Extra DUI patrols here this weekend & next

LBPD Lt. Jeff Calvert announced that during both the Christmas and New Year’s weekends the Laguna Beach Police Department will be increasing its patrol staff in an effort to reduce the number of persons killed or injured in alcohol related crashes. The saturation patrols will include additional officers in order to identify and remove DUI offenders from the roadways.

“DUI saturation patrols have proven to be an effective method for achieving this goal. By publicizing these enforcement efforts, the Laguna Beach Police Department believes motorists will be deterred from drinking and driving,” the LBPD said in a press release recently.

Tips on how to stay safe

The Laguna Beach Police Department recommends these simple tips to keep you and your family member’s safe while on the roadway:

Plan a safe way home before the festivities begin;

Before drinking, designate a sober driver;

If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;

If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to call 911;

And remember, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.  If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

Funding for this operation is provided by a grant (AVOID 26) from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Cops arrest four suspects connected to auto burglaries and thefts from unlocked vehicles; police say they’ve been working LB for a while

There have been a large number of thefts from unlocked vehicles and break ins of locked vehicles (the latter crime is burglary - a felony) with thousands of dollars in losses to Laguna Beach residents over the past month-plus.

10 such reports were taken in town since Thursday.

At 1:41 a.m. Sunday, a woman on Tia Juana St called the police reporting that her unlocked car had been ransacked and that she heard a car alarm blaring nearby.

An officer responding to the area noticed a man on foot wearing dark clothing in the 400 block of Nyes Place. He made contact and found that the man had four pairs of expensive women’s sunglasses. The officer had the woman who had called check to see if sunglasses were missing from her car. She confirmed that a pair in the possession of the suspect was from her car.

Norman B. Stilley, 25, of Florida, was arrested for felony possession of stolen property and interviewed at the police station. A charge of conspiracy to commit a crime was added later.

Sgt. Louise Callus said Stilley gave up details and went with them to a motel in Westminster. Three others were in the room and arrested.

Callus identified them as Sarah Ann Allred, 19, Eric Thomas Buseth, 19 and Allan David Liesk, 22, all from Utah. They too were charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy.

Police have positively associated the four to seven thefts/vehicle burglaries here in the past week.

Sgt. Callus said, “There will probably be more victims involved.”


DNA hit brings International serial rapist to trial for sexual assault of SoCal women including two originating here

A man suspected of being an international serial rapist went to trial last week for allegedly sexually assaulting three Southern California women, two that he met in Laguna Beach bars, after he was captured in Austria in 2010, following a DNA match through INTERPOL.

The defendant, Ali Achekzai, was featured on the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Most Wanted list.

The OCDA said in a press release that the two women he met in a Laguna nightclub 2004 were sexually assaulted outside of Laguna Beach.

Achekzai, 33, formerly of Ladera Ranch, is charged with two felony counts of forcible rape, two felony count of sexual penetration by foreign object by force, one felony count of aggravated assault, one felony count of assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense, and sentencing enhancements and allegations for committing sexual crimes against more than one victim, and causing great bodily injury to a victim.

The OCDA is prosecuting the defendant for rapes and assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense that occurred in both Orange and San Diego Counties. If convicted, Achekzai faces a maximum sentence of 68 years and four months to life in state prison.


Charges delineated against 16-year-old boy

Police said Monday that the 16-year-old Laguna Beach boy involved in the sexual assault against a 19-year-old woman was detained at Juvenile Hall on suspicion of rape, sodomy, and penetration with a foreign object, all felonies.

As reported here in last Friday’s edition, the incident took place on south Main Beach late last Tuesday (Nov 22) night. The incident happened at about 9:30 in the general area behind Hotel Laguna, police said.

LBPD Lt. Jason Kravetz said last week that the two knew each other.

“They went to the beach together…” Kravetz said.

The police log said the boy ran away after the attack. The woman knew his first name and LBPD detectives traced his identity through Facebook, according to the log. The boy was taken into custody at his residence at 12:15 a.m. on Nov 23.

A reliable source not authorized to speak on the subject said it is thought that the boy was previously a student at Laguna Beach High School but is not at this time.


Scammers are in Laguna Beach – it’s that time of the year; cops urge us to be wary

Two men wearing blue shirts emblazoned with AT&T knocked on the door of a man living on Gaviota Drive Thursday morning. When he answered the door, they told him they needed to come inside to check his wiring.

Sgt. Louise Callus of the LBPD said the man knew Verizon provided service to our area. “He said he thought about that but let them in anyway.”

One of the men walked with a limp. Police said the victim remarked about the limp. “The suspect was ready for that. He told the victim that he’d fallen off a telephone pole. That relaxed the victim’s concerns.”

After the two men left, the resident discovered that a valuable coin collection and a rare stamp album were missing. The value of his losses has not been disclosed.

There have been a number of such scams in Laguna this year including some on the phone. In North Laguna, a well-dressed woman convinced a woman who was alone in the mid-afternoon to come outside to assist her. She kept the woman’s attention for only a minute or so but that was long enough for an accomplice to get inside from a back door and make off with the silver and several other valuable items.

Callus said, “Everyone needs to call the company being represented if they have not initiated the service call themselves – before opening the door. If the firm cannot verify anyone being authorized to be there, they need to dial 9-1-1. Be wary!”

Southern California has long been victimized by scammers who arrive here in the wintertime after escaping colder weather elsewhere. They go door-to-door selling roof repairs and/or driveways sealants…using inferior products that look good for a short while or until it rains.

Be wary!


Wary neighbor led cops to drug bust of Mission Viejo trio

Police said a man called 9-1-1 last Thursday night to report some suspicious activity in the 2800 block of Chillon Way. The man, who lives nearby, had driven out of the neighborhood on a short errand and noticed a parked car with three occupants.

When he returned, the car was still in the same spot with the people “…just sitting inside…” according to the police log. When he arrived back at his home, he called in the sighting and police responded.

According to the cops, an empty syringe was out in the open and plainly visible to the first officer who made contact with the three. That gave rise to an extensive search of the car and the two men and one woman who had been inside.

The search turned up a large amount of four types of prescription pills including OxyContin and Xanax, syringes and two grams of heroin.

Michelle Margaret Sommerhauser, 26, and Eric Christian Brown, 21, were taken into custody and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and felony possession for sales, possession of a controlled substance (pills) without a prescription, possession of a hypodermic needle and possession of drug paraphernalia. Derek Lloyd Horner, 22, was charged with misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance (pills) without a prescription.

All three of the suspects are from Mission Viejo.


City and LBPD searching for CERT trained individuals

The City’s Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Laguna Beach Police Department are currently exploring the feasibility of starting a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in our City.

The CERT program is designed to teach community members skills to be better prepared during and after a disaster and to aid public safety efforts.

In furtherance of the possible implementation of this program, the Police Department is seeking previously trained CERT members who received their training in another community and currently work or reside in Laguna Beach.  If this applies to you and you are interested, please contact Lt. Darin Lenyi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 497-0750, ext. 230.

If CERT is implemented, the program will be announced on the City’s website and in the local media.  Solicitation for interested community members will also be posted.


Three downtown galleries hit by thieves who took expensive sculptures over the past two weeks

Village Gallery, Wyland and Townley Gallery – all in the 500 block of S. Coast Hwy, were victimized by thieves who made off with expensive sculptures while the galleries were open for business. The latter two were hit Friday.

LBPD Detective Matt Meadows said Monday that the video surveillance images of the culprits are not the same suspects. Another police source indicated that while that may be the case, it is possible that several individuals are working in concert.

At Village Gallery in late October at 7:22 p.m., the suspect (above left) entered the gallery and removed the sculpture (above right) from its display case, took a photograph of it using his cell phone, and left the gallery momentarily. He soon returned, and stole the statue by placing it in large white bag and quickly exiting the store.

The statue is described as a Sherri McEuen Espirit, valued at $3,295.

“Based on the suspect’s actions with his cell phone, it is believed he was likely communicating with a potential buyer prior to the theft,” Meadows said.

Wyland Gallery reported a theft on Friday morning at 10:30. Three males, all wearing oversized dark rain gear, got an employee’s attention diverted long enough to walk out with a piece valued at $2,783.75.

Two of the men were described as being Asian and the other white. They were last seen on foot headed south on Coast Highway.

A Patrick Blythe sculpture (below) was taken out of Townley Gallery at 7:12 p.m. Friday. A man (also pictured below) entered the gallery while an employee was speaking with a couple. As they left, the employee’s back was turned and their video surveillance camera captured an image of the suspect putting the piece under his coat then leaving.

The sculpture is valued at $2,000.

Anyone with information can reach Detective Meadows at 497-0758.


Facebook taunts lead Irvine boy, 14, to LBHS where he expected to fight a 15-yr-old – then he went to juvenile hall

A 14-year-old boy from Irvine went to Laguna Beach High School Friday afternoon expecting to fight a student, 15, from LBHS.

The two boys had been taunting each other back and forth on Facebook according to LBPD Lt. Jason Kravetz. “The Laguna Beach boy told him to come to the Artists Theatre and they would fight.  The 14-year-old from Irvine took him up on it.”

Kravetz said the Irvine boy came on campus and got into a fight – with the wrong LBHS student. The 15-year-old was sitting in class at the time.

School security and LBPD juvenile detective Natalie Leal managed to take the Irvine boy into custody on the LBHS campus.

The 14-year-old was charged with assault on school property, trespassing on campus, and assault with intent to cause bodily harm.  He was transported to Juvenile Hall in Orange and will be processed within the juvenile court system.


Two years and five days after Damon Nicholson was murdered, a judge has ordered two suspects to stand trial

11:26 p.m. – October 22, 2009: Matthew Dragna used Jacob Quintanilla’s cell phone as the latter drove out of Laguna Beach – less than twenty minutes after Dragna allegedly bludgeoned 41-year-old Damon Nicholson to death with a baseball bat the pair had brought to Laguna Beach from their apartment complex in El Toro.

Laguna Beach PD detective sergeant Bob Rahaeuser said the time was learned from Sprint records. “The call was made from a Sprint cell tower in Laguna Canyon,” he testified Thursday morning in a Harbor Justice Center courtroom. Dragna and Quintanilla were both 19 when the crime was committed. They were in court for their preliminary hearing – 730 days after Nicholson’s murder.

Rahaeuser recounted from the stand vivid details of Quintanilla’s statement to him and Detective Larry Bammer on Dec 4, 2009. It was after that meeting in the suspect’s apartment that he was arrested and charged with murder. Dragna, who lived in the same apartment complex on the night of the murder, had been arrested two weeks earlier while staying at a drug rehab center in Santa Ana.

Quintanilla, according to the testimony of Rahaeuser, said that Dragna had told him they could go to Laguna Beach that Thursday night and steal “four pounds of marijuana.” He also told Quintanilla to bring along his baseball bat.

Nicholson lived in a lower unit of a duplex on Dolphin Way in North Laguna. Dragna had been there the night before with Nicholson. Dragna knew that the sliding glass door (there was no front door) was unlocked and pushed it open.

Rahaeuser testified that Quintanilla couldn’t see Nicholson until after Dragna had walked inside holding the regular sized metal baseball bat.

“Quintanilla said…[it appeared to him]…that Nicholson was glad to see…[Dragna but his expression changed]…when he saw…[Quintanilla].”

Dragna, Quintanilla alleged to the detectives, walked over to the couch where Nicholson was sitting and swung the baseball bat striking him in the head.

Rahaeuser said Quintanilla had then stated, “That was a sound I never wanted to hear again.”

A co-worker at Hotel Laguna where Nicholson was the Banquet Manager went to the victim’s home the next afternoon concerned that he had neither come to work nor called the hotel. She discovered the body.

A Deputy District Attorney and two Deputy Public Defenders representing the suspects (who are still in custody at Orange County Jail) questioned Rahaeuser.

Judge Karen L. Robinson ordered the two suspects bound over for trial, which she set for 8:30 a.m. on Nov 7 in Dept C5.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

Lynette Brasfield is our Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

The Webmaster is Michael Sterling.

Katie Ford is our in-house ad designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Cameron Gillespie, Allison Rael, Barbara Diamond, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Maggi Henrikson, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers.

Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle and Suzie Harrison are columnists.

Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, and Aga Stuchlik are the staff photographers.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising

949.315.0259

Email: Lynette@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc

949.715.1736