There are more than 10,000 unsolved crimes in Southern California, most of which are homicides. Unsolved with Steve Gregory highlights some of the cases that have gone cold, hit a brick wall or just need that one piece of evidence or witness to surface. Unsolved with Steve Gregory is a production of the KFI News Department for iHeartMedia Los Angeles.
THE MURDER OF SHERRI HERRERA
On March 30, 1993 – the body of 30-year-old Sherri Herrera was found next to the I-10 highway on-ramp east of Indio, CA. Herrera was reported missing five-days prior to her body being found.
Sherri Herrera was found strangled to death and there was evidence of sexual assault.
During a 1995 interview with local media, Joyce Robbins, the mother of Sherri Herrera, talked about her daughter. Sherri was a mother of four children, was working as a waitress, and was dating a truck driver from San Diego. Investigators say she had a different life as a prostitute and was known to frequent truck stops along major freeways.
29-years-later, there are more questions than answers surrounding the strangulation death of Sherri Herrera.
THE EXECUTION OF KEVIN ROBERT HARRIS II
On the evening of September 20, 2009 at approximately 8 PM, 21-year-old Kevin Robert Harris II was shot and killed as he arrived to a recording studio in Inglewood. According to investigators, after Harris parked his car, he sat in his car for a few seconds when an unknown driver pulled up inches from his open window and opened fire.
Agents say at least 10 to 20 shots were fired. Harris died on the scene.
Harris was an up-and-coming musician and producer. He was known as “TRACK Bully” in the music industry. According to his father, Kevin Robert Harris Sr., Ice Cube had purchased a track from his son and artists like Britney Spears, Ice-T, and Rihanna had interest in working with Harris.
Investigators say they believe someone close to Harris killed him.
The case was initially being investigated by Inglewood PD, but in 2015 the FBI was asked to help.
Currently both the FBI and Inglewood PD are offering a reward totaling $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible for Harris’ murder.
THE MURDER OF ANDREW CHAVEZ & CLOTEE REYES
On episode 205, we highlight the murder of Andrew Chavez and Clotee Reyes.
Episode 207 offers an exclusive interview with the mother of the Andrew Chavez.
On September 30, 2017 at approximately 1:35 AM, Andrew and Clotee were involved in an argument on the 43000 block of 6th Street East - a residential street in Lancaster. The pair had just left a party.
There was a large group of other party-goers that surrounded Chavez and Reyes. The large group of people watched as the argument between the two escalated.
As Chavez and Reyes argued, a dark colored vehicle approached the group and began to open fire. Both Chavez and Reyes were shot and killed.
The mother of Andrew, Shawna, details the life of her son and discusses what she knows surrounding the murder of her son.
MURDERED JANE DOE
On January 27, 1996, the body of a woman was found near some trash in a hilly area near Gilman Springs Road and Highway 60 in the Beaumont area. She has still not been identified. Homicide investigators that responded to the scene 26 years ago believe the victim was murdered just a few hours earlier at that same location – about 20 feet south of eastbound Highway 60 and about a mile and a half east of Gillman Springs Road.
During the autopsy conducted in 1996, a forensic pathologist found that the body had a surgical scar believed to be from a cesarian so Cold Case Team investigators believe the victim may have at least one child who may still be seeking answers about their mother. Investigators describe the victim as Latina, possibly 30-45 years old, about 5-feet 1-inch tall, weighing about 130 pounds. A forensic dental examination done in 1996 showed her teeth had been well maintained and she received quality dental care. Her clothing was clean and had been well maintained. Also found on the body were several pieces of jewelry that cold case investigators hope can help identify the woman.
SEARCH & RESCUE DRONE PILOT
Gene teaches drone curricula at Austin Community College's Public Safety Training Center. Training both public safety individuals, Texas state agencies, and commercial operators in legal, safe, and practical drone use. Chief Pilot for the Texas State University program "Detecting Clandestine Graves with Drone" under a $280K NIJ grant flying diverse payloads such as RGB, FLIR, NIR, multi-spectral, and hyperspectral payloads. Nearing the end of this 3-year cycle, game changing methods of aerial forensics have been developed that will directly benefit the drone equipped public safety community.
Authored “First to Deploy - Unmanned Aircraft for SAR & Law Enforcement”, the first how-to book on UAS use in SAR. It has been used to cultivate training programs and testing exercises at agencies including Texas Engineering Exchange (TEEX), Homeland Security’s Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS), many universities and private training programs among others. Several White Papers I’ve authored have been a source of information for many including the Texas State Guard.
Testing and prove out to all our UA operations are in the Search & Rescue/Recovery and law enforcement operations under the 501(c)3, RPSearch Services. Flown Spectra flying wing from Mexico, Africa, Jamaica, and Mongolia along with 31 states in the union. The Spectra flying wing is directly credited with 17 missing person recoveries, including interventions in human trafficking and drug interdiction.
Served as the PIC (external pilot) and UA asset manager $1.5M) for the National Institute of Standards & Technology's (NIST) fire research project utilizing the Martin UAV Superbat.
Recognized as a thought leader in the drone space and as a finalist in the AUVSI Award of Excellence in 2017 and recipient of the Spectra Humanitarian Award in 2016.
On September 30, 2017 at approximately 1:35 AM, Chavez and Reyes were involved in an argument on the 43000 block of 6th Street East - a residential street in Lancaster. The pair had just left a local party.
The pair was arguing after a party they had just left. There was a large group of other party-goers that surrounded Chavez and Reyes. The large group of people watched as the argument between Chavez and Reyes unfolded.
As Chavez and Reyes argued, a dark colored vehicle approached the group and began to open fire. Both Chavez and Reyes were shot and killed.
Following the initial gunshots, one of the juveniles in the surrounding group retrieved a gun from his car and began shooting at the dark colored vehicle as it fled the scene.
The suspect was able to escape the scene and remains at large, close to five years later.
In the weeks that followed, investigators on the case were made aware of social media posts that were being made by a local gang member. Despite the cryptic social media posts, investigators were able to corroborate the person’s alibi, clearing him from any involvement in the murders. As the investigation continued, investigators spoke to Chavez’s mom on a number of occasions. She told authorities several people had told her they had information about the murders. Unfortunately, none of the individuals were willing to speak to investigators about the information they were believed to have.
During a 2018 press conference, the Board of Supervisors and Lancaster City Council, announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect(s). Despite the $30,000 reward being announced, authorities received zero leads about the case.
Investigators are confident that multiple people know who the suspect is, but are afraid of possible consequences if they speak up.
4 and a half years later, this case remains UNSOLVED.
On December 25, 2016 at approximately 10:06 PM, 22-year-old Cassey Verrette and a male companion were sitting in her car on the 3600 block of First Street in Riverside.
As the two were parked having a conversation, surveillance video shows three Hispanic men walk past the car, pull out guns and began opening fire.
Verrette was struck multiple times, as well as her passenger.
Despite being shot three times, Verrette was able to drive her car to a local hospital where she and her passenger were treated for their injuries.
Investigators with the Riverside Police Department’s Gang Intelligence Unit is seeking information in hopes of identifying and prosecuting the suspects involved.
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE
CAPTAIN RUSSEL TUTTLE
United States Forest Service Captain Russel Tuttle. Tuttle is a 15-year veteran of the United States Forest Service, who has received numerous awards for his work and outstanding performance.
Captain Tuttle previously served in the United States Air Force as a heavy equipment mechanic and a teacher for over ten years.
This episode is part of Unsolved’s ongoing “Crime Fighter Series”. Captain Tuttle gives us insight on the 2014 “Colby Fire” that blazed across the Angeles National Fire.
THE COLBY FIRE
On January 16th, 2014, the Colby Fire was reported at approximately 6 AM. The fire was burning along the Colby Truck Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains and quickly made its way across the Angeles National Forest. The fire burned approximately 2,000 acres across Federal, State, and Local jurisdictions. Six homes were destroyed, numerous others were damaged, and the cause of the fire was unknown at the time it began.
At the time of the fire, even though it was mid-January, there was unseasonably warm weather. The weather would trigger a Red Flag fire warning in effect with the Santa Ana wind conditions.
A Wildland Fire Investigator from the Angeles National Forest conducted the Origin and Cause Determination and concluded that the Colby Fire had originated on National Forest System lands and that the cause of the fire was the result of embers from a campfire that caught surrounding brush on fire.
There was signage leading into the area stating that campfires and camping were prohibited in the area.
Thousands of residents in the surrounding areas were evacuated. While conducting evacuations of the local residential neighborhoods, Officer Miranda with the Glendora Police Department was informed by a local resident that two male subjects were running in the Flood Control wash, close to the 800 block of East Palm Avenue, Glendora, CA. Officer Miranda was able to locate the two subjects and determined that both subjects were running away from the general area of the fire’s origin. Officer Miranda noted that both had burnt ashes on their clothes and smelled of smoke. Officer Miranda placed the two subjects under arrest for suspicion of causing a forest fire.
Shortly after the Colby Fire began burning, United States Fire Prevention Technician Szlauko was driving on Glendora Mountain Road and saw a civilian in the area where Glendora Mountain Road intersects with the Colby Trail, in the proximity of the fire’s general origin area.
FPT Szlauko provided him with a ride out of the hazardous area to the bottom of Glendora Mountain Road, where FPT Szlauko advised the Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy that was staffing the road closure that FPT Szlauko suspected that he was involved with the fire’s start. Subsequently, Officer Houser of the Glendora Police Department placed him under arrest for charges related to starting the Colby Fire.
The three subjects were interviewed multiple times giving conflicting details of their roles as it relates to starting the fire. After a number of interviews, one of the men stated that he wanted to come clean and would not cover for the others anymore. He fessed up and investigators learned that the three men had two illegal campfires along the Colby Trail. In the early morning hours of January 16, 2014, one of the suspects threw a notebook into the fire to keep it going. At that time, a gust of wind carried embers from the burning notebook into the surrounding brush and started the fire.
In addition to the damage caused by the fire, the cost of suppressing the fire alone was more than $6M.
The investigation, in this case, was conducted by the United States Forest Service, the Glendora Police Department, the Azusa Police Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson/Fire Investigation Unit, and CAL FIRE.
The investigation into the Colby Fire concluded that the fire had originated on National Forest System lands and that the cause of the fire was the result of embers from a campfire that caught surrounding brush on fire.
All three subjects, Clifford Henry Jr., Steven Aguirre, and Jonathan Jarrell were indicted by the Federal Grand Jury for charges related to the illegal campfire and causing the timber to burn.
The three men were eventually convicted; sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $9 million dollars. The homeowners who suffered losses were ordered to receive priority over any governmental agency in the restitution.
THE MURDER OF WILLIE PIGRAM III
On the evening of September 26th, 2004, 20-year-old Willie Pigram and his friends went cruising on Crenshaw Boulevard near 120th Street. This area was a well-known gathering spot for young people to show off their cars and socialize.
Willie was driving his green Chevy El Camino; a friend was in the passenger seat. While cruising the area they were told a DUI checkpoint was being set up by the police department. Willie and the other drivers in the convoy of 75 cars diverted to a Lowe’s parking lot.
Since the business was closed, the drivers decided to continue their cruising up and down the rows in the parking lot. While Willie was stopped he was approached by a young black man. The man asked Willie, “Where you from Homie?” (Indicating gang affiliation) Pigram responded “We’re from nowhere” the man replied “Yeah, yeah, you better be from nowhere.” Pigram slowly drove off. Pigram continued to drive along the row of cars when the same man walked back up to Pigram’s opened car window and without provocation pulled out a handgun and shot Pigram several times.
Willie’s friend leaped through the passenger window and ran. Pigram slumped over the steering wheel with his foot still on the gas pedal. The car slowly travelled through the parking lot, hitting other vehicles, and eventually bumped into a curb and came to a stop. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Pigram had been shot 8 times.
The shooter disappeared into the crowd of about 100.
Willie lived in Carson with his father and had no gang affiliation.
Investigators say they’re looking for a Black man, 18-20 years old, 5’10”, 160 pounds, medium complexion with a goatee. He was wearing a yellow ‘do-rag’, and a black “Nascar” jacket with yellow patches, a yellow t-shirt, and black shorts.
Sgt. Mike Maher
The Major Crimes Bureau is made up of people who do the ‘dirty work’, the ones who sit in their cars for hours at a time to watch one person, the ones who dress like a homeless person to blend in. Steve speaks with Sgt. Mike Maher, a 31-year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Maher is a Detective Team Sergeant and oversees task forces and operations that tackle things like Murder for Hire, Bank Robberies, Threats on Public Officials, Kidnap for Ransom, and Organized Crime. This episode is part of the ongoing “Crime Fighter Series” which highlights those people and agencies that help prevent and solve crime.
Here’s a look at Sgt. Maher’s history with the LA County Sheriff’s Department:
1991 to 1997- LA County Jail System at the Pitchess Detention Center (Wayside).
Steve shadows LA County Sheriff’s deputies as they use body cams for the first time.
1997 to 2005- Patrol Deputy and Detective at Century Station, in South Los Angeles/Lynwood. During these years Maher worked many assignments, including Field Training Officer, Gang Enforcement, Crime Impact Team (in Compton) and ultimately Station Detective.
2005 to 2006- Narcotics Investigator assigned to East Los Angeles Station
2007- Assigned as the Deputy Liaison to the County Board of Supervisors
2007 to 2009- Assigned to Office of the Sheriff as direct security to the LA County Sheriff
Steve Gregory does a ride a-long with the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s marine unit as they do cargo ship patrols
2009 to 2010- Promoted to Sergeant and assigned to Lennox Station field operation (patrol) in South Los Angeles. Remained at Lennox Station thru its transitions into the newly constructed South Los Angeles Sheriff Station.
2010 to 2022 – Detective Team Sergeant at Major Crimes Bureau (MCB), working the Metro Detail. Metro Detail primarily handles significant, complex, and noteworthy investigations such Murder for Hire, Bank Robberies, Threats on Public Officials, Kidnap for Ransom, Pattern/Series crimes, Organized Crime, and others. Maher’s primary assignment was to assist in creating a Task Force to combat the increasing trend of organized gangs working together to commit residential burglaries and home invasion robberies. The team, the Burglary-Robbery Task Force (BRTF), has been highly successful making over 1000 arrest since 2010, comprising mostly of violent felonies “in-progress” perpetrated by primarily career offenders. The BRTF, over the past several years, has a close partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The BRTF is a component of the FBIs’ Los Angeles Violent Crime Task Force.
Sgt. Maher will retire in the summer of 2022.
SGT. MIKE MAHER
LA County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF RAYMOND COLLINS JR.
At approximately 4 pm on Sunday, February 15th, 2015, Raymond Collins Jr. left his family home in Chino Hills, CA to meet with a prospective client in Compton, CA… Collins never returned home.
Ray was an aspiring rap music producer and part time student. He was very well known and respected for his work. Collins grew up in Compton surrounded by several well-known Hip-Hop artists. His childhood friends include Kendrick Lamar and Jayceon Taylor, aka, “the Game”.
A large percentage of Collins’ clients were young black men, many of whom were affiliated with many street gangs.
On the day of Collins’ disappearance, he met with a prospective client in the city of Compton to negotiate a contract for Collins to produce an upcoming rap video. The client was a member of local street gang, the “Nutty Block Crips”.
According to the client, following their meeting they both ate at an “In-N-Out Burger” before Collins drove the client back to his residence. Four days later, February 19th, 2015, the Toyota Camry that Collins was driving was located in a neighborhood in Compton. The vehicle was left abandoned and parked illegally on a curb.
A witness told investigators a black man dressed in a dark hoodie exited the vehicle and walked away, on the night of Collins’ disappearance.
7 years later, Collins’ is presumed dead and his body has not been located.
No viable suspects were identified – the case remains UNSOLVED.
RAYMOND COLLINS JR.
Episode 209 of Unsolved with Steve Gregory is part of our ongoing “Crime Fighter Series” – on this episode we highlight Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Pete Hish – who leads the Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, The Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau educates and empowers the community to protect themselves from the increasing threats of cybercrime, fraud, and identity theft and increases awareness of how theft, fraud, and other crimes are performed through the use of computers and other electronic devices. The Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau works to increase the understanding of how cybercrimes should be reported and what information needs to be provided to investigators and is dedicated to raising awareness of what current scams and techniques are being used by thieves to commit fraud.
The bureau was originally created in 1994 as the Commercial Crimes Bureau, but transitioned to the Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau in 2016.