News In Brief: Week of April 20, 2023

Ventura Police Department Dispatcher Christine Lindsay. (Photo submitted)

Investigations continue in Ventura stabbings

Ventura Police continue to investigate two recent stabbing homicides that detectives believe may be gang related.

The first happened along Ventura’s beachfront promenade at about 7 p.m. on April 11. Police said the 39-year-old victim, Raymond Morales, was stabbed near the public restrooms during an altercation with two possible suspects.

Morales was transported to the Ventura County Medical Center where he died.

The suspects were only described as male Hispanics and were last seen fleeing the area in a vehicle headed northbound on Figueroa Street, police said.

The second stabbing happened on April 16 at about 1 a.m. during a gathering at a home in the 200 block of East McFarlane Drive. Police say the victim, 31-year-old Jose Contreras of Ventura, died after being transported to the Ventura County Medical Center.

The investigation revealed the unidentified suspect and victim knew each other and the stabbing stemmed from an argument between them.

Anyone with information on either of the slayings is urged to contact the Ventura Police Department.

New contract for VCHCA nurses

Nurses and other healthcare professionals who work for the Ventura County Health Care Agency have voted to approve a new five-year contract.

Officials with the California Nurses Association (CNA) said the new contract was supported overwhelmingly because it improves patient safety as well as boosting recruitment and retention of workers.

“We are so pleased that the nurses and the health care workers stood strong and united to win this important contract that will help us attract and retain experienced health care professionals who are committed to our community,” said Gina Parcon, an ICU nurse at Santa Paula Hospital.

The labor pact includes pay increases up to 30% over the life of the contract and increased pension benefits.

The CNA represents over 700 Ventura County government health care workers, including physicians’ assistants and psych techs, at 13 clinics and two hospitals.

Two sentenced for unemployment fraud

Ventura County prosecutors have announced that two San Fernando Valley men have been sentenced to 300 days in jail for defrauding the state unemployment system during the height of the pandemic.

Authorities said a witness reported suspicious behavior at a Bank of America ATM in Thousand Oaks on August 6, 2020. When the suspects were pulled over, police found about 200 fraudulent Employment Development Department cards as well as $168,000 in cash.

Karapet Gasparyan, 39, and Grigor Gasparyan, 19, pleaded guilty to unemployment insurance fraud, grand theft and conspiracy, according to prosecutor Howard Wise.

“During COVID, organized groups participated in one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated against the people of California,” Wise said, referring to EDD fraud. “Holding all participants accountable for unemployment insurance fraud is crucial to deterring the next big fraud.”

Prosecutors said the defendants paid full restitution in the case, which totaled $367,000.

Audubon Society seeks volunteers

The Ventura Audubon Society is recruiting volunteers for their Beach Naturalist Program that helps protect western snowy plovers nesting in the dunes along the shoreline including Oxnard’s

Ormond Beach.

“We have already found our first few snowy plover nests on Ormond Beach, and we look forward to welcoming their cute cotton ball chicks soon. Our shorebird recovery team is conducting weekly surveys and working hard to create a safe place for these federally threatened birds,” said Cynthia Hartley, lead of Ventura Audubon’s shorebird recovery program.

The volunteers educate the public about the threatened species which nests between March and September.

Audubon officials said the Pacific Coast population of western snowy plovers has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1993 and is a California species of special concern. Primary threats to western snowy plovers include habitat loss due to urban development, invasive plant species and an increase in predators at beaches including dogs.

The next volunteer workshop will be held Saturday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Oxnard Community College and will include both classroom as well as field training.

A “Raise the Roost” fundraiser and auction to raise money for the shorebird recovery program is also planned for Saturday, April 29, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The fundraiser will be held at Ventura Coast Brewing Company at 76 South Oak Street in Downtown Ventura.

Lindsay named VPD Dispatcher of the Year

Ventura Police have recognized Christine Lindsay as Dispatcher of the Year as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Lindsay started working as a dispatcher with VPD in 2014 and has served as training coordinator for the past three years.

“Christine is an incredible dispatcher, a dedicated training coordinator, an exemplary leader, and a deserving recipient of this award,” said Communications Center Supervisor Sergeant Tim Ferrill. “Christine is a great role model for new employees, regularly showcases her ability to stay calm during critical incidents, and is infectiously positive in an otherwise stressful working environment.”

Ventura Police officials said the department’s public safety dispatchers received over 196,055 total calls in 2022 including more than 50,000 calls to 911.