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KVTA Local News

Fatal Traffic Victims Identified

KVTA News Sunday April 20, 2014

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office has released the names of the victims of two separate fatal traffic incidents Saturday.

In Oxnard, 87-year-old Luis Avila Ruiz of Oxnard died Saturday at VCMC after being struck by a westbound vehicle while crossing 7th Street near F Street in Oxnard shortly before 5:30 AM Saturday morning.

Police say it is unknown if alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Police said nothing about whether any action was or would be taken against the 62-year-old Oxnard man who was driving the vehicle.

Meanwhile, the driver who was killed after his vehicle plunged 240 feet over the side of Piru Canyon Road at Lake Piru around 4 PM Saturday afternoon has also been identified.

The authorities say that 50-year-old Russell Steven Schwartz of Fillmore was ejected from his vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Schwartz was an employee of a company that is contracted for certain services at the lake and its campground. 

The CHP is investigating the crash.

Oxnard Man Arrested After Chase

KVTA News Sunday April 20, 2014

Oxnard police arrested a man after they say he led them on a brief pursuit Saturday night.

Officers of the department's Special Enforcement Unit attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle in the 1700 block of N. Ventura Road around 11:40 PM.

They say the driver failed to yield and there was a brief pursuit that ended in the 900 block of S. Ventura Road when the driver finally pulled over and was taken into custody.

Police say the driver, 32-year-old Joseph Zuniga of Oxnard, is a Post Release Offender who has also been served with the Colonia Chiques gang injunction.

He was arrested for violating his Post Release Offender status, violating the gang injunction, and narcotics related offenses. 

According to court records, Zuniga has six convictions including both felonies and misdemeanors. They include a 2004 felony conviction for voluntary manslaughter, a 2011 misdemeanor conviction for graffiti vandalism, a 2000 misdemeanor conviction for violating a court order and a 2011 felony drug conviction.

Camarillo Bank Robbery Suspect In Custody

KVTA News Saturday April 19, 2014

(Photos courtesy Ventura County Sheriff's Department)

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department says they've arrested a suspect in a bank robbery in Camarillo earlier this month.

They say a transient, 32-year-old Colin Taylor Volpe, is accused of robbing the Chase Bank in the 2300 block of East Ponderosa Drive on the afternoon of April 8th. He is alleged to have handed the teller a demand note and also claimed to have a gun, although no gun was ever seen.

They say Volpe turned himself in to Las Vegas Police on April 12th and later confessed to Ventura County Major Crimes detectives.

He waived extradition and was brought back to Ventura County today and booked into the Ventura County Jail for felony second degree robbery and his bail was set at $100,000.

Driver Comes Up A Dollar Short In Fillmore

KVTA News Saturday April 19, 2014

(Photo courtesy Ventura County Sheriff's Department)

Deputies in Fillmore are investigating a crash involving a vehicle that crashed into a store Saturday afternoon.

They say that shortly after 12:30 PM a vehicle smashed through the plate glass window at the Dollar Tree store at 745 Ventura Street.

No one in the store was hurt and the driver sustained only minor injuries.

Deputies say alcohol and drugs were not a contributing factor in the collision.

They say several people saw what happened and deputies want to talk with anyone who witnessed the incident that they did not contact. Call (805) 524-2233.

Fatal Crash At Lake Piru

KVTA News Saturday April 19, 2014

One person is dead following a crash at Lake Piru Saturday afternoon.

It was reported shortly after 4 PM in the 5000 block of Piru Canyon Road.

Initial reports from the CHP indicate that the vehicle plunged some 250 feet over the side of the road and ended up on the lake shore.

They say the lone occupant of the vehicle was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene.

The CHP is investigating why the vehicle went off the roadway. They were looking for witnesses to the crash.

No other details are available right now.

Oxnard Man Killed, Daughter Injured, In Crash

KVTA News Saturday April 19, 2014

An Oxnard man was killed and his daughter injured when their motorcycle was hit by a car late Friday night.

It happened around 11:12 PM at the intersection of Vineyard Avenue and Esplanade Drive in Oxnard.

Police say that according to witnesses, a 22-year-old Santa Paula woman was driving northbound on Vineyard Avenue when she failed to stop for a red light and broadsided a motorcycle traveling westbound on Esplanade Drive through the intersection.

The driver of the motorcycle, 51-year-old Francisco Ayala of Oxnard, was killed. His 19-year-old daughter, who was his passenger, was taken to VCMC with serious injuries and is listed in stable condition. The driver of the car was not hurt.

Police say that Ayala and his daughter were wearing motorcycle helmets.

The crash closed the intersection for several hours.

Police say it is unknown if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash and they did not say if any arrests were made. They are asking anyone with information about the crash to call Senior Officer Maria Pena at (805) 385-7750.

Pedestrian Killed In Oxnard Collision

KVTA News Saturday April 19, 2014

Updated--Oxnard police say a pedestrian who was critically injured after being struck by a car early Saturday morning died later at the hospital.

The incident was reported around 5:30 AM at Seventh and F Streets in Oxnard.

Police say a 62-year-old Oxnard man was driving his car westbound on Seventh as the pedestrian was crossing Seventh near F Street. The car hit the pedestrian, the impact throwing the pedestrian several feet.

The pedestrian, a male who was not identified, was taken to VCMC to undergo surgery for critical injuries. He died later at the hospital.  His name has not been released yet pending notification of his family.

The driver of the car was not hurt.

Oxnard police say it is unknown if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the collision. No arrests were made.

If anyone has information about the incident they should call Oxnard Senior Officer Maria Pena at (805) 385-7750.

Westlake HS Coach Arrested On Sex Charges Released From Jail

KVTA News Friday April 18, 2014

Updated--The Thousand Oaks Police Department says it has arrested a Westlake High School softball coach for sexual assault.

Deputies say that 37-year-old Robert Frank Garza of Newbury Park was arrested for "engaging in unlawful sexual activities with a 15-year-old female student athlete."

Detectives believe the alleged incident happened off campus and while Westlake High was on Spring Break.

The authorities were told of the allegations Wednesday. They investigated and arrested Garza Thursday afternoon.

Deputies say that Garza was booked into the Ventura County Jail on a variety of "sexual assault charges involving a minor." 

Bail was set at $100,000.

He was released from jail on bail Friday and is due in court April 24th for arraignment.

Deputies say the Conejo Valley United School District cooperated fully with the investigation into the allegations.

Gas Line Rupture Prompts Evacuations in Ojai

KVTA News Friday April 18, 2014

(Photo by Perry Van Houten, KVTA News)

Updated---A ruptured natural gas pipeline in Ojai has been secured. It was secured about 4:25 PM. 

The incident was over by 5 PM and all evacuation orders were lifted.

A construction accident apparently ruptured the very large high pressure natural gas pipeline in Ojai Friday afternoon prompting some evacuations.

It happened around 2 PM in the 200 block of N. Montgomery Street.

Evacuations were ordered initially for a one square block area.

The impacted area was reduced to include north of Ojai Avenue, south of Oak Street and only between Waite Street and Lion Street. The evacuations involved only about four homes, Su Nido Inn and Chaparral HS.

An evacuation center was set up at Nordhoff High School.

The area was also closed to vehicle traffic.

Ventura County Jobless Rate Declines Again

KVTA News Friday April 18, 2014

Ventura County's unemployment rate dropped to 7.1% in March from 7.3% in February and was below the rate in March of last year when it was 7.8%. It was lower than the statewide rate of 8.4% and higher than the national rate of 6.8%.

As far as actually job numbers were concerned, the county gained 3500 new jobs from February to March and 3800 new jobs between March of last year and last month. 

Month to month, from February to March, no sector showed a decline in jobs. From year to year, the sectors that showed job declines during the past 12 months were Farm, Manufacturing, Financial, and Government. All other sectors were either up or showed no change.$pds.pdf

Trio Arrested For Tagging Near Mobil Oil Piers

KVTA News Thursday April 17, 2014

The Ventura County Sheriff's Department says three people have been arrested for graffiti vandalism.

Deputies responded to an area under Highway 101 near the Mobil Oil Pier along Ventura County's north coast Thursday morning around 10:42 AM to a report of a vandalism in progress.

When they arrived, deputies spotted three people in the middle of spray painting graffiti in the pedestrian walkway that runs under the 101 and connects the north end of PCH to the Mobil Oil Piers and the beach.

Deputies caught the three suspects as they tried to walk away from the area.

The Sheriff's Department identifies the suspects as 22-year-old Michael Reyes of Oxnard, a 17-year-old male juvenile form Nyeland Acres and a 16-year-old male juvenile from Nyeland Acres.

Deputies say Reyes was arrested and booked into the Ventura County Jail for vandalism, conspiracy, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The two male juveniles were cited for vandalism, conspiracy and minors in possession of spray paint. They were released to their parents.

Former Simi Businessman Guilty Of Defrauding Navy

KVTA News Thursday April 17, 2014

A federal jury has convicted the former CEO of the Simi Valley-based battery distributor Powerline Inc. of defrauding the government by selling more than $2.6 million in cheap, knock off batteries to the US Department of Defense.

The US Attorney's Office say 63-year-old Didier De Nier fled the United States two years ago. The jury found him guilty of five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Federal prosecutors say that from 2004 to 2011 Powerline did business as Birdman Distribution Corp. and sold more than 80,000 batteries and battery assemblies that the Navy used for emergency backup power aboard nuclear aircraft carriers, minesweepers and ballistic submarines.

According to testimony at his trial, De Nier and his employees disguised the bogus nature of the batteries by affixing counterfeit labels that falsely identified the batteries as originating from approved manufacturers. The testimony indicated that Powerline employees also used chemical to remove the "Made in China" markings on the batteries.

De Nier is scheduled to be sentenced August 18th and faces up to 110 years in prison. His ex wife, who helped run the company, has already pleaded guilty and is facing ten years in prison.

In July 2012, after federal agents searched Powerline's offices, De Nier fled Los Angeles in a yacht and sailed to the Caribbean where he was eventually tracked down and arrested.

San Miguel Island Closed To Public Indefinitely

KVTA News Thursday April 17, 2014

The Channel Islands National Park has halted public access to San Miguel Island at the Navy's request due to safety concerns.

San Miguel is part of the Channel Islands National Park but it's owned by the Navy and has been used as part of a bombing range during and after World War II.

The Navy says they asked that it be closed to the public until they can determine if there needs to be a clean up of any dangerous materials. The study and possible clean up will mean the island will be closed for at least the rest of this year.

The Navy says they want to make sure the island is safe for visitors and that the environment is protected.

Marijuana Extraction Lab Found In Oxnard Hotel Room

KVTA News Thursday April 17, 2014

Oxnard police say they arrested a man for operating a marijuana extraction lab in a hotel room.

Officers were called to the Residence Inn at 2101 Vineyard Avenue around 4 PM Wednesday to a report of suspicious circumstances.

The hotel staff directed them to a room where police say they found a marijuana extraction lab. That's a process where chemicals and tools are used to remove the THC from marijuana leaving a substance known on the street as "honey oil."

Police say the chemicals used in the process are extremely flammable and have been known to cause fires and even explosions.

Officers contacted the renter of the room who they identified as 23-year-old Julian Berman. He was arrested on a felony charge related to operating the lab.

Meanwhile, a special lab team from the California Department of Justice and the Ventura County Sheriff's Department were called in to clean up the scene and remove the chemicals. It took them more than eight hours to do the job.

Oxnard Woman Pleads Guilty In Death Of Ventura Educator

KVTA News Wednesday April 16, 2014

The Oxnard woman charged with the fatal collision that claimed the life of a Ventura educator pleaded guilty Wednesday.

23-year-old Shante Chappell entered a guilty plea to felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

Chappell struck and killed 38-year-old Chris Prewitt as he jogged alongside southbound Victoria Avenue south of Olivas Park Drive near Ventura early on the morning of Sunday April 6th.

Her attorney, Ron Bamieh, told KVTA News that his client is devastated by what happened. He says when she is sentenced on June 27th she will be facing either 4 or 6 years in state prison.

Bamieh says his client was on Xanax that morning and had been up all night.

The CHP reported she had been driving erratically for several miles before the collision.

She remains free on bail pending sentencing.

Truckload Of Strawberries Goes Up In Flames Near Oxnard

KVTA News Wednesday April 16, 2014

(Photo by Captain Mike Lindbery, Ventura County Fire)

Fire investigators were looking into what caused a fire that destroyed a big rig truck and trailer and its load of strawberries near Oxnard Wednesday morning.

The fire was reported around 10 AM at the Dole facility in the 5700 block of W. Gonzales Road just east of Harbor Boulevard.

Firefighters found the semi and trailer backed up to the loading dock.

The big rig was fully engulfed in flames and the flames were spreading to the building.

Firefighters from Ventura, Oxnard, and the county were able to knock the fire down before it spread into the building but there was damage to the outside of the building.  The rig, its trailer, and a large number of pallets loaded with cardboard boxes of strawberries wrapped in plastic were destroyed by the smoke, flames, and water damage.

No one was hurt.

VPD Looks For Man Who Burned Tent With Homeless People Inside

KVTA News Wednesday April 16, 2014

Ventura police say two people were burned when someone set their tent on fire.

It happened shortly before 8:30 AM Wednesday morning in the 200 block of Thompson Boulevard.

Ventura police say the two victims, a 39-year-old woman and a 42-year-old man, were inside a tent at a homeless encampment along the 101 Freeway when the suspect threw hot coals from a nearby campfire onto the tent. The coals burned through the tent and landed on the two victims.

Police say the victims sustained moderate burns to their backs and arms and were taken to VCMC for treatment.

Police checked the area for a possible suspect described only as a white male in his 40's but did not find anyone.

Anyone with information is asked to call VPD at (805) 339-4441.

Six People Displaced By West Ventura Apartment Fire

KVTA News Wednesday April 16, 2014

Six people were displaced by a residential structure fire in west Ventura early Wednesday morning.

The fire was reported shortly before 3 AM in the 700 block of Cedar Street. It involved one unit in a two story multi unit apartment building.

Firefighters say residents of that unit woke up to heavy smoke coming from the kitsch and living room of the apartment. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to knock the fire down. The fire was confined to that unit.

The Red Cross was called in to help three adults and three children who were displaced by the fire.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. Fire officials say the apartment did not have functioning smoke alarms. No one was hurt.

Santa Paula Homicide Suspect Released From Jail

KVTA News Tuesday April 15, 2014

The latest suspect to be arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of an innocent bystander in Santa Paula last month is out of jail.

31-year-old Jesse Ruiz of Santa Paula was released from the Ventura County Jail Monday.

Ruiz was arrested last week on Sheppard Road in Santa Paula in connection with the March 29th gang shooting on High Street that claimed the life of 39-year-old Norma Elizalde.

The Ventura County District Attorney's Office told KVTA News they decided that there was not enough evidence yet against Ruiz to file charges. They say the investigation is continuing.

Two other suspects in the fatal shooting, 31-year-old Mark Martinez of Santa Paula and 21-year-old Valente Tobias of Santa Paula, remain in jail with no chance for bail.

The DA's office has filed murder and other charges against Martinez and Tobias that could bring life in prison without parole if they are convicted. Martinez could face a death sentence if convicted and if the DA decided to pursue that.

Martinez and Tobias have pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations and are due back in court May 8th.

Prosecutors told KVTA News they believe the evidence will show that Martinez fired the shot that struck Elizalde and Tobias fired another shot that did not hit anyone.

The authorities have said that gang members got into an altercation that led to a gun battle out on the street near Elizalde's home in the 1200 block of High Street March 29th.

They say it was a bullet from that gun battle that traveled through her home and struck her, killing her.

The authorities have said there is still at least one other suspect in the incident.

Rescued Sea Lion Pup Doing Great

KVTA News Tuesday April 15, 2013

(Photos courtesy Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Intitute)

The sea lion pup rescued in Ventura last Friday night is doing much better, according to Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute (CIMWI).

The male sea lion, estimated to be about 10 months old, was found trying to cross Harbor Boulevard at Sanjon. It was malnourished, dehydrated and emaciated. They say it weighed 22 pounds when found.

But the Institute says the sea lion is eating two pounds of fish a day and is well on the road to recovery. If the sea lion fully recovers and is in good shape, it will be taken out to sea in a several weeks and released back into the ocean.

The sea lion was spotted by citizens Friday and they called Ventura police who then called the Institute who rescued it.

The institute wanted to remind everyone that if you see a stranded marine mammal there are several things you should do and several things you should NOT do...

1) do NOT approach or touch it, stay 50 feet away

2) do NOT pour water on it

3) do NOT feed, disturb, or harass it

4) keep dogs and other animals away from it

5) call the Institute hotline (805) 567-1505 and leave a detailed message about where the mammal is and the circumstances and they will send someone out. 

Also, if it's after-hours, call the local law enforcement authority and they will call the Institute. That's what happened Friday.

For more information about the Institute

Home Sales Still Slumping In Ventura County/So Cal

KVTA News Tuesday April 15, 2014

According to the real estate information service DataQuick, home sales in Ventura County in March were down by 22% when compared to March of last year. 

DataQuick says all six Southern California counties showed year-to-year declines in sales with Ventura County showing the highest percentage decline.

Meanwhile, DataQuick says the median price for all types of homes in Ventura County last month stood at $430,000, an increase of 6.6% compared to March of last year. 

However, among the six Southern California counties, Ventura County's percentage increase in median price was the lowest with the steepest increases 21.10% in San Bernardino County and 17.80% in Riverside County.

DataQuick says region wide, sales were at a six year low for a March and prices were at a six year high for a March. Still, because of seasonal reasons, sales actually increased from February to March.

Four Injured In 3 Stabbing Incidents In Oxnard Monday

KVTA News Tuesday April 15, 2014

Oxnard police were investigating three separate stabbing incidents that sent four people to the hospital in one day.

The latest happened around 10:20 PM Monday night in the 1400 block of South Oxnard Boulevard.

Police say two males, a 23-year-old Oxnard resident and a 24-year-old Oxnard resident were stabbed. They were both taken to VCMC, one in critical condition the other in serious but stable condition.

Those stabbings came after a 25-year-old Oxnard man was stabbed multiple times in an incident around 5:45 PM in the 1800 block of Pericles Place in the Lemonwood neighborhood.

Police say in that incident, two Hispanic males in their early to mid 20's drove up in a blue/green four door compact car and asked for the victim by name. They then stabbed the victim multiple times and fled. The victim was in stable condition at VCMC.

The first stabbing incident in Oxnard Monday happened around 1 PM in Beck Park at Kamala and C Streets. They found a 21-year-old Oxnard man who had been stabbed following an altercation with another person in the park. The victim was in critical but stable condition at VCMC.

Police were looking for suspects in all three stabbing incidents. 

They say anyone with information is asked to call the Violent Crimes Hotline at (805) 982-7070 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

According to Ventura County Jail records, the man arrested for the shooting death of an innocent bystander in Santa Paula last weekend has been released from jail.
32-year-old Mark Martinez of Santa Paula was arrested earlier this week in connection with the Saturday shooting death of 39-year-old Norma Elizalde. She was killed by a stray bullet as she stood in the carport of her home in the 1200 block of High Street in Santa Paula. The bullet was fired during an altercation between suspected gang members out on the street nearby.
Santa Paula police said Martinez was a documented gang member. They did not identify him as the shooter but claimed he was involved in the incident. The other three suspects were not arrested.
According to jail records, Martinez was released Thursday. His bail had been set at $1 million, but it's uncertain if he made bail or was released without having to post bail. According to court records, the DA's office never filed charges against him and his arraignment which was scheduled for Thursday never happened.