifying against the trafficker is a form of disloyalty.

As such, the control that the trafficker has over the victim can best be analogized to a domestic violence relationship, creating very powerful bonds that can be difficult to overcome when prosecuting cases.

To make matters more difficult, human trafficking cases don’t arrive pre-packaged and the lines between victims and traffickers are not clearly delineated at first glance. In what can best be described as a self-preservation effort, some victims of human trafficking cross the line and work alongside the trafficker.

Referred to as a “bottom,” these young women recruit and train other victims on behalf of the trafficker. The victim, who is also in this case the defendant, creates a legal dilemma for prosecutors with respect to their level of criminal involvement.

While a majority of states have enacted laws that allow sex trafficking victims to vacate criminal convictions for conduct that occurred as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking, prosecutors must determine what type of proof is necessary for someone to establish themselves as a victim of human trafficking to avail themselves of this statute. Many states have enacted Safe Harbor laws that typically aim to protect human trafficking victims that are minors from criminal conduct. However, for adult trafficking victims associated with commercial sex acts, many laws do not provide protection for other crimes that victims may be involved in.

Another significant challenge we all face is the transitory nature of the victims. Sex traffickers routinely move their victims around from city to city, oftentimes referred to as the “circuit.” This is done for several reasons, including alienation of the victim from any friends or family and to avoid detection from law enforcement.

Therefore, it is not uncommon for victims recovered in your county to be from another city or state. This makes obtaining requests for testimony and examinations a multijurisdictional affair, where a judge in another county or state may deny the motion if the court determines that returning the victim for trial and testifying creates an undue hardship on the victim.

While controversial methods to secure the victim’s attendance at trial do exist, including temporary incarceration, prosecutors should consider alternative methods to secure witness attendance. Alternatives include placing the victim under house arrest or using a GPS tracking monitor. The use of non-governmental agencies (NGOs) can also be extremely beneficial to prosecutors. NGOs may be able to provide shelter to the victim pending trial and can often assist in forging a relationship, as well as cooperation, from the victim.

As states continue to identify human trafficking, prosecutors continue to see an increase in the volume of human trafficking cases.

Understanding victim dynamics can assist us all in determining the best way to meet the victim’s needs, thereby encouraging the development of laws that focus on a victim-centered approach. Recognizing the transitory nature of this offense, heightened cooperation between jurisdictions will contribute to successful prosecutions.

Monday, July 17, 2017

IN THE NEWS via the VV Daily Press: San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force

Authorities arrest 25-year-old man on suspicion of sex trafficking in Barstow

BARSTOW — Authorities arrested a 25-year-old man here Thursday who they say was involved in sex trafficking.

Members of the San Bernardino County Human Trafficking Task Force began surveillance on a 17-year-old female they suspected was involved in the commercial sex trade Thursday after discovering she was advertised for prostitution on “,” according to authorities.

Investigators contacted the victim and she agreed to meet with them at a motel in the 1100 block of East Main Street in Barstow.

“Surveillance was conducted on the room the victim provided and a male suspect, later identified as George Vaughn, was seen leaving the room,” officials said in a statement. “Vaughn returned to the room while investigators were interviewing the victim and placed under arrest.”

Further investigation determined Vaughn was involved in pimping and pandering the victim, who was determined to be an adult, authorities said, and property belonging to the Vaughn was located in the victim’s motel room.
The victim was offered resources and released without incident, according to authorities.

Vaughn, who is a resident of Sacramento, was transported to the Barstow jail and booked on suspicion of felony pimping and pandering in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Click here to view the article

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gang members sentenced to 55 years to life in prison

Two San Bernardino gang members responsible for shooting a woman in the face as she stood outside her home in 2015 have each been sentenced to 55 years to life in prison.
The case of 20-year-old Raequan Tuggle and 21-year-old Willie Shelman was prosecuted by Deputy DA Donna Kauffman and the Central Division support staff. San Bernardino Police Department was the investigating agency.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors recognize CDDA Gary Fagan

At the July 11 meeting, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors recognized Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Fagan for his 40 years of service and dedication to the county.

Deputy District Attorney Rick Lal Recognized for his Environmental Protection Efforts

At its annual conference earlier this year, the California Hazardous Materials Investigators Association (CHMIA) awarded Deputy District Attorney Rick Lal with its 2017 John Pedersen Scholarship Award in recognition of his dedication and tireless service to San Bernardino County and the State of California for his environmental protection efforts.

A tenacious environmental crimes prosecutor and one of CHMIA’s most popular instructors, Rick continues to distinguish himself in the field of environmental law enforcement and justly earned the recognition and award.