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Missing child, who does not speak, found safe in Tehachapi

A child who does not speak was found safe in Tehachapi on Sunday after being missing in the snow for nearly three hours.

Jonathan Naranjo was being evaluated for exposure to the elements, according to a Kern County Sheriff’s Office news release, which announced he was found shortly before 2:30 p.m.

He was found by Bear Valley Police Department Officer Raffi Kajberouni in the area of the glider port. Jonathan was found about one-eighth of a mile beyond the end of King Drive in a snowy meadow.

Irene Naranjo, who identified herself as the boy’s mother and grandmother, said the 7-year-old boy (KCSO had initially reported he was 6) was visiting the snow from Palmdale with his family.

After the child was found and evaluated, Bear Valley Police escorted the family to Highway 58.

He had last been seen wearing a gray and blue jacket, black and blue pants and blue boots in the snow at Dennison Road and Summers Drive, according to KCSO.

Jonathan had been missing since 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

A Kern County Sheriff’s air unit was getting ready to respond to the area when the boy was found.

UPDATED: Police seek public’s help locating missing man

UPDATE: Lopez was found and is unharmed, according to BPD.

The Bakersfield Police Department is requesting the community’s assistance in locating an at-risk adult male, identified as Gerardo Lopez, age 72.

Lopez is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes, last seen wearing a blue jacket, blue jeans, gray baseball cap and black shoes.

Lopez was last seen in the 1500 block of Lotus Lane at about 10:30 a.m. Friday. He is at-risk due to a medical condition.

Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111.

SOUND OFF: Shocked at our coverage of the homicide, or just the homicide itself?

Reader: Shame on you for writing this article (“‘Mikey Smash,’ killed in downtown knifing, had apparent Hells Angels affiliation,” Feb. 21). You state you contacted his family and got no response. First of all, can they not grieve in peace? Second of all, because they don’t respond that gives you the right to publish this one-sided story? To know Mikey was to know that, once he cared about you, he would give you his last.

— Terram974

Reader: Ironic the media has yet once again only pulled out the negative side of a story. There have been many deaths, fights and injuries in the downtown vicinity and all over Bakersfield. Where is the focus on the suspect(s)? 

— Angie March 

Reader: Wow, Bakersfield Californian. Did you gather all your information from a Facebook profile? What you describe about Michael based on his profile does not depict the type of person he was.

— Niicole Torres 

Reader: I started bawling when I saw this (Feb. 18 photo of Mikey Morales on Bakersfield.com). It’s haunting me that he was lying alone in the street. Now I get to see it, and god forbid his children ever see it. They literally could’ve used any other photo. Shame on you, Bakersfield Californian — that’s someone’s father, family and best friend.

— Khloe Bean

Price: The stories about the Feb. 16 stabbing death of “Mikey Smash” — as Michael Adam Morales was known to some — inspired impassioned discussion about our coverage. Some felt our work presented a one-sided portrayal of the victim, a well-liked guy, and a father, who may have had some affiliation with the Hells Angels motorcycle club, based on off-the-record conversations and other sources including his own Facebook account. 

Our Steven Mayer reached out to the Morales family and they acknowledged his effort, but he did not receive a callback. That’s not uncommon, and it’s totally understandable. Often, families in these situations do respond, though: They want to humanize the person they lost, celebrate his or her life, and fill in details they don’t want media to overlook. I have had families invite me into their homes and gather aunts, uncles and cousins around the fireplace to paint loving tributes of the deceased. As reporters, we never know what we’re going to get until we ask. But this was the Morales family’s choice, at least for now, and I completely respect it.

Terra: Why did we go forward with a “one-sided” story? It’s simply our duty to report homicides, especially homicides as public as this one, two blocks from City Hall. More stories will follow: Bakersfield police are pursuing leads on the stabbing as you read this. More complete pictures of the man and the circumstances that led to his death will emerge. Police aren’t done and neither are we.

Imagine a world where media simply stops covering a story because an important source has declined to comment. That would pretty much shoot down every controversial story, wouldn’t it?

Niicole: Facebook and other social media platforms are always good places to start when few other sources of information are immediately available. All news organizations do it. Police do it, too, and, for that matter, so do potential employers. Michael’s Facebook account may not depict every aspect of his life and character, but it was what he personally chose to share with the rest of the world. It also helped Mayer reach out to his family. Had friends or family chosen to talk, the information from Facebook wouldn’t have seemed inadequate.

Khloe: The photo by our Stacey Shepard — a wide shot of the overall crime scene, including Morales’ body, completely covered by a yellow tarp — was taken from the second floor of the 18th Street parking garage. It looked down on Eye Street, near the Wall Street Alley, and took in a relatively broad panorama. No other shots were really available because police had blocked off the area.

I don’t think the shot was intrusive. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I believe your problem might not be so much with our coverage, including the photo, as it is with your sadness at having lost a friend in this way. Certainly the photo did not ease anyone’s pain. I get it, and I’m sorry for your loss.

Reporter Mayer adds this: “Nowhere in the story is Mikey’s character even questioned. He’s not described as a bad person. The longtime proprietor of Guthrie’s Alley Cat never specifically mentioned Mikey, although he did express general concerns, based on years of experience, about biker club members in his bar.”

My mother, Grace, used to tell me that Dad knew who the killer was but he never told me even after many late-night chats around the kitchen table that he and I had together.

She use to say that Dad also knew “where the bodies were buried” around Bakersfield. I remember once opening a box containing several 8-by-10 black-and-white prints of the murder scene and the possible murder weapon, a large piece of metal pipe. Those were some pretty gruesome images but, after all, it was the news. 

Anyway, I enjoyed your article and I learned quite a bit, filling in the blanks of the story as I knew it. I’m sure whoever is remaining in the Warren family today is thankful for the information as well. Thanks for the report. Well done.

— Ed Kreiser

Price: The unsolved murder of the father of former California Gov. Earl Warren, perhaps the city’s most famous son, has always intrigued me. Kudos to Chris Livingston and the archivists at Cal State Bakersfield’s Walter Stiern Library for excavating all of those documents from the investigation, including the grisly photos you mention.

Reader: After reading the article “Felony cruelty charge filed in dog-dragging case,” featured in the Feb. 16 Californian, I am left with one question: Why was the article accompanied by a photo of the suspect, Elaine Rosa, looking somewhat unconcerned and possibly a little confused, rather than the photo shown previously, wherein the dog’s bloody paws were more pronounced and Ms. Rosa was wearing a grin from ear to ear?

— Ernie Bentley

Price: I don’t know that we gave the decision a lot of thought. The dog’s paws are bloody enough in both photos, and the unsmiling shot of Rosa was more reflective of the seriousness of the incident. 

Reader: David Letterman used to read odd newspaper headlines on “The Late Show.” A print headline in your Feb. 22 Sports section, “Seven locals advance to girls quarters,” would qualify. Yikes! My first thought was, “Oh dear, I hope those girls are OK.” Hopefully their wrestling skills would save them. The boys’ headline, “Seven boys wrestlers advance to quarterfinals” left no room for misinterpretation.

— Alison Arnold

Price: I have been informed that the girls — seven of them, coincidentally — are just fine, but I’m sure they’d be appreciative of your concern.

Cedar, Alder and Bay streets to see temporary closures at 24th Street

The contractor for the 24th Street Improvement Project is installing new drainage pipe along the corridor, and that will affect access along a few connected streets.

According to a news release from Janet Wheeler, of the Thomas Roads Improvement Program, Myrtle Street, Spruce Street and Pine Street are currently closed on the north side of 24th Street. Cedar Street is expected to be closed this week, followed by Alder Street and Bay Street next week.

These closures will remain in place through mid-May, Wheeler said, while the contractor constructs new roadway and installs new sidewalks, curb and gutter in the area.

The contractor will also begin enlarging the drainage basin on the southeast corner of the Oak Street and 24th Street intersection. Multiple trucks will be moving dirt off-site during the next three weeks. Please watch for trucks entering and exiting the work site.

Road construction may be cancelled and rescheduled without notice due to inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

‘One on One’: Of 2,000 KCSO candidates only 6 remain, Youngblood says

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was in the TBC Media studios Wednesday for “One on One with Robert Price,” talking about the challenges facing his cash- and personnel-strapped department.

• Youngblood addressed the difficulties that the department has had in the hiring process: From 2,000 applicants for 20 positions, the KCSO was able to identify only 15 suitable candidates — and now just six of them remain in the academy.

• The failure of the county’s 1-cent sales tax increase measure last November — it “went down in flames,” Youngblood acknowledged — has forced the department to maintain a dubious course, with raises still on hold and mandatory overtime shifts frequent. That state of affairs has hurt morale.

• Although they disagreed on many policy issues, Youngblood said, he admired and got along well with Gov. Jerry Brown. Youngblood isn’t sure what to expect from his successor, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who seems likely to push more liberal policies.

Organizers of memorial event invite vendors to sign up soon

Organizers of a memorial event in honor of innocent victims of gang violence scheduled for this spring are inviting organizations and businesses to sign up ahead of time to participate in the event.

The Innocent Victims of Gang Violence Awareness event, hosted by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Bakersfield Class of 2019, is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 11 at Lowell Park, 800 Fourth Street in central Bakersfield.

The event will include a resource fair and a memorial ceremony at 11 a.m. with a bench dedication and guest speakers.

Vendor set up time will begin at 9 a.m. and must be completed no later than 9:45 a.m. Vendors are encouraged to incorporate activities that are family friendly or educational.

Businesses, nonprofits and vendors that would like to participate must complete a registration form no later than May 3.

Sailor in iconic V-J Day Times Square kiss photo dies at 95

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II died Sunday. George Mendonsa was 95.

Mendonsa fell and had a seizure at the assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years, his daughter, Sharon Molleur, told The Providence Journal.

Mendonsa was shown kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945 — known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered to the United States. People spilled into the New York City streets to celebrate the news.

Mendonsa planted a kiss on Friedman, whom he had never met.

An iconic photo of the kiss by Alfred Eisenstaedt was first published in Life magazine and is called “V-J Day in Times Square,” but is known to most as “The Kiss.”

It became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century.

Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.

Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Mendonsa served on a destroyer during the war and was on leave when the end of the war was announced.

When he was honored at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa spoke about the kiss. He said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.

“I saw what those nurses did that day and now back in Times Square the war ends, a few drinks, so I grabbed the nurse,” Mendonsa said, WPRI-TV reported .

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.

“The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed,” she told the Library of Congress.

She added, “It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

Mendonsa died two days before his 96th birthday. The family has not yet made funeral arrangements.

Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at the age of 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age.

Firefighters respond to fire on Patton Way early Sunday

The Kern County Fire Department responded to a call at 1:44 a.m. Sunday for a house fire on the 5300 block of Patton Way.

The first to respond encountered a fire in the front bedroom of the home. The fire had already burned into the attic and through the roof.

Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the flames and no injuries were reported. Nobody was in the home at the time of the fire.

ROBERT PRICE: Eighty years later, we’ve identified Matt Warren’s killer (we think)

The killer approached from the backyard.

He picked up an old pipe from the yard and quietly opened the back door — unlocked, as he knew it would be. There, in the kitchen, sat his victim, facing away, counting his money and checking tenant receipts. Mathias “Matt” Warren had been out collecting rent payments that morning.

The killer struck with a single, savage blow. He scooped up the cash and the paperwork, walked out of the house and tossed aside the murder weapon. A literal paper trail led toward Baker Street; the killer separated the money from the accounting papers as he walked, letting the documents and receipts — and one $5 bill — fall to the asphalt.

An employee of Warren’s, William Reed, found the victim the next morning in his bed. Had Warren managed to stand up and stagger to the spot where he was discovered, his skull crushed? Or did someone lift him there and half-drape a blanket over his body? Almost immediately, even before he spoke to the police, Reed dashed off a telegram to Warren’s son, who lived 270 miles north: “Come at once. Your father needs you.”

And Earl Warren, who in five years would be governor of California, flew home to Bakersfield to join the investigation into what remains the city’s most infamous unsolved murder: the May 1938 homicide of Matt Warren, father of this country’s most influential Supreme Court Chief Justice.

In dusty old folders, clues to a ghastly murder

Four, even five decades later, many in Bakersfield still knew the basic details of the crime, but it eventually faded from the city’s collective memory.

But Chris Livingston remembered it well enough to realize what he had, in all its vivid, macabre glory, when he spilled a dozen black-and-white photos from a folder onto the floor. They were crime scene photos, and a few were grisly.

Livingston is the director of the Walter Stiern Library Historical Research Center at Cal State Bakersfield, an archive that houses several historical caches, including academic projects, old clippings from The Californian and government documents. The center received one of its most intriguing (and vast) collections last June when the Kern County Superior Court handed over volumes and volumes of documents, from microfilm to dusty old folders. But the documents became jumbled in the two-day move, requiring Livingston and his associates to begin the painstaking task of sorting them. He was in the middle of that undertaking when the Warren photos spilled out.

The photos were labeled “Mat (sic) Warren Murder Pictures,” but the title didn’t immediately click. Livingston didn’t know what he was looking at until he found the typed transcript of Reed’s statement, given at Bakersfield Police Department headquarters to J.H. Dupes of the District Attorney’s office. Livingston’s antennae went up when he read Reed’s mention of having sent a wire to “Earl, his boy.” A subsequent reference confirmed this was Earl Warren, Kern County Union High School graduate, district attorney of Alameda County and Republican candidate for state attorney general. And eventual Supreme Court Justice.

Warren, as Bakersfield Police Chief Robert Powers would later say, “wept unabashedly” as investigators briefed him on the murder of his father. Then his men fanned out in search of the killer.

Massive investigation into an otherwise obscure life yields little 

Matt Warren, by all accounts a modest-living man made wealthy from shrewd real estate ventures, had been alone in his house at 707 Niles St. that evening, his wife having moved to Oakland to be near their daughter.

Matt Warren had lived a relatively obscure life. A native of Norway, he moved his family to Los Angeles and then Bakersfield, where he worked as a car inspector for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He had invested his savings in real estate, some of it in rental properties, and achieved as much success as one could probably hope to achieve in the difficult latter days of the Great Depression. But the notoriety of his son, later to become the only California politician to win three consecutive terms as governor, was the only reason anyone attached any meaningful importance to his demise.

After graduating from KCUHS (now Bakersfield High School), Earl Warren had moved on to the University of California, in Berkeley, and then seven miles down the road to Oakland and the Alameda County DA’s office, where he had achieved unusual success as a prosecuting attorney. He had also entered national politics as a member of the Republican National Committee.

His growing fame, along with the circumstances of the crime, quickly brought law enforcement officers and investigators from the Bay Area and Southern California to Bakersfield, along with an inevitable escort of newsmen. Reporter Ralph Kreiser, who with colleague Jim Day published stories in The Californian almost daily for months about the murder, wrote that at one time 22 investigators were engaged on the case. He didn’t include the five stenographers or the parade of a dozen or more visiting criminologists. At least seven different law enforcement or investigatory agencies are mentioned in the Superior Court archives on the Warren case: the Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, Kern County DA’s office, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Identification, Alameda County medical examiner’s office and Alameda County DA’s office, led by Warren’s own chief investigator, Oscar Jahnsen.

Powers tried not to let it show, but the abundance of outside agencies and experts irritated the Bakersfield chief, who was theoretically in charge of the investigation. Practically speaking, though, the man running the show was Jahnsen. (Powers must have impressed Warren, however, because some years later, as governor, he appointed Powers to head a state agency.)

Even the discovery of the wreckage of TWA DC-2 — a commercial airliner missing for three months — smashed into the side of a Yosemite mountain, could not dislodge the murder case from its domination of front page headlines.

“The pressure for (us to solve) the killing was terrific,” Powers told The Californian’s Bill Bloecher in 1968. “It must be understood that Warren at that time had already gained considerable popularity among organized peace officers in the state and they were quick to rally and volunteer assistance.”

More than a dozen men were jailed for interrogation, as was common practice then, during the course of the investigation. Coverage included sensational headlines like “Mystery Killer Hunted in Warren Pipe Murder”; at one point The Californian published a photo of the “death chair,” with a drawing of the probable position of the victim when he was attacked. Several days in, Kreiser reported in The Californian that investigators had learned of a violent argument late on the night of the murder.

But investigators couldn’t come up with identifiable fingerprints on the murder weapon or anywhere in the house. The first murder conviction based on DNA evidence wouldn’t happen for another 49 years.

Powers told The Californian he was convinced the guilty man never was in custody or known; the murder could have been committed by one of Warren’s tenants, he said. Those tenants were aware that Warren probably had cash on hand, so robbery might easily have been the motive. “A man intent on killing would have gone there prepared,” Powers told The Californian in 1968. “I think it is reasonable that the killer went to the Warren premises, peered through the window, saw him going over accounts, handling money, and decided to rob him.”

Rumor of a deathbed confession 

Livingston, the CSUB archivist, came upon two reports in the Warren case file, both dated July 1944, that led him to another conclusion. District Attorney Tom Scott had told Dupes, his chief investigator, of a rumor he’d picked up at a barber shop: A real estate man named O.C. Watson had told Scott of his understanding that “Ed Regan made a confession prior to his death to the killing of Matt Warren,” Dupes wrote in his report.

Ed Regan had been Matt Warren’s primary rental-property handyman and to some extent a business partner. He may also have owed Warren money from a personal loan, although supporting paperwork was never discovered — an unusual oversight for Warren, considering his meticulous nature, had such a loan been made.

O.C. Watson told District Attorney Scott he’d heard this stunning nugget of information from the Rev. Phillip Dennis, a former minister. Dupes then called on Rev. Dennis, who denied having ever talked to Watson about the Warren case — but as Dupes was leaving, Dennis followed him out to the street and said, yes, perhaps he had had such a conversation. But if anyone had actually heard Regan’s confession, he said, it would have been the Rev. Barrett, pastor of the First Baptist Church.

When the Rev. Barrett returned from a vacation a few days later, Dupes visited him and asked about the alleged confession. Barrett said he had visited Regan four or five times a week during the last two months of Regan’s life and they had talked about many things — mostly Regan’s desire to get right with God, join the church and receive baptism — but the Warren case was not one of them. In his report, Dupes had noted that the entire Regan family, except for the patriarch, dying of throat cancer, were members of the Rev. Barrett’s church.

Might Barrett, we might speculate now, have simply wanted to spare the Regan family the humiliation of associated guilt? Dupes did not say if he had considered the possibility.

However, Jahnsen, Earl Warren’s chief investigator, was convinced Regan had been the killer. Regan had put on a display of bad theater at Warren’s funeral, bawling melodramatically, Jahnsen told a University of California researcher in a 1971 interview. He’d turned white as a sheet when Jahnsen had asked him to submit to fingerprinting and had quickly excused himself to wash his hands. Evidence at the scene and along that path of discarded paperwork had given Jahnsen the distinct impression that robbery hadn’t been the motive at all: The killer had left behind jewelry, a jarful of money and Warren’s pocketwatch, which was found on the bed next to Warren’s body as if someone had carefully arranged it there. Perhaps it was the paperwork — deeds, receipts and other financial documents that wouldn’t have been of much interest to a homicidal burglar — that motivated the killer. “Every paper (the killer took) was opened up … and examined,” Jahnsen said. “A fire had been started” and papers burned in a nearby yard.

Those indications pointed to Regan, Jahnsen said.

“You’ve persuaded me,” university researcher Alice King told Jahnsen at that point in the interview.

‘We almost had him’  

But homicide investigators from Los Angeles, who had independently reached the same conclusion, ruined the opportunity to nab the suspect, Jahnsen said. In an interrogation of Regan in a room at the El Tejon Hotel, they were overly aggressive: They “third-degreed” him, Jahnsen said, and Regan reacted by simply shutting down. In any case, Jahnsen said, Earl Warren didn’t believe in the value of “third-degree” admissions, questioning the truthfulness of coerced confessions. Ironically, this display of respect which Warren would demonstrate for a suspect’s rights two decades later as Supreme Court Chief Justice — vilifying him in the eyes of many conservatives — might have cost him the opportunity to apprehend his own father’s killer.

“We almost had him,” Jahnsen said. “… At one point he was almost to the point of telling.”

Alice King isn’t the only university researcher to have agreed with Jahnsen’s conclusions.

“I think he is the guy,” Livingston said of Regan. “To me, this kind of puts it to rest.”