Today we update you with: the reversal of a 29-year-old man's conviction in the killings of two in Anaheim Hills; the decision facing a jury in a Santa Ana mother's drowning of her 2-month-old baby girl; an embattled Costa Mesa group home operator's court plea; and the possible scapegoating of a school administrator in Huntington Beach's "asbestos crisis."
Update: Believe it or not, way back when, I received an email from someone close to this case who was confident the 2012 murder conviction of Vitaliy Krasnoperov would be reversed. Well, it happened this week, as the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana ruled that prosecutor Howard Gundy improperly used information about the hiring of a hit man gleaned from negotiations with Krasnoperov about a plea deal. That sets the table for a third trial of the 29-year-old, whose first trial ended with a hung jury in May 2011, in the slayings of Jayprakash Dhanak and his 20-year-old daughter, Karishma Dhanak. Krasnoperov was sentenced two years ago to life in prison without the possibility of parole for allegedly playing a role in the killings of the father and sister of friend Iftekhar Murtaza's ex-girlfriend in Anaheim Hills. A jury has recommended the death penalty for Murtaza.
"It's important that you hear that after she drowns Kimberly Gutierrez she doesn't run, she doesn't deny it. That's what the case is about–her mental state at the time she drowned Kimberly Gutierrez," defense attorney Kira Rubin said Thursday to jurors who will decide whether her client Lucero Carrera drowning her 2-month-old baby on June 29, 2012, was premeditated murder or temporary insanity. Carrera pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder and child assault causing death. The jury's decision will determine whether she will spend life in state prison or an indefinite stay in a state mental hospital. The defense and prosecution agree Carrera had a long history of bipolar disorder and that she swallowed a bottle of 30 Seroquel pills to try to kill herself after killing her daughter. "This is a case of infanticide combined with a suicide attempt," prosecutor Jim Mendelson told jurors in his opening statement Wednesday. He revealed that Carrera told police she drowned her child in a Santa Ana mobile home's whirlpool tub "so she wouldn't suffer what I suffered."
Story: More Bad News for Drug Rehab Center with Counselor Facing Murder Charge for DUI Crash
Update: Costa Mesa group home operator Carrie Heckel has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of operating a sober-living home housing seven or more people in a single-family, residential zone–in violation of Costa Mesa municipal law. A pre-trial hearing was set for Jan. 26. City officials claim an unannounced inspection of the home on Senate Street in November uncovered 18 beds or 11 more than legally allowed for group homes in single-family residential neighborhoods. Heckel, who is the founder and chief executive of the Serenity Shores Recovery Center that operated the group home, has since moved the operation out of the residence.
Story: Ocean View School District Flirts with Bankruptcy Due to $8 Million Asbestos Hole
Update: Community members and school employees are defending a school administrator they claim was made a scapegoat by the Ocean View School District board for the "asbestos crisis" at three Huntington Beach schools. Roni Ellis, assistant superintendent of administrative services, was unfairly placed on administrative leave and is not responsible for the lag in asbestos abatement at schools over the summer, more than a dozen of his supporters critics charged at Tuesday's school board meeting. Among the critics of the board was Huntington Beach City Councilman David Sullivan, who the Orange County Register quotes telling the trustees: "It certainly was gutless. Your entire handling of this matter has been disgusting. … I thought school boards were supposed to solve problems, not throw kerosene on the fire." Some parents and teachers at the standing-room only meeting claimed Ellis deserved to be held accountable for the mess.