Friday, October 30, 2009

Claremont creepiness

If you don't spook easily on Halloween perhaps these true tales of Claremont creepiness will get your skin crawling.

Twenty years ago - August 11, 1989 to be exact - Randy Steven Kraft was sentenced to death by an Orange County judge.

Kraft is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College back in the day when it was called Claremont Men's College. The convicted serial killer was found guilty of murdering 16 young men and teenagers, most of whom were brutally tortured and sexually abused.

Kraft is suspected in dozens of other murders throughout the 1970s and 1980s and is high on the list of the county's most prolific serial killers. He still awaits his ultimate fate while locked up at San Quentin State Prison. To my knowledge, he's the only Claremont Colleges graduate or former Claremont resident on death row.

Then there's the notorious case of the Rose Petal Murder involving Claremont native Kristin Rossum. Ten years ago on June 5, 1999, Rossum married Greg De Villers at Claremont's quaint Padua Hills Theater.

Greg was found dead the following year with drugs in his system and rose petals scattered over his body. Police initially believed he committed suicide but prosecutors in San Diego, where the couple lived, convinced a jury that Rossum was responsible for his death and staged it to look like a suicide.

In the highly publicized trial, Rossum was found guilty of murdering her husband using a lethal amount of an opiate 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is believed that Rossum, a former San Diego County toxicologist, stole the drug from her workplace. Handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Rossum's new home is the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla.

Another chilling tale unfolded 5 years ago tomorrow. On October 31, 2004, Evgeniy Lushevskiy from Philadelphia was visiting a friend at Havey Mudd College and decided to go for a solo hike on Mt. Baldy.

When he didn't return the following day, Claremont police were called to investigate. About a week later, his backpack was found off a hiking trail containing a video camera. Police watched the film, seeing the 19-year-old build a campfire on Halloween night and watching the sunrise the following morning. The tape ended after that.

Despite over 100 search parties, no other traces of Evgeniy have ever been found. His disappearance remains Claremont's only unsolved missing persons case.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

City Council meets tonight

The Claremont City Council will meet tonight. Some of the items up for discussion include:

The revision
of the city's Massage Establishment Ordinance to reflect a new state law. The new law would allow massage therapist with certain educational criteria to be certified and allowed to practice statewide. This will save them time and money in having to get licenses and tests in every city they want to work in.

A report for Police Chief Paul Cooper on the health care reform debate and how the Police Department handled the situation. There is currently an internal investigation underway on the police's response and disciplinary action could be taken.

A review of the Baughman Avenue permit parking system, which has been in place for 6 months. Permit parking was instituted on the residential street due to spillover parking from businesses on Foothill Boulevard.

The council will have a closed session discussion on the City Manager and City Attorney's performance evaluation, which was postponed from the last council meeting. They will also be discussing the purchase of water rights from Golden State Water Company. The water company purchase has been an ongoing issue in Claremont and the excessive price tag associated with the project has deterred past city councils from moving forward.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Death investigation

The Claremont Police Department is investigating a death case involving a new born baby. According to a CPD press release, a 17-year-old mother gave birth on Saturday morning around 2:30 a.m. at her home on the 400 block of S. Indian Hill Blvd. Police say the teenager "did not render immediate medical care that would be associated with a delivery of a child."

The mother was later taken to Pomona Valley Medical Center where she is recovering. The baby was also taken to the hospital where it died. According to the press release, the Los Angeles County Coroner determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

The CPD is currently conducting an investigation to determine if the mother is criminally culpable in the infant's death.

No charges over debacle at the health care reform debate

The LA County District Attorney's Office announced last week that it will not file criminal charges against Charles Cox for his role at the August 27 health care reform debate. Citing a California Supreme Court decision on freedom of speech at public meetings, the DA's Office determined that Cox's disruptive actions did not warrant criminal charges.

"It is clear that many in the room were disturbed by the acts of Mr. Cox, but it is unlikely that ... can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt [in court]," according to a charge evaluation worksheet from the DA's Office.

Two weeks ago, the DA's Office declined to file criminal charges against organizer Rudy Mann, who was cited for battery at the debate upon the request of Cox. Cox claimed to Claremont police that he was assaulted by Mann at the meeting.

Tomorrow night, the city council will hear a full report from Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper about the incident and the police's response. Residents have complained over the Police Department's lack of presence at the meeting and perceived unfair treatment by investigating officers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Village Venture

Saturday will be a big day for Claremont with the annual Village Venture. The Claremont Chamber of Commerce is busy trying to promote the event, which is expected to attract around 20,000 people to Claremont. Here's a video they've posted on Youtube, shot by Susan Brunasso of Classic Elegance. The Village Venture will run on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to check out today's issue of the COURIER for our special issue about the Village Venture, with information on booths, shuttle services and some nice feature stories.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staff changes at the COURIER

We are sad to report that COURIER staff photographer Gabriel Fenoy is no longer with the paper. Mr. Fenoy started here as an intern in 2005, and has been on staff for the past 3 years. His photographs gave us all a real sense of the people and places in our community. He will be missed, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

In the interim, Davis Barber and on occasion myself, will provide the excellent photography coverage you have come to expect. Mr. Barber has worked at the COURIER before, currently owns a photography and video business, and has taught photojournalism courses at several colleges in the area. You have already seen his images for the CHS homecoming coverage.

We will keep you posted on further developments. You can also email me at

Peter Weinberger, publisher

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

City Council meeting tonight

The Claremont city council will be meeting again tonight.

Among the meatier items on the agenda are a proposal for closure and installation of pedestrian signal at the intersection of Arrow Highway and Oakdale Drive and a public hearing on a Claremont Tourism Business Improvement District. The Tourism BID would be assessed for room rentals at local lodging businesses and pooled together for marketing projects involving Claremont's hotels and resorts.

In their closed session meeting, the council will do their annual review of City Manager Jeff Parker and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho. Parker's evaluation always seems to generate some controversy. Last year, the council was criticized for being too generous with Parker's pay raise and bonus despite the city facing millions in a budget shortfall. It will be interesting to see what the council does this time around with his salary adjustment, given that staff layoffs and program cuts earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Democratic Club monthly meeting

The Democratic Club of Claremont will have its monthly luncheon this Friday, October 9th beginning at noon. The location is El Ranchero Restaurant, 984 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont.

This month's guest speaker will be Professor Mitch Avila, currently the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Cal-State University, Fullerton. Professor Avila is a Claremont resident who specializes in theories of global justice and human rights. His topic will be entitled "Two Kinds of Property" and will focus on regulated markets, distributive tax policies, and personal property. Cost is $10.00.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Claremont Museum of Art on the verge of collapse

The big news in Claremont recently involves the future of the Claremont Museum of Art. It will be a very sad day for the community if the museum is forced to close down. With great education programs, community workshops and rotating exhibitions, the museum has been a real asset to Claremont.

The Claremont Museum of Art has only been open for 2.5 years. That's part of the reason they've had difficulty in getting funding lately. Museum officials said that art grants are often given to more established institutions that have been around for at least 3 to 5 years.

The Museum may only be open for a few more weeks. Staff has been laid off and the Museum store is closed. I'll be following up with another story soon to answer some questions that haven't been addressed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Police Commission to review health care debate altercation

The Police Commission will hold a special session on Thursday night to examine the police response to the health care reform debate on August 27.

The staff report states that an internal investigation is underway partly because "the actual responses by police personnel to the calls for service generated by the disruptions were not dealt with in an effective and professional manner."

The report states that disciplinary action could be taken against the officer who responded to the scene. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

In related news, charges were not filed by the District Attorney's Office against Rudy Mann, who was cited by police at the event for battery. The DA is still considering whether to file charges against Charles Cox for disrupting a public meeting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Steve Lopez this Sunday

Just a reminder that Steve Lopez will be in Claremont for a discussion on his book, The Soloist. The book was chosen by the Friends of the Claremont Library and similar groups in cities like Philadelphia and Cincinnati for the "On the Same Page" program.

The LA Times columnist will be speaking at Little Bridges on Sunday from 2 to 4 .m. After the discussion, Lopez will be available to sign copies of his book and meet members of the audience.

Overheard at the PD

I spend about half an hour in the police station lobby every week to go through their log book for the Police Blotter. Sometimes while sitting there, I overhear some pretty interesting stories.

Yesterday, an elderly woman came in to complain about a parking ticket she'd just received. The woman, who claimed to be a 60-year Claremont resident, got a ticket for parking in a handicapped space in the Village.

"I will never shop in Claremont again!" she said in frustration.

The woman said her daughter was handicapped and knows how important it is for people with disabilities to have access to those spaces. She did admit that the tire of her car was touching the white line, apparently the line between her space and the handicapped spot.

The officer who helped her offered a form to contest the citation. Once filled out and turned in, a watch commander will review the tickets and see if any action should be taken. The officer also offered her a complaint form, where citizens can complain or comment about any interaction with the PD.

The city recently approved price increases to parking violations at last week's city council meeting. Overnight parking tickets will go up from $20 to $35, 2 or 3 hour parking violations will go up from $20 to $35 and handicapped zone violation will $250 to $325.

The increases will take affect on November 25. I'm sure it's little consolation to the woman, who said she's never gotten a parking ticket in Claremont, that she will not have to pay the higher price.