Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cold Case Unit awarded statewide honor

The California Peace Officers’ Association statewide Awards Committee has awarded Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum and other law enforcement members assigned to a 1976 cold case murder the Association’s Outstanding Cold Case award.

Yoakum received the award Monday at a luncheon in Palm Springs, alongside other recipients who were assigned to the case: San Bernardino County Sheriff Sergeants Rob Trostle and Patty Ruiz, retired Captain Ringhoffer and investigating officers from the Glendora Police Department.

The CPOA Awards Program is the culmination of a process that annually reviews and selects only the most deserving nominations recognizing law enforcement individuals in California.

The award is based on the investigative work surrounding the 1976 murder of 18-year-old Cynthia May Hernandez. On August 26, 1976, 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, a suspect was formally charged in connection with the death of Hernandez.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the Cold Case Unit. On Oct. 17, 2016, Larry James Allred was sentenced to 7 years to life in prison for first degree murder. According to California law in 1976—at which time the crime was committed—this is the maximum sentence Allred can serve in prison.

“Securing justice for Cynthia and her family was an absolute team effort, one that involved multiple agencies,” said Yoakum. “To be recognized for those efforts is a great honor, and another chance to honor the memory of Cynthia and her family.”

Prosecutor Attends Law, Justice, and Public Service Academy Fair


Consumer & Environmental Protection Lead DDA Douglas Poston attended and represented the District Attorney's Office at an event Friday to promote and support the Chino High School Law, Justice, and Public Service Academy. 
The program was designed to fully represent careers in the law, justice and public service sectors. 
"When time permits, I always try to take advantage of any chance we as prosecutors have to empower and inspire our next generation of leaders to reach their goals, especially those who are pursuing a career in public safety," said DDA Poston.

During the event, DDA Poston provided the 8th grade students with a brief glimpse of a “Day In The Life” of a career in the DA’s Office and encouraged them to consider careers in law and related fields. 
The Law, Justice, Public Service sector provides a foundation for secondary students in government, public administration, public safety, and legal services.  Students engage in a common core, state standards based instructional program that integrates academic and technical preparation. The focus is on career awareness, career exploration, and skill preparation in this industry. For more information about the LJPS Academy click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with Assistant District Attorney Mary Ashley

Mary Ashley is an Assistant District Attorney with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and has been a prosecutor since 1998. She is an Associate Board Member of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) and the Co-Chair of the NDAA Women Prosecutors’ Section.  Ms. Ashley led the first Family Violence Unit in the DA’s office that was created in 2004.

Q: What is being done at the national to address issues of domestic violence?
Ashley: Our nation is still at war in putting a stop to domestic violence. There is no place in this country for this kind of abuse and violence, yet it exists in every state. Organizations like the California District Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association continually offer specialized educational forums and promote awareness efforts, such as the release of a Policy Paper earlier this year by the NDAA WPS on Best Practices for Domestic Violence. It is important that we are at the table with state and national legislators who will listen to our concerns and assist in advocating for better laws, resources and assistance for victims’ rights.

Q: Why is it necessary to collaborate on these issues?Ashley: Collaboration between community partners and stakeholders is key to best hold perpetrators accountable and help victims to feel safe. When law enforcement is able to easily communicate with medical personnel, health care staff, child welfare members and the local prosecutor to best serve a victim, that victims receives comprehensive care. San Bernardino is so fortunate that our stakeholders such as advocacy groups, law enforcement, and prosecutors respect each other and understand that they are all out for one common goal: protecting victims of domestic violence.
Q: What has San Bernardino county gained as a result of these domestic violence partnerships?
Ashley: Simply put, lives are saved as a result of our coordinated community response to domestic violence. With clear policies and protocols in place for how to handle the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, there is a stronger coordinated effort to combat these crimes. Our specially trained advocates and attorneys are trained to treat victims with respect and sensitivity. If we can empower a victim to get help and realize they will be treated with dignity, it can make a big difference.

Q: The theme of our campaign is called “Breaking the Cycle” of domestic violence. Based on your experience what is our office doing to break the cycle?
Ashley: Education, awareness and prevention are the key to breaking the cycle of domestic violence. Specially trained prosecutors repeatedly speak in the community about red flags and the warning signs of abuse. Our prosecutors teach at domestic violence shelters, along with helping train law enforcement and other agencies about abuse. If they reach one survivor, or cause one more victim to report their abuse, we all win. Another important area for prevention and intervention is getting the message directly to our youth. Research shows young adult dating abuse is a large problem in this nation. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, when it comes to adult victims of intimate partner violence and abuse, 22% of women and 15% of men first experience some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17 years old.   In our Juvenile and Truancy Division, it is important to reach out to parents to ensure they are talking to their teens about what a healthy and safe relationship looks like. We all need to be involved. These are the children in our community. It is clearly not a “family problem” as we have seen that children are victimized when there is domestic violence in the home as well. Taking away the public stigma and shame associated with being a victim of domestic violence is very important, as is holding perpetrators responsible and showing domestic abuse for what is really is – a crime against the right to live in a civilized society free from violence in your relationship and in your own home.    

Monday, October 16, 2017

Morongo Basin District Attorney's Office Helps Raise Awareness

Morongo Basin District Attorney and San Bernardino County Sheriff-Morongo Station assisted the 29 Palms Marine Base Family Advocacy Program with their annual Domestic Violence Prevention Motorcycle Run.  Victim Advocate Iris Robertson and Sr. Investigator Kevin Ford spoke to the Marines and explained the legal process following a domestic violence report. 


Friday, October 13, 2017

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with Project Fighting Chance CEO Ian Franklin

Ian Franklin is the CEO and president of Project Fighting Chance, a non-profit program founded in 1999 to provide a safe-haven for at-risk youth. Through athletics and a focus on education, the program has served over 4,000 youth since its inception. Among other distinctions, the program sent its first athlete to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Franklin is currently working with Option House, Inc. to expand Project Phoenix, a boxing-empowerment class for domestic violence survivors.
Q: What is the mission of Project Fighting Chance?
Franklin: Our mission is to provide a support system for the at-risk youth and young adults while assisting them in becoming, positive, contributing members of the community.
Q: You recently partnered with Option House, Inc. to create a class called Project Phoenix. How do you see boxing and your program helping survivors of domestic violence?
Franklin: We will help these participants in a variety of ways. Some things we will be looking to accomplish, using a boxing workout, is to give them a positive stress release outlet, allow them to release anger, frustration, while most importantly developing their self-esteem. As they go through the program they will go from broken victims to overcomers with a high self-esteem.
Q: What are some of the successes you have witnessed as a result of your program, whether it’s in boxing or the classroom or somewhere else?
Franklin: I have trained eight National Champions and two Olympic Trial participants. My son made the ‘08 Olympic team as an alternate. He had the opportunity to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for a year prior to the ‘08 games, while traveling the world representing the USA in competitions. We currently have two youngsters ranked number one in the US and one ranked number three. But most importantly, we hold these youngsters accountable in grades as well as conduct. Through the years, I've had many grown men, some college graduates, bring their families and children back to share that our program was instrumental in their success.
Q: Your program is best known for boxing, but what other services are you providing for the community?
Franklin: We are aware of the environment we service. San Bernardino is challenged economically. We serve snacks and suppers daily. We have tutoring, art class, chess club, and guitar and music lessons.
Q: How is your program funded? Are there ways for community members to support your program, whether through donations or volunteering?
Franklin: We were funded by the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant). Now we get some funding from the San Bernardino School District, and we are looking to create partnerships that would assist us in the resources that are needed. With the ranked athletes, travel is always a huge expense that we need, as well as a 12-15 seat van. 

Mother and son who faked auto theft after hit-and-run plead guilty

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – A San Bernardino mother and her son have pleaded no contest for their roles in a fake auto theft and hit-and-run accident.
Jonathan Munoz, 35, of San Bernardino, plead no contest to felony hit and run causing injury and felony insurance fraud Wednesday at the San Bernardino Justice Center.
Judge Colin J. Bilash sentenced Munoz to four years in state prison.
Munoz’ mother, Blanca Ramirez, 56, plead no contest to a single misdemeanor violation of Accessory After the Fact and was sentenced to 6 days in County Jail. She was placed on two years of information probation.
On Oct. 16, 2016, Munoz was driving a green Saturn sedan near 2nd Street and the 215 Freeway in San Bernardino when his vehicle collided and damaged another car. Munoz left the scene of the accident without exchanging information with the opposing driver.
Shortly after leaving the accident on 2nd Street, Munoz was involved in a second accident. A female passenger in the second vehicle was injured in the collision and was transported to a local emergency room.
According to Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough, who prosecuted the case, Munoz left the second accident scene without exchanging information or rendering medical aid to the injured passenger and eventually abandoned his vehicle in an alley in San Bernardino.  
Blanca Ramirez later contacted Anchor General Insurance and reported that her green Saturn had been stolen on October 16, 2016. On March 4, 2017 Munoz told an Anchor General Insurance Investigator that the green Saturn was stolen on October 16, 2017. 
Both the San Bernardino Police Department and the California Department of Insurance assisted in the investigation of the case which was prosecuted by San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Auto Insurance Fraud Unit.   

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with District Attorney Chief of Victim Services, Flerida Alarcon

Flerida Alarcon is the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Chief of Bureau of Victim Services. Alarcon—who started her career with the District Attorney’s Office 19 years ago—has overseen the implementation of several innovative programs to assist our county’s victims such as a comfort dog program, automated victim notification system and the expansion of our elementary school Gang Resistance Intervention Program (GRIP).
Q: What services does the DA’s Office provide for victims of domestic violence?
Alarcon: The following is a list of services that we provide to victims of domestic violence. In many instances, if there is another need we are unable to provide, we make every effort to try and connect victims with other local resources.
Emergency Temporary Lodging (hotels)Emergency Essentials (food, clothing)Referrals to Domestic Violence agencies for emergency shelter (i.e. Option House, House of Ruth)Relocation assistanceCounseling referralsReferrals to other resourcesCalifornia Victim Compensation Board (CVCB) application assistanceRestraining order assistanceAccompaniment to court and criminal justice system orientation and updatesCourtroom dogs available for child victims/witnesses
Q: How can a victim protect his or herself if their spouse or partner has become violent?
Alarcon: The first thing to do is Call 911 and report the incident to the police. Afterwards, they will want to start taking the necessary steps to leave the home and stay with a family or friend or shelter. The next step would be to obtain a restraining order against the abuser. There are many resources available for victims when it comes to getting help. There is a way out, the cycle of domestic violence can be broken. I would encourage anybody who is trying to get help to contact the District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services for assistance.
Q: Can a victim drop the charges against their abuser?
Alarcon: No, once the District Attorney’s office has filed the charges, our office is the only one who can drop the charges. The victim is essentially a witness in the case.
Q: Where can a victim get counseling for themselves or their children?
Alarcon: We have lists of referrals for counseling for victims. Once again, I would encourage anybody in need to contact our office for assistance. Additionally, the website http://www.counselingcalifornia.com can assist with finding local counselors with varied specialties.
Q: Domestic abusers often use immigration status as a method to trap their undocumented partner in an abusive relationship. Should undocumented victims in San Bernardino County fear coming forward to report domestic violence?
Alarcon: No, they should not. Undocumented victims do not have to disclose their immigration status when reporting to the police or seeking assistance from the District Attorney’s Office. Victims can apply for special immigration VISAs that can help with the immigration status of Domestic Violence victims.
Q: The theme of our campaign is called “Breaking the Cycle” of domestic violence. Based on your experience what is our office doing to break the cycle?
Alarcon: Our office is making every effort to reach out to domestic violence victims to inform them of the many services available that can help them escape from the abuser. We collaborate with the many domestic violence agencies in our county to ensure that we are providing comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, which includes emergency relocation, temporary lodging, transitional housing, counseling and support groups. 
Q. What future steps is the District Attorney’s Office taking to “break the cycle?”
Alarcon: The office is seeking grants that are able to fund additional victim advocates which in turn will allow for greater outreach and support to victims. We understand the importance of working closely with the many agencies in our county and we will continue to maintain those relationships in order to provide victims the most comprehensive wrap around services. 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Q&A with Option House, Inc. Executive Director Heather Stevning

Heather Stevning is the Executive Director of Option House, Inc., a non-profit organization serving San Bernardino and surrounding cities since 1977.
Option House is dedicated to promoting the well-being of victims impacted by domestic violence by providing shelter, outreach and legal services, as well as, educating the community about domestic violence.
Q: What services does Option House provide?
Stevning: Option House has a 32-bed temporary shelter (confidential location) in San Bernardino. In the 30-day program for those in crisis, trauma victims are offered a safe place to recover and focus, while moving away from the violent situation they have escaped. All necessities are provided such as food, clothing, transportation, legal advocacy and counseling. The shelter also has a children’s center with specialized programs for families.
Additional programs to shelter residents and the entire community include: parenting groups, support groups, individual counseling, and transitional planning. Clients are offered computer and job readiness training, budgeting, and other programs like art and music therapy, nutrition and fitness.
Outreach programs include education and prevention in local public schools, juvenile hall, probation department and department of corrections. Classes are also provided to perpetrators, in an attempt to stop the cycle of violence before it starts. Option House works with closely with the county TAD and CFS in promoting stronger families.
Q: How does someone know if they are in an abusive relationship?
Stevning: Most relationships have difficult times, but domestic violence is different from common relationship problems. It is a pattern of abuse that a partner (former or current) uses to control the behavior of another. Domestic violence affects all types of people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, sexual identity, social status, and religion. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation.
Q: What does the general public need to know about domestic violence?
Stevning: The use of violence has little to do with the survivor’s behavior and everything to do with the partner’s need to control others, their choice to use physical force, their own attitudes and expectations about male/female roles, and the lack of negative consequences they experience from their use of violence. If you are being abused, you have probably been told, at one time or another, that you do things which “cause” them to be violent. It is important to know that by eliminating alcohol/drug use or minimizing the amount of stress in your relationship or in the abuser’s environment will rarely stop the abuse.
Q: How are children affected by domestic violence in the household?
Stevning: Abuse can have a devastating impact on children. Children usually have a very accurate perception of what is happening, even at a very early age. When there's violence in the home, children are always affected, even if they're asleep or not in the room when the abuse happens. They may feel scared and ashamed, or they may even think that they caused the problem. Worse, they can grow up thinking that it's okay to hurt others or let other people hurt them.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your push to bring domestic violence education into the local schools? And why?
Stevning: Domestic violence is something we cannot ignore. Most of us grew up with school campaigns like “Say No To Drugs,” “Red Ribbon Week,” and others. However, historically, our society has hesitated to address domestic violence and family violence, because we think they are too young. It is a fact that many of these children already experience or see this at home or somewhere in their “world.” We want to make it a topic of discussion; to give children permission to speak out if they are scared or confused. The only way to break the cycle of domestic violence, is to focus on education, prevention and advocacy with our children and young people. We need to listen to their voice; asking us to provide a safe, healthy and hopeful future.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

In The News: Her mom was badly abused; now, ‘Fearless Faith,’ 11, will help combat domestic violence

Faith Acevedo, 11, of San Bernardino, will become a domestic violence advocate for children like her who have witnessed the abuse of a loved one. Her mother, Tracy Acevedo, in back, and herself will begin the state-mandated 40-hour training to become domestic violence advocates next month. (Stan Lim, San Bernardino Sun/SCNG)

By Beatriz E. Valenzuela |
PUBLISHED: October 12, 2017 at 9:21 am | UPDATED: October 12, 2017 at 9:40 am

With her Dora the Explorer backpack filled with clothes, 5-year-old Faith Acevedo and her mother, Tracy, sat in the darkened and stark shell of an abandoned San Bernardino house they had called home waiting for the sun to come up.

There were no toys nestled within the bag because the little girl said she wasn’t allowed to have any during the time they squatted in the empty building.

As soon as the first few rays of light began to emerge, the mother and daughter made their escape, running from Tracy Acevedo’s girlfriend whom they say physically and emotionally abused Acevedo.

As the two hurriedly made their way to a rendezvous point where a friend was waiting, Faith remembered the last time they tried to leave, her mother ended up with a claw hammer embedded in the back of her head.

The day the two left was different. There were no heavy steps behind them. No screams calling them back. It was just the two of them, scared and running.

Once inside the safety of the friend’s car, Faith and her mother embraced, realizing after nearly four years, they had broken free.

“I was relieved,” said the now-11-year-old with a quick smile. “We were hugging in the car and I could feel one of my mom’s tears go on my head.”

Starting next month, Faith and her mother will begin the state-mandated 40-hour training to become domestic violence advocates through Option House, Inc., a domestic violence resource center based in San Bernardino that serves the county.

Advocates are trained in the different types of domestic violence and strategies to help survivors of abusive relationships, according to the Option House website. They may also speak at events, help new clients and lead peer groups.

“We went through it together and we’re going to do this together,” said Acevedo, as she sat in the Project Fighting Chance boxing gym Faith attends three days a week as part of Project Unity, an incarceration prevention program offered through Option House.

Faith’s story reached San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos and impressed the county’s prosecutor.

“Faith is such a remarkable young lady whose story of strength and perseverance will no doubt inspire others to break the cycle of domestic violence,” Ramos said in a statement. “Last week, I had the chance to meet her, and the fact that she wants to be an advocate for other children is something we don’t see very often.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Faith’s story was highlighted in a video created by the District Attorney’s Office in partnership with Option House Inc. and Project Fighting Chance.

“I am strong and I am a fighter,” said Faith, “and I want other kids to know they can be strong, too.”

Click here to read the full story

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In The News: 2nd Annual Blues, Brews, Badges and BBQ competition

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the San Bernardino Police Foundation held its 2nd annual Blues, Brews, Badges, and BBQ competition and fundraiser at Brew Rebellion located on North Leland Norton Way at the San Bernardino International Airport.
In honor of retired San Bernardino Police Officer Gabe Garcia, Brew Rebellion made a specialty brew bottled with an original keepsake label.

The Blues, Brews, Badges, and BBQ was formerly known as the “Route 66 Rendezvous Culinary Cookoff.” This year there were four BBQ teams – the San Bernardino Police Department, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and a team from Blue Rebellion.

Many of the teams prepared days ahead of the event to make sure their equipment, recipes, and time management were in optimal shape in order to present their best dishes.

The District Attorney’s Office won the overall competition.

Damon Alexander, Police Commissioner with the San Bernardino Police Department, said that the “food at the DA’s Office was fantastic, and the small bits of BBQ meat from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s was great.” But they refused to share their secret recipe!

Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

District Attorney’s Office releases public service announcement in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – They call her Fearless Faith.
Those who know the 11-year-old San Bernardino resident and the struggles she endured as a victim of domestic violence immediately point to her courage and willingness to help others.
“Faith is such a remarkable young lady whose story of strength and perseverance will no doubt inspire others to break the cycle of domestic violence,” District Attorney Mike Ramos said. “Last week, I had the chance to meet her, and the fact that she wants to be an advocate for other children is something we don’t see very often.”
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month which takes place every year in October, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office partnered with San Bernardino-based Option House, Inc. and Project Fighting Chance to release the following Public Service Announcement (PSA) based on Faith’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMPHHLAOtc0&feature=youtu.be
The 2-minute PSA highlights Faith’s story of survival and her desire to be an advocate for other children her age who are witness to domestic violence.
To be a certified advocate, the State of California requires a 40-hour training certification course for all Domestic Violence Advocates, as mandated in Penal Code section 1203.098. The goal of the training is to educate future advocates on the history of domestic violence and strategies to help survivors of abusive relationships.
“I want to be an advocate to teach little kids that they have a voice,” said Faith. “I want to tell them it’s okay to speak up and tell someone what they are going through. I want to be an official advocate.”
Faith will begin her 40-hour Domestic Violence Advocacy training through Option House, Inc. next month and it will entail a child component which will allow her to be an advocate for her peers under the supervision of a certified adult.
“For children, the fear they live with is more than fear of injury or death,” said Heather Stevning, Executive Director of Option House, Inc. “They fear the destruction of their family - their world. Children may experience feelings of shame, guilt, and divided loyalties to parents making it unlikely that they will disclose the violence to others.”
Stevning added that while there has been a focus on the causes of domestic violence and a push to stop it from happening, there has been much less discussion about how children like Faith are impacted by domestic violence.
The PSA also showcases Faith’s recent enrollment in a local boxing program designed to empower victims. The program, Project Fighting Chance, is a Youth Mentoring Life Skills Program run by San Bernardino youth boxing founder Ian Franklin.
“I hope Faith gains confidence, releases stress and any unaddressed anger,” said Franklin. “Most importantly, I hope she develops positive self-esteem.”
The PSA ends with a final call to action: If you or someone you know needs help, please call Option House, Inc. at (909) 381-3471 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
In 2016, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed 3,150 domestic violence-related cases. During this same period, the District Attorney’s Bureau of Victim Services assisted 728 domestic violence victims: 120 of those victims were assisted with relocation, 10 with emergency shelter, 280 with emergency assistance, and 116 were advised on how to get a civil restraining order.
“Many of these cases involved children, just like Faith, who witnessed horrible crimes committed against their loved ones,” said Ramos. “I have said it over and over, we will hold the guilty accountable, but in doing so, we need to also take into consideration the young victims who are left behind, our children. Through this PSA and our community partnerships, we can intervene early and break any future cycles of domestic violence or at-risk behavior.”
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has partnered with several community agencies to better serve victims of domestic violence. Please share the PSA and the following information: http://www.sbcountyda.org/HelpingVictims/DomesticViolenceShelters.aspx

Congratulations to our DA Investigator team for winning best in Show on Saturday at the Blues Brews Badges & BBQ Competition to help support the San Bernardino Police Foundation.