Riverside man admits guilt in fatal Santa Ana shooting, trying to kill a deputy while in custody; gets 25-year sentence

SANTA ANA  — A 37-year-old Riverside man who took part in a fatal vehicle-to-vehicle shooting in Santa Ana and tried to kill a sheriff’s deputy while in custody pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, according to court records obtained Monday.

Emmanuel Vega pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter, shooting at a car and attempted murder, all felonies, and admitted a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm in the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of 36-year-old Juan Manuel Diaz in the 1600 block of East Edinger Avenue.

Vega also pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the Jan. 12, 2019, attack on a sheriff’s deputy, according to court records. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for that case, which will run concurrent to the manslaughter case.

Vega was given credit for 3,114 days in custody.

Vega was arrested in December 2013 in connection with the Nov. 2, 2011, shooting death of Diaz.

Co-defendant Steve Moreno, 31, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in January 2014 and has been awaiting sentencing. Court records in his case are sealed.

Vega opened fire from a Toyota 4Runner owned by this father into a blue van with Diaz behind the wheel, according to police testimony from his March 2015 preliminary hearing.

Roberto Diaz, who was a passenger in the van, was also wounded but survived.

Moreno told police he was a passenger in the SUV. According to the preliminary hearing testimony, Vega picked him up and they drove to a park in Irvine looking for members of a local gang.

They didn’t see anyone from the particular gang they were looking for so they played some basketball before Vega went over to a handball court to resume the search, according to testimony. They were about to leave when they saw Juan and Roberto Diaz and decided to follow them, according to the police testimony.

Vega produced a gun during the ride, but Moreno declined to use it, so Vega opened fire on the victims, who were cousins of Moreno’s wife, police said. It wasn’t clear what motivated the shooting.

Vega had been charged with murder with special circumstance allegations of shooting from a vehicle and murder by means of lying in wait. He was also facing charges of possession of a gun by a felon and attempted murder, with sentencing enhancement allegations for discharge of a gun causing great bodily injury or death and attempted premeditated murder.

In the attack on the deputy on Jan. 12, 2019, Vega used a metal shank, prosecutors said. He was also accused of attacking another deputy and a sergeant, according to court records.

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$1 million arrest warrant obtained for suspect in Anaheim motel homicide

Homicide detectives have obtained a $1 million arrest warrant for a Romanian man suspected of committing a fatal shooting at an Anaheim motel, according to the Anaheim Police Department.

37-year-old Florin Raducanu is suspected of fatally shooting 42-year-old Aurel Trandafir on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 1201 W. Katella Ave. Raducanu and Trandafir both were visiting from Romania, the Police Department said in a Wednesday statement.

Police said the minivan they believe Raducanu used to escape the crime scene has been recovered. He is considered to be armed and dangerous and is known to use numerous aliases, the Police Department said.

On Sunday at about 7:37 p.m., officers responded to a report of a shooting at Abby’s Anaheimer Inn. Officers located Trandafir suffering from at least one gunshot wound and he was transported to a hospital, where he died from his injuries, Anaheim police said.

At the time of the shooting, Trandafir was wanted by Romanian officials for robbery, the Police Department said.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about Raducanu’s whereabouts to call them at 714-321-3669 or to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

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Man found in crashed car fatally shot in Santa Ana

SANTA ANA — A 20-year-old man was killed in a Santa Ana shooting and the shooter was at large Thursday morning.

Officers responded about 11 p.m. Wednesday to the 200 block of South Raitt street, near First Street, and found a Honda Accord crashed against a curb and pole and the victim inside with at least one gunshot wound, according to Cmdr. S. Enriquez of the Santa Ana Police Department.

The victim was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A description of the shooter was not immediately available.

The name of the victim was not disclosed.

The intersection of Raitt and First streets was closed after the incident.

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Woman charged in New Year’s Eve killing of man in Santa Ana

SANTA ANA — A 35-year-old security guard is facing a murder charge in connection with the New Year’s Eve killing of a man in Santa Ana, court records obtained Tuesday show.

Toetu Tesarina Lavea, who was arrested Saturday and was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, listed her occupation as security, according to jail records.

She is charged with murder in the death of 46-year-old Manuel Ramos of Santa Ana.

Police said they were called at 6:46 p.m. Jan. 2 to a residence in the 1800 block of West 18th Street, where they found Ramos’ body in the living room with “significant trauma” to his upper body. According to the criminal complaint, he was killed two days earlier, but further details were not immediately available.

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Shooting at Illinois bowling alley leaves 3 dead, 3 injured

ROCKFORD, Ill. — A gunman opened fire inside an Illinois bowling alley, killing three people and injuring three others Saturday night in what authorities believe was a random attack.

A 37-year-old male suspect was in custody after the shooting at Don Carter Lanes, Rockford police said in a social media  post.

Two of those who were shot were teenagers, police Chief Dan O’Shea said during a news conference.

O’Shea did not immediately release additional information about the victims. He described the scene as contained and said he did not think any officers fired their weapons while apprehending the suspected gunman.

Rockford is about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.

Mayor Tom McNamara released a statement saying he was “angered and saddened” about the shooting.

“My thoughts are with the families of those who lost loved ones,” McNamara said. “I’m also thinking of those who were injured and my hopes are with them for a quick and full recovery.”

The Rockford Register Star reported that 2020 has been the city’s deadliest year for homicides, according to records that date back to 1965. Thirty-five people have been killed in the city this year, breaking the previous record of 31 in 1996.

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Man fatally shot in La Habra

Gunfire in La Habra stuck and killed one person the evening of Monday, Nov. 2.

Officers were summoned at 8:54 p.m. to reports of an injured person in the area of Euclid Street and West Mountain View Avenue, La Habra Police Lt.. Dan Barnes said. They found one man who had been shot.

First responders tried to save his life, before he could be taken to a hospital. But he died at the scene. He was described as a man in his early 30s, Barnes said.

No arrests were announced Monday in connection with the shooting, Barnes said. Further information regarding what led up to the incident or a description of any possible suspect was not immediately available.

Authorities asked anyone with information that might be relevant to investigators to call La Habra police at 562-383-4300.

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7 fatally shot at illegal marijuana grow in Riverside County

Seven people were shot to death early Monday, Sept. 7, at a home in the unincorporated Riverside County community of Aguanga, authorities reported.

The victims were found in a residence in the 45000 block of Highway 371 in what was reportedly a house being used to grow illegal marijuana, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department reported.

Investigators found more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana and several hundred marijuana plants at the location, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

At 12:33 a.m., deputies were called to investigate a possible deadly assault when they entered the home and found a woman with severe gunshot wounds. The sheriff deputies then discovered six victims at the same home with gunshot wounds; all six died at the location, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department reported.

The woman was taken by paramedics to a local hospital where she later died from her injuries, the department reported.

A suspect or suspects in the killings had not been found and remained at large Monday night. Detectives from the Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit and from its Hemet Station were gathering evidence.

“Investigators are currently working on leads,” read a statement from the sheriff’s department.

Cpl. Lionel Murphy of the Sheriff’s Department would not provide further details on Monday night. “It is an ongoing investigation,” Murphy said.

In a press release, attributed to Sgt. Richard Carroll, the authorities said the killings “appears to have been an isolated incident, and there is no threat to the general public.”

The names of those killed were not immediately released.

Aguanga is a remote community located 18 miles east of Temecula and 22 miles southeast of Hemet, with a population of 1,128.

The Sheriff’s Department is asking the public for help in solving the crimes. Anyone with information should contact Investigator Paz at (951) 955-2777.

 

 

 

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2 slain in Anaheim; suspect is believed to have killed himself in Santa Barbara County

ANAHEIM — Anaheim detectives investigating a double homicide Sunday found the suspect in Santa Barbara County dead from an apparent suicide.

It started about 6:15 a.m. when officers were called to an apartment in the 1800 block of South Haster Street on a report that two people had been shot, according to Anaheim police Sgt. Shane Carringer.

“Officers arrived on scene and located the bodies of 47-year-old, Maria Ernestina Ramirez of Anaheim, and 40-year-old Efrain Hernandez-Ramirez of Placentia,” Carringer said. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The victims had the same last name but their relationship was not immediately explained.

“Homicide detectives quickly identified Jorge Pino, a 57-year-old resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, as a suspect in the murders,” he said. “Jorge Pino and Maria Ernestina Ramirez were in a long-term dating relationship which had recently ended.”

Detectives were preparing an arrest warrant for Pino at about 10:30 a.m. when Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies discovered Pino’s body in the Gaviota area, Carringer said. “Pino suffered what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “

Anyone who had contact with Pino or has other information was asked to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS.

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Police ID 5 suspects in robbery of man targeted and killed for his bicycle in Santa Ana; 4 in custody

SANTA ANA — An accused gang member was behind bars Wednesday for allegedly robbing and fatally shooting a man who was targeted for his bicycle last month in Santa Ana.

Jose Luis Salgado of Santa Ana, who turned 20 Wednesday, is charged with murder, with a special circumstances allegation of murder committed for the benefit of a street gang, robbery, participating in gang activity and being an active participant in a gang carrying a loaded gun in public.

Salgado also faces sentencing enhancement allegations of a gang member’s vicarious use of a gun, discharge of a gun causing death and gang activity.

Pedro Morale Chocoj, 31, of Santa Ana was attacked July 23 about 7:45 p.m. by multiple suspects who wanted to steal his bicycle, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

His body wasn’t found until late the next day, when police responded to a call of a man down on a dirt path next to the Santa Ana Riverbed north of 5th Street, Bertagna said.

Chocoj was residing in Santa Ana with his brother and was sending money back to his wife and kids back in El Salvador, Bertagna said.

Santa Ana detectives tracked down the victim’s bicycle on July 27 in the 900 block of Fair Way, thanks to a tip that also led them to a suspect, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact, Bertagna said.

Jesus Gonzalo Ibarra, 22, of Santa Ana, is also charged with participating in gang activity, receiving stolen property and being an active participant in a gang carrying a loaded gun in public, all felonies, with sentence enhancement allegations for gang activity.

Last Wednesday, police arrested Salgado and two other suspects, including a teenager, Bertagna said. The other suspects’ identities have not been released as detectives are still investigating the case and seeking a fifth suspect, he said.

Anyone with information was asked to call detectives at 714-245-8390. Orange County Crime Stoppers will accept anonymous tips at 855-TIP-OCCS.

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California’s alleged Golden State Killer set to plead guilty

By DON THOMPSON

SACRAMENTO — Forty years after a sadistic suburban rapist terrorized California in what investigators later realized were a series of linked assaults and slayings, a 74-year-old former police officer is expected to plead guilty Monday to being the elusive Golden State Killer.

The deal will spare Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. any chance of the death penalty for 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges spanning six counties. In partial return, survivors of the assaults that spanned the 1970s and 1980s expect him to admit to up to 62 rapes that he could not be criminally charged with because too much time has passed.

Yet nothing is certain until he actually speaks in a Sacramento State University ballroom pressed into use as a courtroom to provide for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been on pins and needles because I just don’t like that our lives are tied to him, again,” said Jennifer Carole, the daughter of Lyman Smith, a lawyer who was slain in 1980 at age 43 in Ventura County. His wife, 33-year-old Charlene Smith, was also raped and killed.

Investigators early on connected certain crimes to an armed and masked rapist who would break into sleeping couples’ suburban homes at night, binding the man and piling dishes on his back. He would threaten to kill both victims if he heard the plates fall while he raped the woman.

Gay and Bob Hardwick were among the survivors.

They are now looking forward to DeAngelo admitting to that 1978 assault. The death penalty was never realistic anyway, she said, given DeAngelo’s age and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on executions.

“He certainly does deserve to die, in my view, so I am seeing that he is trading the death penalty for death in prison,” she said. “It will be good to put the thing to rest. I think he will never serve the sentence that we have served — we’ve served the sentence for 42 years.”

A guilty plea and life sentence avoids a trial or even the planned weeks-long preliminary hearing. The victims expect to confront him at his sentencing in August, where it’s expected to take several days to tell DeAngelo and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman what they have suffered.


Newlyweds Keith and Patty Harrington were killed in August 1980. They are believed to be among the victims of the Golden State Killer. (Courtesy of the Harrington family)

Ron Harrington’s younger brother, Keith, was married to Patty Harrington for just three months when they were bludgeoned to death in their Orange County home in 1980 by a killer then known as the Original Night Stalker.

All four brothers were successful, but “Keith, the youngest of all of us, was the smartest,” he said. “It’s just such a loss. And every time this comes up I think of all the lives he would have saved as an emergency room doctor.”

Their father found the couple two days later.

“It was so gruesome,” Harrington said. ”My dad was never the same.”


Manuela Witthuhn, 28 was bound, raped and bludgeoned to death in 1981 in the bedroom of a single-story house in Irvine. She was alone. Her husband, David, was hospitalized at the time. DNA evidence led authorities to link the crime to the East Area Rapist, now known as the Golden State Killer. (File photo)

 


Janelle Cruz, killed in 1986, is believed to have been a victim of the Golden State Killer. (File photo)

 

The killer racked up a series of monikers for his crimes over the decades.

Visalia Ransacker.

East Area Rapist.

Original Night Stalker.

Diamond Knot Killer.

But it wasn’t until years later that investigators connected a series of assaults in central and Northern California to later slayings in Southern California and settled on the umbrella Golden State Killer nickname for the mysterious assailant whose crimes spanned 11 counties from 1974 through mid-1986.

The mystery sparked worldwide interest, a best-selling book and a six-part HBO documentary, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” that premiered Sunday.

It was only the pioneering use of new DNA techniques that two years ago led investigators to DeAngelo, who was fired from the Auburn Police Department northeast of Sacramento in 1979 after he was caught shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer. He previously had worked as a police officer in the Central Valley town of Exeter from 1973 to 1976, near where the Visalia Ransacker struck more than 100 homes south of Fresno.

Investigators painstakingly built a family tree by linking decades-old crime scene DNA to a distant relative through a popular online DNA database. They eventually narrowed in on DeAngelo with a process that has since been used in other cases nationwide, but said they confirmed the link only after surreptitiously collecting his DNA from his car door and a discarded tissue.

His defense attorneys have publicly lobbied since then for a deal that would spare him the death penalty, though they did not respond to repeated requests for comment before Monday’s hearing.

Prosecutors who had sought the death penalty cited the massively complicated case and the advancing age of many of the victims and witnesses in agreeing to consider the plea bargain.

“Death doesn’t solve anything. But him having to sit though a trial or preliminary hearing, that would have helped,” said Carole, who said neither she nor her slain father believed in capital punishment.

She was so committed to seeing the case through that she temporarily moved from Santa Cruz to her adult daughter’s Sacramento home, where she has slept on an air mattress in a spare bedroom. She has told the story of her father’s death and her own recent experiences through podcasts called The Lawyer’s Daughter.

But she said it “absolutely” makes sense for prosecutors to agree to a life sentence without parole, both to spare older victims and witnesses who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus from having to appear in court, and to save taxpayers the $20 million projected cost of a trial.

Harrington supports the death penalty, but also agreed with prosecutors’ decision “just to give some degree of closure.”

“This will be a relief for all of us, to move on with our lives,” said Hardwick. “We’ve dealt with the effects of the attack for 42 years.”

***

These are the charges faced by DeAngelo. The charges linked to rapes were filed as kidnappings to commit robberies because the statute of limitations for sexual assaults has expired.

Contra Costa County:Four counts of kidnapping to commit robbery using a gun and knife between Oct. 7, 1978, and June 11, 1979, with the victims identified as Jane Does numbers 10-13.

Orange County:Four counts of murder in the Aug. 21, 1980, slaying of Keith Harrington, 24, and rape and slaying of Patrice Harrington, 27, of Dana Point; the Feb. 6, 1981, rape and slaying of Manuela Witthuhn, 28, of Irvine; and the May 5, 1986, rape and slaying of Janelle Cruz, 18, of Irvine.

Sacramento County:Two counts of murder in the Feb. 2, 1978, shootings of Kate Maggoire, 20, and Brian Maggoire, 21, as they walked their dog in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood.

Nine counts of kidnapping to commit robbery using a gun and knife between Sept. 4, 1976, and Oct. 21, 1977, with the victims identified as Jane Does numbers 1-9.

Santa Barbara County:Four counts of murder in the Dec. 30, 1979, rape and slaying of Debra Manning, 35, and slaying of Robert Offerman, 44, of Goleta, and in the July 27, 1981, slaying of Gregory Sanchez, 27, and Cheri Domingo, 35, of Goleta.

Tulare County:One count of murder in the Sept. 11, 1975, slaying of Claude Snelling, 45, during an attempted kidnapping of the victim’s daughter from their home.

Ventura County:Two counts of murder in the rape and slaying of Charlene Smith, 33, and slaying of Lyman Smith, 43, of Ventura between March 13 and March 16, 1980.

Source for charges: Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

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