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Sep 17, 2013 | 1617 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Conspiracy, robbery charges in La Jolla heist — More robbery charges were filed against three men accused of holding up the Smashburger on Prospect Avenue in La Jolla and robbing the employees as part of the so-called “Back Door Bandits” series.

A preliminary hearing has been set for Oct. 1 in San Diego Superior Court for Ryan Patrick Churchill, 22, Duran Caldwell, 23, and Thomas Abel Nelson, 23. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges Aug. 23.

Churchill had been free on $50,000 bond when he was charged only with the Smashburger hold-up, but his bail was increased to $500,000 by Judge David Szumowski. He remains in custody.

The bail for Caldwell and Nelson was increased to $300,000 and $150,000, respectively. Caldwell remains in jail. Nelson was originally free on $50,000, and it was increased to $150,000. Nelson was able to post that amount and is free, according to court records.

The trio is charged with conspiracy with an unnamed juvenile to rob the Smashburger restaurant on Aug. 4. Two masked men entered at 10:20 p.m. through the back door. The trio is charged with six robbery counts to employees at Smashburger. The restaurant was robbed of nearly $4,000.

The robbers wore dark clothing, ski masks, hats, gloves, and used a black air soft gun as a weapon. Nelson was the alleged getaway driver.

Police officers pulled Churchill’s car over about 15 minutes after the robbery. The cash box from Smashburger and other items were found in the car.

Churchill is charged with committing eight other robberies in June and July by himself. The prosecutor declined to say where those other robberies took place and added it will all come out at the preliminary hearing.

— Neal Putnam 7-Eleven robber pleads guilty — A second man charged in a series of 7-Eleven store robberies on Midway Drive, Torrey Pines and elsewhere has pleaded guilty to 15 counts of robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Luis Alonso Cruz, 25, faces a prison term ranging from 30 to 70 years, said Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle on Aug. 27. Cruz will be sentenced Nov. 22.

Meanwhile, Alex Sanchez, 24, will be sentenced Sept. 10. He pleaded guilty to robbing the same stores, along with 11 other heists, and faces a prison term ranging from 22-28 years, said Doyle.

Cruz has a separate robbery case in El Cajon Superior Court which is expected to be resolved, said Doyle. Cruz was convicted of burglary in 2010, according to court records.

The 7-Eleven stores were located at 2387 and 3185 Midway Drive, and 13835 Mango Drive when they were held up in August 2012. The other stores held up were located in North Park, Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Linda Vista, Mira Mesa and Mission Valley. Both men remain in custody.

— Neal Putnam Guilty plea in attempted car theft at La Jolla school — A young woman pleaded guilty Sept. 3 to attempted car theft in a June 26 incident in which she tried to steal a car outside the La Jolla Country Day School after someone dropped off a child there.

Jennifer Anaiz Gomez, 21, will be sentenced up to one year in jail, according to court records. San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide set sentencing for Oct. 1.

Eyherabide dismissed a charge of attempted carjacking after she pleaded guilty to the reduced charge. She pleaded guilty just before her case was to be assigned to a courtroom for trial.

No one was hurt in the incident as Gomez could not put the car in gear and could only rev the engine. Gomez was pulled out of the car by someone passing by and ran off only to be caught by the head of the school’s security.

The car’s driver was a relative of an 8-year-old child who was dropped off at 8:35 a.m., and Gomez pulled the driver out of the car. She remains in the Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility on $50,000 bail.

— Neal Putnam
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