Police seek home-invasion robber in Buena Park

BUENA PARK – Police are seeking a home-invasion robber who took property from a house Monday.

Officers received a call about the robbery at 11:54 a.m. from a resident at the home in the 8300 block of San Capistrano Way, said Cpl. Andy Luong of the Buena Park Police Department. When officers arrived, they found the two adults in the home at the time of the crime were uninjured.

Police did not disclose what was stolen, Luong said. A description of the suspect was not immediately available.



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D.A. will not file charges against ex-Assemblyman Chris Norby

Prosecutors said Monday they will not file charges against former state Assemblyman and Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, who was arrested March 12 on suspicion of domestic violence.

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Chris Norby thanks supporters at a 2010 election night party. FILE PHOTO: KEVIN SULLIVAN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Norby, 64, was arrested and booked into the Fullerton city jail before being released on $10,000 bond.

Police said his wife, Martha, did not have injuries. A police report said she told officers her husband pushed her, Supervisor Shawn Nelson said at the time.

Norby’s lawyer, David Borsari, said Assistant District Attorney Ted Burnett called him about noon Monday to tell him there would be no charges because the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Susan Schroeder, the chief of staff for the District Attorney’s Office, said the decision was based on “the insufficiency of the evidence.”

In an email Monday addressed to friends, family and supporters, Norby wrote, “My arrest was totally unjustified. There was no evidence, there were no witnesses. I was treated with disdain and hostility by those sworn to protect me. Many of you have impugned political motives based on my past and potential future political activities. In the end, however, a thorough investigation and interviews by the D.A.’s office served the interest of justice.”

In an interview the day after his arrest, Norby said he was the victim and that his wife has “severe anger issues.”

Speaking on her front porch the same day, Martha Norby said her husband was “controlling” and “gets angry very quickly.” She said he had abused her ever since their 2009 marriage.

Martha Norby couldn’t be reached immediately Monday afternoon.

The couple have a son and lived with three of Martha Norby’s children from a previous marriage.

Martha Norby sought a restraining order in Orange County Superior Court on March 14, and Borsari said a temporary order was granted that bars Chris Norby from seeing his stepchildren. Another hearing is set for May 2, and Borsari said he’s confident the restrictions will be lifted.

Chris Norby filed for divorce March 20, records show. He cited “irreconcilable differences” and listed the date of their separation as March 12, the day of his arrest.

“Obviously, he’s relieved that the prospect of criminal prosecution is no longer existing in his life, but he’s terribly distraught over the relationship with his stepchildren,” Borsari said.

Borsari said that following the March 12 arrest, he sent Burnett evidence that Chris Norby, not his wife, was the victim of abuse. Borsari said that evidence included a photo showing Norby’s injuries after his wife hit him in December and medical records of visits to three eye doctors.

Schroeder said prosecutors considered that evidence as they do any that’s brought forward in an investigation.

“This is one of those cases where we’re actually thankful that the district attorney took the time to look at everything we had to present to them before making their decision,” Borsari said.

Norby served on the Fullerton City Council for 18 years before being elected county supervisor in 2002. He was elected to the state Assembly in a 2010 special election but lost a race in 2012.

Police were also called to the couple’s home in 2010, but prosecutors did not file charges then, citing a lack of evidence.



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The Grim Researcher: Finding meaning in how Orange County dies

SANTA ANA – The lady in black stares at a nondescript computer set atop a nondescript desk.

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Donna Meyers peers from an Orange County coroner’s office file room at bullet-shattered glass used as a training aid. MINDY SCHAUER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The wall paint is industrially calming – gray, white, blue. Likewise, the decor is utterly routine: pictures of grown kids and growing grandkids, a few framed images of Laguna Beach that she shot herself.

Her tidy office could be any tidy office. The spreadsheet on her computer screen could be any spreadsheet.

Except it’s not.

The lady in black is looking at numbers that explain in stark detail Orange County’s way of death.

Stabbings. Falls. Car crashes …

Donna Lynn Meyers keeps tabs on all that and more.

… Overdoses. Drownings. Shootings.

Meyers analyzes data for any given day (and month and year) and organizes it in ways that allow others to find patterns about how people in Orange County stop breathing.

Most people spend their lives dodging even a thought about death. But every workday, just as she has for most of her 17 1/2 years as an employee of the Coroner Division of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Meyers immerses herself in the jet-black side of our world.

And she smiles while she does it.


In 2012, the latest year for which complete statistics are available, 18,915 deaths were recorded by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The coroner’s office, which looks into all homicides, suicides and accidents, as well as suspicious and unexplained deaths, investigated about a third of them.

The job of deputy coroners, who roll out to death scenes, and forensic pathologists – the physicians who conduct autopsies – is to determine the identity of the deceased, the medical cause of death, the manner of death, and the date and time of death.

The information they feed into the official records become the grist of what Meyers works with, as she analyzes and extracts statistics that eventually get turned into documents with titles like “Coroner Division Annual Report” and “Child Death Review Team – 5-year Report.”

Most of the time, Meyers does this while sitting behind her desk.

But the work sometimes places her next to decedents, who are stored in a cooler that can hold up to 250 bodies kept at 40 degrees.

Still, the work ambiance, she says, is never unnatural.

“Being exposed to death all day … I don’t really look at it that way,” Meyers says.

The nature of the job for the entire office might foster a stronger-than-expected sense of family, Meyers says.

She recalls what happened when a colleague was hit by a car and had to miss work for an extended period. Coroner employees set up a website for her, and for weeks delivered meals to the woman and her family.

“It was awesome and inspiring to see and to be a part of such a group,” Meyers says.

“We support each other.”


Meyers, who has been in her current job, the blandly titled Research Analyst IV, since 2008, starts her workday at 7:30 a.m.

Sipping on a Dunkin’ Dark coffee she brews at her Aliso Viejo home, she first checks her email. Most days, she finds several requests for data either from the media or someone within the Sheriff’s Department or someone in her office.

After scanning those requests, Meyers prints out an autopsy log to read about the day’s cases.

On average, the Coroner Division performs between four and five autopsies per day. Due to budget cuts, autopsies no longer are performed on weekends and holidays.

The office also investigates about 14 deaths, on average, on any given workday.

Reading the autopsy log each day ushers in a host of feelings for Meyers:

Today’s log includes a 5-year-old victim of a man suspected of driving under the influence – the child’s father.

DUI-related deaths particularly upset Meyers.

“Most of the sympathy and sadness I feel on the job is directed at the innocents who die as a consequence of others’ actions or inaction,” Meyers says.

“I feel anger at the people responsible for all of these lives that have been cut short.”

Meyers is concerned about another trend that has emerged in recent years: the number of people, many young adults, dying from accidental overdoses of prescription and illicit drugs.

In 1999, 21 people died of a mixture of illicit and prescription drugs. In 2012, the total was 77, an increase of 267 percent during a period when the county’s total population grew by about 11 percent.

Fatal overdoses of prescription drugs alone totaled 188 in 2012, up 114 percent from 1999.

“I find the current trend … to be particularly alarming,” Meyers says.

She says her job has caused her to warn her kids about dangers most people don’t know exist or don’t think about much.

She says she probably worries too much about something happening to her children or grandchildren.

“This job has taught me,” Meyers says, “that there is no dignity in death.”


Humor isn’t a job requirement at the coroner’s office.

But it helps.

For example, Meyers has an eraser on her desk in the shape of a skull-and-crossbones.

An eraser in the shape of death itself?

“Yes,” says Meyers, who has large, inquisitive brown eyes – eyes that in any given work week see more real-life descriptions of horror and sadness than most people experience in a lifetime.

“Working for my in-laws prepared me for this,” she adds, recalling her time with their body removal service.

Her dark clothes (today it’s a dark blazer and matching dark slacks) have nothing to do with the nature of her job.

“Black,” she says, “is slimming.”

Meyers’ behind-the-scenes work has made her an invaluable resource for reporters and authorities seeking information on death trends in Orange County, as well as for public agencies whose missions involve protecting the health and welfare of the most vulnerable.

It’s not what she planned. In the late 1970s, when she was a student at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Meyers considered a career in photography or writing.

At community college, she took paralegal classes.

Then, at 21, she married a sheriff’s deputy and started a family. A couple of years later she was working for her in-laws, who ran a body removal and transportation business that contracted with the coroner’s office, and also did business with mortuaries throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Meyers processed death certificates and performed other office work for Meyers Transportation. Several months after the family sold the business in 1996 and the new owners closed it, Meyers volunteered at the coroner’s office.

Soon after that, in December 1996, she landed a clerical job. And soon after that, she became the go-to person for any number of tasks.

It was Meyers who helped pick out furniture, as well as purchase equipment, for the coroner headquarters that opened in March 2004 at the corner of Santa Ana Boulevard and North Shelton Street in Santa Ana.

The $12 million facility is home to a statewide coroner training center that includes eerily detailed “scenario” rooms.

In these two rooms, trainees try to determine the cause and manner of death of two life-like dummies created by The Burman Studio, a Burbank-based makeup-effects shop known for its work on the FX plastic-surgery drama “Nip/Tuck.”

In one such room, Meyers poses next to a bed dominated by the sprawling (and very “dead”) pseudo-corpse nicknamed “Manny.”

He has ligature marks on his neck and bottles of prescription medications next to him.

He has bloody streaks on his white tank top.

His belt is loose.

Still, Meyers points to a small brown mark on Manny’s faux face.

“I think that’s cancerous,” she jokes.

In another room, an extremely decomposed and extremely fake body of a middle-age man lies on a couch, face up. Coroner officials call him “Moe Green.”

Richard Rodriguez, a former forensic tech and deputy coroner and 33-year veteran of the office now in charge of the training center, praises Meyers.

“She’s incredible,” Rodriguez says. “She does a great job for us. She takes on any challenge I give her.”

Lt. Jeff Hallock, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, agrees. He adds that her work “ultimately impacts the entire county.”


Outside of her normal job, Meyers sits on the multi-agency Orange County Child Death Review Team. The group probes child homicides and unexplained child deaths, and strives to come up with ways to prevent such tragedies.

It’s heartbreaking stuff.

It’s also a reason Meyers views her job as life-affirming rather than bleak.

“Appreciate each day,” says Meyers, who grew up in Lakewood and Westminster.

“The people in your life who you love and cherish shouldn’t have to wonder if you love them. Tell them and tell them often, especially if you can’t see them as much as you’d like.

“You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or when it’s your time to go.”

Although Meyers says the job isn’t relentlessly depressing, that isn’t the same as saying it doesn’t spark emotion. And sometimes that emotion is sadness.

“I find it difficult to have sympathy (for), or to feel bad about, adults who knowingly do things to themselves and thereby cause their deaths.

“I only feel sympathy for their families.”

Meyers shows a copy of an office newsletter. It’s filled with routine stuff like profiles of new employees, birthday and anniversary announcements, and information about charitable events.

“We’re all normal people here,” Meyers says, smiling warmly.

“Really – we’re normal people.”



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Two injured in fight outside Costa Mesa bar

COSTA MESA – Police are investigating a fight outside a bar that sent two men to the hospital early Sunday morning, authorities said.

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A man is transported to the hospital with multiple stab wounds after a fight in the back parking lot of Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa around 2 a.m. Sunday. KEVIN WARN, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Costa Mesa police said officers were called to Goat Hill Tavern, 1830 Newport Blvd., about 2 a.m. after reports of a fight in a parking lot behind the bar.

Police said a group had been celebrating inside the bar when they were asked to leave because of rowdy behavior. When they left and headed to the parking area, a fight broke out for unknown reasons.

One man was struck in the face with an unknown object and suffered two cuts, while another man was stabbed in the thigh. Both were transported to area hospitals and were later released, police said.

An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the fight is asked to call Detective Sgt. Ed Everett at 714-754-5397.



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2 men hospitalized after shooting Saturday night

Police are investigating a shooting that sent two men to the hospital Saturday night, authorities said.

Long Beach police Sgt. Brad Johnson said officers responded about 9:07 p.m. to reports of shots being fired in the 2300 block of Eucalyptus Avenue and found two men with gunshot wounds.

Both men were taken to a hospital, Johnson said, but no details were available on their conditions.

Johnson said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.



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Con man’s latest crime: forging judge’s signature

orange county bail bondsFor most of his adult life, Gerald McComber has been either committing fraud or serving prison time for it – and sometimes both.

His record includes 14 felony fraud convictions. A probation officer wrote in a report that since 1989, the longtime Orange County resident “has repeatedly committed serious financial crimes unabated except for periods of his incarceration.”

But last year, McComber picked perhaps his most audacious target yet: He forged a federal judge’s signature.

On Monday, a different judge sentenced him to 10 months in federal prison.

McComber, 58, pleaded guilty in January to forgery. Gray-haired and balding with a mustache, he appeared in court wearing a white inmate jumpsuit and walking slowly with a cane.

“Your honor, I’m just disappointed in myself,” he said, speaking softly from a lectern.

McComber said he had lost his job and simply wanted another one. His lawyer has said he forged the signature to try to clear a tax lien that was a blemish on his credit report.

“It was a stressed position. I made a poor error, and I’m sorry for it,” McComber said.

Since the judge McComber impersonated sits in Orange County, the case was heard in Los Angeles to avoid a possible conflict of interest.

In February 2013, McComber applied for a job selling life insurance for One America Services. He was offered a contract position contingent on a background check.

When a check of his credit report showed an outstanding tax lien, company official Mark Anderson called McComber to ask about it. McComber said it had been taken care of and he would send proof.

Shortly, a faxed letter arrived on Anderson’s desk, purportedly written months before to McComber, then living in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“As of the date referenced above, the Tax Lien #0508725R has been released from your name, and the amounts in question have been satisfied completely,” the letter began. “There are no outstanding fees or penalties due, and your record has been cleared of any restrictions or liens.”

Below a signature, it said: “Alice Marie Stotler, US District Judge.”

Suspicious, another company official sent the letter to the Santa Ana office of Alicemarie H. Stotler, a real judge who’s been on the federal bench since 1984.

McComber knew of Stotler, since she once sentenced him to prison for filing a falsetax refund claim. But he still didn’t spell her name right.

Like any other citizen, the judge reported the crime. When FBI agents confronted McComber, “he was cooperative and made a full confession,” his lawyer wrote.

He could have faced up to five years, but his lawyer and the prosecutor agreed to the 10-month sentence.

“You are a 58-year-old man who made what can only be characterized as a huge mistake to sign the name of a United States District Court judge,” Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell told McComber. “But it was to be gainfully employed, which is in your favor.”

But the fraud was futile. Even if the faked letter from the judge had fooled everyone, McComber never would have gotten the job. According to a court filing, a company official told the FBI he quickly discovered McComber’s long criminal record, which he hadn’t disclosed when he applied.

Because he turned himself in in September, McComber should be released from prison in July. He’ll be on supervised release for one year.

A probation report found “prior terms of supervision have proven ineffective in every instance from deterring (defendant) from engaging in criminal conduct.”

McComber even managed to commit crime while he was in prison. In 1997, he admitted filing a false tax refund claim while serving a five-year federal prison term for securities fraud. Stotler gave him another 33 months and ordered him to pay back $82,705.

His lawyer told the Los Angeles Times in 1997 that McComber only committed the crime to provide for his ex-wife and young daughter.

The earliest fraud on record dates to 1985, when McComber forged his wife’s signature on a deed to finance a real estate venture, a scam that ended with her losing her home in Anaheim Hills, according to a lawsuit she later filed and won.

Nearly 30 years after that forgery, as deputy U.S. marshals prepared to take McComber from the courtroom, O’Connell told him, “Good luck to you, Mr. McComber. Stay out of trouble now.”

He replied, “Yes, your honor. Thank you.”



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Huntington Beach brawl began with Angels-Dodgers dispute, police say

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HUNTINGTON BEACH – A weekend melee that left three Marines stabbed and a woman injured was sparked by a dispute between fans of the Angels and Dodgers, police said Monday.

Six people were initially arrested in connection with the fracas that broke out around 1:45 a.m. Sunday near Main Street and Walnut Street in Huntington Beach.

Four were later released pending further investigation. Two were booked into the Huntington Beach Jail.

They were identified Monday as Manuel Alexis Alvarez, 23, of Downey, and Victoria Robledo, 20, of Norwalk, both arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, police said in a statement. They have been released on $50,000 bond.

Police responding to the incident found a large fight involving multiple people.

As officers attempted to break up the brawl, they observed Alvarez stab a man in the face with a broken bottle, police said.

Another man who had been stabbed in the fight was found in the area. Both men were hospitalized, and police described their status as stable.

A third man who also was stabbed was located Sunday morning at a San Diego hospital, where he was treated and released, according to police.

All three of the stabbing victims are Marines and were attacked while attempting to aid a woman who was being assaulted, police said.

The Marines did not know any of the people involved in the brawl, police said.

Witnesses reported the altercation began over an argument between the female victim, who was wearing an Angels jersey, and Robledo and another female suspect, who made statements about the Dodgers being better, police said.

A video of the brawl posted on Facebook shows Huntington Beach police struggling to gain control of the large, rowdy crowd. Several people in the crowd can be seen in the video taking photos with their cellphones and heard shouting insults at the police.

“It’s dangerous for police to wade into a crowd to break up a fight because it becomes a mob mentality,” said Huntington Beach police Lt. Mitch O’Brien. “If you are not careful, it can go south. It’s not uncommon for police to get assaulted when they wade into these crowds.”

Anyone who has information regarding the melee or has cellphone video of it is asked to call the Huntington Beach police tip line at 714-375-5066.

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855-847-6227). Individuals can also contact Orange County Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S) from a cellphone. All text messages should begin with the letters “OCCS.”



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