Archive for July, 2010

Police tie parolees to crime hike

Posted on July 26, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole, Politics |

Officers say incidents have risen in areas where early-release inmates are living.

By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.comJuly 26, 2010

GLENDALE — Police officials are attributing a higher property crime rate partly to the continued inflow of parolees released under a state program designed to reduce the prison inmate population.

Seventeen parolees, some of whom could be early-release inmates, will be freed from prison in the next three months and plan to live in Glendale, Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. The incoming parolees were convicted of drug sales, second-degree murder, drive-by shooting, sex crimes and property crimes.

In the last 45 days, 12 other parolees convicted of a similar range of crimes have moved to Glendale, Lorenz said.

The former prison inmates make up an already extensive list of 264 active parolees who live in the city, he added.

The number of recently released inmates without parole supervision who call Glendale home is a fraction of the total at 13, he said. Burbank has 13 early-release parolees, and Pasadena has 35, Lorenz added.

“Many of these parolees do not understand city limits and boundaries,” he said.

Still, with the increase in the city’s parolee population, police officials said they have also seen a jump in property crimes.

“What we are continuing to find is that many of our sprees and hotspots and series are tied ultimately back to parolees, and the recidivism rate that has long been established through studies is very apparent in what we find today in the streets with our crime,” Police Chief Ron De Pompa said.

Property crimes increased to 1,941 between January and June this year, up from 1,784 for the same period last year, according to department statistics.

Areas with the most thefts and auto burglaries coincide with the most dense parolee population, according to Police Department crime maps.

“It is a perfect storm environment in that parolees are being released earlier than they normally would be,” De Pompa said. “They are coming back into an environment where most municipalities have reduced services, and it’s during a economic recession where it’s near impossible to find employment, so it really leaves the parolee in a no-win situation as well … It then becomes almost an issue of surviving, [and they] resort back to their criminal enterprises to survive.”

To keep track of recently released parolees, the Police Department developed a database that keeps records of inmates who are stopped by officers.

The system accumulates details on a parolee’s physical characteristics, crimes committed, vehicle descriptions, alleged gang affiliation and photographs.

The new tool comes as the state and county jails continue to release inmates without parole supervision to ease overcrowding, cut costs and reduce the burden on overworked agents.

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Parole Date Nears For Convicted Child Killer

Posted on July 24, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

Donald Schmidt sodomized a 3-year-old girl and drowned her in her own bathtub.

KTLA News

6:24 PM PDT, July 23, 2010

Donald Schmidt appears in court. ((Shmuel Thaler/Santa Cruz Sentinel))

RIVERSIDE — California Youth Authority’s oldest inmate, 38 year-old Donald Schmidt, is set to be released from custody 23 year after being convicted in the rape and murder of a 3-year old girl.

Schmidt, who sodomized a 3-year-old girl and drowned her in her own bathtub, was set to be paroled in Riverside County.

There was a strong possibility that Schmidt could have been placed into a halfway house with registered sex offenders on Floral Avenue in Good Hope, an unincorporated area along Highway 74, between Lake Elsinore and Perris.

The home that was under consideration for his placement is less than a mile from Good Hope Elementary School which has a student population of more than 500.

But after community outcry, state officials decided against the location.

“This is great news for the children and residents of Riverside County,” said Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.

“The notion of sending a child killer to our county even though he has never lived here didn’t make sense and I’m thankful that option is no longer on the table.”

In 1988, Schmidt, then a 16-year-old Fremont runaway high on methamphetamine, sodomized and murdered a 3-year-old girl in the Lompico house where he was a guest.

After the brutal sexual abuse, Schmidt drowned the little girl in a bathtub in her home.

Schmidt was convicted of the murder and, because of his age, was sentenced to a juvenile detention facility.

While in custody, Schmidt was diagnosed as a sexual sadist, pedophile and sociopath.

State officials used his mental illness to keep him incarcerated beyond his original sentence.

As a result, Schmidt has remained behind bars longer than any other juvenile inmate in state history.

But time has run out and Schmidt must be released by June 2011.

He became eligible for parole last month, but so far no parole hearing date has been scheduled, according to William Weigel, the public defender who has represented Schmidt since 2000.

If he’s not paroled during that one-year window, Schmidt will walk out of the Chino juvenile justice facility where he is being held with no oversight.

Other counties in California have also successfully opposed his release.

State Assemblyman Steve Knight, R- Palmdale, fought efforts to have Schmidt relocated to the Antelope Valley.

“This is not something that’s fair,” said Knight, a former Los Angeles police officer.

“It’s not something we want. We have our own who do crimes in our area … and we have to deal with them.”

But Knight said Lancaster residents aware of Schmidt’s impending release are upset and he has concerns Schmidt may re-offend, despite undergoing years of treatment through the state juvenile correctional system.

“I absolutely have faith in the justice system,” Knight said.

“I do not have faith in people who rape and kill kids.”

More information at http://www.santacruzsentinel.com

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Convicted killers release from prison delayed

Posted on July 24, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

The Associated Press

Posted: 07/23/2010 11:47:27 AM PDT

Updated: 07/23/2010 05:09:32 PM PDT

STOCKTON, Calif.—The release of a convicted killer that drew intense opposition as been delayed.Loren Herzog was due to be released on Sunday. But officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Friday that Herzog’s release day was incorrectly calculated by the San Joaquin Superior Court.

Department spokesman Luis Patino said Herzog will be held for what he termed “several weeks” more.

He said a more definitive release date will be set after court officials recalculate Herzog’s sentence.

Herzog was accused in a killing spree in the 1980s and 1990s, but his murder convictions were overturned because of illegal interrogations.

He then pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

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Convicted Clements killer Loren Herzog to be released

Posted on July 19, 2010. Filed under: Parole, Prisons |

Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010 5:59 pm | Updated: 10:30 am, Sat Jul 17, 2010.

By Layla Bohm
Lodi News-Sentinel Staff Writer 

Loren Herzog listens to his attorney Deputy Public Defender Peter Fox during a plea bargaining hearing in Stockton in 2004.

After less than 12 years behind bars, one of the men convicted of killing Cyndi Vanderheiden of Clements is about to be released from state prison.

Loren Herzog, now 44, has served his time for manslaughter, as well as being an accessory to the deaths of three other people. He’ll be released on parole July 25 and must stay at least 35 miles away from San Joaquin County, said the victim’s father.

“He’s not getting out because he’s innocent, he’s getting out on a technicality,” said John Vanderheiden, who spent the better part of three years searching rural areas around Clements, manning a phone tip line and sitting in court. His daughter’s body has never been found.

Herzog and childhood buddy Wesley Shermantine, also 44, were arrested three months after Cyndi Vanderheiden, who would now be 37, disappeared from her Clements home on Nov. 17, 1998. The men were soon linked to other killings, and the case got so much publicity that they went to trial in Santa Clara County.

Separate juries in 2001 convicted them of multiple murders; Shermantine was sentenced to death, and Herzog was sent to prison for 78 years. In 2004, an appellate court ruled that Herzog had been “coerced” while being questioned by San Joaquin County Sheriff’s detectives. His convictions were thrown out, but a new trial was ordered solely in the Vanderheiden killing.

Much of the evidence against him was inadmissible in court, so prosecutors ultimately worked out a plea deal. In November 2004, Herzog pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Cyndi Vanderheiden’s death, accessory to three other murders and furnishing methamphetamine.

He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but due to the time spent in county jails and credits for good behavior, Herzog has now served his time.

It’s not something that pleases the prosecutor, who has sent countless murderers to prison for life, as well as to death row.

“There are many defendants where I like to see them starting a new chapter in life when they get out on parole, but I do not feel that way about Loren Herzog,” said Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa. “Society was short-changed.”

Due to security concerns, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not release parole dates to the public until an inmate has been released from prison. However, state law allows victims’ family members to receive prior notice about an inmate’s parole, death or other matters.

The Vanderheidens had requested such information, and they also asked that Herzog not be released on parole close to them. Parole officials honored that request, and Herzog must stay at least 35 miles away from San Joaquin County, said CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Parolees must stay in their county of parole unless they get permission from the parole agent assigned to them. They must try to find employment, and the state Franchise Tax Board can garnish their wages to pay restitution.

“We’ve asked for restitution but we’ve never gotten anything from either one of them,” Theresa Vanderheiden, Cyndi’s mother, said of Herzog and Shermantine.

Parolees usually have specific conditions they much meet, but Thornton did not yet have those available Thursday. All parolees must follow orders of their agents and must abide by all laws.

“The purpose of parole is to try to reintegrate prisoners into society,” Thornton said.

While in prison Herzog did work as a porter — janitorial duties such as sweeping and emptying trash — which paid a minuscule wage, Thornton said. He has most recently been housed in California Rehabilitation Center, located in Norco near Riverside in Southern California.

The Vanderheidens, who have another daughter, four granddaughters and two great-granddaughters, said they don’t want Herzog anywhere near them.

Public Defender Peter Fox did not return a message seeking comment, and Herzog’s family members could not be reached.

Shermantine is locked away on death row in San Quentin State Prison, where appeals take more than 20 years to run their course.

Until the men were arrested, they had lived in the Linden area, and Herzog slightly knew Vanderheiden. The last night she was seen alive, she was talking to Herzog and Shermantine in a Linden bar her father owned at the time.

A girlfriend followed her home to Clements, and nobody saw her again. Her car was found the next day, parked at the nearby Clements Glenview Cemetery.

Hundreds searched for the woman, but there has been no trace of her.

Testa still holds out hope that her body will be found, and that it could help solve other missing persons cases.

“I have a file here in my office and I hope to someday close it,” the prosecutor said. “We’re kind of beholden to the public to come forward.”

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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LAPD complains about parole officials classifying suspect in police shooting as ‘low-level, nonviolent’

Posted on July 15, 2010. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

July 14, 2010 |  5:25 pm
The Los Angeles Police Department has asked the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to investigate how a parolee who fired nearly a dozen gunshots at two LAPD officers over the weekend in the San Fernando Valley was able to gain early release and why he was classified as a low-level offender.

In the letter to Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed concern that Javier Joseph Rueda, 28, of Panorama City was placed on “non-revocable parole” in May after serving just two years of a 10-year prison sentence.

“If you determine that there were issues regarding Mr. Rueda’s status, we would appreciate your feedback on how we can work with you to ensure that incidents of a similar nature do not occur,” Beck wrote.

Paul M. Weber, head of the union that represents nearly 10,000 LAPD officers, was far more critical, calling parole policies — including the state’s early-release program and computerized parole classification system — a threat to officers.

“We have repeatedly warned for months that it’s only a matter of time before the Department of Corrections’ ‘non-revocable’ parole policy — which pushes prisoners back onto the streets and prevents their return to prison — enables a parolee to kill a police officer or an innocent member of our community,” Weber said. “It was only by the sheer grace of God that these officers were not killed by this parolee, who still should have been in prison.”

Rueda was shot and killed Saturday after he allegedly got out of his car and opened fire on two officers who had been pursuing him on suspicion of driving under the influence. One officer was shot in the lower arm, and his partner injured his wrist after a fall.

State records show that Rueda, who police described as a Vineland Boys gang member, was classified as a “low-level, non-violent” parolee” and therefore was not being monitored by parole agents with the corrections department.

Known by the gang monikers “Jayboy” and “Ghost,” Rueda was paroled Jan. 25 after serving time for a 2007 conviction on charges that included evading an officer, car theft, possession of a silencer and possession of a controlled substance while armed with a firearm.

In recent months, police officials have said more attention needs to be placed on how parolees are monitored. The law has long required different levels of monitoring for those released from state prison, with violent offenders subject to more rigorous checks, including more frequent visits with their parole agents.

A new law that went into effect this year aimed to cut the state inmate population by about 6,500. The reductions, targeting low-level offenders, are achieved in part through good-behavior credits but also by revising parole rules to stop police agencies from returning nonviolent offenders to prison for minor parole violations.

State parole officials contend that the changes in the law allow their agents to concentrate on the most dangerous offenders. They say the average caseload for each parole agent statewide before the law passed was 70 parolees and that when the law is fully implemented, the number will drop to 48.

State corrections spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said it was possible there was confusion about Rueda’s gang status. But he added that that even if Rueda had been on supervised parole, Saturday’s events might still have occurred.

“Supervised parole is not incarceration,” Hidalgo said.

In addition to the supervision of parolees, law enforcement officials — including Beck and Weber — have raised questions about the new computer risk-assessment tool called Parole Violation Decision-Making Instrument.

The program is designed to identify parolees who carry a high risk of violence and who need more attention, as well as lower-risk offenders, whom parole agents would spend less time monitoring and who might be eligible for targeted programs rather than being put back behind bars.

The technology has not been without its issues. Some 600 felons were classified as being at “low risk” of reoffending. Of those, 240 that were granted parole were reclassified and were supervised. Corrections officials said 1,700 agents are currently monitoring more than 108,000 parolees across the state.

Weber, who wrote the governor last year to slam the computer program, said the entire law mandating early release and parole reclassification should be scrapped.

“We are putting the CDCR on notice now — don’t you dare come to an officer’s funeral and tell us how sorry you are that one of your parolees, who should have been in prison, killed a police officer,” Weber said.  “Your chance to make amends is now, when you can correct the problem before someone else is hurt or killed and scrap a policy that puts officers and the public in danger.”

— Andrew Blankstein

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