Is it just a SoCal thing, or has Día de los Muertos imagery gone mainstream in the past couple of years? Well, you won't see us complaining. As pop-culture appropriations of ethnic traditions go, this one has not yet jumped the tiburón. The aesthetics certainly have a lot to do with it—all those bright colors and grinning skulls just look cool—but we think there's something deeper about Day of the Dead's broadening appeal. The holiday is at once solemn and festive, as we reflect on the lives of lost loved ones while raucously celebrating them, as well as embrace our shared mortality. We're all gonna die . . . ¿y que?
Unfortunately, until that day, we've got to put up with these losers. This year, be sure to light a candle and toss back a shot of tequila for the victims of their crimes, sins and other pendejadas.
SCOTT EVANS DEKRAAI
Boldly making it onto this list just under the wire is Orange County's suspected worst mass killer. On the afternoon of Oct. 12, Dekraai, wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three handguns, is alleged to have gone into the beauty salon in Seal Beach where his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, worked and started shooting until she and six others were dead. Before fleeing, he reportedly killed a man parked outside. A 73-year-old woman was left clinging to life. The onetime Marine, who'd become unhinged since suffering a crippling accident aboard a tugboat he captained in 2007, was embroiled in a nasty custody battle with Fournier. Mitigating Factor: He's innocent until proven guilty . . . but come on!
FULLERTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
Calling this a bad year for the 145-person squad in Fullerton would be a gross understatement. Two of its officers now face criminal charges—one for second-degree murder—for the July 5 beating of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia, that led to his death five days later. News later surfaced that several other people have been wrongfully arrested and beaten up, too, as well as that an officer accused of sexually assaulting numerous women got a little slap on the wrist but stayed on the job. Also, a year after it happened, the acting police chief publicly apologized to a family whose home was erroneously raided by the cops. Mitigating Factor: The city could sell the rights to a film titled Clusterfuck In Fullerton, which might pay for one of the many lawsuits it's facing.
FULLERTON CITY COUNCIL MAJORITY
After the Kelly Thomas killing, Pat McKinley, Don Bankhead and Dick Jones adopted the standard elected-official posture when government employees are involved in wrongdoing: They pretended nothing was wrong—even with large, regular public demonstrations and national media attention. Then they absurdly claimed the real villain in the Thomas incident was Tony Bushala, the businessman/blogger who first exposed the horrors of the beating. But what's really scary is that these three elected goons showed utter contempt for the community by also mocking reasonable concerns about a series of police-brutality incidents. Mitigating Factor: The recall movement is moving along.
ROBERT H. SCHULLER
If Schuller had stayed retired after 2006 as head of the Crystal Cathedral, his stature in American Christianity would've been assured and unblemished: the founder of the mega-church movement, mentor to thousands of pastors, a pioneer in televangelism, and a holy man whose embrace of architecture led to stunning houses of worship. But Schuller couldn't drop his ego and ruined in five years what he had spent more than 50 creating. It started with Schuller driving his self-appointed successor, Robert A., out in 2008, and followed with the church declaring bankruptcy last year. Court records released this year showed how Schuller and his ilk lived an extravagant lifestyle for decades while stiffing vendors and letting the Crystal Cathedral bleed out. Now, the Cathedral is up for sale. Mitigating Factor: At least he's not a pedophile.
ANTHONY NICHOLAS ORBAN
Even the Westminster police detective's defense attorney does not deny his 32-year-old client abducted a waitress walking to her car after her shift, drove the single mother in her car to a parking lot a city away, then sadistically raped and tortured her at gunpoint. She eventually broke away, and Orban fled, but he left behind his service weapon, which was easy to track back to him. Before the Irvine resident entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in July, his attorney tipped the press that the defense would be based on post-traumatic stress disorder his client supposedly suffered as a Marine in Iraq and the medication he was prescribed. Mitigating Factor: One more reason to hate the Iraq war.
EDWARD YOUNGHOON SHIN
Investigators say the Irvine family man confessed to killing his business partner and sending emails to the dead man's family to make it seem as if he were on an extended vacation. Why? Because the 33-year-old men had a fallout that culminated in Shin agreeing to buy out his partner's share for $1 million. Shin had a history of shady business dealings, but no one suspected he would go to such lengths to come out on top—except the family of Christopher Ryan Smith. Early on, they doubted Smith was sending emails from exotic locales in Africa. They tried without luck to press Laguna Beach police detectives to investigate Shin. With the help of private detectives and Orange County sheriff's investigators who took over the case, Shin was arraigned on murder charges on Aug. 30, and one of his associates was arrested as an accessory. Mitigating Factor: Smith's body has not been found, so maybe he is on one helluva safari.
LENNY KYLE DYKSTRA
Santa Ana-born and Garden Grove-bred Dykstra was known as "Nails" when he starred in the outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Nails have also been pounded into the coffin holding his post-MLB career as a supposed financial whiz. He has been accused of federal bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice tied to his allegedly selling items from an $18 million mansion. Since leaving the game, the onetime darling of CNBC's Jim Cramer has also been accused of credit-card fraud; failure to pay bills; possessing Ecstasy, cocaine and human-growth hormone; masterminding a scam to acquire luxury cars; sexual harassment; sexual assaults; and indecent exposure. Amid all this are stories that he was juicing as a ballplayer. Mitigating Factor: That walk-off home run in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series is still considered one of the biggest hits in Mets history.
The Anaheim Hills teen made millions of people around the world forever associate a day of the week with bowls of cereal and the pressure of vehicle-seat selection. That's scary. Mitigating Factor: The parodies!
The Huntington Beach resident tried four times to burn down his church, Orange County Church of Christ in Irvine, because of its teachings against masturbation. Three crazy nights in October 2009, Chavoshan waited until everyone left the church, took contents out of the outdoor trash cans, placed them next to the entrance and set them on fire. They all burned out before doing much more than charring the doors, but church officials reported the torchings to Irvine Police. Cops set up a stakeout and caught Chavoshan trying to burn down the church for a fourth time and arrested him. He was sentenced in August to six years and four months in state prison. One prays his cellmate is cool with whacking off. Mitigating Factor: Give the guy props for lighting a match with one hand.
PAUL LAWRENCE WADLEY
Huntington Park's retired police chief came up with a novel way to spend his golden years in Anaheim Hills: placing nude photos of male and female body parts on one local nature trail, exposing his junk and butt to a woman on another, and placing penis pictures on car windshields in a park's car lot. Guess it beats jigsaw puzzles. In June, the 56-year-old pleaded guilty at the North Justice Center in Fullerton to two misdemeanors, which drew him a wrist slap from Anaheim city prosecutors of three years of formal probation, 150 hours of community service and $176 in fines. Yup, Wadley received no jail time nor any order to register as a sex offender. Mitigating Factor: This case produced an ever-so-lovely press release from the Orange County district attorney's office, blasting the Weekly's Matt Coker for falsely reporting that OCDA cut the sweetheart plea deal.
As the Villa Park councilwoman and OC Republican Party vice-chairwoman stood outside a Muslim charity event in Yorba Linda in February, she called the attendees "pure, unadulterated evil," adding that she knew some Marines who could help the "terrorists" get to paradise. And that just adds to her track record of scary. Remember when she went on a Facebook rant saying supporting Obama's health-care bill was on par with "applauding a mugging or a rape"? Then she added this parting shot: "Do you feel sodomized?" Oh, yeah, and let's not forget that she hates Mexicans, too. Mitigating Factor: We'll get to see her lose in next year's election for the open seat on the Board of Supervisors.
Last year, Dumitru was caught lying to a reporter about talking to a constituent regarding Arizona's reprehensible Senate Bill 1070. This year, the Orange councilman left an anti-Muslim, misspelling-filled rant on his personal Facebook page in honor of 9/11. "It was 10 years ago today," Dumitru wrote, "the [sic] most Americans learned first hand [sic] of the teaching [sic] of Islam and the Koran being filled with messages of peace . . . as they killed thousands of our fellow Americans!" When the Weekly broke the story, Dumitru promptly corrected the errors, living up to the first three letters of his surname. Mitigating Factor: At least he didn't use MySpace.
The former Orange County Sheriff's Deputy was fired four years ago, but Taylor still makes our list because his name came up numerous times in one of the scariest murder trials in recent memory. The case of the state of California versus Jared Petrovich, et al., involves the Oct. 5, 2006, jailhouse murder of John Chamberlain, a Rancho Santa Margarita software engineer who was arrested for misdemeanor possession of child pornography. A few days later, he died at the hands of dozens of inmates, including one who says Taylor had told him just hours earlier that Chamberlain was a child molester. During the killing, Taylor, by his own account, watched television in a nearby guard tower. The deputy not only refused to talk to investigators, but also actively obstructed that investigation, which is apparently why he finally got canned. Mitigating Factor: Taylor's atrocious conduct helped bring about badly needed reforms at the jail.
THOSE PROSECUTING THE "IRVINE 11"
If you don't think Islamophobia (see above) had anything to do with the decision to criminally charge 11 Muslim students from UCs Irvine and Riverside who interrupted a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at UCI, then you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years. And if you're not terrified that an act of fighting-speech-with-speech on a university campus was met with indictments, then you've been living under a rock for the past 236 years. Mitigating Factor: Lead prosecutor Dan Wagner can go back to busting murderers and rapists.
Lobdell was a legend with the Los Angeles Times as its religion writer and wrote a critically acclaimed book about his experience. But when Lobdell couldn't adjust to the realities of the new digital age, he went to the other side: not just as a public-relations hack, but as the $3,000-per-week bagman for the city of Costa Mesa, whose City Council is pleading poverty while attempting to outsource hundreds of city jobs. The mind that once antagonized everyone from Robert Schuller to Diocese of Orange Bishop Tod D. Brown is now writing hosannas about the city's proposed belt-tightening and unleashing the same chihuahua-esque snarls against reporters that Catholic Church officials released on him not too long ago. Mitigating Factor: He was the man who confirmed long-whispered rumors that Trinity Broadcasting Network head Paul Crouch paid off a man who claimed the two of them had a homosexual tryst.
Octomom is the gift that keeps on scaring. The No. 2 Most-Hated Mother In America (congrats, Casey Anthony!) starred in a fetish video alongside a grown man wearing a diaper, told InTouch magazine that she "hates" her brood of 14, stepped into a celebrity boxing ring to stave off foreclosure on her La Habra home, and signed on to play a woman impregnated by a demon in a Hollywood film. And all that was just in 2011. Still, none of the antics is absurd enough to distract from the real question: When will someone rescue those poor kids? Mitigating Factor: Her octo-doc, Michael Kamrava, lost his medical license this year.
CATHERINE KIEU BECKER
This lady taught us a very big lesson: Don't fuck around on your spouse, lest you be left unable to fuck again. The 48-year-old Garden Grove resident is accused of drugging her estranged 60-year-old husband's tofu dinner, tying him to the bed and—hold on to your . . . er, seats, gentlemen—chopping his penis off. So what would any respectable person do with a piece of meat they didn't want? Drop it in the garbage disposal and flip the switch, of course! Becker then called 911 and told police he deserved it. Mr. Becker's pecker wasn't able to be reattached. So, boys, next time your ex slashes your tires, give her a call and thank her for not slashing anything else. Mitigating Factor: Where she's likely going, she won't be around penises for a very long time.
SOKA UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
The Aliso Viejo institution promises a "culture of equality," but the following disclaimer should probably be added: "But members of the Buddhist sect Soka Gakkai are more equal than others." Some former faculty members call themselves "Soka refugees," claiming they were deceived by the university's nonsectarian status and treated differently because of their religion. Ex-professor Gaye Christoffersen, who lost a legal battle with the university this year, brought forth one email sent in 2002 by Alfred Balitzer, the then-dean of the university: "SUA will always have two faces and two kinds of faculty," it read, "and that is why we as SUA top administrators have to carefully care for the Gakkai members as they are being swamped by non-Gakkai faculty." Mitigating Factor: The campus sure is pretty.
SCOTT CHRISTOPHER MONTOYA
There are fantastic deputies inside the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD), and there are also officers who should have never been given a badge and gun. According to OCSD records, while on duty, Montoya liked to tell women he met whether he thought they were "doable" or "fuckable" and spent hours MIA with prostitutes in his patrol region. Before being fired from his well-paying job by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, he also told women, including teenage girls, that his cock is so big he could make an elephant scream. Mitigating factor: Fucked himself in the end.
We're guessing professional-football-player-turned-Irvine-gym-trainer Eric Naposki wanted to be convicted this year for the 1994, for-financial-gain murder of William McLaughlin, an ultra-wealthy Newport Beach businessman. Sure, Naposki pleaded not guilty, but his courtroom conduct spoke otherwise. Why else would he sit at the defense table, grab gruesome crime-scene photos and brazenly smirk? Why else would he strut into Judge William Froeberg's courtroom each day as if he were having the time of his life? Why else would he spend most of his trial purposely looking either bored or ready to kill homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy? Mitigating factor: He should soon be having the time of his life—without the possibility of parole.
The most disturbing non-criminal on this list is Davenport, an elected member of the Orange County Republican Party. This Fullerton grandmother is generally a simple, sweet, conservative, Christian woman, one who sent fellow GOP officials an inflammatory email containing an image with President Barack Obama's face superimposed on a picture of the baby in a family of three chimpanzees, along with the words "Now we know why no birth certificate." Davenport couldn't comprehend why her move would be seen around the world as racist. But rather than accept responsibility, she first tried to blame OC GOP chairman Scott Baugh for not defending her, and then, during an appearance on Larry Elder's KABC-AM radio show in Los Angeles, she identified the "real racists": Democrats. Mitigating Factor: Couldn't make it any clearer that birtherism equals racism.
MISGUIDED MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY ADVERTISERS
Look, if you're a business owner, and you come up with what you think is a clever, cheeky promotion for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, BE AFRAID. Your chances of pulling off something that is actually clever and not offensive are slim. Just ask the folks at Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach, who Photoshopped the civil-rights leader's head onto a surfer's body for an ad touting 20 percent off all black products. (Ouch.) Or the folks at the dining area of Pippin Commons at UC Irvine, who offered chicken and waffles as the themed meal for that holiday. (Ouch.) Mitigating Factor: Thalia issued an apology, and UCI's food vendor conducted cultural-awareness training. So we'll have to look elsewhere for our facepalm-worthy missteps next year.
This 32-year-old worked hard at his construction job, driving tractors and such to provide for his wife and young daughter while living in a quaint Fullerton home where he worked on a video-game website. His normal life no doubt incurred the ire of Placentia police, who for almost 10 years suspected him of killing a 20-year-old Fullerton College student named Lynsie Ekelund, missing since the night McAmis said he dropped her near her home after a night out with friends. The cold case was handed to elite investigators with the Orange County district attorney's office in 2008. Last October, McAmis confessed to strangling Ekelund after attempting to rape her, then dumping her corpse in a shallow grave at a worksite in Santa Clarita. He has pleaded not guilty. Mitigating Factor: If he's convicted, well, it's just that he finally got caught. [Editor's note: material in this entry was corrected. Please see the end of the article for details.]
DANIEL ALMA SHEPERD AND GAY DAVIDSON SHEPERD
Daniel, 62, was a science teacher at Mesa View Middle School in Huntington Beach, and his 52-year-old wife was a former leader of the Huntington Beach teachers' union. Daniel met his young victim, who was a Westminster High student, and introduced the lad to his wife. They began grooming their victim in 2009 by inviting him over to their house for drinks, board games and movies. The DA says things took a turn for the stranger shortly after, when the two hopped into their hot tub naked urging their young charge to do the same. Gay stands accused of blowing more than bubbles as she orally pleasured both fellas. Numerous sex acts followed in the ensuing weeks, including mutual masturbation, sodomy, oral sex and plain-ol' sex. Daniel is currently facing five years in state prison, while Gay faces eight. Mitigating Factor: The unattractiveness of the alleged perps reveals that all of these "hot for teacher" stories are ugly, rather than titillating.
THE BAD JUJU OF THE YOST THEATER
The historic Santa Ana venue has been the Chavez Ravine of OC Latino history—twice. In 1985, city officials forced the Olivos family—which had turned it into an internationally famous venue for hosting Spanish-language film and music stars since the 1950s—to sell it to them, then promptly turned around and unloaded it on developer Irving Chase. He, in turn, let the venue crumble for more than 20 years until letting the nonprofit El Centro Cultural de México use it for a son jarocho concert in 2007. Chase then planned to let El Centro lease the space, but in swooped Dennis Lluy, the former DIY punker behind the late, great Koo's Café, now a city insider. Chase reneged on his proposal, leased the space to Lluy—and earlier this year, El Centro just happened to get pushed out of a building owned by Chase's father-in-law. Mitigating Factor: The renovations look very nice.
The Santa Ana councilwoman had been a vendida for most of her 12 years on the Banana Republic's ruling junta, taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from gentrifying developers while vilifying activists fighting the same developers as malcontents. Then sometime this year, the Orange County prosecutor got all MEChista and began railing against those same developers for their supposed ethnic cleansing of the city's downtown—the same ethnic cleansing she had applauded for a decade. No one believed her act, and it didn't help when Alvarez publicly compared property owner Irving Chase (see above) to Hitler, a stance that effectively squashed any criticism of Santa Ana's city-led gentrification efforts for good. Mitigating Factor: She's termed out next year.
PHAT HUY TO
The horror of being sexually violated by a social deviant is bad enough. If the assailant also smells weird, that could make it worse—or it could be an important clue. This 27-year old resident of Garden Grove was recently sentenced to eight years in state prison for raping a woman he ordered into his car by threatening her with what appeared to be a gun. The victim told police that To, who sodomized her and forced her to orally copulate him for two and a half hours, mentioned to her during the ordeal that his mother owned a doughnut shop. The victim told police her attacker smelled of garlic and onion doughnuts. Rumor has it To is now housed in the men's prison at Chuckwalla. Mitigating Factor: Prison food is pretty underseasoned.
While there is room for debate on the wisdom of using corporal punishment as a tool in child rearing, reasonable parents can agree that when it comes to fatherhood, Briles is just a tool. On Aug. 28, the 35-year-old Irvine man was aboard The Queen in Balboa Harbor with his girlfriend and two young sons. The district attorney's office charges that he then began poking one of his sons in the chest and repeatedly slapping his face. When the lad cried and asked his allegedly intoxicated father to stop, Briles tossed the child 10 feet overboard into the drink. The ship's first mate reportedly had to stall the engines to avoid hitting the youngster treading water in front of the vessel. Briles jumped in himself—and then, the DA alleges, swam away. Mitigating Factor: He could be sentenced to walk the plank.
The Irvine resident is known across the country for his nationally syndicated talk show, one that he records here in Orange County, and for his pioneering efforts in conservative blogging. But Hewie can't even be arrested in his hometown: His show airs on KRLA-AM 870, Southern California's third-rung conservative talk-show station. It's a perfect place for his anti-gay, anti-Obama, pro-eternal war, irrelevant take on the national scene. Mitigating Factor: Despite his dumb ideology, Hewitt frequently has great authors on as guests.
Shops specializing in dresses for quinceañeras have operated on downtown Santa Ana's Fourth Street for at least 25 years; the gastropub Chapter One: the modern local, one street over, has barely been open for one. Yet that didn't stop Chapter One's co-owner from wading into the area's explosive gentrification battles during a Aug. 24 Santa Ana City Council meeting. "You can't have the same shop, the same stores, the same exact same quinceañera shop across from the exact same quinceañera shop . . . exact same thing over and over again, and expect to be successful," O'Conner remarked from the podium. "Times have changed. Fourth Street should change with those times." O'Conner's partners quickly apologized for his remarks, but he has remained quiet on the subject. Mitigating Factor: The Weekly named Chapter One the best new restaurant in OC this year.
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THESE TWO LITTLE MONSTERS
[CLICK HERE FOR THE PHOTO OF MIKE SCHROEDER AND SUSAN KANG SCHROEDER AT A LADY GAGA CONCERT.]
Correction 10/27/2011: The original version of this story incorrectly gave the age of accused murderer Chris McAmis as 35 years old. He is in fact 32 years old. The Weekly regrets the error.
This article appeared in print as "You're Dead to Me: OC's Scariest People 2011."