Several high-profile crimes in Mountain View, some of which resulted in serious injuries or death, didn't see a whole lot of resolution in 2018, with many of the suspected perpetrators scheduled to be back in court this month.
But the year did offer some closure. The identity of the victim who died in a brutal downtown attack was revealed after months of delay, a Google engineer who died mysteriously along the Bay Trail was revealed to have drowned and a local teacher who sent lewd text messages to a student was convicted and sentenced, surrendering his teaching credential as a result.
January is loaded with court dates for suspects in major violent crimes that took place in Mountain View during the past year, including one involving two men suspected of an armed kidnapping attempt downtown. Police reported that the men, Walter Ramirez and Guillermo Perez, tried to push a woman into a vehicle behind a restaurant on the 200 block of Castro Street around 2 a.m. on April 14. The men allegedly used a handgun to threaten the woman's friends who tried to intervene, and Ramirez reportedly fired several gunshots from the vehicle as they drove away.
Both men are still in custody with six-figure bails and are expected to appear in court on Jan. 22, according to the Santa Clara County Department of Correction.
Next week, two men arrested for an alleged violent attack on a man inside an RV on Crisanto Avenue in July are due back in court, facing felony charges of assault, burglary and criminal threats. Police arrested four suspects in total, two of whom are minors, in connection with an attack on a 19-year-old Sunnyvale man residing in the RV, who reported being struck in the face with a pistol multiple times. The attack landed the victim in the hospital.
The two adult suspects, 18-year-old Cesar Rosas and 19-year-old Alberto Ibarra-Vallejo of Mountain View, are still in custody and due to appear in court on Jan. 10. Some of the charges may be "enhanced" because they are gang-related -- prosecutors at the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office believe some of the crimes were committed with the intent to benefit other gang members.
Lavel Powell, an Oakland man suspected of raping and strangling a woman in Mountain View in September, is also back in court this month. Powell was arrested after the victim, who was a friend of Powell's, told police that he strangled her until she lost consciousness inside her vehicle in the 800 block of Greenview Drive. When she regained consciousness, she said that Powell was sexually assaulting her, and that she pushed him out of the vehicle before driving herself to a nearby hospital. Powell remains in custody and has a court date set for Jan. 23.
Also among the most serious crimes in 2018, a man accused of molesting two young boys attending an after-school Chinese language program in Mountain View pleaded not guilty in August to 11 felony molestation and child porn charges. Police arrested 26-year-old Yizhuang "John" Liu in February after investigators received reports from two families accusing the man of inappropriately touching their sons over the course of several months.
Liu is facing a total of seven counts of lewd and lascivious acts with children under the age of 14 -- five of which were allegedly committed against one of the victims -- along with two counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child by use of force or threat of bodily injury. He is also facing one count of possessing child pornography.
The year didn't bring much closure to Mountain View's first homicide case in years. Jan Neal, 44, was arrested by Mountain View police in November 2017 on murder charges after he was caught brutally attacking a homeless man in the Civic Center Plaza on a Saturday night. Neal's criminal case is currently suspended pending a review of his mental competency, but the year did bring some closure to the violent incident. After searching for the victim's next of kin for three months, the man's identity was finally revealed in February to be Jose Ospina Jaramillo, a 55-year-old transient.
There was some clarification -- though not much -- on what happened to a 23-year-old Google engineer who was found dead in a canal off the Bay Trail in December 2017. Chuchu Ma's body was found naked and floating in the water, and Sunnyvale police punted on all media inquiries about the circumstances surrounding her death -- saying only that there was no foul play and no threat to public safety on the trail.
The autopsy and toxicology reports, released in April, concluded that Ma had drowned, but that the manner of death remained "undetermined." The toxicology report found nothing out of the ordinary, and the minor injuries on her body didn't lead to any major conclusions.
Ma's boyfriend reportedly said she was behaving erratically in the days leading up to her death, and that a 911 call recording "revealed her to be confused and disoriented," according to the autopsy report, which said she was seen entering the water the previous day with her cellphone. "Her reported confused state is highly suggestive of psychotic behavior and may explain her entry into the water," according to the report.
One case that did get wrapped up in 2018 involved longtime Mountain View High School teacher Evan Smith, who was arrested in November 2017 for sending lewd texts to one of his students. Police arrested Smith after a female student reported that he had sent inappropriate text messages to her for several months starting in the summer. Smith was immediately put on paid leave, and eventually pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child under age 18.
Smith was sentenced to three years of probation and had to register as a sex offender, along with surrendering his teacher credential and resigning from his job at the district.