Updated--The man charged with killing a Faria Beach couple and their unborn child pleaded guilty Thursday to all charges, and in exchange, the Ventura County DA's Office dropped the death penalty.
Instead, 25-year-old Joshua Packer will be sentenced next year to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of Brock and Davina Husted and their unborn child in May 2009.
The defense had offered for some time to have Packer plead guilty in exchange for the DA taking the death penalty off the table.
Up to now, the DA has refused.
However, the State Supreme Court last week issued a ruling in a long running dispute over the defense effort to remove the prosecutor handling the case that went against the prosecution.
It meant there would be yet another long delay in starting the trial.
Prosecutors decided delaying the trial for up to another year or more would be too much for the victims' families and they decided to accept the defense offer.
Packer pleaded guilty Thursday to three counts of first degree murder and admitted special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, committing murder during a burglary, robbery, and sexual assault.
Packer entered the Husted's beachfront home on the night of May 20, 2009 to rob them and wound up sexually assaulting a pregnant Davina Husted and then stabbing her and her husband Brock to death.
The couple's two other children managed to escape and alert neighbors.
Several months passed with authorities unable to determine who committed the crimes.
Then Packer was arrested in Santa Barbara for a violent convenience store robbery and his DNA was put into a database.
It matched DNA taken at the scene of the Husted slayings.
That and other evidence collected at the murder scene led to Packer's arrest.
(Photo by Alex Wilson, KVTA News)
Local, state, and federal officials toured storm-damaged Camarillo Springs Wednesday and talked about plans to protect that community in the future and ways to pay for it.
Included in the tour and discussion were State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, newly elected Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, and Ventura County Congresswoman Julia Brownley.
Some 16 homes were damaged during storms this year when mud and rocks poured down on the neighborhood from the hillside above which was left bare by the 2013 Springs Fire.
Ten of those homes have been red-tagged with debris piled up to their roof-tops in some cases.
The effort now is to clean-up and restore those properties but also construct a system to keep the rocks and mud from inundating that community in the future, both short term and long term.
One plan is to grade the hillside to either catch or channel all that debris in a way which will protect the community.
Both the clean-up and creation of a protection plan will cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars and the question is where will the money come from.
The elected officials indicated they'll look for funding sources, but some of the cost should be born by the homeowners insurance companies.
The Ventura County District Attorney's Office has filed and settled a lawsuit it brought against Southern California Edison over allegations the power company violated environmental laws.
At issue was Edison's failure to file a required hazardous materials business plan (HMBP) for each of the 47 electrical transformer substations it owns and operates in Ventura County.
The requirement is aimed at making sure that when first responders, like firefighters, respond to any business with potentially hazardous materials, they know in advance what dangers they might be facing.
The Edison facilities use mineral oil which is combustible and must be dealt with in a certain way, whether it's on fire, or spilled.
The DA says Edison actually discovered their own failure to file the reports and reported it to the authorities while also making sure the missing reports were ultimately filed.
As part of the court settlement, Edison is paying about $170,000 in total fines, civil penalties and costs to a number of local enforcement and fire prevention agencies.
They have also agreed to a permanent injunction which requires them to make sure they do not violate the requirements in the future.
A task force of Ventura County law enforcement agencies says it's continuing its effort to stop the illegal sale and use of prescription drugs by contacting every active pharmacy and doctor in the county to get them to use a system which can spot "doctor shopping."
"Doctor shopping" is the way some people dealing in or addicted to prescription drugs obtain them by using several unwitting doctors to write prescriptions for the same drugs for the same person who then goes to different pharmacies to get them filled.
The state has a system called CURES which allows doctors and pharmacists and law enforcement to find out in just minutes the history of controlled substance prescriptions for an individual in a month.
The task force says this year alone, they arrested three individuals who visited a total of 174 doctors in order to illegally get ahold a prescription drugs to sell and use.
Doctors, pharmacists, nurses and the general public are encouraged to email Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit investigators at email@example.com or call (805) 383-8700 to report any crime related to the illegal use of prescription drugs in Ventura County.
Santa Paula police say with the help of the Ventura County Sheriff's Gang Unit, they found and arrested a gang member who had skipped out during his trial on charges related to a gang related gun assault.
They say the jury in the trial of 24-year-old German Renteria of Santa Paula had convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon, a firearm, with a gang enhancement that he used that firearm for the benefit of the gang.
But Renteria wasn't there for the verdict, police say he took off midway through the trial and never came back.
The trial went on without him there, which is legal under certain circumstances, and it continued through the verdict with him not there.
Then, this week, he was located in Camarillo and taken into custody on the bench warrant issued by the judge during the trial.
Renteria is now in jail where he cannot post bail because of the warrant and is due back in court on January 13th when he faces up to 19 years in state prison for the convict for ADW with the gang enhancement.
Updated-Oxnard police are investigating that city's third homicide in as many days.
The latest happened Tuesday night shortly after 8 PM when 28-year-old David Lara of Oxnard was gunned down in the 1200 block of Felicia Court.
When police arrived, they found Lara down on the grass suffering from a single gunshot wound.
Emergency medical personnel tried for several minutes to revive him but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
No word yet on suspects or a motive.
This follows two other shootings since Sunday that have left two other men dead.
Early Sunday morning, 31-year-old Jose Sainz of Oxnard was gunned down in the street in the 4400 block of S. G Street. Police were looking for a suspect and motive in that shooting.
And, a 35-year-old Oxnard man was shot multiple times while talking with friends in a parking lot in the 700 block of S. Oxnard Boulevard early Monday morning.
That man, whose name has not been released yet, died from his wounds late Monday night at VCMC. Police were looking for a suspect and motive in that killing.
Lara's death last night on Felicia Court is Oxnard’s eleventh homicide of the year.
The Oxnard Police Department says it has dedicated all of the investigative resources of the Violent Crimes Unit and the Major Crimes Unit into around the clock investigations of these recent incidents.
The City of Oxnard offers up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspect(s) in homicide cases.
Investigators are encouraging anyone with information about this incident to contact Detective Gordon Currie at (805) 200-5682.
If you wish to remain anonymous you can call the Violent Crimes Hotline at (805) 982-7070 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
You can also visit www.venturacountycrimestoppers.org to submit a tip via text or email.
(Photo courtesy Ventura County Fire Department)
Officials told Ventura County Supervisors Tuesday that progress is being made at cleaning up that hazardous materials incident near Santa Paula.
The explosion, spill, and fire at Santa Clara Water Water on Mission Rock Road one month ago sent dozens of people to local hospitals, prompted evacuation of a wide area, and closed Highway 126.
The facility has had its permit suspended and there are no active operations there except for the clean-up effort.
Officials told the board that today the site has been neutralized and cleaned up with the exception of the "lake" at the center of the facility where the initial vacuum truck explosion and spill took place in the early morning hours of November 18th (see photo from that day).
They expect to have that "lake" neutralized, solidified, and removed within three weeks.
They say more than 50 samples were sent to off site labs for testing and all have returned with negative results, indicating the tested areas were non-hazardous.
Agricultural officials say the incident did not contaminate the farm operations in the surrounding area and the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner said produce from that area is safe to harvested and consumed.
Officials also say the recent rains have not affected safety at the site and all of the runoff from the rain at the site has been contained on site.
They say the plant will not be allowed to reopen for business until three conditions are met. It must be totally cleaned up and declared safe, the company must prove it can operate the site safely in the future, and the city of Oxnard must agree to accept products from that facility.
The cost of the response to the incident, including the initial public safety response, clean-up, and health care, is estimated to be $1 million to date. That could double if it's found that the two fire engines damaged in the incident must be replaced.
(Photo courtesy of Caltrans)
Caltrans is now saying the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County that's been closed repeatedly because of storm damage could be closed for up to a month.
The latest closure of PCH between Las Posas Road and Yerba Buena happened after Friday's storm caused up to a dozen new slides, including one which was four feet high and 500 feet long.
On Friday, Caltrans indicated the closure would be through the weekend, then they said through this Friday.
Now they are saying the closure will last three to four weeks.
A contractor not only has to remove tons of mud and rock now covering the highway at several points, but also reposition tons of k-rails that were pushed dozens of feet out of position by the force of the slides coming off the cliffs left bare by the 2013 Springs Fire.
During the closure, all vehicles and bicycles will be banned from the roadway.
The closure will mean more traffic on Highways 101 and 405 and on several canyon roads linking the 101 to PCH beyond the closed area, like Malibu Canyon and Topanga Canyon roads.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department says they arrested four members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in the Ojai Valley Sunday afternoon on weapons and narcotics charges.
They say the members were attending a Christmas Toy Drive event at the Deer Lodge in Meiners Oaks.
Deputies say about a dozen of them wearing Hells Angels Motorcycle Club patches were observed riding southbound on Maricopa Highway towards N. Ventura Avenue when traffic violations were observed and they were pulled over in the area of Baldwin Road near Ventura Avenue.
Deputies say during the stop they found two concealed loaded firearms, methamphetamine, and "brass knuckles".
The four who were arrested were from outside Ventura County and were arrested on various charges ranging illegal firearm possession, illegal drug possession and being under the influence of drugs.
Oxnard police are investigating a shooting early Monday morning that left two people wounded, one fighting for his life.
It was reported shortly after 1:30 AM Monday in a parking lot in the 700 block of S. Oxnard Boulevard.
Witnesses told police that someone opened fire critically wounding a 35-year-old Oxnard man and seriously wounding a 35-year-old woman who is from out of state.
The man was rushed to VCMC with multiple life threatening gunshot wounds and was in the ICU in critical condition.
The woman suffered a serious, but not life threatening, wound to her leg as she tried to flee from the shooter.
Police believe the shooter was targeting the man and opened fire as the victims were talking with other people in the parking lot.
The suspect, a male, remains at large and police are still trying to determine a motive for the shooting.
Anyone who witnessed the shooting, or has information about the shooting is encouraged to call Detective Scott Coe at (805) 385-7796. If you wish to remain anonymous you may call the violent crimes hotline at (805) 982-7070 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
Rain is expected to return Monday and Tuesday in Ventura County but much less than we had Thursday night and Friday.
Here's what the National Weather Service says...
"A couple of storm systems moving toward SW California will bring an extended period of wet weather to the area Monday through Wednesday.
The first and weaker storm will spread rain across the Central Coast late Monday afternoon, with rainfall progressing further southeastward Monday evening and overnight, arriving in L.A. County by around 3 AM PST.
Locally gusty south winds will be possible with the initial system, with gusts up to 40 mph in the mountains and gusts to 35 mph for the Central Coast and the valleys of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
There will be a slight chance of thunderstorms over the coastal waters and the NW portion of San Luis Obispo County. Rainfall totals will be near 0.25 to 0.75” by late Monday night, with locally higher totals possible in the NW foothills of SLO County. Snow level will remain near or above 6,000 feet.
The second storm will arrive Tuesday into Tuesday night and persist through Wednesday.
This somewhat stronger storm is expected to have higher rain totals, with 0.50 to 1.00” for the coast and valleys, and 1.00 to 2.00” in the mountains and foothills.
There will also be lower snow levels, and isolated thunderstorms over much of the land area.
Snow level will fall to around 5,000 feet by Tuesday night with locally lower snowfall possible.
Showers are expected to continue through Wednesday afternoon.
Potential impacts will include slick roadways with localized ponding of water possible in low lying urban areas, winter driving conditions on mountain roads and possible snowfall on the higher elevations of the Grapevine Tuesday night into Wednesday.
Minor debris flows will be possible in and near burn areas as moderate rain occurs during frontal passage, or with any heavier showers.
(Photo courtesy Humane Society)
The Humane Society of Ventura County is seeking public help so they can care for and feed 10 neglected animals recently rescued from a Moorpark ranch.
Earlier this month, they brought into protective custody two Brahma bulls, two heifer cows and six horses.
Most of the animals are considered emaciated and are being housed at the Humane Society's shelter in Ojai.
There are already five horses at the shelter from three different cases that are now pending in court.
Shelter Director Jolene Hoffman says bringing these animals back to health takes months.
That, plus the cost of feeding them and providing them with medical care, is expensive.
Donations may be brought to the Humane Society shelter at 402 Bryant Street in Ojai or sent to P.O. Box 297, Ojai, Calif. 93024. You can also donate online at www.HSVC.org. For more information, please call (805) 656-5031.
Oxnard PD Major Crimes Detectives are investigating a homicide.
It was reported shortly after 2:30 AM Sunday morning in the 4400 block of S. G Street.
Police say the victim, a 31-year-old Oxnard man, was shot to death.
He was found in the street.
Emergency personnel tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
No word yet on suspects or a motive for the crime.
This was Oxnard's 9th homicide of the year.
The City of Oxnard offers up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspect(s) in homicide cases.
Investigators are encouraging anyone with information about this incident to contact Detective Jeff Kay at (805) 385-7763. If you wish to remain anonymous you can call the Violent Crimes Hotline at (805) 982-7070 or Ventura County Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477. You can also visit www.venturacountycrimestoppers.org to submit a tip via text or email.
The Ventura City Fire Department says a 12-year-old surfer had a close call Sunday afternoon in the ocean off of Pierpont Beach.
Around 1 PM, firefighters, the Harbor Patrol, and medical personnel responded to the beach near Pittsfield Lane to a report of a surfer in distress.
When they arrived, they found a 12-year-old male surfer who had been rescued from the ocean near the jetty by two bystanders and a Harbor Patrol rescue swimmer.
The boy was cleared medically and then handed over to Ventura police since he was a minor with no parent or guardian present.
They took him to his home nearby to be reunited with his family.
Firefighters say ocean conditions are still dangerous due to rough seas created by the storms and people should exercise caution, with children supervised at all times.
(Photo courtesy of Caltrans)
Updated--The CHP says that Pacific Coast Highway between Las Posas Road and Yerba Buena Road in Ventura County will remain closed until at least Friday, December 19th, at 6 PM.
The latest storm created more rock and mudslides along that coastal stretch of highway south of Mugu Rock that was blocked for several days earlier this month by a previous storm.
Caltrans says the main problem is a mud and debris slide that is four feet high and 500 feet long (see photo).
They say several k-rails weighing thousands of pounds were pushed 70 feet across the highway by the slide (see right side of photo).
Also, there is one other major road closure in Ventura County.
As of Sunday morning, The Ventura County Transportation Department says that Potrero Road from Lewis Road near Cal State Channel Islands up to Rancho Dos Vientos in Newbury Park remains closed due to mud and rock slides.
(Photo courtesy Nancy Brenes)
Eight people were displaced by an apartment house fire in Port Hueneme Saturday afternoon that's being blamed on candles.
Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Captain Mike Lindbery tells KVTA News the candles were in a bedroom of one of the units and there were people at home at the time.
Everyone was able to get out of the building without injury.
Firefighters said when they arrived on scene in the 2700 block of Bolker Drive around 1:30 PM they found two units of the two story structure well involved in flames.
It took about 15 minutes to knock down the main body of the fire.
But fire and water damage displaced five adults and three children.
The Red Cross was called in to help.
Ventura police say they arrested two people during a DUI/Driver's license checkpoint Friday night and early Saturday morning.
There was also a pursuit that started in that area around the same time and went all the way to Camarillo where a driver was arrested for DUI, but it's unclear if the two were related.
The checkpoint was held from 9 PM to 2 AM on southbound Seaward Avenue north of Alessandro Street.
During the checkpoint, one motorist was arrested for DUI/drugs and he provided a blood sample which is being tested.
A second motorist was arrested for DUI/alcohol and he also provided a blood sample for testing.
Meanwhile, six motorists were cited for driving without a license, two were cited for driving on a suspended or revoked license and one motorist was cited for knowingly allowing another person to drive his vehicle without a license.
Three vehicles were towed for miscellaneous vehicle code violations.
Around 11:45 PM, during the checkpoint and about a block away at Seward and Ocean Avenue, a VPD motor officer tried to pull over the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup for a traffic violation.
Police say the driver failed to yield and went northbound on Seaward to Main Street and east on Main to the southbound 101, running several traffic lights and committing other violations.
The pursuit went southbound on the 101 at speeds of 75 miles per hour to Camarillo where sheriff's deputies joined Ventura police in the pursuit into a residential neighborhood in the 1100 block of Eston Street when the driver stopped and was taken into custody.
Police say the 44-year-old Camarillo man was arrested for DUI/drugs and evading.