News Briefs


Unknown driver sought in PCH fire

Authorities reported that an unknown person in a white Isuzu Trooper started a brush fire Tuesday with a road flare or fireworks near Pacific Coast Highway and Topanga Canyon Boulevard, according to a wire services report.

The report said the fire was called at 12:22 a.m. and completely extinguished 11 minutes later. The short blaze did not cause injury or damage, but did burn about a quarter-acre of brush in Topanga State Park. The investigation has been turned over to the Arson and Explosives division of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities are looking for a white Isuzu sport utility vehicle in connection with the fire, the report said.

County Fire Captain Ron Horetski told a Newsreel crew that firefighters found two half-burned Roman candle fireworks in the burned area and on the road. A driver told authorities somebody was driving along and tossed the fireworks, according to the report.

Anyone with more information was asked to call deputies at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station at 818.878.1808.

Point Dume rape suspect appears in court

The man who allegedly attempted to rape a woman who was jogging at Point Dume Preserve State Park in March appeared in court Tuesday for a pretrial conference.

The proceedings were continued until his next appearance on June 14.

The 35-year-old victim was jogging in Point Dume Preserve State Park on March 12. At the conclusion of her run she walked to the edge of a cliff and was then allegedly grabbed from behind by Christian Marcus Verdin, who, she told authorities, attempted to sexually assault her. The victim struggled and was able to break free; she jumped and slid approximately 150 feet down the cliff.

A local resident who lives in the area said he talked to several witnesses who heard the woman’s cries and went to her aid.

The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment. She sustained abrasions and bruises predominantly from the fall down the face of the cliff.

On March 30, Malibu/Lost Hills Station detectives received notification that the Los Angeles County Crime Lab had identified a suspect in the attack. DNA samples from the crime scene revealed a match to Verdin, who was on parole for a burglary committed in 2008. He was arrested April 2.

Verdin was charged April 6 at Van Nuys Superior Court with attempt to commit rape, robbery, grand theft auto and assault with a deadly weapon, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Hearing set for homicide suspect

Sina Khankhanian, 26, of Winnetka, is expected to appear at the Airport Branch Courthouse in Los Angeles June 15 for a preliminary hearing. He has plead not guilty in connection with 13-year-old Emily Rose Shane’s April 3 death. Judge Keith L. Schwartz ordered Khankhanian jailed on the $3 million bail recommended by the prosecution.

The prosecution alleges he used a deadly weapon, an automobile, to commit the crime, according to a press release by the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

Detectives said Shane was walking home from a friend’s house along the 29000 block of Pacific Coast Highway near Heathercliff Road when Khankhanian, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, hit her. Investigators believe Khankhanian may have intentionally crashed his car, but they do not believe he intended to hit her.

The investigation, which has been assigned to homicide detectives, is ongoing.

Tapia permit hearing postponed

A June 3 hearing to renew the permit for the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility has been postponed until a future date, which has not yet been determined.

The Las Virgenes-Triunfo Joint Powers Authority submitted the renewal application documents, which requested postponement to allow the public additional time to get involved in the process and for the hearing to be held at a location closer to the agency’s service area.

The authority says it will announce the new hearing date as soon as it is decided.

The Las Virgenes-Triunfo JPA provides wastewater treatment and biosolids composting services for the communities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Oak Park, portions of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and adjacent unincorporated areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

E-mail warns: ‘Move over’

A popular e-mail forward has been circulating throughout California, warning drivers of a supposedly new “move over” law requiring them to change lanes for stopped emergency vehicles. A popular version of the e-mail states that the law was enacted at the start of 2010 and that the penalty includes a $754 fine, mandatory court appearance and 3 points against the driver.

Although true that a recent law does require drivers to change lanes or slow down for emergency vehicles stopped adjacent to the freeway, the maximum penalty for not complying is $50, and the law was enacted in 2007. However, on Jan. 1 this year, the law was renewed and expanded to include Caltrans vehicles, with flashing lights, to the list of vehicles for which motorists must move over. The law provides that if changing lanes would be unsafe or impractical, drivers must slow to a prudent speed. According to, 43 states have enacted similar laws.

County to resurface roads

Residential roads in the unincorporated county area of Monte Nido will undergo resurfacing work starting this summer and lasting for about two months, the county proposal estimates.

The affected roads, which are serviced by Las Flores Canyon Road and Rambla Pacifico, are as follows: Lamplighter Lane, Hume Road, Castlewood Drive, Azurelee Drive, Briarbluff Drive, Copacabana Street, Moonshadows Road, Bocana Street, Pompano Street, Paloma Blanca Drive, Manzanita Park Avenue and Las Flores Heights Road.

Legislature considers banning single-use bags

A bill to ban single-use carry-out bags in California grocery stores is headed for a vote by the full California Assembly this week, Assemblywoman and bill author Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) announced Tuesday at a news conference.

“We have achieved a historic agreement on a nearly cost-neutral measure with broad support from environmental groups and businesses,” Brownley said.

AB 1998, amended last week, would ban all single-use bags sold in supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and liquor stores. If shoppers forget to bring their reusable bags, AB 1998 allows them to purchase recycled paper bags, made from 40 percent post-consumer material, for a reasonable cost not less than five cents per bag.

According to a press release from Brownley’s office, single-use plastic bags are a major contributor to marine debris, which have injured or killed at least 267 species worldwide, primarily through ingestion and entanglement. These bags cost Californians $25 million a year to collect and bury in landfills.

Dan Jacobson, legislative director for Environment California, said the state should act now to help shoppers switch to reusable bags.

“Nothing that we use for five minutes should pollute the ocean for 500 years,” Jacobson said. “Cities in California have been taking the lead on this issue. Now it’s time for the state to get on board.”

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved AB 1998 May 28, and it is scheduled for a vote by the full Assembly this week.

La Paz wastewater permit up for debate

The Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board on July 8 and 9 will hold a public hearing to consider approval of a permit to allow the La Paz shopping and office center to implement a wastewater treatment facility.

The shopping center, proposed to be constructed in the Civic Center south of Malibu Public Library, has the approval of the City of Malibu and the California Coastal Commission.

Written comments and testimony regarding the hearing must be received by the regional board’s office no later than June 14.

The regional board last year voted to implement a ban on the use of septic systems in the broader Civic Center area. The La Paz plan includes a development agreement that would donate 2.3 acres to the City of Malibu, which could be used for municipal purposes, including the implementation of a sewer.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board has in the past refused to issue the wastewater permit because, among other reasons, it says the La Paz application is incomplete.

The Chicago developers of the La Paz project have struggled for more than a decade to get the approval process completed for their project at the corner of Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road.

They reached a milestone in November 2008 when the City Council approved both an 112,000-square-foot and a 99,000-square-foot version of the development.

By Stan Parker