Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Off-duty Hermosa Beach Fire Department arson investigator charged with brandishing gun at woman in bar

Aug 23– An off-duty arson investigator with the Hermosa Beach Fire Department has been charged with brandishing a firearm at a woman sitting next to him in a bar in Sunset Beach.

Darryl Lee Powers, 49, La Palma, was charged Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, with one misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm capable of being concealed upon a person in a public place. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from 90 days up to one year in jail. Powers is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 24 at the West Justice Center in Westminster.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 7, 2010, Powers is accused of being at Turc’s Bar in Sunset Beach having drinks with his cousin. The defendant is accused of taking out a knife and stabbing it into the bar in front of him. Victim Kimberly D., who did not know the defendant, was sitting next to him at the bar.

A bartender took the knife and told the defendant that he could not have a knife at the bar. When the bartender walked away, Powers is accused of taking a firearm from his pocket and putting in on the bar with the barrel pointing at Kimberly D. The frightened victim asked Powers to put the firearm away, but he is accused of leaving it on the bar.

The victim told the bartender, who contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). Powers was contacted by OCSD as he left the bar and released at the scene pending further investigation.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Olivieri of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.

Man charged with having unlawful sex and smoking marijuana with 12-year-old girl in his car

Aug 18 – A 31-year-old man has been charged with having unlawful sex and smoking marijuana with a 12-year-old girl in his car at 2 a.m. after meeting her for the first time earlier that day.

Neftali Pena Procopio, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of lewd acts on a child under 14 with a sentencing enhancement for substantial sexual conduct with a child. He is also charged with one felony count of furnishing marijuana to a minor. If convicted, Procopio faces a maximum sentence of nine years and eight months in state prison. He is being held on $100,000 bail.

On the afternoon of Aug. 16, 2010, Procopio is accused of meeting 12-year-old Jane Doe for the first time while he was playing basketball on the campus of Santa Ana High School. The victim is not a student at the high school. He is accused of arranging for the victim to sneak out of her home later that night.

Late that night, Procopio is accused of picking Jane Doe up near her home, driving her to the 300 block of South Ross Street in Santa Ana, and parking his car. The defendant is accused of giving Jane Doe marijuana and smoking it with her. He is accused of then having unlawful sex with the victim in his car. Procopio is accused of then tossing the used condom outside of the car.

At approximately 2 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2010, an officer from the Santa Ana Police Department observed the defendant’s parked car with fogged windows. The officer approached the vehicle to make contact with the occupants. Procopio is accused of being inside the car when the officer approached.

The defendant was arrested at the scene and the victim was taken home by SAPD to her parents, who were unaware that she had left the house. The discarded condom was recovered by officers.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Man arrested after ejaculating two times into female co-worker’s water bottle while at work

Aug 17 – Orange Police Dept (OPD) officers arrested a man outside his Fullerton home Aug 17 on charges of ejaculating twice into a female co-worker’s water bottle on her office desk.

Michael Kevin Lallana, 31, Fullerton, is charged with two misdemeanor counts each of releasing an offensive material in a public place and assault, with sentencing allegations for committing a crime for sexual gratification. If convicted, he faces a sentence ranging from a minimum of three months to a maximum of three years in jail with mandatory sex offender registration.

The People requested Lallana be held on $10,000 bail. The defendant is out of custody on $500 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Sept 14 at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-46, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

In 2005, Lallana is accused of meeting a co-worker, in her twenties, Jane Doe, while working at Northwestern Mutual Mortgage Company in Newport Beach. On Jan. 14, 2010, Lallana is accused of assaulting Jane Doe by entering the victim’s office and depositing his ejaculation into a water bottle that was on her desk. The defendant is accused of leaving the semen-filled water bottle on the victim’s desk, which Jane Doe later drank upon returning to her office. The victim, unaware of the bottle’s contents, drank the water the contaminated water. She threw it away after feeling sickened and irritated.

Approximately three months later, Jane Doe and six other employees, including the defendant, were transferred to the Northwestern Mutual Mortgage Company’s Orange branch. On April 9, 2010, Lallana is accused of assaulting Jane Doe by depositing his ejaculation into a water bottle that the victim left on her desk. The defendant is accused of leaving the contaminated bottle on Jane Doe’s desk and returning to his office. The victim later returned to her office and drank from the semen-filled water bottle. She was sickened and irritated. She sent it to a private lab to be tested.

In June 2010, Jane Doe was contacted by the private lab that confirmed the water bottle contained semen. The victim reported the incidents to the OPD. In early July, following further investigation by the OPD and Orange County Crime Lab, the defendant was linked through DNA to the crimes.

Deputy District Attorney Bobby Taghavi is prosecuting this case.


Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Drunk driver, 21, pleads guilty of hit-and-run death of man, 29

August 13 – A driver under the influence of alcohol was convicted today for hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene, which resulted in the victim’s death one week later.

Shana Lynne Calderon, 21, Newport Beach, pleaded guilty to the court to one felony count of hit and run causing death, one misdemeanor count each of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, and driving without a valid license. Calderon faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison at her sentencing Oct. 15, 2010.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2009, Calderon was driving in her white 1995 Ford Explorer southbound on the Costa Mesa Freeway as it turned into Newport Blvd in Costa Mesa. The victim, 29-year-old Michael McLaughlin, stepped into the street as Calderon moved into the right hand turn lane and hit the victim at the intersection of Newport Boulevard and 19th Street.

The defendant struck the victim causing him to hit the windshield and fly into the street. Calderon parked her vehicle nearby, walked to the scene, and spoke to a witness there. Calderon and her passenger then fled the scene. The victim was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, where he died a week later due to blunt force trauma caused by the crash.

Approximately two hours later, Calderon turned herself in to the Costa Mesa Police Department. Calderon displayed objective signs of intoxication including bloodshot and watery eyes, flushed face, slurred speech, and a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. At the time of her arrest she was in possession of two hollowed-out pen containers used to ingest prescription drugs. At the time of the crash, Calderon was driving without a valid driver’s license.

Deputy DA Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.


DNA match led to arrest in Mandarin King robbery and beating from Feb 26, 2009

Gutierrez Mug ShotWhen the cops want to talk to someone about a serious crime, nothing works better for them than having a suspect with an existing felony warrant for something else.

As we reported in Police Beat here in the Tuesday edition, Laguna Beach PD detectives went to Riverside County to arrest Armando Serrano Gutierrez, 37, on a felony West Court drug possession warrant.

Turns out they brought him back to the city jail and interviewed about the robbery of the owner of Mandarin King restaurant in North Laguna on Feb 26, 2009. That night two masked men sneaked through the darkness and demanded money from the victim as he approached his car after closing. Police said the two masked men didn’t wait for a response – they just started to repeatedly beat the owner over the head and face with a wooden stick. He was knocked down and the suspects grabbed the moneybag and took off.

Despite the beating, the victim suffered only minor facial wounds and recovered fully.

Investigators weren’t able to uncover and clues that would lead them to an arrest in the case until earlier this month. LBPD was notified by the national DNA database of a match on an item detectives had submitted. That item was the wooden stick the suspects had used to beat the victim.

Gutierrez had been arrested on another felony crime in Nov 2009, which caused his DNA to be obtained and entered into the database. Gutierrez’s sample matched the previously unknown DNA from the weapon.

Detectives tracked Gutierrez, of Santa Ana, to a residence in Rubidoux and with the assistance of Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies, arrested him on the drug warrant without incident.

LBPD Detective Sgt. Bob Rahaeuser said in a statement that once he was brought to the police station, “Gutierrez provided critical evidence, which caused investigators to charge him with armed robbery. ICE was also contacted for an immigration hold.”

Police did not release any information related to a second suspect.


Man on LSD jumped cop trying to help him

A patrol officer stopped to offer assistance to a man who had been running at “a full sprint” down the sidewalk in the 800 block of N. Coast Hwy. The officer had seen the man and also saw him take a header onto Coast Hwy.

According to Sgt. Louise Callus, LBPD Press Information Officer, “The officer turned around to assist. As he approached the subject on foot, the subject’s girlfriend…stated that the subject had just ingested LSD.” Sgt. Callus explained that Jon Kelsey, 23 of Fountain Valley, quickly jumped up as the officer approached him, “…and [Kelsey] repeatedly attempted to punch and kick him. The officer drew and discharged his Taser, but they were too close and the application was ineffective.”

The officer and Kelsey tussled and the officer managed to get him down and called for emergency assistance for an officer needing help. All Laguna patrol units responded, “code three” (lights and sirens).

Just after the call for help, Callus said, “Although the officer outweighed the subject by over 50 pounds, the subject was able to throw the officer off. The officer was able to reestablish a control hold as three citizens stopped to assist. Two of the citizens (one of which was an off-duty CDC [California Dept of Corrections] employee) helped the officer control [and] handcuff him, and place him into a patrol car. The officer sustained a small cut to his nose and abrasions to his elbows and knees.”

Kelsey had numerous abrasions and bruises but was otherwise unhurt.

He was charged with battery on a police officer, being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.

StuNewsLaguna received several “tips” from passersby.


Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


OCDA hosts 10th annual Summer Youth Education Conference for students interested in law enforcement

Aug 6 – Local Orange County high school students will have the opportunity next week to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a prosecutor, defense attorney, police detective and judge during the 10th Annual Summer Youth Education Conference. This weeklong program will begin Monday, Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m. and will include 35-40 hours of hands-on activities, culminating in a mock trial and a graduation ceremony on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010.

“I am glad that our program helps young people in our community to learn about the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “It’s our privilege to work with local teens to choose a positive path. The students are tomorrow’s prosecutors, police officers, and judges.”

The Summer Youth Education Conference allows students interested in law enforcement to gain a better understanding of how the criminal justice system works. Students will have an opportunity to visit numerous government agencies and network with criminal justice professionals.

The participants will visit the Santa Ana Police Department, the Federal Courthouse, a judge’s chamber, the Orange County Sheriff’s Training Facility, and the Coroner’s office. Educational workshops will be presented by police officers, OCDA investigators, prosecutors, a public defender, community agencies, and other criminal justice professionals.

Applications for the program are accepted from students who exhibit an interest in learning about the legal and criminal justice system are selected to participate. Anyone interested in applying for the 2011 conference can visit the Orange County District Attorney’s website at www.orangecountyda.com and select “Summer Youth Education Conference” under “Education and Resources.” The program is open to Orange County high school students between the ages of 16 and 18 years old.

Man described as “smelling of garlic and donuts” arraigned on charges of forcible rape and sodomy after kidnapping victim

Aug 6 – A man was arraigned this afternoon for raping and sodomizing a woman he forced into his vehicle.

Phat Huy To, 26, Garden Grove, is charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, sodomy by force, forcible oral copulation, and kidnapping. If convicted, To faces a minimum sentence of 12 years to a maximum sentence of 32 years in state prison. The defendant is being held on $250,000 bail and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing, Friday, Aug. 26, 2010, at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-14, West Justice Center, Westminster.

On July 16, 2010, at approximately 2 a.m., To is accused of driving up to Westminster Boulevard in Garden Grove in his vehicle and approaching 23-year-old Jane Doe. He is accused of rolling down the window, holding what looked like a gun under his shirt, and telling her to “get in the f***ing car.” He is accused of driving her to his house and forcibly raping, sodomizing, and forcing the victim to orally copulate him in the garage of the home for over two hours.

The defendant is accused of taking Jane Doe’s cellular phone and driving her to a street where he dropped her off. Jane Doe flagged down help and reported the crime to the Garden Grove Police Department. The defendant was described by the victim as smelling of garlic and donuts. He was also identified through his picture.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Randy Litwin at (714) 347-8794.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker of the Sexual Assault Unit is prosecuting this case.

Transient parolee charged with stabbing and attempting to murder woman during carjacking in grocery store parking lot

Aug 4 – A transient man on parole was charged today with stabbing and attempting to murder a woman in a grocery store parking lot after she refused to give him the keys to her car.

Ernesto Lucero, 25, a transient known to frequent the Cities of Santa Ana, Tustin and Orange, is charged with one felony count each of attempted murder, carjacking, and aggravated assault with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon, the personal use of a deadly weapon during a carjacking, and causing great bodily injury. The defendant has a prior strike for a 2005 residential burglary conviction. If convicted, Lucero faces a maximum sentence of life plus an additional 57 years in state prison.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2010, Lucero is accused of approaching several people and asking for money in an Albertsons parking lot near Jamboree Road and Chapman Avenue. The defendant is accused of approaching 50-year-old Jane Doe and asking her for money. When the victim refused, Lucero is accused of pulling out a knife and ordering Jane Doe to hand over her car keys. Jane Doe again refused and the defendant is accused of stabbing her twice in the chest. He is accused of then stealing the victim’s car keys and fleeing the scene in her car.

A witness, a Vietnam war veteran and medic, helped the victim by placing pressure on her chest and rolling her onto her side to prevent her lungs from filling up with fluid. Jane Doe was unconscious and non-responsive when emergency personnel arrived. She was transported to Western Medical Center.

The Orange Police Department (OPD) was called to the scene and released information about the crime and a description of the defendant to the media, asking for the public’s help in locating him. At approximately 1:10 p.m., two Villa Park residents who had seen the media coverage contacted the police after seeing a man matching the description of Lucero.

Deputies from the OC Sheriff’s Department located the defendant near Cerro Villa Middle School in Villa Park. Lucero is accused of being in possession of a knife in his pocket at the time of his arrest.

Jane Doe, a mother of two, is currently in the hospital in stable condition. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at (714) 347-8814 or Orange Police Detective Joey Ramirez at (714) 744-7313.

Deputy District Attorney Lynda Fernandez of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuting this case.


Police release new photos of U.S. Bank suspect

Laguna Beach police released new photos of the possible suspect in the two robberies of the U.S. Bank branch downtown. The photos were taken as he exited a bank in Cathedral City and police believe they show “a better depiction” of the man’s features.

He is suspected of pulling off 12 bank robberies in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Download the PDF:


Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Husband charged with murdering wife after marital discord over gambling and cheating

August 2 – A husband was charged today with murdering his wife after she asked him to move out of their home for gambling away $100,000 in pension money and being unfaithful.

Agustin Armaraz Espinoza, 55, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. The defendant is being held on $1 million bail and is subject to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold. The defendant is in the hospital (see below) and an arraignment date is to be determined.

Prior to July 29, 2010, Espinoza is accused of having marital trouble with his longtime wife, Marisela Espinoza, with whom he had adult children. The victim had told the defendant to move out of their Santa Ana home after she discovered that Espinoza had gambled away $100,000 in pension money and was in possession of a prepaid cell phone containing text messages regarding an extra-marital sexual relationship.

On or about July 29 Espinoza is accused of murdering Marisela Espinoza and leaving her body in the bedroom of their home. He is accused of then driving to San Bernardino and attempting to use the victim’s debit card before driving to Mexico.

Officers from the Santa Ana Police Department found the victim’s body during a welfare check after receiving a call from the victim’s concerned co-workers, who reported that Marisela Espinoza had not been to work for two days.

That same day, Espinoza was arrested while re-entering the United States from Mexico. While being held in jail for the murder of his wife, Espinoza is accused of physically harming himself.

The victim’s cause of death is pending. Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Driver under the influence of alcohol & cocaine sentenced to four years for killing motorist in 100 mph 73 toll road crash near Laguna Canyon Road

July 30 – A driver under the influence of alcohol and cocaine was sentenced today to four years in state prison by the Honorable Robert Fitzgerald for killing another motorist by crashing into the victim’s car while speeding over 100 mph on the toll road.

Richard Ernest Caselli, 38, Ladera Ranch, pleaded guilty to the court on May 11, 2010, to one felony count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated. The People argued for the maximum sentence allowable by law in this case, 10 years in state prison, based on the severity of the defendant’s conduct including his excessive driving speed, alcohol intoxication over twice the legal limit, and the presence of cocaine in his system.

At approximately 6:25 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2009, Caselli was speeding over 100 mph on State Route 73 in his Volvo sedan. The defendant was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine as he drove at a high rate of speed just north of Laguna Canyon Road. Caselli lost control of his car and crashed into a Nissan sport utility vehicle driven by 51-year-old Brook Boynton. The force of the crash caused the victim’s car to spin out of control and roll, ejecting Boynton onto the right shoulder. Boynton was killed as a result of his injuries.

Caselli’s vehicle also came to a stop. Approximately an hour and a half after the crash, Caselli had a blood alcohol level of .18 percent, more than twice the legal limit. The defendant also tested positive for cocaine.

Deputy DA Jason Baez of the Homicide Unit prosecuted this case.


Swimmer, 22, drowns off Three Arch beach

The lifeless body of Taylor Patrick Blanco, 22, was found floating in the ocean off Three Arch Bay beach at 7 a.m. Thursday morning by lifeguards that had been searching for him since late Wednesday afternoon.

Police said that at 5:40 p.m. dispatchers received a “…frantic 9-1-1 call from a security guard reporting a swimmer in distress off Three Arch Bay beach. The caller told them he had tried to rescue the swimmer, but the man had gone underwater and was no longer visible,” a press release stated.

U.S. Ocean Safety lifeguards and Laguna police and fire responded to the call. U.S. Ocean Safety asked for the assistance of Laguna Beach lifeguards including a dive team. The OC Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol sent a boat and a copter from the Newport Beach PD also assisted in the search that continued until dark Wednesday night.

The search had begun anew yesterday morning about one hour before the man’s body was found.

The press release said no foul play is suspected and that Blanco was in the water with a friend at the time of his disappearance.  “They had been doing a beach run/swimming exercise routine, which started at Salt Creek Beach…”


Fire Department has been busy since Friday

Laguna’s firefighters were busy and visible to many people in town since last Friday evening.

Susan and Greg Goggin were walking on the trail below Moulton Meadows Park in Arch Beach Heights when they saw white smoke rising from the canyon floor below. They went to a nearby rise and saw flames.

“We called 9-1-1,” Susan explained. “The man we spoke to kept asking if we were in the county of city…”

Her explanation matched what LBFD Deputy Chief Jeff LaTendresse said. “We had a 9-1-1 call and so did the county. Both departments dispatched a full assignment.”

When dialing 9-1-1 from a cell phone, a GPS system displays the exact latitude and longitude on the dispatcher’s screen. Since the Goggins weren’t in Moulton Meadows Park their call was automatically routed to the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA). At about the same time, a caller from within Moulton Meadows Park was routed to the Laguna Beach emergency dispatchers and hence, the two assignments.

The OCFA assigned three four-wheel drive off road wildland engines and Squad 11 to go along with Laguna’s Engine 302, also a wildland rig. Chief LaTendresse and a battalion chief from OCFA jointly commanded the incident that also included two OCFA water-dropping copters.

The fire was not accessible except by hand crews and the copters were required to knock the flames down. Laguna Engine 3 set up a water point along the fire road between Top of the World and Arch Beach Heights to supply water to the copters, which would land long enough for a fill up then fly off to attack the flames.

The fire was controlled by the copters after about a quarter of an acre had burned. Hand crews from the four wildland engines and the squad then went down the canyon sides to make sure there were no hot spots. Squad 11 stayed on the scene for a fire watch all night and the OCFA hand crew took over on Monday morning as a final safety watch.

Fire Photo 1

This was the first view by Greg and Susan Goggin after they called 9-1-1. It was taken on Greg’s phone.

Fire Photo 2

Phyllis Fang sent along this great shot of a copter just after it had made a water drop down in Aliso Canyon.

Fire Photo 3

She also took this photo looking toward Moulton Meadows Park in the far background. The two copters head for the water point to fill up. Laguna Engine 3 is at the right and the wildland engines are in the background at a point relative to and above the canyon wall with the fire below.

Fire Photo 4

This super shot and the next were taken by Cody LaTendresse who was with his Dad in the background area in the previous photo. OCFA Copter 1 is at the water point about to take off again as Copter 2 hovers above after making a drop before dropping down for a fill up.

Fire Photo 5

This shot was taken later and shows Copter 2 flying off for a drop as Copter 1 begins its decent for a fill up. The homes are on Sommet du Monde, which is at the Top of the World end of the fire road.

A long smoldering sawdust fire was discovered in time

Fire Photo 6

Fire Photo 7

Photos by Jennifer Daniels

Four Laguna engines and Truck 22 from the OCFA responded to a report of smoke coming from a cabinet shop in the rear of 2225 Laguna Canyon Rd at about 2:15 Monday afternoon. Chief LaTendresse said the cabinet shop had been unoccupied since Friday afternoon. A power saw caused a fire in a large accumulation of sawdust that smoldered all weekend according to LaTendresse. “People nearby smelled and saw the smoke.” Not long afterward, it’s likely there could have been a combustion that might have spread into attached buildings and studios, he indicated. The photo below shows Laguna Engine 1 in the rear of the property with hose lines charged as firefighters knocked down the fire.


Crime in the OC is no different than what
we see on television

I’ll admit it – I can’t get enough of the Law and Order shows, Cold Case and the CSI programs. Every night, you can watch hours of such programs on cable and it usually doesn’t matter to me if I’ve seen an episode a year or two before. That said I am able to also say with certainty that many others in Laguna, male and female, young and old, have told me they’re hooked as well.

Long before cable TV, the “whodunit” was always a top selling genre of books, magazines
and movies.

Most readers know that I have been covering the cops, fire and courts relating to Laguna Beach far longer than anyone else doing so in town. Before that, the law was second only to baseball as my passionate hobby.

OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ Public Affairs Counsel provides press releases filled with the details about important cases that have been or are being prosecuted by his office. I have always read them but only when they have a direct bearing on Laguna Beach have I written anything.

What always stood out is how the OC has crimes of all types that mirror the whole country – and cable TV. And, many of the crimes are closer to home than I believe most Lagunans realize.

Press releases from the DA’s officer will be printed here without much editing and without comment – just for readers’ knowledge awareness and entertainment with the caveat that the DA’s office isn’t interested in presenting the side of the accused.

Stu Saffer

This week from the OC DA’s office…


Santa Ana man to be arraigned for murdering a man with 25-pound concrete piece in homeless encampment

July 21 – A Santa Ana man was arraigned on murder charges for killing a man by beating him with a 25-pound concrete piece after knocking him to the ground.

Jorge Alejandro Lopez, 33, is charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison.

On July 17, 2010, Lopez is accused of walking up to a transient encampment with a friend and punching Marco Rojo Nieto in the face knocking him to the ground. The defendant is accused of kicking Nieto while he was lying defenseless on the ground before picking up a 25-pound piece of discarded concrete and striking the victim twice, once in the chest and once in the face. The defendant is accused of fleeing the scene in a friend’s car.

Witnesses called 9-1-1 and the Santa Ana Police Department responded. The victim died at the scene due to blunt force trauma. Nieto was married and had a teenage daughter.

Deputy DA Larry Yellin of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Man to be arraigned for killing bicyclist in early-morning crash while making illegal left turn

July 22 – A man was arraigned on an amended complaint for killing a bicyclist by making an illegal left turn, causing the victim to lose control and crash.

Jose Luis Huerta Mundo, 38, Garden Grove, is charged with one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and one misdemeanor count of driving a motor vehicle without a valid license. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 15, 2010, Mundo, a self-employed gardener, is accused of driving his landscaping truck to a job in Newport Beach near the intersection of Spyglass Hill Road and Harbor Ridge Drive. At the intersection, he is accused of making an illegal left turn against two “no left turn” road signs, including a sign with a red circular “no” symbol containing a left arrow pictogram. Mundo is accused of cutting off a bicycle group including rider Michael Nine, 43, causing the victim to brake rapidly, lose control, and crash head-first into the left rear portion of the defendant’s truck.

Nine was transported to Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach where he died approximately an hour later due to blunt force trauma. The victim was married and had two young children.

The law describing the distinction between misdemeanor and felony manslaughter: Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter may be charged where there is “ordinary negligence” or the failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to one self or another. A person is negligent if he or she does or fails to do something that a reasonable careful person would not do in the same situation.

Felony vehicular manslaughter may be charged where there is “gross negligence” which involves more than ordinary carelessness, inattention, or mistake in judgment. Gross Negligence would require a person to act in a reckless way that creates a high risk of death or great bodily injury and a reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such a risk. The person’s action must be so different from how an ordinary careful person would act in the same situation that his or her act amounts to disregard for human life or indifference to the consequences of the act.

Deputy District Attorney Vanessa Woods is prosecuting this case.

Anaheim couple arraigned for snatching mother’s purse from 7-year-old son outside post office

July 26 – An Anaheim couple appeared in court for arraignment today for stealing a mother’s purse from a 7-year-old boy outside a US Post Office in Stanton.

Jose Guillermo Bermudez, 28, and Christina Amber Bailey, 19, both of Anaheim, are each charged with one felony count of second degree robbery on John Doe and one felony count of second degree robbery on Leticia M. If convicted, Bermudez and Bailey face a maximum sentence of six years in state prison. The defendants are being held on $100,000 bail.

At 11:20 a.m., on July 17, 2010, 27-year-old mother Leticia M. parked her Nissan sedan in front of a post office located at 10440 Beach Blvd. in Stanton. She left her purse with her 7-year-old son, John Doe, while she went inside. Before the mother returned to her vehicle, Bermudez is accused of ripping the purse out of John Doe’s grasp and throwing it to Bailey, who was in a vehicle waiting nearby. Bermudez is then accused of getting into the vehicle with Bailey and driving away. He is accused of speeding away and almost running over Leticia while she struggled and pleaded with Bermudez to return her purse.

The mother used a witness’ cell phone to call the police. The Orange County Sheriff Department responded, and a composite sketch was made and released to the media.

Tips led to the identification and issuance of a warrant for the defendants. Anaheim Police Department arrested the defendants on July 22, 2010.

Deputy DA Katherine David is prosecuting this case.

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