Los Angeles County investigators plan to pursue a felony manslaughter charge against the son of Pepperdine University President Andrew K. Benton for his alleged involvement in a Malibu woman's fatal heroin overdose.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed Friday the homicide bureau will recommend that Christopher Benton be charged with involuntary manslaughter and taking a vehicle without an owner's consent. It was not known when the recommendation would be presented to the district attorney.
The charges stem from the April 2012 death of Katie Wilkins, a 25-year-old graphic designer whose body was found in her parents' Malibu garage. Wilkins died of an apparent heroin overdose, and detectives believe Benton was likely the last person to see her alive.
Surveillance footage showed Benton getting into a car with Wilkins at a McDonald’s restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway hours before her brother discovered her body. Her car was found two weeks later in Woodland Hills.
A nearly two-decade-old study of bobcats in the Santa Monica Mountains marked a milestone with the capture and release of its 300th cat, National Park Service officials announced Wednesday.
Called the longest running bobcat study ever, the research looks at the behavior, ecology and conservation of bobcats and how urbanization has affected the animals in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, the National Park Service said. The study, which began in 1996, is ongoing.
Biologists take measurements and blood and tissue samples from captured cats before attaching radio collars to their necks and releasing them back into the wild, officials said. They also use remote cameras and scat surveys to collect information.
The 300th bobcat was captured and released last month, said Kate Kuykendall, a spokeswoman for the park service. Most of the animals studied were captured in Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.
Malibu Councilman Skylar Peak is under investigation -- again.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating a Christmas Day accident involving Peak, who officials say crashed through more than 400 feet of three-foot highway reflectors on Pacific Coast Highway near Zuma Beach and then abandoned his damaged GMC truck at the scene.
"He took out some center reflectors on Christmas morning," said Sgt. Mark Bock of the Malibu/Lost Hills station. "It is under investigation."
No other vehicles were involved, and no one was injured in the incident, Bock said.
About 7 a.m. on Dec. 25, a motorist called 911 to report an erratic driver on eastbound PCH near Guernsey Avenue in western Malibu, officials said. The driver later plowed through 400 feet of so-called delineators, which separate eastbound from westbound traffic. Sheriff's detectives found the abandoned truck near Westward Beach Road and identified it as Peak's.
Michael Schwimer, Peak's attorney, said his client would not comment because of the investigation. He added, however, that "Mr. Peak is confident ... he'll be absolved of any wrongdoing."
Peak, 28, was elected last April as the youngest member ever of the coastal city's council. Last July, he was sent involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation after a run-in with security guards at a Point Dume shopping center.
The guards alleged that Peak menaced them with scissors, authorities said. Peak, a popular Malibu surfer, denied the allegations and said that guards chased and pushed him after he tripped on a chair. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined to file charges in that case.
Peak acknowledged after that incident that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Coroner’s officials have conducted an autopsy on the body of Scott
Sterling, the 32-year-old son of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, but his cause of death is being deferred until toxicology tests are completed.
Those tests would likely not be available for weeks, said coroner's spokesman Ed
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials have said preliminary evidence
suggests Sterling died of a drug overdose, but they declined to elaborate, waiting for the coroner’s official determination of cause of death.
Officials said they didn't know what kind of drugs were involved nor whether Sterling was taking any prescription medications at the time of his
death. It was also unclear whether Sterling's diabetic condition--revealed by his family in a statement Wednesday--played a
role in his death.
Sterling was found dead in his apartment on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu late Tuesday. He had not been seen by
family and friends for at least two days, investigators said, adding there were no signs of foul play.
Although L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials said preliminary evidence suggests that Scott Sterling, the 32-year-old son of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, died
of a drug overdose, detectives are waiting for autopsy and toxicology results that will determine the official cause of death.
Officials said that they did
not know what kind of drugs were involved and whether Sterling was
taking any prescription medications at the time of his death.
It was also unclear whether Sterling's diabetic condition -- revealed by his family in a statement Wednesday -- played a role
in his death.
"All questions will be answered when the coroner does its autopsy and the toxicology tests come back," Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
The coroner's office said early Thursday that the day's autopsy schedule had yet to be determined; it was unclear when Sterling's body would be examined.
Homicide detectives were called to Sterling's apartment complex in the
22600 block of Pacific Coast Highway about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and they
found him dead on a couch in one of the apartments, officials said. He had not been seen by family and friends
for at least two days, they said.
There were no signs of foul
play, officials said.
The Sterling family released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that Scott Sterling was suffering from diabetes.
"Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1
Diabetes," the statement read. "His death is a terrible tragedy, the
effects of which will be felt forever by our family and all those who
knew and loved him. We sincerely appreciate the warm outpouring of
sympathy and support from so many of our dear friends."
It was a magnificent beast when it washed ashore under the bluffs in Malibu: A 40-foot fin whale, a male, dark gray on top, a rich cream below that glistened in the surf and sun.
“It was sad to see it out of the water,” said Jeff Hall, marine mammal coordinator with the California Wildlife Center, a nonprofit wildlife hospital. “But it was a beautiful animal. It was in really, really great condition.”
By Thursday … not so much.
After four days of being pounded by the surf, devoured by seagulls, poked at by gawkers and probed during a necropsy, magnificence had given way to a decomposing mess of protruding bones and ghastly strips of blubber — and a full-fledged state of government paralysis.
“There isn’t really a protocol for this,” Hall said.
The 40,000-pound whale, which is endangered but a not-uncommon sight off the Southern California coast, washed up Monday at Little Dume, a small beach between Paradise Cove and Point Dume State Beach. The spit of sand is at the foot of a towering cliff, below Barbra Streisand’s neighborhood — massive estates of groomed lawns, swimming pools and tennis courts.
The lifeguards said they were game but weren’t sure what to do. The city of Malibu said the county would probably take care of it, but the county insisted that Little Dume is a private beach, which it is not. Then local officials said the state might take care of it, but the nearest state property appeared to be nearly a mile to the southwest.
“There have been some issues with jurisdiction,” said Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Quvondo Johnson.
As decomposition set in, officials on Thursday said that towing the carcass to sea was no longer an option.
“It’ll just break apart and make a big mess,” said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
If that’s the case, remnants of the whale could be around for days to come.
The whale carcass splayed on a Malibu beach -- possibly after it was struck by a boat -- attracted a steady trickle of gawkers Thursday morning, who found only remnants of the giant mammal.
They could make out a head and a tail, but the whale's middle looked as if it had been dissected -- which it had, at least partly by seagulls. Since Monday, when it was first snared in the rocks on Little Dune beach, the surf and wind have also eroded the carcass. Local officials said they hope to remove it as soon as today.
"I thought it was rocks or something," said Emily Cheever, 25, who was visiting her cousin here.
Upon closer inspection, she found a row of whale bones tangled in a white, stringy substance. On its head, some blood pooled between salmon-colored blubber and bone.
"It's hard to tell what I'm even looking at," said David Greenbaum, 30, who lives on the nearby cliffs.
The smell -- one of, well, seafood gone bad -- was only perceptible within about 20 feet of the remains. Gary Carr, 59, who lives nearby, compared it to Brut cologne.
One onlooker paced in front of the carcass, covering her nose with a pink scarf. Others brought dogs, who sniffed the whale and slunk away.
Authorities will attempt to remove a 40-foot whale carcass rotting under cliff-top homes in Malibu today, officials said Thursday.
The whale, believed to be a male fin, washed ashore on Monday, said Olivia Damavandi, a spokeswoman for the city of Malibu. Wildlife experts believe it may have been struck by a boat.
The whale is beached at Little Dume, a small beach between Point Dume State Beach and Paradise Cove. The closest homes are on top of the cliff above the beach.
The whale washed up largely intact but has since begun to decompose. Some young gawkers have posted Internet photos of the whale’s innards splashing in the surf, and the smell of the carcass is growing increasingly severe.
“It’s not pleasant,” Damavandi said.
According to the city, it was unclear which
agency was going to take responsibility for the removal. But county and state beach and parks officials are putting together a plan to remove the carcass, Damavandi said, and are expected to make their first attempt later today. Authorities have discussed attempting to tow the whale out to sea during high tide.
Pacific Coast Highway was closed in both directions in Malibu on Thursday after a natural gas line was ruptured, prompting evacuations of homes in the area, officials said.
About 10 a.m., some homes near Carbon Canyon Road were evacuated as a precaution, said Sgt. Don Prince of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. It was not immediately clear how many homes had been cleared.
Preliminary information indicated a construction crew hit the line, Prince said. He guessed the road would remain closed for at least two hours as workers repaired the line.
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.