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Category: Homicide Report

Police say they have motive for alleged killing of Gavin Smith

Investigators have identified a possible motive in the alleged killing of Fox executive Gavin Smith, sheriff's officials said, but declined to elaborate further because of the ongoing investigation.

On Thursday, authorities announced a major development in Smith's mysterious disappearance. The Sheriff's Department said it had found Smith's Mercedes Benz last month at a Simi Valley storage facility linked to convicted drug dealer John Creech.

The condition of the car and other witness statements led authorities to conclude Smith had been killed. His body has not been found.

Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson told The Times that Smith was not believed to be involved in any drug transactions. They declined to disclose the nature of the relationship between Smith and Creech.

Officials have only said Smith and Chandrika Creech knew each other and met in rehab. When asked whether their relationship was romantic in nature, Dolson declined to comment.

"They knew each other," he said.

Chandrika Creech's husband, John Creech, has not spoken to investigators while serving time at Men's Central Jail for a drug conviction from last year, Dolson said. But Chandrika Creech has spoken with investigators on many occasions, he said.

Dolson declined to say what information Chandrika Creech has provided.

Investigators have "a good idea" of a motive, Dolson said, "but we're not going to discuss it."

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

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Gavin Smith case: Drug deal not a likely factor, officials say

A convicted drug dealer was publicly named a person of interest Thursday in the homicide investigation involving Fox executive Gavin Smith, but sheriff's officials said they did not believe Smith was involved in any drug transactions.

The relationship between Smith, who was last seen May 1, and John Creech remains unclear, and Sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson declined to discuss the nature of the relationship between Smith and Creech's wife. Chandrika Creech met Smith in rehab, Dolson said.

Authorities said Thursday that Smith's car was found last month at a Simi Valley storage facility linked to John Creech. The case, which has been described as a missing persons investigation, is now being investigated as a homicide. Smith's body has not been found, but he is believed dead, officials said.

"The condition of the vehicle in conjunction with cooperating witness statements indicates he was killed," Dolson said. "At this time, the evidence leads us to believe he was murdered."

Authorities have served 25 to 30 search warrants in the case, including John Creech's home and Hummer.

John Creech remains in custody at Men's Central Jail following an unrelated drug conviction from last year. He was sentenced to eight years in county jail in September.

Creech was picked up by Glendale police in a February 2010 drug bust, when he sold bricks of cocaine to a man whose car also contained more than 2,500 oxycodone tablets, police said. Authorities searched Creech's business and home and found methamphetamine, 25 pounds of packaged marijuana, a digital money counter, a pay and owe ledger, and more than $75,000 in cash. He admitted to police that he is a middle-man between drug producers and lower-level street dealers.

He was charged with six drug felonies and pleaded no contest to one count of selling and transporting cocaine.

In an interview with a Times reporter at the time of his sentencing, John Creech said he had never met Smith.

When asked why his property was searched, he said: "I would love to tell you but I can't. I am told I cannot make any comments."

Several sentencing hearings were delayed during the Smith investigation.

Smith, a former UCLA basketball player who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

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Drug dealer named person of interest in Gavin Smith disappearance

Photo: Sheriff's officials search a West Hills home at the home as part of their investigation into the disappearance of FOX executive Gavin Smith in June 2012. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A convicted drug dealer has been named a person of interest in the investigation involving missing Fox executive Gavin Smith, sheriff's officials said.

Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. David Dolson told The Times that John Creech, who is currently being held at Men's Central Jail for an unrelated drug conviction from last year, is considered a person of interest after Smith's Mercedes-Benz was found Feb. 21 in a storage facility linked to Creech.

"John Creech is a person of interest and has been for several months," Dolson said.

Dolson said the condition of the vehicle and witness statements indicate that Smith was killed.

"At this time, the evidence leads us to believe he was murdered," Dolson said.

Smith's body has not been found. The former UCLA basketball player, who worked in Fox's movie distribution department, left a friend's home in Ventura County's Oak Park neighborhood the night of May 1, 2012. Wearing purple athletic pants belonging to one of his sons, Smith drove away in his Mercedes, leaving behind his cellphone charger, shaving kit and other items.

Authorities found the Mercedes-Benz after receiving a tip, Dolson said.

Authorities have served 25 to 30 search warrants in the case, including Creech's home and Hummer, but the connection between Creech and Smith remains unclear. John Creech's wife, Chandrika Creech, met Smith in rehab, Dolson said.

In an interview with a Times reporter at the time of his sentencing, John Creech said he had never met Smith.

When asked why his property was searched, he said: "I would love to tell you but I can't. I am told I cannot make any comments."

Search teams have combed the areas where Smith was last seen, and his family spread word of his disappearance online and on local movie screens. He was reportedly spotted at a Morro Bay restaurant in May, but Dolson later said it proved “not to be a credible sighting.”

Smith's family — wife Lisa and sons Evan, Austin and Dylan — have offered a $20,000 reward for information about Smith. In interviews, they declined to elaborate on why Smith was staying with the friend instead of at the family home in West Hills, but Evan Smith had previously tweeted that his father had left the family.

At a June 5 news conference, Lisa Smith called her husband "the love of my life."

"It's imperative we find him," she said.

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Photo: Sheriff's officials search a West Hills home in June as part of their investigation into the disappearance of Fox executive Gavin Smith. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Ex-Marines face death penalty in murder-rape case

Tyrone Miller, Left, and Kevin Cox are charged in the murder of Jan Pietrzak and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the trial of three former Marines charged with murdering another Marine and his wife in 2008 in Riverside County.

Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were bound and gagged before they were shot in the head, prosecutors said. Jenkins-Pietrzak was raped while her husband was forced to watch, and a fire was set to destroy evidence, according to court documents.

The Riverside County district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty against Kevin Cox, 25; Tyrone Miller, 25; and Emrys John, 22.

A fourth former Marine, Kesaun Sykes, 25, also faces the death penalty but will be tried separately, the district attorney's office said. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the attackers stormed the couple's home in the French Valley neighborhood in southern Riverside County as part of a robbery scheme. 

Pietrzak, an Iraq war veteran, was stationed at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. His wife was a counselor with a Riverside County infant care program. They had been married for two months.

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Photo: Tyrone Miller and Kevin Cox. Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department

Man killed, 16-year-old wounded in Placentia shooting

Placentia police are investigating what they believe was a gang-related shooting Wednesday night that killed an 19-year-old man and critically wounded a 16-year-old, officials said.

Officers responded to multiple 911 calls about a shooting near the intersection of Melrose and Center streets about 8:35 p.m., the Placentia Police Department said. Officers found the 19-year-old with a gunshot wound and began "life-saving measures," a department statement said.

The 16-year-old was found on Center Street, just west of the first victim, police said.

Both were transported to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where the 19-year-old was pronounced dead and the 16-year-old underwent emergency surgery. Police said he was in critical condition.

No suspects were in custody as of Thursday morning, police said. The names of the victims have not been released.

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Man held in stabbing death of his girlfriend, authorities say

Emilio MartinezA man suspected of stabbing to death his 63-year-old girlfriend in Montebello has turned himself in after fleeing to Mexico, authorities said Tuesday night.

Carmen King was found mortally wounded in her home Feb. 20 in the 600 block North 20th Street.

After the stabbing, detectives received information that King's boyfriend, Emilio Martinez, had fled to Mexico, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Investigators were able to communicate with the 51-year-old Martinez and encouraged him to surrender, authorities said.

On Monday, Martinez "turned himself in for the murder of Carmen King" at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Sheriff's Department said in a statement. He was being held in lieu of $1-million bail.

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Photo: Emilio Martinez Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Burbank day-care owner arrested after 11-month-old boy’s death

A Burbank day-care owner and employee were arrested Tuesday after an 11-month-old boy in their care died last year after allegedly suffocating from a car seat chest strap, officials said.

Milena Nikodijevic, 51, owner of Twinkle Little Stars in Burbank, and her employee, Wendy Oropeza, 21, were arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and child abuse after the 11-month-old – identified by prosecutors as Adam D. – died last year under their care, Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, said in a statement.

In February 2012, Burbank police responded to the 200 block of West Santa Anita Avenue, where the infant was reportedly not breathing. The baby was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"All efforts to revive the infant by emergency medical staff were unsuccessful," Burbank police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said in a statement.

Prosecutors alleged that Oropeza improperly secured Adam D. in another child's car seat, where he fell asleep and suffocated from the strap, Robison said.

In addition, Nikodijevic allegedly had three times the number of children under the age of 2 in her care than her license allowed.

Nikodijevic had been cited twice before for having violating capacity, Robison added.

Nikodijevic and Oropeza are each being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and are due in court this week. If convicted, they each face up to seven years in state prison.

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Vegas strip shooting suspect allegedly exchanged words with victim

The man suspected of killing three people on the Las Vegas Strip when he shot Oakland rapper Kenneth Cherry Jr. as the singer drove in his Maserati in the pre-dawn hours had twice exchanged words with the musician.

Ammar Harris, 26, a self-described pimp who was arrested in Studio City last week, was captured on video confronting Cherry at the Aria Casino valet stand and again, moments later, yelling at the rapper as they drove in separate cars along the Strip, according to an arrest warrant.

Harris appeared in court Monday and was ordered held for 10 days while Las Vegas authorities produce evidence identifying him as the suspected killer. An extradition hearing would follow.

PHOTOS: Shots fired on the Las Vegas strip

Las Vegas Metro police used videos from casinos, a dashboard taxi camera and interviews to reconstruct the movements of Harris and Cherry before the Feb. 21 shooting, the document said.

Harris, 26, arrived at the Aria in a black Range Rover around 1:30 a.m with a woman and went into the Haze Nightclub, where Harris had reserved a table.

Shortly before 4 a.m., Harris left the club at about the same time that Cherry, 27, was leaving the casino lobby. Cherry and a passenger, Freddy Walters, got into the Maserati.

Interactive map: Shooting in Las Vegas

Harris walked over to the Maserati, approached the driver’s door and “remained there for a second or two before walking toward the casino,” according to the warrant.

Cherry drove off and Harris quickly followed, pulling in front of him in his Range Rover, the warrant said.

A dash cam in a passing Lucky Cab recorded the two cars, and the taxi driver later told detectives that Harris had rolled down his window and yelled at the Maserati driver.

Harris and Cherry turned north onto Las Vegas Boulevard and stopped at a red light at the Bellagio Drive intersection. As the light turned green, Harris cut off Cherry, forcing the rapper to swerve into the other lane, the document said.

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Boy jumps to his death from La Canada High School roof

A young boy died Friday afternoon after apparently jumping off the roof of the library at La Canada High School,  authorities said.

The boy jumped at 4 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 4:15 p.m., said Lt. Brian Fitch of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.

He apparently died from head injuries, Fitch said.

No other information was immediately available.

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Las Vegas Strip shooting suspect bragged of living fast life

Anmar.harris

A man suspected in a deadly car-to-car shooting in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip boasted online about living a fast life of guns, cars and women.

Ammar Harris, described by law enforcement officials as a man with an "extensive and violent criminal history," is accused of being the gunman in the Feb. 21 shooting that killed three people, including Kenneth Cherry Jr., an Oakland native and rapper known as Kenny Clutch. Harris was arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Harris is slated to appear in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Monday for an extradition proceeding.

According to law enforcement sources, Harris operated as a pimp in Las Vegas. In a video released by Las Vegas police, Harris flashed a fistful of $100 bills as he bragged about the money he made. He boasted about money, guns, expensive cars and run-ins with the law on social media accounts, authorities said.

On one social media site, using the name Jai'duh, someone authorities believe was Harris posted pictures of stacks of $100 bills and a Carbon 15 pistol.

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