Looking at 2020’s court docket

Sheriffs investigated a deputy involved shooting in which a suspect was killed near Ave. Stanford Thursday afternoon. September 12, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.
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With 2019 coming to an end, there are still a countless number of ongoing legal cases that have impacted the Santa Clarita Valley over the past several years, which are making their respective ways through the courts. 

There are several in particular that have drawn high interest for a number of reasons, whether it’s because of the circumstances surrounding the suspect, the victim or the crime itself.

Cases involving the most serious crime, attempted murder and murder, can often take years to make their ways to a trial, which is often over in less than a month or so. 

There are several attempted murder and murder suspects who are still awaiting their day in court, and some suspects who are still sought.

The following are updates on cases and trials expected to be active in 2020:

David Charles

Charles stands accused of bolting from Santa Clarita Valley deputies as they moved in to investigate a domestic violence call on Sept. 2.

The suspect then allegedly got into a car with his teenage child and drove the wrong way on Highway 14, crashing head-on with at least one other vehicle — then running, along with his child, across four lanes of the highway to Soledad Canyon Road, where he was hit by a car, officials said. The teen child was not physically injured in the incident. 

Charles is facing attempted murder and assault charges, according to court records.

He’s due back in court on Jan. 10.

Donald Chinchilla

Chinchilla has been in custody since his Jan. 8, 2018, arrest on charges he deliberately, and with premeditation, tried to stab a Sheriff’s Department official inside a Jack in the Box restaurant in Canyon Country.

At his most recent hearing in November, he was ordered to undergo testing for his mental health. 

His next court date is set for Jan. 15, 2020, just a week past two years since his initial arrest in connection with the assault. 

David Figueroa

On the morning of July 30, 2018, detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau began investigating the stabbing death of Brent Hariston.

They arrested David Alonso Figueroa, 35, of Pacoima, on suspicion of murder.

As of August 2018, investigators with the LASD’s Homicide Bureau said the weapon used to stab Hariston to death was in the possession of investigators.

He’s being held in lieu of more than $2 million bail.

His next hearing on the case is set for Jan. 16.

Monolito Guerra

Guerra, 29, had been on parole in Newhall for a little over a month on assault and evading arrest convictions at the time of the shooting of a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy in November 2017. He’s now facing an attempted murder charge, as well as other allegations, a Homicide Bureau lieutenant said at the time.

He’s being held in lieu of more than $5.5 million bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles.

He’s due back in court next year for a preliminary hearing, according to court records.

Joe Lopez

Lopez, a 28-year-old Littlerock man, was convicted of murder Dec. 19 in the fatal crash that killed Sam Edinburgh, aka Hanan Somali, of Lancaster.

Lopez was convicted of being under the influence when he drove his 2004 Toyota Matrix northbound on Highway 14, north of Soledad Canyon Road, into the back of a Toyota Corolla parked on the side of the road with Edinburgh inside, in August 2017.

A jury found Lopez guilty of two counts: gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and murder. He’s due back in court Jan. 13 for sentencing.

Richard Lopez

The retrial for a man accused of killing six people in a fiery late-night crash on Interstate 5 in June 2016 is scheduled for January, officials with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

Lopez, 72, is charged with six misdemeanor counts of vehicular manslaughter for allegedly having struck a minivan with his Freightliner truck at 3:37 a.m. on June 28, 2016, in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, just south of Gorman School Road.

The two women who died inside the burning 2016 Toyota Sienna minivan were Connie Wu Li and Flora Kuang, both 33. The children killed in the same vehicle were Jayden Li, 5; Lucas Li, 3; Sky Ng, 4; and Venus Ng, 2.

The retrial is set for Jan. 7.

Trenton Lovell

The prosecution of Trenton Lovell, who’s been accused in the fatal shooting of LASD Sgt. Steve Owen, is now entering its fourth year.

Lovell faces one count of murder with the special circumstance allegations of murder for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest and murder of a peace officer. He’s also charged with one count each of attempted murder with an allegation that he used a patrol car as a deadly and dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon with priors, and two counts each of first-degree residential robbery and false imprisonment by violence, with a knife-use allegation, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.

Lovell’s next hearing is set for Jan. 9.

Christian Ortiz

Ortiz, 23, is a Valencia man accused of strangling his boyfriend, 20-year-old Brayan “Brian” Jose Rodriguez, of Valencia, to death in 2017, in a home near Valencia Glen Park.

In October 2018, following a daylong preliminary hearing, a judge ruled that Ortiz should stand trial for murder.

Rodriguez’s body was found inside a closet in a house on the 23600 block of Via Valer, near Valencia Glen Park, sometime before 4 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2017. He was reported missing Sept. 22, 2017, prompting several searches to find him throughout that weekend

The next hearing for the court case is scheduled for Jan. 13. 

Nicole Thibault

Nicole Danielle Thibault, 28, is charged with murder, attempted murder and assault connected to allegations that she stole a pickup truck and crashed it on the 210 freeway, killing Fontana resident Daniel Castillo and injuring others.

Thibault was arrested on Jan. 31, 2018, after having recovered in a hospital for more than a week after the fatal crash on Jan. 22, 2018.

In April 2018, Thibault entered a plea of not guilty to 14 felony counts in relation to the wrong-way crash.

She was found to be mentally competent in December 2018 after undergoing a court-ordered mental competency assessment a year ago. She’s due back in court Jan. 15.

Pamela Walker 

Pamela Michelle Walker, 37, is charged with murder in the death of 46-year-old Christine Diane McQueen.

Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, who responded that day to calls made by McQueen’s mother, grabbed a battering ram and smashed their way into a residence on the 18700 block of Vista Del Canon, near Sierra Highway and Via Princessa. Walker was arrested shortly before 8 p.m. on April 8, 2017.

Deputies discovered McQueen had been stabbed 71 times.

In December, Walker was ordered to return to court on Feb. 6.

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