[Update November 6, 2013]: I forgot to add the story of Lyle and Erik Menendez who murdered their parents in Beverly Hills on August 20, 1989 which became a national sensation. Although the murder occurred in Beverly Hills, they had a home in Calabasas under renovation and had attended Calabasas high school. You can read more here.
[Update October 30, 2013]: Jason Schumann was convicted September 19, 2013 for first degree murder for the January 11, 2012 killing of 17 year old Francisco "Pancho" Rodriguez discussed below which finally brings closure to this sad and unfortunate story. I dont know what happened to his girlfriend, Elizabeth Ibarra, but I am assuming there was some sort of cooperation because she was not charged with any crime.
|Ibarra on the left, Rodriguez center, and Schumann on the right. Images courtesy Facebook via LA Weekly.|
If you have ever driven through the residential streets of the West Valley (primarily Calabasas, Hidden Hills, West Hills, and Woodland Hills), you will find endless neighborhoods of tract homes with perfectly manicured lawns. The roads are generally empty with kids safely playing catch or riding their bicycles. Industrial facilities are non-existent as city planners carefully subdivided this area as the suburban mecca for what has become the roadmap for the rest of America as documented by Kevin Roderick in his 2001 classic, America's Suburb: The San Fernando Valley. Whatever space that is not residential is limited to a handful of retail stores with the Fallbrook Mall perfectly situated at the major intersection of Fallbrook and Victory with its usual variety of Big Box anchor stores. But not too big to cause traffic jams and headaches (except for Christmas) like the expansive Topanga Mall.
Essentially, this is the perfect area to raise your kids. You cant go wrong and your child is set for life. Consequently, this area boasts higher real estate prices due to the success of these various schools as demand is always strong for newly formed households. This area is prime for Realtors who grin with every successful transaction.
- Dead Star Football Player Was Injected with Narcotics. This tragic death occurred on October 30, 2011 when Griffen Kramer, a Thousand Oaks High School QB, died of a drug overdose at a friends home in Agoura Hills home. Although not part of the West Valley, close enough.
- Clark Gable's Grandson Gets Jail For Pointing Laser at LAPD Copter. The 23 year old Clark James Gable of Canoga Park was sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years' formal probation for pointing laser at LAPD helicopter on Hollywood Boulevard on July 28, 2011. Once again, not part of the area I am talking about but close enough again.
- El Camino Real High Soccer Player Slain in Shooting at His Home. 17 year old El Camino Real High soccer player, Francisco Javier Rodriguez Jr, was shot at his home in Winnetka after a soccer game believed to be shot by a Calabasas man, Jason Schumann and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Ibarra, (see image below) over a romantic relationship (This case is still pending). The story is simply tragic and devastating and I feel for that family. Words probably cannot describe the pain they are feeling especially when that person was so close to home, literally.
I have listed three examples below going all the way back to 1992 where the guilty individuals were born and/or raised in the West Valley.
|Dana Ewell, Image courtesy California Bar Journal|
|Joel Radovcich, Image courtesy Livedash.com|
|Joel Radovcich grew up in this West Hills Home.|
Ewell resides in the Protective Housing Unit of California State Prison, Corcoran, with Charles Manson, Juan Corona, and other murderers who require "extraordinary protection" from other inmates.
The Ewell murders have been featured on American Justice, Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice, Forensic Files, Discovery Channel's "Solved" and Behind Mansion Walls.
The case was covered in a one-hour show of Dominick Dunne's investigative show Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice. Also two series of the truTV network aired episodes on the case; Forensic Files episode 282 titled "Two in a Million" and American Justice episode 170 titled "Millions Of Reasons To Kill". The case was briefly covered in "E! Investigates: Rich Kids Who Kill." New Detectives "Family Plots"
|Joel Radovcich in prison today, Image courtesy Inmate.com|
2000: Nicholas Markowitz Murder by Jesse James Hollywood and Gang
In the West Hills section, there are million dollar homes. But amidst the swimming pools and tidy lawns of this well-kept neighborhood, a devoted mother got the worst possible news. "When I was paging him, and he wasn’t answering I knew something was definitely wrong." (From Susan Markowitz) Like the stream of expensive cars cruising down the Boulevard, a dark undercurrent had been flowing beneath West Hills’ glossy views. A group of seemingly nice kids had become caught up in a lifestyle where life itself was cheap. An entire city was shocked when these same kids stood accused of an unspeakable crimeNick Markowitz (view dedicated site here), 15, was murdered by Jesse James Hollywood over a drug money dispute (roughly $1,200) between Markowitz's older half-brother, Benjamin. On August 6, 2000, Hollywood decides to visit Ben regarding the drug money dispute when he happens to run into Nick who just ran away from home. Instead of confronting Ben, Hollywood and his gang kidnap Nick who is chased, assaulted, and abducted in broad daylight escaping in a van in West Hills.
|Nicholas Markowitz grew up in this West Hills home.|
|Nicholas was captured on Ingomar street near Taxco Trails Park|
|Jesse James Hollywood grew up in this home.|
|Jesse James purchased this house where he heavily partied.|
Another tragic and sad story with ties to the West Valley. This story has been well documented which I briefly covered so I recommend reading the various articles listed below. In addition to the articles, you can view the movie, Alpha Dog, which has been fictionalized due to the pending court case at the time when the movie was released. The movie was excellently filmed covering every detail perfectly. Unfortunately, since it was fictionalized, the names of the characters, locations, etc. were changed due to the pending court case which slightly disappointed me because I always appreciate that autenticity factor. In any event, if you read the articles listed below, you can identify the true location as you watch the movie. Addtionally, several scenes were shot in the SFV so you will be able to easily recognize various SFV spots.
2008: Bling Ring
|Members of the Bling Ring gang. Top row, left to right: Diana Tamayo, Johnny Ajar, Alexis Neiers. Bottom row, left to right: Nick Prugo, Courtney Ames, Roy Lopez Jr. Image courtesy Wikipedia|
|Rachel Lee, Image courtesy Wikipedia|
In the media, she (Neiers) was being called a member of “the Burglar Bunch,” “the Bling Ring,” nicknames for the most successful and outrageous burglary gang in recent Hollywood memory: a gang of well-off kids from the Valley.
[Update October 21,2012]: Diana Tamayo pleaded no contest and will receive three years probation plus time served in the county jail and 60 days community service with Caltrans. Tamayo must also pay restitution. The attorney, Ben Gharagozli for Tamayo called the LAPD's lead investigator an "entirely uncredible witness" because of his work on an upcoming Bling Ring movie and other issues. The movie, Gharagozli said, "was the big elephant in the room." In a July hearing, Judge Larry P. Fidler said LAPD Officer Brett Goodkin's decision to serve as a technical advisor on Sofia Coppola's docudrama "The Bling Ring" while still assigned to the case had harmed the prosecution of the defendants. "You should all write a thank-you letter to Goodkin, because his judgment is as poor as it gets," Fidler said, addressing the attorneys. "You can have a field day with his credibility during trial.... It's a shame what he did. It's harmful to the people's case."At this moment, trial is still pending for Courtney Ames, and Roy Lopez Jr. [End Update]
[Update November 8, 2012]: Roy Lopez Jr pleaded no contest to one count of receiving stolen property. Lopez received three years' probation plus time served in the county jail. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of burglary and conspiracy. Paris Hilton, whose jewlery and property Lopez was alleged to have stolen, is not seeking restitution. [End Update]
[Update December 14, 2012]: Courtney Leigh Ames pleaded no contest to a single felony charge of possessing stolen goods. Ames received three years' probation and 60 days of community service. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary, and receiving stolen property. Ames is the final member of the Bling Ring to be sentenced which concludes this courtroom saga and leads the way for Soffia Coppola's docudrama film, The Bling Ring. [End Update]
Some wonder why the Bling Ring committed these crimes especially when they lived such affluent lifestyles. Here is a possible reason from the NYTimes:
“Young people see a lifestyle on television and have peer pressure and constant bombardment from media to have what other people have, to want what other people want and to try to live the dream,” said Jason Peirce, the host of “Calabasas Teen Forum,” a local cable television program.
1992: Dana Ewell and Joel Radovcich Murder of Ewell's Parents and Sister
- California Album: Slaying of Family Remains a Mystery: Fresno Police Have Mostly Discounted Possible Ties of Wealthy Businessman to Drug Dealing or Disgruntled Filipino Investors. They Now Focus on the Lone Surviving Son by Mark Arax on March 22, 1993; Los Angeles Times.
- Game of Dare Ends Between Detectives, Wealthy Suspect: Crime: Son of Fresno Millionare is Charged with Hiring Hit Men To Kill His Family. He Maintains His Innocence by Mar Arax on March 21, 1995; Los Angeles Times.
- Fresno Murder Probe Leads to Key Evidence in Reseda by Alan Abrahamson and Mark Arax on May 16, 1995; Los Angeles Times.
- Friendship Led Police to 2 in Fresno Slayings: Crime: The Alleged Triggerman and the Heir to a Family Fortune Are Accused of Killing Three People in 1992. Detectives Say Their Brazen Behavior was Their Undoing by Alan Abrahamson and Mark Arax on May 16, 1995; Los Angeles Times.
- Wheels of Justice Grind Slowly in Ewell Murders by Kathleen O. Beitiks on May 1997; California Bar Journal.
- Son, Friend Convicted of Killing Parents, Sister by Associated Press on May 13, 1998; Los Angeles Times.
- Catch Me If You Can by Kraig Hanadel on May 2, 2000. Book available on Amazon.com
- E! Investigates: Rich Kids Who Kill aired on December 02, 2010; Transcript at Livedash.com
- Appealing to God by Nate Swinton on June 12, 2006; updated January 18, 2011; The Santa Clara
- Dana Ewell; Wikipedia.
- Nicholas Markowitz. Dedicated Site.
- SWAT Lays Siege to House but Fugitive is Not There by Greg Risling and Sue Fox on August 30, 2000; Los Angeles Times.
- Family of Slain Boy Files Suit Against 32 People by Jean Guccione on August 10, 2001; Los Angeles Times.
- Kidnap Victim Could Have Fled, Witnesses Testify by Sue Fox on November 01, 2001; Los Angeles Times.
- Jury Returns With Death Verdict for Killer of West Hills Teenager by Tracy Wilson and Sue Fox on November 30, 2001; Los Angeles Times
- The Last Ride of Jesse James Hollywood by Jesse Katz on February 1, 2002; Los Angeles Magazine.
- 22 Year Old Gets Life in Valley Teen's Kidnap-Slaying by Jean Guccione on September 25, 2002; Los Angeles Times.
- Teen Sent to CYA for Role in Slaying by Jean Guccione on February 12, 2003; Los Angeles Times.
- Fugitive Ordered to Pay Parents of Slain Boy by Jean Guccione on August 02, 2003; Los Angeles Times.
- Fugitive in 2000 Slaying of Teen Found by Times Staff Writers on March 10, 2005; Los Angeles Times.
- Alpha Dog. Movie released on January 12, 2007.
- The Real Story Behind 'Alpha Dog' by Chris Hansen on January 15, 2007; Dateline NBC.
- Stolen Boy: Based on a True Story by Michael Mehas on February 10, 2008; Book.
- Hollywood's Day in Court by Chris Meagher and Amy Silverstein on May 21, 2009; Santa Barabara Independent.
- Most Wanted Killer by Robert Scott on March 30, 2010; Book.
- My Stolen Son: The Nick Markowtiz Story by Jenna Glatzer and Susan Markowitz on September 7, 2010; Book.
- Jesse James Hollywood by Julia Scheeres; date unknown; TruTV.
- Jesse James Hollywood Crime Scene Locations; Movie Shots LA.
- Murder of Nicholas Markowtiz; Wikipedia.
- Inside Story: From High School Students to Celebrity Burglars by Brenda Rodriguez and Ken Lee on October 24, 2009; People.
- Going For The Bling: Hollywood Burglars by Allen Salkin on November 13, 2009; The New York Times.
- The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales on March 2010; Vanity Fair
- Exclusive: Inside Hollywood's 'Bling Ring' by Sabina Ghebremedhin, Eamon McNiff, and Jim Dubreuil on March 4, 2010; ABC 20/20
- Hollywood 'Bling Ring' Burglar Jailed by Nick Allen on May 11, 2010; The Telegraph.
- Nick Prugo, 'Bling Ring' Leader, Loses Motion For Plea Deal by Anthony McCartney on May 12, 2010; The Huffington Post
- Celebrities Testify Before Grand Jury in 'Bling Ring' Burglary Case by Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton on July 2, 2010; Los Angeles Times.
- Calabasas 'Bling Ring' Suspect Rachel Lee, 21, Pleads No Contest to Burglarizing Audrina Patridge's Home on September 23, 2011; Los Angeles Daily News.
- 'Bling Ring' Burglar Rachel Lee Sentenced To Four Years in Prison by Anthony McCartney on October 25, 2011; The Huffington Post.
- 'Bling Ring' Mastermind Pleads Guilty to Celebrity Burglaries by Rick Rojas on March 2, 2012; Los Angeles Times.
- 'Bling Ring' Member Enters Plea Over Burglary at Lohan's Home by Amy Kaufman and Richard Winton on October 20, 2012; Los Angeles Times.
- 'Bling Ring' Celebrity Theft Case is Drawing to an End by Amy Kaufman on November 8, 2012; Los Angeles Times.
- Final 'Bling Ring' Defendent Pleads No Contest by Richard Winton on December 14, 2012; Los Angeles Times.
- The Hollywood Bling Ring by Tricia Romano; date unknown; TruTV.
- Bling Ring; Wikipedia.