Preliminary hearing set for July in fatal shooting
A preliminary hearing is slated for July 22 for three men charged with killing a 21-year-old Live Oak man as he walked on the Freedom Boulevard overpass last year.
Fernando Mendoza-Avila was walking with a friend from a family gathering around 6 p.m. on May 30 when shots were fired from a passing car. Mendoza-Avila, a father of two young daughters, was struck and killed. His friend was uninjured.
Alfredo Alanis Garcia, 21, of Prunedale was arrested later that night. Christopher Herrera Bermudez and Rafael Zamora Barron were arrested two days later. All three men face charges of murder, commission of a crime in furtherance of a gang, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Bermudez faces an additional charge of personally discharging a firearm.
They have pleaded not guilty to all charges and remain in custody at Santa Cruz County Jail without bail. They'll be back in court July 19 to confirm the hearing scheduled for July 22, but Judge Paul Burdick said Thursday he expects it to be a firm date.
Man gets year in jail for possessing child porn
A former security guard was sentenced Thursday to a year in Santa Cruz County Jail for possession of child pornography.
Chris Cowell Pappas, 41, was arrested by Santa Cruz police in June after investigators linked him to images found online. Members of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children initially found the pictures online and notified the regional office of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Investigators there partnered with Santa Cruz police to link the images to Pappas.
Pappas pleaded no contest in October to one felony charge of possession of child pornography.
Judge Paul Burdick on Thursday acknowledged Pappas' willingness to cooperate with police and take responsibility for his actions, as well as Pappas' participation in therapy. Burdick, however, disagreed with the probation department's recommendation that Pappas be sentenced to 180 days in jail. He said the charge was too serious and imposed 365 days in jail as stipulated in the plea agreement.
Traffic stop leads to arrest, meth seizure
A traffic stop in South County on Wednesday afternoon led to the seizure of more than $70,000 worth of methamphetamine and landed one man behind bars.
Members of the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force stopped a car driven by Adan Nunez-Torres in the area of Green Valley Road and Celia Drive just after 3 p.m., Sgt. Eric Montalbo said in a release Thursday.
Officers determined Torres was driving without a license. A search of the car turned up about 2.5 ounces of methamphetamine. He was arrested on suspicion of transporting controlled substance.
The case was then turned over to the Santa Cruz County Anti-Crime Team for further investigation. Officers obtained a search warrant for a home in Watsonville where they believed Torres was stashing narcotics.
The Anti-Crime Team, assisted by agents from Homeland Security, searched the 35 Alegre Drive home and found 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, a loaded .45-caliber handgun, a stolen 9mm handgun, $3,000 in cash, packaging materials and a digital scale.
The street value of all the meth seized was $70,000, Montalbo said.
Torres was booked into Santa Cruz County Jail. Homeland Security had placed an immigration hold on him.
Police release sketch of man who groped woman
Police released a sketch Thursday of a man who grabbed a 23-year-old woman's buttocks.
The woman was groped about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday while leaning in to her car to retrieve items in a parking lot at Church and Cedar streets, said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
She felt someone reach under skirt and grab her. The woman turned around and confronted the man, who made an inappropriate comment, police said. He appeared drunk and had slurred speech and poor balance, said Clark.
A second man approached them and apologized for the man. He pulled the groper into the passenger seat of a silver 1990s Toyota 4Runner. The woman ran for help. The men left in the Toyota. No one was injured.
Police described the groper as a white 25- to 30-year-old who wore a blue T-shirt and khaki pants.
He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 165-170 pounds. He had short dark hair, dark eyes and "stubbly" black facial hair, Clark said.
Police added that the case does not appear related to another reported groping on Walnut Avenue on Jan. 11.
Santa Cruz police ask anyone with information to call investigations at 831-420-5820, the anonymous tip line at 831-420-5995 or leave a tip at www.santacruzpolice.com or by the mobile application at http://m.santacruzpolice.com.
Two Santa Cruz men arrested in robbery
Two men were arrested early Thursday morning after they robbed a 48-year-old man of his bike, police said.
Robert Edward Vanderslice, 24, and Frederick Skeetop Stanley III, 29, approached the man with the bike near Riverside and Soquel avenues about 1:20 a.m., said Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark.
They threatened to fight him, then took the bike. The victim, a transient from Salinas, called police.
An officer found Vanderslice and Stanley a few blocks away about 2 a.m. Police arrested them on suspicion of robbery, police said. Both men live in Santa Cruz.
The bike was recovered and returned to its owner.