Trial opens in backyard drowning of ex-San Bernardino police officer’s wife

A former San Bernardino Police Department detective charged with drowning his wife in their backyard Jacuzzi didn’t expect a startled witness — peering through an opening in a block wall — to thwart his cover-up, prosecutors told jurors Thursday.

Blair Christopher Hall, 51, faces a single count of murder in the June 7, 2007, death of Cristi Lynne Hall behind their Calimesa home.

Free on $1 million bail, he sat inside a Riverside courtroom wearing a polo shirt and slacks, listening to Deputy District Attorney Burke English Strunsky during opening statements call the case one of “violent betrayal.” Later, his lawyer phrased it as a tragic accident.

Cristi Hall and her husband of nearly 30 years had gone out to the backyard hot tub that weekday morning just after 6 a.m., intending to bathe as their shower was being remodeled, Strunsky said. Their 22-year-old daughter slept upstairs.

According to Strunsky, the couple was in the tub together when the defendant forcibly pushed Cristi Hall’s head under the water and held it.

“She thrashes about, she struggles,” he told jurors. “She desperately struggles to get a final breath.”

Injuries to Cristi Hall included “massive bruising” and head lacerations, the prosecutor said. She also had some of her husband’s DNA under her fingernails, which Strunsky said pointed to her fighting back.

Blair Hall eventually got out of the tub, toweled off and went inside to wake his daughter. He then returned outside and wailed at the discovery of his lifeless wife, according to the prosecutor.

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Judge: Police violated San Bernardino man’s rights

A federal judge has found that members of a San Bernardino Police Department narcotics team intentionally violated a suspected drug dealer’s rights when they arrested him and inspected his apartment before a search warrant was signed.This means that evidence found in 46-year-old Vincent Young‘s North Mountain View Avenue home last year – allegedly including ammunition, drugs and cash – is not admissible at trial.

Officials said they were surprised by the bold language used in U.S. District Court Judge Robert H. Whaley‘s 16-page ruling on Feb. 18.

The judge says he does not believe Officer Gerald Beall‘s testimony and compares the Jan. 6, 2009, search to other alleged misconduct by the narcotics team.

“The officer’s conduct is strikingly similar to conduct that has been the target of both internal and external investigation by the” San Bernardino Police Department, Whaley wrote.

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Charges against San Bernardino police officer’s accuser dropped

FONTANA – Criminal charges against a man who accused an embattled San Bernardino Police Department sergeant of illegally detaining and searching him were dismissed Friday.Gregory Parker has spent nearly three years questioning the circumstances of his Sept. 18, 2007, arrest and fighting the two counts of possessing marijuana and receiving stolen property he was later charged with.

During a scheduled court hearing in Fontana Superior Court on Friday, supervising deputy district attorney Richard Alan Young said all charges were being dropped due to “insufficiency of evidence and in the interest of justice.”

He declined to provide specifics about why the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office was no longer interested in pursuing charges.

Parker’s defense attorney, Gary Wenkle Smith, said his client was “elated” and lauded the system for making justice its priority.

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Army recruiter arrested in sex case

For the second time in less than a year, an Inland military recruiter has been arrested on suspicion of engaging in a sex act with an underage girl.

Christian Rigal Mercado, 25, of Moreno Valley, was jailed Wednesday after a security guard at the Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino reported that he saw him involved with the girl inside a parked car. Mercado later posted $50,000 bail.

The 17-year-old girl was a potential U.S. Army recruit, said San Bernardino Police Department Lt. Dan Keil.

Mercado, who was booked on suspicion of oral copulation with a minor, worked as a recruiter out of the Army’s office on Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. He has been suspended from recruiting duties pending an investigation, army officials said.

“We’re a values-based organization, and basically, we have no tolerance for infractions of the law,” said Nya Paul, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Southern California Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Inland region’s offices.

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Witness says officer shot unarmed teenager

SAN BERNARDINO – A teenaged boy lay on the ground – unarmed – with his arms out to his sides when a police officer kicked him twice in the face, took a step back and opened fire, a witness testified Thursday.

Atusabai Taimalia told the jury he was sitting at a table on his back porch drinking coffee and smoking with his mother when he saw Terrell Markham run into a courtyard at the corner of N. Medical Center Drive and Temple Street and hide behind a bush.

About 40 feet behind Markham, who was then 16, came Officer Adam Affrunti, who was holding his service firearm in his right hand as he yelled for the teen to stop.

Taimalia said the officer threw Markham, grabbed the teen’s jacket, threw him on the ground and kicked him in the left side of the face.

See also:

Some of SB cop, Adam Affrunti’s, violent past allowed in criminal trial for teen

Jurors to hear criminal past of San Bernardino teen shot by officer with 5 prior shootings

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Some of SB cop, Adam Affrunti’s, violent past allowed in criminal trial for teen

SAN BERNARDINO – It has become a battle of the backgrounds.Attorneys on Thursday continued their struggle to keep jurors from hearing about past violent conduct for two key players in a criminal trial scheduled to start next week.

The players are Terrell Markham, an 18-year-old man accused of pulling a stolen gun on a police officer, and Officer Adam Affrunti, who had shot five people prior to these two tangling on Nov. 17, 2007.

Despite the prosecutor’s repeated objections, San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Ronald Christianson on Thursday ruled that one of the officer’s past shootings and one case of alleged excessive force is admissible at trial because of the possible similarities to the Markham shooting.

See also: Jurors to hear criminal past of San Bernardino teen shot by officer with 5 prior shootings

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San Bernardino Police Hold Sister Hostage, Threaten Children in Attempt to Coerce Burglar

SAN BERNARDINO – Wylena Andrews landed in jail, she says, because police wanted her brother for burglarizing a sergeant’s house.

When they couldn’t find him, they took Andrews as a bargaining chip and threatened to haul her siblings off to Child Protective Services unless her brother turned himself in.

“I kept saying I hadn’t done anything, but they put me in the cell and that’s where I stayed,” Andrews, 30, recalled of the day San Bernardino Police Department officers charged into her family’s Fontana home in 2006. “I fell asleep crying. I was just devastated. They basically played me and acted like it was all a big joke.”

Andrews claims that in holding her against her will without probable cause, police violated her civil rights. She blames San Bernardino police Sgt. Brad Lawrence, whose tumultuous career has landed him in the middle of several internal and criminal investigations over the years.

See also:

San Bernardino Police Sgt. Bradley Lawrence

Investigation into “on ice” allegations against San Bernardino police sergeant reopened

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