2017 Staffing
Support Staff13

The Family Protection Division prosecutes crimes such as murder, domestic violence, stalking, crimes against children, and elder abuse. The division strongly supports victims of crime and works closely with criminal justice agencies and community partners. In 2017, the division was led by Chief Tracy Prior and Assistant Chief Kurt Mechals. During this time, the Family Protection Division received 8,546 defendants for review. There were 2,225 defendants charged with domestic violence, of which 705 were felonies and 1,520 were misdemeanors. In addition, 463 defendants were charged with child abuse and 19 defendants charged with Internet crimes against children. In addition, 429 defendants were charged with elder abuse and 41 cases were reviewed involving crimes at assisted living facilities.

Domestic Violence

Today’s misdemeanor can be tomorrow’s homicide. That’s why the District Attorney’s Office has specially-trained Deputy District Attorneys across the county, handling felony and misdemeanor domestic violence cases from the earliest stages. Having the same prosecutor handle domestic violence cases from beginning to end ensures better courtroom efficiency, better perpetrator accountability, and increased victim safety.

In 2017, the District Attorney’s Office continued its leadership in multiple “High Risk Teams” across the county. These teams were created in 2011 to improve community response and victim support in the most dangerous situations. The multi-disciplinary teams, led by the DA’s Office, consists of various local police agencies and non-governmental groups who meet regularly to connect victims with support.

The Domestic Violence Stalking and Homicide Prevention Team continued their important efforts in its second year. The team consists of a prosecutor, District Attorney Investigator, Paralegal and Victim Advocate. The team works with law enforcement to build stalking cases and work with victims to provide resources and safety planning. The team meets bi-monthly and discusses cases suited for stalking investigation and focused prosecutorial efforts.

Additionally, in 2017, the Family Protection Division collaborated with the Domestic Violence Council and other partners to put on six trainings for more than 900 County and community professionals on family violence topics. Furthermore, we worked with law enforcement and healthcare experts to develop the county’s first Strangulation Protocol and Strangulation Documentation Form, which was approved by the various Chiefs of Police in the county, Sheriff, District Attorney and San Diego City Attorney. We worked with KPBS to produce a 10-minute video on strangulation documentation and response, which has already been shown to more than 5,000 sworn personnel in our county. This important protocol addresses how to effectively investigate strangulation cases, as well as how to appropriately focus efforts and resources on such serious and life threatening cases. Several strangulation cases have already been successfully prosecuted as a result of this essential protocol.

Elder Abuse

In 2017, the Elder Abuse Unit continued to cement its working relationship with Community Care Licensing and the Attorney General’s Office in reviewing elder abuse referrals for incidents occurring in residential care facilities for the elderly, on an alternate monthly basis. The unit also responded to numerous requests for speaking at events around the region in an effort to continue educating the public about elder abuse.

Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office, along with a multi-disciplinary team including law enforcement, Adult Protective Services and other elder related agencies in the community, came together and started developing an Elder Abuse Protocol. This protocol addresses gaps in the countywide response to elder abuse investigations and focuses efforts and resources on complex and serious cases.

Three notable cases this unit prosecuted during 2017 include:

People v. Eric Perry

In this case, the defendant was a drug addict and serial abusive grandson who attacked his 90-year-old grandmother and guardian. He beat her and then attempted to kill her by repeatedly plunging a syringe full of insulin (she is not diabetic) into her, which would have killed her if medical professionals hadn’t intervened. The defendant pleaded guilty to attempted murder before the preliminary hearing and is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

People v. William Phillips and Lisa Sidney
These husband and wife defendants lived an opulent lifestyle in Rancho Santa Fe while running a fraudulent gemstone operation out of their house. By setting up a shell corporation and pretending to employ more than 50 staff members, they would purchase cheap gemstones from a dealer and then package them in a classy gift box with a certificate. The defendants would find victims all over the United States, willing to invest their life savings in purchasing what the victims thought were precious gemstones. Through a diligent investigation, numerous victims were found, spanning several states. Their total losses were more than $1.7 million, which is expected to be completely recovered and distributed to the victims. Both of the defendants pleaded guilty to multiple counts of financial elder abuse and grand theft. Defendant Phillips was sentenced to over nine years in prison and defendant Sidney was sentenced to a year in jail and probation.

People v. Timothy Patterson

The defendant was a garage door technician employed by GDS, a licensed company based out of Dallas.  This company employs ex-felons and urged them to upsell and make unwarranted repairs and recommendations to any gullible customers, mostly senior citizens. Although based out of Texas, the company has paid Google quite a bit of money to put their name at the top of any search list for someone looking for a garage door repair company. Also, the company uses other company names, many times utilizing the town in which someone is looking for repairs (i.e. Escondido GDS), making it look like their company is local and reputable. GDS has been under the national trade industry spotlight for several years for their deceptive practices, but until this case, it had never been prosecuted. We charged Patterson, employed by GDS, for using the company’s practices against nine victims. The defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of elder financial abuse, with an agreement he would testify against GDS. This case has garnered attention and was featured on the front cover of a national trade magazine. Additionally, Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood approached various Attorney Generals and U.S. Attorneys across the country to determine if they can collectively bring an action against GDS to shut down the corrupt business.

Child Abduction

The District Attorney’s Office fights for children in many ways. One way is to locate children who have been abducted by a parent. The District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit finds and recovers children who go missing as a result of a parental abduction, and helps ensure that child custody court orders are honored. The unit handles both domestic and international cases, helping to recover children taken from and wrongfully brought to San Diego County.

In 2017, the Child Abduction Unit opened 86 new cases and successfully recovered a total of 64 children. The unit handled both domestic and international matters, including 17 cases subject to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Internet Crimes Against Children

The District Attorney’s Office is committed to aggressively prosecuting cases of child exploitation on the Internet. Several Deputy District Attorneys are assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, a dedicated group of local, state, and federal law-enforcement officers and prosecutors. The joint effort by this group of dedicated professionals ensures defendants are held accountable.

During the months of April and May 2017, ICAC conducted “Operation Broken Heart IV,” spanning San Diego, Riverside and Imperial Counties.  This operation targeted offenders involved with possession, distribution and/or production of child pornography as well as child enticement. In addition to serving Internet Service Provider search warrants and residential search warrants, efforts were made to make arrests of adults who scour the Internet via social applications looking for young children to meet and victimize. The three counties combined served more than 187 search warrants and made 44 arrests involving child predators.

In addition to investigating and prosecuting Internet predators and offenders, the task force actively participates in outreach to schools and parents to educate the community on Internet safety.

Prevention and Community Awareness

The Family Protection Division is dedicated to crime prevention and increasing community awareness.

In honor of October Domestic Violence Awareness month, our office worked with county and community partners to conduct a countywide kick-off event on October 3, 2017. The event included officials, college and university students, professionals and community members and offered presentations, resource booths, ceremony to honor domestic violence homicide victims and the annual HOPE awards to honor those who work tirelessly in the field of domestic violence.

The District Attorney’s Office worked, in partnership with the County Department of Health and Human Services Agency, to implement a $3.5 million Cal Office of Emergency Services victim services grant and associated contracts for human trafficking, child, elder and dependent adult, domestic violence, gang, and sexual assault survivors.

Our office helped spearhead an update to the San Diego County Child Victim Witness Protocol, which is a blueprint for community Child Abuse and Human Trafficking stakeholders directed at promoting best practices for serving child victims.

Our office also continues to coordinate the County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, which has been convening since 1996. This team tracks and reviews domestic violence related homicides in order to identify system improvements. The team, coordinated by the District Attorney’s Office, conducted six in-depth case reviews in 2017 and made recommendations for policy, programs, awareness efforts, and training in our county.

Cases of note in the Family Protection Division for 2017 include:

People v. Diana Lovejoy and Weldon McDavid
In 2016, Defendant Diana Lovejoy and her husband, the victim in this case, were in the midst of a tumultuous divorce and child custody proceedings. Lovejoy was ordered to share custody of their child and to pay the victim a substantial amount in child support, which she resented tremendously. Soon, Lovejoy became interested in firearms instructor and co-defendant, Weldon McDavid. On the date of the incident, McDavid contacted the victim claiming to be a criminal investigator. He told the victim he had information concerning the child custody dispute and asked him to meet up at a nearby remote area.  The victim and one of his friends arrived at the location where they saw a person dressed in camouflage holding a gun with a scope pointed at them. The victim was shot in the chest once before running away. Six additional rounds were fired, but did not hit anyone. The victim was rushed to the hospital and survived. With evidence recovered from cell phones, a video and search warrants, both of the defendants were arrested.  At the trial, both of the defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder.

People v. Guadalupe Ocampos
In 2013, a 9-month-old boy was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital with a severe head injury and died soon after. The defendant, the baby’s biological mother, claimed he had fallen off of the bed.  After an autopsy was performed, medical evidence revealed several separate impact sites on the baby’s head, evidence of him being shaken and varying ages of subdural hematomas.  Although the defendant said her child had fallen off the bed throughout the investigation, medical experts said that was not possible given the injuries. A jury convicted Ocampos of assault of a child under the age of eight resulting in death. The defendant is now serving 25 years-to-life in state prison.

People v. Hauati Faanunu
This defendant was married to the victim, his wife, for 16 years and they had six kids together. The victim filed for divorce and was having an affair, both of which the defendant adamantly opposed. In the midst of all of this, the defendant bought a gun and practiced using it. Just after midnight on the night of the incident, Faanunu pulled out the gun and walked into the room where the victim was sleeping with their 8-year-old daughter. He shot his wife dead, while their daughter watched in horror just a few feet away; the other five children were in the house ad well.  A jury convicted the defendant of first-degree murder and he is currently serving a sentence of 50 years-to-life in prison.

People v. Joaquin Adame
The defendant molested his two young nieces and his young stepson for years. It took time for the child victims to build up the strength and courage to disclose the years of abuse. A jury ultimately held this defendant accountable for his abuse of all three victims and found him guilty of all counts and allegations. As a result, the he is now serving over 200 years in prison.

People v. Jesse Barela  
In this case, the defendant stabbed his wife in her head and face multiple times, leaving her for dead. Upon realizing his 12-year-old daughter witnessed the vicious attack, the defendant chased down the child and stabbed her repeatedly in her back and chest. The mother and daughter victims survived the attack and the defendant was convicted of attempting to murder both of them. He was sentenced to 23 years-to-life in prison.

People v. Brandon Gonzalez
The defendant forced his way into the home of the mother of his infant child and forced her to stop nursing their child. The defendant then forcibly raped the mother of his child, sodomized her and committed other forcible sex acts against her while their child lay crying in a nearby crib. The defendant continued to beat her and rape her throughout the night before leaving the next morning. The defendant was convicted at trial and was sentenced to 29 years in state prison.

People v. Craig Jones
This defendant with a violent past began dating the victim when he was 27-years old and she was 16. The defendant physically and mentally abused her for eleven years. During those years, the victim suffered a traumatic brain injury at the defendant’s hands and became an alcoholic as a result of the abuse. The defendant brought the victim to San Diego County, abused her again and threatened to harm her if she called the police. Despite her fear, she called the police. Defendant was arrested, prosecuted and found guilty at a trial. He is now serving 41 years-to-life in state prison.