Southern California -- this just in

Category: Inland Empire

Man on probation for beating son is rearrested on similar charges

A 26-year-old San Bernardino County man on probation for physically abusing his 9-year-old son has been arrested on suspicion of beating the boy and his younger sister, authorities said Thursday.

After the 5-year-old girl returned from a weekend visit with her father, Antwone Rattler, her mother noticed significant bruising on the child’s back, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner’s Department.

The girl told detectives that her father had beaten her for misbehaving. He also bound and gagged her and forced her to hold “physically exhausting” positions for long periods, said a Sheriff’s Department news release.

Her older brother reported that his father had inflicted similar punishments on him.

Rattler, of Highland, pleaded not guilty to four counts of child abuse, including two counts of willful cruelty leading to possible injury or death. He is being held on $500,000 bail at West Valley Detention Center.

In January 2011, Rattler was arrested in Riverside after police investigators observed visible injuries on both children. According to an arrest warrant, the boy told police that his father beat him with a belt, making him strip naked before the beatings. 

The girl, who had a bruised and swollen lip, said her father had also beaten her with a belt.

Both children told investigators that their father hit them on the hands with a hanger until their fingers bled.

The girl, then 3, told investigators that the beatings “hurt bad, but I am being good now.”

Rattler pleaded guilty in Riverside Superior Court to two counts of inflicting bodily harm on a child. He was sentenced to six months in jail, six months in the sheriff’s labor program and three years of probation.

According to court records, Rattler was required to enroll in child abuse classes and refrain from using corporal punishment on his children.


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Police release video footage of woman found slain in orange grove

Police on Thursday released surveillance video showing a 23-year-old woman whose body was later found in a Redlands orange grove.

Sylvia Maria Flores is seen on the video footage at a fast-food restaurant near D and 5th streets in San Bernardino during the evening of Feb. 25. 

She was found the next day in the grove near Alabama Street and Almond Avenue in the same or similar clothes that she wearing at the restaurant, the Redlands Police Department said.

"Flores was believed to be a prostitute who frequented the San Bernardino area," police said in a statement.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Frank Rocha at (909) 798-7850.


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— Robert J. Lopez


Video: Surveillance footage of woman who was slain. Credit: Redlands Police Department

More than 200 gambling machines seized in San Bernardino County

Investigators seized more than 200 electronic gambling machines after serving search warrants at businesses that billed themselves as Internet cafes, authorities said Wednesday.

The operation was part of a four-month investigation of suspected illegal gambling in which investigators also seized an undisclosed amount of cash Tuesday at four locations in Hesperia, according to authorities.

"Investigators determined that the locations were providing customer access to electronic gaming devices and services similar to those found in Las Vegas and Indian gaming locations," the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

Several people were detained and questioned but later released in the ongoing operation.


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— Robert J. Lopez


10 charged in Southern California marijuana grow house ring

Ten people were arrested Wednesday by state and local authorities and charged in connection with a ring that operated marijuana grow houses across Southern California.

Authorities served search warrants at 26 locations, including 15 that were grow houses, across Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Authorities seized more than $250,000 in cash, seven guns--including an assault rifle--and more than 8,000 marijuana plants. Each house contained an average of 1,000 to 2,000 pot plants.

A 124-page affidavit in support of the criminal complaint alleges the trafficking organization purchased or leased single-family residences and converted to indoor farms "with the sole purpose of growing marijuana."

The defendants all face charges including conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. If convicted of the narcotics conspiracy charge, the defendants could face a  maximum of life in federal prison with a minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars.

Those arrested Wednesday include Raymond A. Lam, 42, of Arcadia, who federal authorities claim was the ringleader of the drug trafficking organization and responsible for the acquisition of residences that were converted into "industrial-type marijuana grows."

Continue reading »

Hesperia Internet cafes raided in illegal gambling probe

The  San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has seized more than 200 electronic gaming machines from four Internet cafes in Hesperia as part of an investigation into illegal gambling.

The seizures, which included money believed to be profits from illegal gambling, took place after a four-month undercover investigation in which detectives played the illegal games themselves, according to a statement from Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon.

Agents from the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control also were involved in the investigation.

On Tuesday, search warrants were served at the four Internet cafes, which were not identified in the statement. Several people believed to be the cafe operators were detained and released. Investigators are trying to find co-conspirators, as well as other gambling enterprises run by the same operators.

According to the state Bureau of Gambling Control, some Internet cafes offer “promotional sweepstakes” in which credits can be used to play illegal gambling games, with cash prizes of up to $4,000.


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-- Cindy Chang

Body found in Chino identified as missing woman

San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner officials have confirmed a body found last week in Chino was that of Lorna Lopez, a woman initially reported missing who police now believe was slain by her husband.

The remains of Lopez, 40, were found Thursday in a field off the 17300 block of Cucamonga Avenue, a dusty stretch of south Chino with two-lane highways, dirt lots and muddy embankments.

Lopez and her husband, Victor Manuel Lopez, 40, were reported missing March 13. Their three children told authorities they had not seen their parents since the morning of March 12 as they got ready for school.

Police found photographs of Victor Lopez hours later that day at an automated teller machine, but there was no sign of his wife. Lorna Lopez had apparently told her husband she planned to divorce him.

The investigation led police Thursday to Victor Lopez’s nephew, Joseph Rodriguez of Huntington Park. Police said evidence found at his home led them to conclude Lorna Lopez’s disappearance was a result of foul play.

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Man who taped molestations, sold images sentenced to 25 years

Photo: Peter Ruiz. Credit: United States attorney's officeAn Inland Empire man described by federal prosecutors as a "ruthless predator" was sentenced Tuesday to 25 years in federal prison in connection with charges that he molested at least three children, photographed the abuse and sold those images over the Internet to pedophiles.

Four months after he pleaded guilty to production of child pornography, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips sentenced Peter Ruiz, 33, of San Bernardino, to the federal prison term.

Federal prosecutors alleged that in 2009 and 2010, Ruiz repeatedly molested a boy who lived in an apartment near Ruiz's home. According to prosecutors, Ruiz documented the abuse with photographs and videos, which he distributed to pedophiles, sometimes in exchange for money.

The FBI used a warrant to examine Ruiz’s computer on Halloween in 2010, and discovered more than 6,000 images and 600 videos of child pornography, which included images of Ruiz molesting the then-12-year-old victim.

Ruiz sexually abused two other boys, who were 9 and 10 when they were assaulted, and in each case he "groomed" them using small gifts and access to video games, according to prosecutors.

“Ruiz sexually abused at least three children, nearly destroying them and their families in the process,” federal prosecutors wrote in a document filed in relation to Tuesday's sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo that Ruiz “appears to show no remorse for his crimes.”

Ruiz maintains a “brazen and nonchalant attitude toward his abuse of children ... bragg[ing] about these sexual exploits to a fellow inmate,” prosecutors wrote.

Ruiz developed a pattern of “grooming his victim[s], professing his love for them and eventually intimidating them into keeping silent,” prosecutors said in the sentencing documents.


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Photo: Peter Ruiz. Credit: United States attorney's office.

Girl, 5, hit by runaway school bus in Moreno Valley

A 5-year-old girl was recovering Tuesday after being hit by a runaway school bus at a Moreno Valley elementary school.

The girl was standing on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up around 2:30 p.m. Monday at Box Springs Elementary School just after classes let out for the day, California Highway Patrol investigators told KTLA-TV.

The bus was parked in the driveway of the school parking lot when it began rolling backward, jumping the sidewalk and pinning the girl against a metal fence. There was no driver inside the bus at the time but two children were onboard.

School faculty gave the girl CPR until paramedics arrived. She was hospitalized with a crushed pelvis, a lacerated liver and a collapsed lung.

The CHP, which looks at all crashes involving school buses, says the bus will be torn apart to look for mechanical problems that might have caused the accident.

The school district planned to send out a crisis team on Tuesday for staff and students at the school.


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-- Kellan Connor, KTLA-TV

Hesperia school accused of discrimination against gay, lesbian students

A San Bernardino County school district faces legal action for alleged discrimination against gay and lesbian students, including its alleged refusal to allow girls to wear tuxedos to the upcoming prom.

The Hesperia Unified School District was notified of pending litigation in a letter Monday from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The ACLU typically warns government agencies of looming legal action to give them time to make changes.

The letter makes specific allegations against the faculty and administration of Sultana High School. It recounts “persistent censorship” of activities and announcements by the Gay-Straight Alliance club.

“Indeed, the club’s very name has typically been truncated from ‘Gay-Straight Alliance’ to ‘GSA’ when morning announcements are read over the intercom, with the words ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender,’ and ‘queer’ omitted entirely,” the attorneys’ letter reads.

One announcement was submitted as: “Do you identify as straight, lesbian, bisexual, gay, or are you questioning everything? Come join Sultana’s Gay-Straight Alliance on Wednesdays at lunch in room W-11. Join a group of students here on campus that support each other and want to make a difference for others.” The announcement was allegedly broadcast instead as: “GSA meeting in W-11.”

Continue reading »

Missing Fontana woman presumed dead, husband arrested

A Fontana man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his estranged wife, whose body was believed found in Chino.

The body was found Thursday afternoon in a field in the 17300 block of Cucamonga Road. The remains have not been positively identified, but authorities say they have reason to believe it is that of 40-year-old Lorna Lopez, KTLA-TV reported.

Lorna Lopez and her estranged husband, Victor Lopez, were both reported missing on Wednesday. Their three children told authorities that they had not seen their parents since 7 a.m. Tuesday at their Fontana home as they got ready for school.

Victor Lopez was photographed three hours later at an ATM. There was no sign of his wife. Lorna Lopez had apparently told her husband this past week that she planned to seek a divorce.

Police arrested Victor Lopez’s nephew, 37-year-old Joseph Rodriguez of Huntington Park, on Thursday morning on suspicion of being an accessory to a felony. Detectives searched his home and seized evidence that led them to believe foul play might have been involved in Lorna Lopez’s disappearance.

Victor Lopez was arrested Thursday after he turned himself in. He had been at his parents’ home in Huntington Park. His parents told investigators that he had seen reports on TV and wanted to surrender to authorities.

Police say Victor Lopez led them to his wife’s body. The couple had been married 20 years, but had not been living together as a married couple for the last six years. Their three children range in age from 8 to 18 years old.


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