Local News

Wednesday, Dec 26 2007 12:01 AM

Year in review: Criminal cases take strange, dark turns

  1. 1 of 6

    By John Harte

    The Lopez family was the target of another home invasion in July, where the suspects tied up two of the children and stole a safe containing $70,000, Eddye Lopez Gramajo says.

    click to expand click to collapse
  2. 2 of 6

    By Felix Adamo

    Bakersfield police and technical investigators process the crime scene at the home at the corner of Tobago Court and Caracas Avenue — the scene of a violent home invasion robbery — in southwest Bakersfield.

    click to expand click to collapse
  3. 3 of 6

    By John Harte

    Arnold Devries

    click to expand click to collapse
  4. 4 of 6
    click to expand click to collapse
  5. 5 of 6

    By Brian Drake

    Darnelle Lucifer Pierce

    click to expand click to collapse
  6. 6 of 6

    Madica Winchester Giangrossi, left, and Fran Giangrossi.

    click to expand click to collapse
BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writere-mail: jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Several criminal cases this past year proved that things aren't always what they seem.

The following were some of the notable incidents requiring police response in 2007:

Murder-for-hire plot goes bad

Steven Troy Stewart had a feeling from the moment someone first shot at him that an ex-girlfriend might be the cause.

Turns out he was right.

Investigators say Francis Giangrossi hired his stepbrother, Jim Skiba, and others to kill Stewart because Giangrossi believed Stewart was harassing his wife of several months. Stewart and the woman, Madica Giangrossi, had dated off and on for several years before Madica married Francis Giangrossi.

Francis Giangrossi, owner of Coast Roofing, has told detectives he and Skiba hired someone to beat up Stewart, not kill him.

Regardless of what Giangrossi intended, a man died. Ulises Espino was shot and killed by Stewart after breaking into Stewart's home on Nov. 5. Three other men -- Jesus Estrada, Cesar Montoya and Alberto Torres -- were arrested in connection with the break-in.

On Oct. 7, someone fired a shotgun round into Stewart's home in the 15000 block of Westdale Drive, investigators said. Stewart installed alarms around his house and began sleeping with a shotgun next to him after that incident.

With three men in jail and one dead in connection with the plot, Francis Giangrossi shot himself in the head at his business on Nov. 10. He survived and was arrested, along with Skiba, a couple of weeks later and charged with attempted murder.

Murder suspect acquitted despite DNA

It appeared that Darnell Lucifer Pierce would be serving a lengthy prison term, if not a life sentence.

Arrested in March in connection with killing and raping a woman in 1999, Pierce's DNA matched that of DNA found in the woman's mouth when she died.

But Pierce was acquitted on Sept. 19. His attorney, Peter Kang, had argued that the only thing the DNA proved was that Pierce had sex with the woman, 32-year-old Leslie Ahart.

Pierce would have been 17 at the time of the slaying.

Ahart's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in the parking lot of Suburu School. Police had no suspects until they discovered the DNA link with Pierce.

Pierce currently faces felony drug charges and has a readiness hearing scheduled for Jan. 25, according to the Kern County Superior Court Web site.

One killed, two injured in home invasion

One person died and two others were wounded in a home invasion that turned into a shootout between suspects and police.

Two gunmen forced their way into the residence at 6303 Tobago Court on Dec. 13. When police arrived, the gunmen tried escaping through the backyard.

One suspect broke through a fence and shot at officers, who then returned fire. The man was fatally shot by police in a field south of the neighborhood. His name had not been released.

The other suspect, Jayme Armendariz, 22, was arrested and faces five counts of assault with a firearm as well as robbery of an occupied residence and burglary charges.

Officers are still looking for a possible third suspect, who may have acted as the lookout.

Two residents of the home, Arnulfo Lopez, 71, and Andy Lopez, 12, were also shot and taken to Kern Medical Center.

Arnulfo Lopez was in good condition as of Dec. 20, hospital staff said. They would not comment on the condition of Andy Lopez.

This was the second home invasion at the Lopez house. It was first targeted in July when robbers made off with a large amount of cash.

Man rampages in senior community

A bloody, shirtless man ran through apartment doors in a gated senior community on Oct. 3 and suffered cardiac arrest when restrained by firefighters and police.

Ledron Darnell Crompton, 37, broke into two homes in northeast Bakersfield that morning. He rammed his head through a kitchen window and broke the screen of an apartment at 6701 Auburn St., according to police.

Residents talked to Crompton but couldn't make any sense of what he was saying. Shirley Stanfield, 72 at the time of the incident, shook her walking stick at Crompton whenever he tried to run away and told him to sit on the curb.

As a firetruck pulled in front of the senior home, Crompton punched Stanfield and broke into an apartment. He held a resident there and firefighters grabbed the man through a broken window.

He was detained and appeared to have a medical condition when he was handcuffed, police said. Crompton was taken to Kern Medical Center and died.

Sword-wielding incident at Dreyers plant

It was a surreal scene May 30 when Arnold Devries showed up to work at the Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream plant.

Devries was wearing a black mask and brandishing a short samurai-style sword, according to police. Employees at first thought Devries was just fooling around.

But then he cut a woman and threatened others. Devries was eventually subdued by four employees of the plant, the largest ice cream plant in the U.S., and taken into custody by Bakersfield police.

Devries worked in the distribution center and had not been scheduled the morning of the attack. A readiness hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 25, according to the Superior Court Web site.

On the Web

Visit The Californian's special Web sectiondetailing the events of 2007.

Have something to share? Comment on this story
Today's Daily Deal
from
Bakersfield.com
$10
Daily Deal Image
Enviro Cleaners
$20 of Dry Cleaning for only $10
  • Value
    $20
  • Savings
    $10
  • Bought
    8
Buy Now