Monthly Archives: May 2013

Son of raped mom tells of Ramirez’s lasting impact

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Richard Raymond Ramirez enters court in Santa Ana on Wednesday. Ramirez is being tried a third time for the 1983 rape and murder of Kimberly Gonsalez. The first jury deadlocked. Ramirez was later convicted but the verdict was voided on the grounds of jury misconduct.

SANTA ANA – Jerry Flores was a 1-year-old sleeping in a crib when his mother was punched, menaced with a butcher knife and repeatedly raped in their Merced apartment in 1977 by an acquaintance she knew as “Mousy,” a prosecutor told an Orange County jury Monday.

The rapist – Richard Raymond Ramirez – threatened to kill the mother because she could recognize him and threatened to cut off her baby’s legs if she didn’t give him money she did not have, Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said in the opening statement of Ramirez’s penalty-phase trial.

The woman saved herself and her baby by running naked from the apartment screaming for help, but some of her emotional and physical wounds never healed, Yellin said. Ramirez, then a teenager, was arrested by Merced police, convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to an indefinite term in the California Youth Authority. He was released a few years later.

Last week, a seven-woman, five-man jury in Santa Ana convicted Ramirez of the special-circumstances rape and murder of Kimberly Gonsalez, a 22-year-old bank teller whose seminude and bloody body was found in the darkened alley behind Mr. Barry’s bar in Garden Grove in November 1983.

She had been stabbed multiple times. Ramirez, who is not the similarly named “night stalker” serial killer, was out on parole when Gonsalez was murdered.

The same jury is now hearing additional evidence to determine Ramirez’s punishment – life in prison without the possibility of parole or another death sentence.

Ramirez was convicted and sentenced to death for the Gonsalez’s murder in 1985, but those results were reversed on appeal by a federal court judge in 2008 for jury misconduct. Ramirez, now 55, was then returned to Orange County for a second trial.

Yellin said Monday that jurors should consider the 1977 Merced rape conviction as an aggravating circumstance in favor of a death verdict.

But Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill told the jury in his opening statement Monday that life in prison is the more appropriate sentence, in part because of Ramirez’s horrible childhood with an alcoholic and abusive father who suffered nightmares from military service during the Korean War.

Hill said the father beat Ramirez’s mother and his children regularly, offered no parental guidance or love, and created an atmosphere of fear in the household. The mother eventually divorced her husband and left her son to be cared for by an older sister, Hill said.

As a result, Ramirez developed a heroin addiction as a 13-year-old, dropped out of school because of a lack of supervision and grew up in poverty, all factors that Hill said weigh in favor of a life term with no shot at patrol.

But Yellin told jurors they should consider as aggravating factors the 1983 murder of Kimberly Gonsalez, the impact her slaying had on her family and the rape of the single mother in Merced six years earlier.

Because the mother died of natural causes three years ago, Yellin called her son to the witness stand to describe the aftermath of the 1977 sexual attack.

Jerry Flores, 36, walked into the 10th-floor courtroom with a neatly trimmed beard and carrying a framed portrait of his mother.

The 1977 sexual assault, he testified, “destroyed her life.” He said his mother suffered breakdowns and hospitalizations, had a fear of big cities, and developed a hatred for all men because of what happened to her in their Merced apartment in 1977.

The penalty phase in Superior Court Judge William Froeberg’s court is expected to conclude next week.

This trial is taking longer than usual because Froeberg is required to recess early twice a week so that Ramirez can receive kidney-dialysis treatment to keep him alive.

If Ramirez again receives a death penalty, he will be returned to death row, joining 61 convicted killers from Orange County and more than 730 from throughout California.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


Area firefighters helping in tornado recovery

One firefighter from Orange County and two from Los Angeles County were sent to Oklahoma to help recovery efforts after a massive tornado devastated the region and killed at least 24 people.

First responders from across the country have been asked to go to Oklahoma City – including the suburban areas of Moore and Newcastle – to help officials search for survivors.

Officials in Oklahoma are still assessing the damage and devastation where 200 mph winds plowed through entire neighborhoods.

Several of the dead have been reported to be children from an elementary school that was hit directly by the tornado, which cut a swath of destruction up to two miles wide.

Capt. Jon Muir of the Orange County Fire Authority said the agency was alerted about possible deployments Monday after significant damage was reported. One firefighter was on his way to Oklahoma to serve on an Incident Support Team Monday night, but more may be called as officials there assess the damage.



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Officials: Man accidentally shoots himself in leg

GARDEN GROVE – A man in his 50s was taken to a nearby hospital after he accidentally shot himself early Monday morning, authorities said.

Firefighters were called to the 9900 block of Joyzele Drive at about 12:15 a.m. on a report of the shooting.

When firefighters arrived, they found a man in his 50s had shot himself with his handgun, said Battalion Chief Nick Schaefer of the Garden Grove Fire Department.

Capt. Fred Niblo told reporters on the scene the man was cleaning his handgun for a shooting trip when it accidently fired into his lower right leg.

The injury was not life-threatening, officials said.

City News Service contributed to this report.



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Camp ranger sues over Dorner reward

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In this aerial photo, law enforcement authorities investigate the burnt-out cabin Feb.13, 2013, where accused quadruple-murder suspect Christopher Dorner was believed to have died after barricading himself inside, during a Tuesday stand-off with police in the Angeles Oaks area near Big Bear Lake. San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay was killed and another wounded during the shootout with Dorner.

IRVINE – A camp ranger carjacked by Christopher Dorner, the fired Los Angeles police officer who killed an Irvine couple and two law enforcement officials before taking his own life, is suing Irvine and several other public agencies after being denied a $1 million reward offered to end the hunt for the killer.

Irvine city officials Monday received a summons and a copy of a lawsuit filed by Richard Heltebrake, a San Bernardino resident who claims that his phone call to authorities after being carjacked by Dorner played a “substantial role” in ending the search for the fugitive and who believes he is entitled to a $1 million reward offered in the midst of the manhunt.

A panel of three retired U.S. District Court judges was empowered with deciding how or whether to divvy up the $1 million in reward money, which includes $100,000 contributed by Irvine.

After Dorner’s death during a violent showdown with law enforcement officers at cabin near Big Bear Lake, at least 12 people have stepped forward to claim that they should get a piece of the reward.

Authorities last week announced that the majority of the reward money, 80 percent, will go to James and Karen Reynolds, who were tied up by Dorner after they confronted him at their Big Bear Lake cabin, where police believe Dorner had been hiding to elude a search of the area. The couple were able to get free of their bindings and call 911, alerting authorities to Dorner’s presence in the area and leading to a final standoff.

The remainder of the reward money was split between R. Lee McDaniel, who saw Dorner in a Corona parking lot, confirming to authorities that Dorner was in Southern California, and Daniel McGowan, who saw Dorner’s burning truck on an unpaved fire route, narrowing the search to snowy wilderness around Big Bear Lake.

The judges in a report outlining their decision acknowledged that Heltebrake had called a sheriff’s deputy to report that Dorner had hijacked his vehicle. However, the judges also noted that law enforcement officials had seen Dorner by the time Heltebrake’s call was made, leading them to determine that he wasn’t entitled to reward money.

Heltebrake’s lawsuit criticizes the decision to allow the judges to determine who received the money, referring to it as a “secret tribunal which could act beyond public scrutiny.” Along with the public agencies that contributed to the reward fund, Heltebrake’s lawsuit also names the Reynoldses, McDaniel and McGowan as defendants.

Irvine officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A Superior Court judge Friday declined to grant Heltebrake a temporary restraining order that would have stopped authorities from beginning to disburse the reward money.

The hunt for Dorner led to an unprecedented dragnet across Southern California after the former officer was identified as the prime suspect in the killings of Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, an Irvine couple gunned down in a parking garage at an apartment complex.

Authorities believe Dorner targeted the couple as part of a grudge against Quan’s father, a former Los Angeles Police Department captain who represented Dorner in the board of review hearings that led to Dorner’s firing. In a rambling manifesto uncovered after the Irvine murders, Dorner threatened his former LAPD colleagues and their families, claiming that they had forced his firing from a department he described as racist and corrupt.

Dorner is also believed to have shot and killed Riverside police officer Michael Crain and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department detective Jeremiah MacKay in separate confrontations, both of which authorities described as ambushes.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


Public’s help sought in sex assault case

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Jarrid Thomas Baldogo

IRVINE – Authorities are asking the public to help identify potential additional victims of a former Irvine tennis coach accused of sexual assault, officials said.

Jarrid Thomas Baldogo, 29, of Irvine was charged with eight felony counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 with a sentencing enhancement allegation for substantial sexual conduct with a child, according to court records.

Officials say that Baldogo might have assaulted other students or children and are asking for the public’s help to find possible victims.

Police said they arrested Baldogo after the parents of a 12-year-old boy found suspicious text messages on his phone.

Baldogo is accused of committing sex acts against the boy on at least eight separate occasions in his car and apartment, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

Baldogo did not enter a plea in the initial arraignment, which has been rescheduled for May 31.

If convicted, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 22 years in state prison and mandatory lifetime sex offender registration.

Authorities ask anyone with information to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Lou Gutierrez at 714-664-3943.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.


Fire crews discover pot-growing operation in Stanton condo

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A male was detained after a large marijuana grow was discovered in the 8900 block of Deira Lane in Stanton around 6:20 p.m. Monday.

STANTON – Fire crews responding to an alarm at a Stanton condominium Monday night discovered a large marijuana-growing operation, authorities said.

The firefighters shortly after 6:15 p.m. responded to the residence in the 8900 block of Deira Lane, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Jon Muir said.

They found a “large amount of marijuana being grown in the residence,” Muir said, along with chemicals and fertilizer.

Several hazardous-materials teams from the Orange County Fire Authority and the Anaheim Fire Department were called to the scene to make sure the chemicals weren’t dangerous.

By 8 p.m., they determined that the materials were being used to grow the marijuana and were not a danger to other residents.

“It’s just a great example of the haz-mat teams working together, along with the sheriff’s, to get this resolved very quickly,” Muir said.

The amount of marijuana found at the home wasn’t immediately clear. At least one person was reportedly being interviewed Monday night by Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies.



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Newport police chief denies harassment accusations

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The dispatch room of the Newport Beach Police Department. Former dispatcher Christine Hougan is suing the department, the city and Chief Jay Johnson, alleging harassment.

Last week news spread that Newport Beach police Chief Jay Johnson had been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation by fired NBPD dispatcher Christine Hougan.

In the lawsuit, filed April 29 in Orange County Superior Court, Hougan cites several instances in which the chief’s behavior made her uncomfortable.

She claims he’d come into dispatch 90 percent of the time she worked. On more than one occasion he leaned into her console and said, “I like you, I really like you,” she said her in suit.

She also claims she “could feel his breath on the back of her neck.”

When the chief’s brother visited and was introduced to her, he remarked, “Ooh, I like that uniform,” and stared at her legs, she said in the suit.

Hougan says Johnson did nothing to chastise or object to what his brother said.

I talked to Johnson and he told me he’s done nothing wrong.

He said an independent investigation by the city into these allegations cleared him.

Hougan acknowledges in her lawsuit that she “engaged in conduct that was extremely disruptive to the Command Center, and ultimately it was offered as evidence in support of her termination many months later.”

Her main allegation in the suit, filed against Johnson, the Newport Beach Police Department and the city, is that that Johnson used his rank and power to intimidate her after her husband John Hougan, a former NBPD officer, had been fired in 2011.

John Hougan filed a lawsuit in July claiming retaliation after testifying on behalf of Sgt. Neil Harvey, who won a $1.2 million judgment against the department. Harvey said the department discriminated against him because he was gay.

A lot of what’s in Christine Hougan’s complaint is about how she and her husband were treated after he testified.

Johnson wasn’t even working for Newport Beach police then, but was ultimately the one who fired them.

I wanted to ask Hougan about her suit but calls to her attorney went unanswered.

Johnson told me that after Hougan’s husband was fired, he tried to talk to Christine Hougan and make her as comfortable about the situation as possible.

He told me he rarely saw Hougan since she worked part-time on the weekends, when he was off.

Rather than appeal her firing, Hougan sent a letter to Newport City Manager Dave Kiff about her claims of harassment and intimidation.

Johnson says he insisted the city hire an outside investigator to thoroughly examine the allegations.

The investigators interviewed witnesses and Johnson as well.

“I completely cooperated. In the end, all these allegations were proven to be frivolous and unfounded. I was cleared of all of this,” Johnson told me.

I asked city attorney Aaron Harp for a copy of the investigation. He told me they don’t release these reports because witnesses are more forthright when they know what they say will be kept confidential.

He wouldn’t comment on the investigation.

“It is important for the city to determine what really happened when charges are leveled against our employees,” he said.

I find it hard to believe Johnson would do anything off-color to Hougan after her husband filed such a high-profile lawsuit.

Those who intimidate and harass have a pattern of this behavior. By all accounts Johnson he has no history of this.

And as far as Johnson standing so close to her that she felt his breath on her neck, that’s not washing for me, either.

If you’re familiar with NBPD dispatch, there’s anywhere from three to four people sitting close to each other at all times.

Johnson’s more than 6 feet tall and would’ve had to bend way down to breathe on anyone seated, and be in full view of other dispatchers

But I’m not the only one who thinks this lawsuit doesn’t pass the smell test.

Former NBPD captain and now Costa Mesa’s police Chief Tom Gazsi told me, “During my year working for Jay I saw strong character and high integrity and think highly of the man.”

“I believe these characterizations of Chief Jay Johnson are false,” said Steve Rasmussen, president of the Newport Beach Police Management Association. “It is sad that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”

Rasmussen says when the facts come out; the public will know what he already does: That Johnson is a fair, decent and ethical man, he said.

Before you say all cops stick together, that hasn’t been my experience with NBPD.

In 2008-09 I wrote several articles in which cops of all ranks candidly discussed allegations of the cronyism regarding the promotional process within the department.

When Johnson became NBPD chief, decades of distrust between the rank and file and management ended. He ushered in a new era for this department.

“When I first got this job I made a promise to the community that I would be accessible, responsible and transparent. The community needs to know I have nothing to hide,” he told me.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.