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YUCCA VALLEY MAN CONVICTED OF KILLING WOMAN BY SETTING HER ON FIRE


A Yucca Valley man was convicted Thursday of the 2011 torture and burning death of his ex-girlfriend, Maria Banuelos. A Rancho Cucamonga jury found 43-year-old Hector Meza guilty of one count of first degree murder, with the jury finding true the special circumstances that the murder was committed during the course or commission of mayhem, that the murder was intentional and involved infliction of torture, and that the defendant killed the victim by means of lying in wait. The jury also found Meza guilty of one count of aggravated mayhem, one count of torture, and one count of arson causing great bodily injury. On October 22, 2011, officers from the Ontario Police Department arrived at an apartment complex and found residents administering aid to 34-year-old Banuelos, who was still on fire. At the scene, the victim identified Hector Meza and three others as her attackers. While in the ambulance her dying words were: “Hector Meza set me on fire. He is abusive and obsessive.” The Ontario resident was taken to a hospital where she died two days later.120116-hector-meza

It was later determined by the coroner that the victim had been hit on the head three times with something consistent of a metal bar prior to being set on fire. Hours after the attack officers arrested Meza on suspicion of attempted murder. Lead Deputy District Attorney Kent Williams, who prosecuted the case said Banuelos left her apartment and shortly later her family heard screams. When they went out side, they saw her engulfed in flames on the ground. Meza is scheduled to be sentenced January 4, 2017. He faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Following the death of Banuelos, investigators arrested four other suspects linked to the brutal attack:

Robert Chico Zapata, 24, of San Bernardino
Johnny Eugene Hernandez, 23, (No Known Address)
Johnathan Zuniga, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga
Genese Ramirez Leon, 25, (No Known Address)

The four remaining defendants are scheduled back in court next month.


JOSHUA TREE MOBILE HOME DESTROYED IN FRIDAY MORNING FIRE

A mobile home burned to the ground in Joshua Tree Friday morning. Battalion Chief Scott Tuttle said firefighters were called to the 3900 block of Border Avenue about 11:24 a.m. where they found the home fully engulfed in flames. Tuttle said a male resident suffered minor injuries in the blaze, but was treated at the scene and released. Firefighters from Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, Yucca Mesa, and the Combat Center knocked down the fire in about half an hour. The fire appears to have started near a goat pen, and three goats were killed in the fire. Residents were rounding up the remaining goats while firefighters were battling the blaze. Sheriff’s and county fire investigators were called to the scene. The cause is unknown at this time.

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PROTECT YOUR DOG AGAINST PARVOVIRUS

If your dog contracts the parvovirus it can be hard to eradicate. Managing Editor Tami Roleff has some helpful hints…

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that is often fatal, especially for young puppies. Parvo is prevalent in the Morongo Basin, and the Yucca Valley Animal Shelter receives calls nearly every day about dogs that are sick from parvo. The disease can be easily transferred to healthy dogs, and is difficult to eradicate from the home or yard of an infected dog. Toys and dishes should be disinfected with a bleach solution, as well as shoes if you have walked in an area with an infected dog. Bedding should be discarded. Grass and flooring, such as carpeting or wood, are harder to disinfect, and may have to be discarded or resurfaced. Treatment is expensive and usually requires a hospital stay of 5 to 7 days—if the dog even survives. However, parvo can be easily prevented through three separate vaccinations, and booster shots as an adult. For more information about parvovirus, contact your veterinarian. Reporting for Z107.7, this is managing editor Tami Roleff.


YUCCA VALLEY MAN ACCUSED OF HITTING FATHER WITH PIPE

A 21-year-old Yucca Valley man was arrested Thursday after he allegedly hit his father with a pipe. Deputies were called to the 55900 block of Navajo Trail following an argument between the two men about 3 p.m. After an investigation, Steven Levitt was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. Steven Levitt was booked into the Morongo Basin Jail with his bail set at $50,000.


PAN HANDLERS STEAL CASH FROM WOMAN IN JOSHUA TREE

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating a case of strong arm robbery Thursday evening. About 6:20, a woman was approached in the 61800 block of 29 Palms Highway in downtown Joshua Tree by pan handlers for money for food. The woman took out $10 to give to them, and the unidentified men grabbed the money out of her hand, along with an additional $20, and then fled on foot. Deputies were unable to locate the suspects; anyone with information should call 760-366-4175.


FINAL WEEKEND FOR COMEDY “KITCHEN WITCHES”

This is the final weekend of “Kitchen Witches,” performed by The St. Joseph’s Players. For the final weekend, the production company offers a special two-show deal. Come see the hysterical comedy tonight or tomorrow, and buy tickets in advance for the next production, “A Few Good Men,” and get $1 off the ticket price for both shows. “Kitchen Witches” stars the duo of Marty Neider and Sally Fox; they play life-long rivals who are forced to share the spotlight and co-host a cooking show. The show’s producer is played by Jackson Dean and the camera guy by Barry Inscore. Tickets are $11 for adults, and $9 for students, military and seniors. For reservations, call 760-362-9319. St. Joseph’s Church is located at 56312 Church St. in Yucca Valley.


TWENTYNINE PALMS ART GALLERY EXHIBITION AND RECEPTION

The 29 Palms Art Gallery’s newest exhibition is a holiday mini show with original art by guild members. The art in this show is 12×12 inches or smaller, with prices to match. In addition to the mini show, guild members are on display in the Pickering Room. The featured artist this month is photographer Robert Miramontes, whose photos of Joshua Tree National Park and rock climbing can be seen in books and magazines. The art gallery will hold an artists’ reception Sunday, December 4 from 12 to 3 p.m. The 29 Palms Art Gallery is located at 74055 Cottonwood Drive.


STAR PARTY AT SKY’S THE LIMIT TONIGHT

Sky’s The Limit Observatory and Nature Center invites stargazers to enjoy the desert night sky tomorrow (Saturday, December 3) at a free event from 5:30 until about 9:30 p.m. A tour of cosmic wonders in the early winter sky will include Venus, a crescent Moon, and Mars, all of which will be in a row looking west after sunset. This phase of the Moon will offer a three-dimensional view of the surface. Volunteers will set up a variety of telescopes on the winding sidewalks, and guests are welcome to use them or may bring their own binoculars and scopes as well. The presentation is casual, so come at any time and leave when you wish. Bring a red flashlight to preserve night vision. The campus is always open, so arrive around sunset to allow time to visit other educational attractions before dark. The Observatory is at 9697 Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms, just outside the main (north) entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.


FATAL CRASH IN TWENTYNINE PALMS FRIDAY MORNING

A woman was killed and a man critically injured in a head-on crash in Twentynine Palms early this morning. According to CHP Officer Randy O’Brien, Samantha Reyes, 19, was driving a gray 2006 Toyota Tundra pickup truck southbound on Lear Avenue at a speed greater than 55 miles per hour, when for unknown reasons she crossed into the northbound lane, just south of Indian Trail, and collided head on with a flatbed construction truck about 6:10 a.m. The 2013 Hino flatbed  truck was driven Edward Sheetz, 50, of Rancho Cucamonga. O’Brien said Reyes died in the crash. Sheetz was trapped in his truck and firefighters extricated him; he was flown by Mercy Air to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs. Leave Avenue was closed from India Trail to Two Mile Road until about 1 p.m. during the investigation and clean-up of the crash.


WONDER VALLEY HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE THURSDAY NIGHT

A Wonder Valley home is a total loss following a fire Thursday night. Firefighters were called to the 3100 block of Shelton Road at 11:37 where they found the 2-story home 50 percent involved with flames when they arrived. Due to a lack of water in the area, the fire soon spread to 75 percent and water tenders were requested. The 2,000-square foot house was safely evacuated and no injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation.


YUCCA VALLEY MAN CONVICTED OF SETTING WOMAN ON FIRE, KILLING HER

A Yucca Valley man was convicted Thursday of the 2011 torture and burning death of his ex-girlfriend, Maria Banuelos. A Rancho Cucamonga jury found 43-year-old Hector Meza guilty of one count of first degree murder, with the jury finding true the special circumstances that the murder was committed during the course or commission of mayhem, that the murder was intentional and involved infliction of torture, and that the defendant killed the victim by means of lying in wait. The jury also found Meza guilty of one count of aggravated mayhem, one count of torture, and one count of arson causing great bodily injury.
On October 22, 2011, officers from the Ontario Police Department arrived at an apartment complex and found residents administering aid to 34-year-old Banuelos, who was still on fire.
At the scene, the victim identified Hector Meza and three others as her attackers. While in the ambulance her dying words were: “Hector Meza set me on fire. He is abusive and obsessive.”
The Ontario resident was taken to a hospital where she died two days later.
It was later determined by the coroner that the victim had been hit on the head three times with something consistent of a metal bar prior to being set on fire.
Hours after the attack officers arrested Meza on suspicion of attempted murder.
“On this particular night, the victim was leaving her apartment,” said Lead Deputy District Attorney Kent Williams, who prosecuted the case. “She left her apartment and shortly later her family heard screams. They exited the apartment and saw the victim engulfed in flames on the ground.”
Following the death of Banuelos, investigators arrested four other suspects linked to the brutal attack:
Robert Chico Zapata, 24, of San Bernardino
Johnny Eugene Hernandez, 23, (No Known Address)
Johnathan Zuniga, 28, of Rancho Cucamonga
Genese Ramirez Leon, 25, (No Known Address)
The four remaining defendants are scheduled back in court next month.
Meza is scheduled to be sentenced January 4, 2017. He faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

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YUCCA VALLEY MAN ACCUSED OF MOLESTING TWO YOUNG CHILDREN

A Yucca Valley man was arrested Wednesday, accused of sexual molestation of two young children. According to the Sheriff’s Department, deputies were called about 2 p.m. to Bannock Trail in Yucca Valley for a report that Joshua Jackson, 23, had touched a 4-year-old and 6-year-old child in a sexual manner. After an investigation, Joshua Jackson, of no known address, was arrested on suspicion of lewd acts with a child, booked at the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $250,000.


CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER ACCUSED IN TWENTYNINE PALMS RAPE

A convicted sex offender was arrested Wednesday evening, accused of rape. According to limited information from the Sheriff’s Department, a woman went to the Sheriff’s station in Joshua Tree about 4 p.m. Wednesday to say that she had been raped a couple days earlier at an unidentified location on Two Mile Road in Twentynine Palms. She said the suspect, later identified as Robert Medina, 23, had later given her an abortion pill to take. After an investigation, Robert Medina of Yucca Valley was arrested for rape of an intoxicated woman, booked at the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $250,000. Medina was arrested in December 2013 and pled guilty in February 2015, to lewd acts with a 12-year-old child.


GO TAKE A HIKE, WITH THE MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST TOMORROW

Breathtaking views and some heavy breathing are guaranteed on Saturday’s hike with the Mojave Desert Land Trust. Reporter Mike Lipsitz laces up his hiking boots …
Join the Mojave Desert Land Trust for a guided hike in the Sand to Snow National Monument this Saturday, December 3 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will lead this moderately strenuous hike from Hondo Wash up Black Lava Butte to explore the area’s cultural and natural resources. The hike promises breathtaking views of Hondo Wash and the surrounding Sand to Snow National Monument.  Bring a brown bag lunch and be prepared to hike for several hours. Snacks and water will be provided. Limited slots are available. To RSVP follow the link http://tinyurl.com/jg53bsl
or
(http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event;jsessionid=ADC7D90C0DFF5C0DD64C809D69934EBE.worker_registrant?llr=snob78xab&oeidk=a07edhhqs668f1a1b4d)


CADIZ INC. RAISES MONEY FOR CONTROVERSIAL GROUNDWATER TRANSFER PLAN

Cadiz Inc. has raised more than $9 million to be used to advance the company’s environmentally controversial project to transfer groundwater from east of Twentynine Palms to parts of south Orange County. The cash was raised in a in a public stock offering held Thursday. Money from the sale can be used for funding business development activities, capital expenditures, working capital and general and administrative expenses. The prospectus was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday. Cadiz wants to pump up to 75,000 acre feet per year from the Fenner Valley, 40 miles northeast of Twentynine Palms. The water would then be sold to other water agencies. While already successful in several legal challenges, it faces a major hurdle from a BLM ruling rejecting Cadiz’s proposed use of an 1875 railway right of way to build a critical 43-mile pipeline. Environmentalists say the project will fuel unstainable growth and harm groundwater resources. Cadiz officials say their project will take the same amount of water that would have evaporated from the area were the project not in place.


FINAL WEEKEND FOR “KITCHEN WITCHES” AT ST. JOSEPHS CHURCH

The St. Joseph’s Players offers the comedy “Kitchen Witches” for one final weekend and offers a two-show deal. Reporter Rebecca Havely has the details…
December 3 and 4, come see the hysterical comedy “Kitchen Witches,” and get a two-show deal. The St. Joseph’s Players spring show, “A Few Good Men” will run weekends in March. See “Kitchen Witches” this weekend and purchase advance tickets for “A Few Good Men” then take a dollar off both shows. Our tickets are $11 for adults; $9 for students, military and seniors. “Kitchen Witches” stars the duo of Marty Neider and Sally Fox; they play life-long rivals who are forced to share the spotlight and co-host a cooking show. The show’s producer is played by Jackson Dean and the camera guy by Barry Inscore. This recipe for comedy is a must see. Reserve your seats now for the final weekend of this comic feast.
For “Kitchen Witches” reservations call 760-362-9319. St. Joseph’s Church is at 56312 Church St. in Yucca Valley.


LOCAL RETIRED TEACHERS MEET NEXT WEEK

California Retired Teachers Association will meet on Friday, December 9, at 10:00 a.m. at the Helen Gray Center on Whitefeather Road in Joshua Tree.  Members will share in some holiday spirit as The Twentynine Palm High School Select Choir, under the direction of Mr. Michael Mayes, entertains them with its festive selections.  Reservations are required. (There is no cost to those who attend the meeting but choose not to order lunch, but seats still need to be reserved for those attending only the meeting.)  Please call Gay Smith, at 760-369-2211, no later than Monday, December 5, if you plan to attend. 


COPPER MOUNTAIN MESA BREAKFAST TOMORROW

It’s time for Pancakes! Served from 8am to 11 am at The First Saturday Breakfast at the Copper Mountain Mesa Community Association located at 65336 Winters Road in North Joshua Tree. Seven Bucks gets you all your breakfast favorites served by your local favorites.


FREE CONCERT IN YUCCA VALLEY TOMORROW

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church will hold a free gospel concert Saturday, December 3, at 6 p.m. All are welcome. The church is located at 8035 Church Street in Yucca Valley.


TWENTYNINE PALMS ART GALLERY EXHIBITION AND RECEPTION

The 29 Palms Art Gallery will open an exhibition with a reception this Sunday. Managing editor Tami Roleff has your invitation…
The 29 Palms Art Gallery’s newest exhibition is a holiday mini show with original art by guild members. The art in this show is 12×12 inches or smaller, with prices to match. In addition to the mini show, guild members are on display in the Pickering Room. The featured artist this month is photographer Robert Miramontes, whose photos of Joshua Tree National Park and rock climbing can be seen in books and magazines. The art gallery will hold an artists’ reception Sunday, December 4 from 12 to 3 p.m. The 29 Palms Art Gallery is located at 74055 Cottonwood Drive.


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