Costa Mesa sex offender, kept on mental health hold for more than 20 years, may be released

A court order that has kept a former Costa Mesa man and registered sex offender inside a mental health hospital expired Saturday, signaling alarm from Orange County officials who have fought for decades to keep him detained.

It was not clear whether the man, identified by officials as Cary Smith, was released from Coalinga State Hospital on Saturday.

Department of State Hospitals officials were not immediately available for comment.

Orange County officials said they were unaware of Smith’s whereabouts on Saturday.

Smith had initially been placed in the state’s custody in 1999 after his then-wife turned over a letter to authorities that he wrote expressing his urge to kidnap and molest  a 7-year-old boy in his Costa Mesa neighborhood.

Every six months, Smith is allowed to argue for his freedom in court during a civil trial.

And during each trial, hospital and medical officials, along with Orange County counsel, have continued to seek the renewal of the hold, a pattern that has kept Smith locked up in mental institutions since the 1999 incident. But Deputy County Counsel Robert Ervais said this time, the state hospital did not send a petition to renew the “5300 hold” against Smith, allowing the hold to expire Saturday.

Ervais said Saturday said that over the past 20 years, Smith continued to meet the criteria of the 5300 statute, which states a person must be held if they have “demonstrated danger of inflicting substantial physical harm upon others,” due to a mental disorder.

“Mr. Smith, in the past, had stated, that if released from the hospital, he would re-offend,” Ervais said.

Ervais, who has been contesting Smith’s freedom for years, pointed to previous court hearings where psychologists have testified that Smith poses an imminent danger to society because he fantasizes about raping, killing and torturing children.

He declined to comment on the circumstances of Smith’s possible release, which Ervais said would be a violation of HIPPA.

Lynn Rinner, the mother of the 7-year-old boy who had been the subject of Smith’s 1999 letter, said she was surprised by news of Smith’s possible release. Though her son is now 28, Rinner said she is worried for other children who may come in contact with Smith.

In Smith’s defense, during a 2013 hearing, a court-appointed attorney argued that the former Costa Mesa man has reasons to keep from molesting young boys and should be released. The reasons included fear of being ostracized, regaining his family and being able to have some semblance of a normal life.

In another 2013 hearing, Smith said he believes that he is ready to be let out because he has learned to suppress his fantasies and plans to avoid children at all costs when free.

Court records show Smith registered as sex offender after he was convicted in 1983 of a child annoyance misdemeanor for trying to pay a young boy to run through a sprinkler naked.

The records show prosecutors leveled 20 counts of felony child sex crimes against Smith in October 2002, but they were dismissed by the court in July 2003. An additional 12 counts of child sex crimes were brought against Smith in September 2003, but were also dismissed that same month.

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Landlord and tenant plead guilty to sexually assaulting neighborhood girls in Laguna Hills

SANTA ANA — A Laguna Hills landlord pleaded guilty Monday to sexually assaulting two 7-year-old girls, and one of his tenants pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting another 7-year-old girl.

Tomas L. Fabian, 51, pleaded guilty to four felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14, according to court records.

Cleto Angeles Trejo, 59, who rented a room in Fabian’s home, pleaded guilty to six felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14, according to court records.

The victims lived in the neighborhood, according to authorities.

The two are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23.

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2 accused of possessing child pornography in Orange County

A 28-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in Santa Ana on suspicion of possessing “thousands” of child sexual abuse images and videos.


Jaime Castillo (Santa Ana Police Department)

An investigator with the Santa Ana Police Department began investigating Jaime Castillo in March for allegedly trading child erotica and child sexual abuse materials, commonly known as child pornography, according to the department.

Over the two-month investigation, involving nine search warrants, thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse were found to be stored by Castillo, and he allegedly sent more than 75 images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of “young children,” the Santa Ana Police Department said.

Police tracked the IP address to a home in Santa Ana, and on Tuesday morning they executed a search warrant at the home, which “reaffirmed the suspicion that Castillo was storing the sexually explicit files in several data storage devices located in his home,” according to the Santa Ana Police Department.

Castillo was arrested and the devices were seized, police said.

Also, a 38-year-old man twice convicted of possession of child pornography was charged Monday with the same offense in Anaheim.

Santos Chris Hernandez pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in the jail courtroom in Santa Ana to bringing obscene matter into California and possession and control of child pornography with a prior conviction, both felonies, according to court records.

Hernandez’s probation officer discovered child pornography on Hernandez’s cellphone and reported it to Anaheim police on June 16, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Shane Carringer.

Hernandez is accused of possession more than 600 images, including 10 or more images involving a child younger than 12, according to the criminal complaint.

Hernandez pleaded guilty to possession and control of child pornography and carrying a dirk or dagger, both misdemeanors, in January 2013.

Hernandez also pleaded guilty to possession or control of child pornography with a prior conviction, sale or distribution of obscene matter of children and distribution of pornography to a minor with the intent to engage in sexual conduct in March 2018 and sentenced to two years in prison.

Hernandez was ordered to return to court July 7 for a pretrial hearing in the North Justice Center in Fullerton.

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Drum school director accused of sexually assaulting teen in Orange County

SANTA ANA — Santa Ana police and prosecutors asked for the public’s help Wednesday tracking down potential victims of a registered sex offender charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

Patrick Michael Costello of Orange, 56, founder and director of Synergy Drum Corps, is accused of offering a student, who was 14 or 15 years old, money in February to engage in sex, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Costello was convicted in 2014 of sending “inappropriate text messages” to another teenage boy, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Costello pleaded not guilty Friday to six counts of lewd acts on a child 14 or 15, three counts of annoying or molesting a child younger than 18 with a prior conviction for a sex crime, and a count of oral copulation of an underaged victim, according to prosecutors.

Costello could face up to nine years in prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said.

Since Costello met the victim when the boy was a student, investigators suspect there may be more victims, Bertagna said.

“According to Costello’s LinkedIn profile, he is the founder and director of Synergy Drum Corps, which is a private drum school with no affiliation to the Santa Ana Unified School District,” the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Anyone with information was asked to contact Santa Ana Police Det. Gerry Corona at gcoronasanta-ana.org, or 714-245-8343. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.

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Ex-CEO of Irvine firm convicted of lewd acts with boys, sending them porn

SANTA ANA — A former chief executive officer of an Irvine-based publicly traded online video advertising company was convicted Monday of sexually assaulting two boys and sending them pornography.


Qayed Shareef (File photo)

Jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon in the case against Qayed Murtaza Shareef and reached verdicts at the end of the day. Shareef was convicted of 30 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14 and single counts each of using an underage person for obscene matter and sending pornography to a minor, all felonies.

Jurors at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana also found true sentencing enhancements for substantial sexual conduct and committing lewd acts with multiple children.

Shareef, 43, of Aliso Viejo, faces at least 15 years to life in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Heidi Garrel.

Shareef met the two victims through the Tango Me application, according to a trial brief from prosecutors.

Shareef posed as Jeremy Stevens and persuaded two young boys to make sexually explicit videos, which their mother discovered in December 2013, prompting her to alert authorities in Virginia where the victims resided, according to prosecutors. The FBI became involved in the investigation and traced the IP address back to the defendant in Aliso Viejo, according to prosecutors.

As authorities conducted a search of his residence he told them during a nearly two-hour interview in his garage that he himself had been the victim of sexual abuse as a child, prosecutors said.

Shareef engaged in sexually explicit conversations with a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy through the Tango Me app between Dec. 25-29, 2013, prosecutors said.

Like a movie director, Shareef instructed the boys on what sex acts he wanted them to perform with each other while photographing and videotaping them with a tablet they were using, prosecutors said. The boys would then send the pornographic images of themselves to Shareef, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Shareef performed sex acts on himself and recorded them to send to the boys to guide them on what he wanted them to do, prosecutors said. Shareef also sent the boys adult pornography, prosecutors said.

Shareef’s initial attorney, Ricardo Nicol, issued a statement when his client was arrested in January 2015 saying he was born in Afghanistan and as a child he and his family “experienced first hand the horrors and trauma of war following the Soviet invasion.”

Shareef was a child refugee in India and arrived in the United States when he was 11 with his mother and brother while his father remained in Afghanistan as a “freedom fighter,” Nicol said.

Shareef’s current attorney, Kim Santini, asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison to allow her client to remain free on $1 million bail while she pursues an appeal.

“My client has been out of custody for five years now with no new arrests,” Santini said. “He has a family and a career he has to get in order.”

Garrel told Robison that Shareef represents a “danger to the community” and should be locked up right away.

Robison denied the request and had the founder and former CEO of Adaptive Media taken into custody.

Shareef told the judge, “My prayer time is almost up” as he requested a moment to pray. He was told he could pray while awaiting a transfer to jail Monday night.

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Police, prosecutors seek witnesses to 1973 murder of 11-year-old, release vintage photo of defendant

Police sought witnesses to the 1973 killing of an 11-year-old girl and, on Thursday, Feb. 21, released an old photograph of a man who had been identified as a suspect and arrested with the aid of DNA evidence.

The picture of James Alan Neal, 72, of Monument, Colorado, who is a defendant in the kidnapping and murder of Linda O’Keefe, was taken between 1970 and 1980, according to a news release from the Newport Beach Police Department. He was taken into custody Tuesday after a sample he submitted to a genealogy website matched evidence obtained by investigators.

“On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, detectives from the NBPD arrested this man – James Alan Neal, DOB 7/28/46 – in Colorado Springs, CO for murder. My murder.” #LindasStory pic.twitter.com/bDNcrKwGeS

— Newport Beach Police (@NewportBeachPD) February 20, 2019

Neal also went by the name Albert Layton Jr., according to the release, and spent several years living in Riverside. Authorities hope the sepia tinted photo of Neal smiling with a mustache and bushy haircut will help potential witnesses remember details relevant to the decades-old killing. Officers have asked people to contact the Newport Beach Police Department’s Cold Case Tip Line, 949-644-3669, with information possibly related to their investigation.

O’Keefe was last seen walking to home her home in Corona del Mar before she went missing 45 years ago on Friday, July 6. Relatives and police searched for her through the night. She was found strangled in a ditch off of Newport Beach’s Back Bay the next morning.

  • Retired Newport Beach police officer Stan Bressler talks following the announcement of the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Bressler was an officer in 1973 and was called out to the murder scene.
    OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer speaks during a press conference at the OCDAÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Spitzer announced the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. Also with Spitzer is Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis and Newport Beach Police Deputy Chief Jay Short, from left.
    (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • A photo of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe is displayed during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 to announce the arrest of James Alan Neal in the 1973 murder of OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A photo of James Alan Neal is displayed during a press conference at the Orange County District AttorneyÕs office in Santa Ana, CA on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 to announce the arrest of Neal in the 1973 murder of 11-year-old Linda Ann OÕKeefe. OÕKeefe has just left her Corona del Mar home on July 6, 1973 when she disappeared. Her body was found the next morning in a ditch in Newport BeachÕs Back Bay. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • This photograph of defendant James Alan Neal, 72, of Monument, CO, also Known as Albert Layton Jr., was taken between 1970 and 1980. He has been charged with the 1973 murder of Linda O’Keefe, an 11-year-old girl who disappeared more than 40 years ago on Friday, July 6, and was found strangled to death in Newport Beach. Police and prosecutors have released this image in hopes of contacting witnesses in the decades old case. (Photo courtesy of the Newport Beach Police Department)

  • Jeffrey C. Malecki, 55, and wife Yvette Malecki, 54, of San Jacinto, react as they read an online story that their former next-door neighbor, James Alan Neal, has been charged in the 1973 abduction and killing of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe of Corona del Mar, who disappeared as she was walking home from school. (Richard K. De Atley, SCNG)

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The case went cold. At one point, a suspect admitted to killing O’Keefe, but his confession turned out to be false.

In July of 2018, Police released a sketch based on DNA evidence collected during their investigation and began a social media campaign behind the hashtag #LinsasStory in hopes of tracking down a suspect. Then, in January, a sample submitted to the website FamilyTreeDNA.com led police to identify Neal as a suspect.

“But now, 45 yrs later, I have a voice again. And I have something important to say. There is a new lead in my case: a face. A face that comes from DNA that the killer left behind. It’s technology that didn’t exist back in 1973, but it might change everything today.” #LindasStory pic.twitter.com/GsZClKFwPj

— Newport Beach Police (@NewportBeachPD) July 7, 2018

 

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Highland man suspected in sexual assaults dating to 1995 is charged in Orange County

SANTA ANA – A 53-year-old garage door repairman was charged Monday, Jan. 14 with raping a 9-year-old girl and a woman jogger in south Orange County in the 1990s and molesting a 12-year-old girl between 2002 and 2003.

Kevin Konther, 53, of the San Bernardino County community of Highland, was arrested Thursday at his home after investigators linked him to the 1990s attacks through a genealogy website, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said last week.

Konther is charged with two counts each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and aggravated sexual assault of a child, as well as one count each of forcible lewd acts on a child younger than 14 and lewd acts on a child younger than 14, all felonies. With sentencing enhancement allegations of kidnapping and sexual assault of multiple victims, he faces up to 140 years to life in prison if convicted.

Konther made his initial court appearance Monday, but his arraignment was rescheduled for Thursday in the Central Jail courtroom in Santa Ana.

He is accused of grabbing a 9-year-old girl who was walking home from a convenience store in Lake Forest at 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 21, 1995.

The girl’s attacker dragged her into a wooded area in Serrano Creek Park, where she was raped and then let go. She ran home, told her parents, and a search ensued that bore no results.

Konther is also accused of kidnapping and raping a 31-year-old woman who was attacked at 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998. She was jogging on a Mission Viejo trail near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway when she was dragged into some bushes and raped.

Investigators matched the DNA collected from the woman’s rape and linked it to the suspect in the 9-year-old girl’s attack, according to Barnes.

Over a 23-year period, investigators had checked the DNA against law enforcement databases with no luck. In August, using the same technique that led to the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer, investigators submitted the DNA to an ancestry website and got a match to identical twins.

Konther’s brother was released from custody and investigators said they were confident they have arrested the correct suspect, Barnes said.

While investigating the attacks on the 9-year-old girl and the jogger, authorities also found evidence that Konther allegedly molested a 12-year-old girl three times between January 2002 and December 2003, Deputy District Attorney Michael Carroll said.

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Man gets 25 years to life for sexually assaulting girls at the Anaheim daycare he worked at

SANTA ANA — A 20-year-old Buena Park man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting two girls, ages 6 and 7, at the Anaheim daycare center where he worked.

Daniel Antonio Martinez pleaded guilty in August to three counts of lewd acts on a child 14 and younger and three counts of sexual penetration of a child 10 and younger, according to Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer. He was sentenced last week.


Daniel Martinez. (Photo courtesy Anaheim Police Department)

Martinez sexually assaulted the girls between the beginning of August and November 2016, Zimmer said.

The 6-year-old told a relative on Nov. 9, 2016, that she was feeling pain, which ultimately prompted the family to call police. Additional investigation led police to the second victim.

Martinez’s attorney, Shane Bernard, acknowledged that his client agreed to a plea deal from prosecutors, but said it would be better if the defendant had a shorter prison sentence and received rehabilitation instead.

“Not to negate the harmful nature of the alleged conduct whatsoever, but this was a young man who was just starting his adult life” at 18 when he assaulted the girls, Bernard said.

He said a life sentence was “egregious and unjust” under the circumstances, Bernard told Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer.

Zimmer said he was “a little shocked” at the defense attorney’s comments since the sentence was agreed upon when the defendant pleaded guilty.

If Martinez had been convicted at trial he would have faced 75 years to life in prison, Zimmer said. Because of the defendant’s age he would have been eligible for a parole hearing in 25 years anyway, the prosecutor said.

“The circumstances of this case, frankly, your honor, were horrific,” Zimmer told the judge.

Martinez was a part-time employee who “used his position to gain access to two girls, one 6 and the other 7,” Zimmer said. “And he did this more than once to more than one victim.”

Paer said he agreed with Zimmer.

“This is a very serious case,” he said, adding the victims were “extremely vulnerable.”

“He violated his position of trust. He was supposed to be a protector, not an abuser,” the judge said.

Paer noted that many of the defendant’s family members were in court, so he had a “huge support system,” and if he takes advantage of counseling programs in prison he could bolster his plea for parole.

The judge said, however, “Cases like these call for huge sentences.”

The crimes result in “huge negative effects” for the victims, Paer said.

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4 men accused of sexual misconduct with Huntington Beach teen in separate incidents

SANTA ANA — A 42-year-old Florida man made his first appearance in court Wednesday on charges of sexually assaulting a girl in Huntington Beach, who was allegedly victimized by three other men, according to court records.

Dwight Nicholas Castaldi, who was arrested Monday, was charged last month with four charges of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and a count of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime, all felonies, according to court records.

Castaldi was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail. The dates of the alleged crimes are in January 2016, according to court records.

The four defendants do not know each other, but met the 13-year-old victim online, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Two of the men had personal sexual relations with the teen, but two others engaged in sexual conduct with her online, according to prosecutors.

Huntington Beach police Officer Angela Bennett said authorities were working on a news release about the case, but were not ready to comment on it.

The other defendants in the case are Christian Reid Palmer, 27, of Sacramento; Sohrab Anaraki, 33, of Topanga; and Bradley Thomas Williams, 34, of Dana Point. Palmer’s attorney, John Barnett, declined comment.

Williams is charged with three counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and a count of meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, all felonies.

Anaraki is charged with one count each of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime and meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, and six counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14, all felonies.

Palmer is charged with one count each of luring a child with the intent to commit a sex crime and meeting a minor to commit a lewd act and seven lewd acts with a minor younger than 14, all felonies.

All four defendants face a sentencing enhancement allegation of substantial sexual conduct with a minor, according to court records.

Palmer, Anaraki and Williams pleaded not guilty last month and were next due in court for a pretrial hearing on April 27.

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