Here’s a roundup of recent incidents from Ventura County and regional agencies:
Self-inflicted gunshot victim found on trail
THOUSAND OAKS – Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies investigated the circumstances surrounding a body with a gunshot wound found along a Thousand Oaks trail Thursday evening.
The body was reported shortly after 5 p.m. along a trail near the Chumash Indian Museum at 3290 Lang Ranch Parkway. The road edges up to open space with a network of hiking trails.
A cyclist had spotted the body and called authorities, said sheriff’s Capt. Steve Jenkins. Deputies hiked down the trail, with investigators from the sheriff’s major crimes unit also summoned to the scene.
After an investigation, deputies said the gunshot wound was likely self-inflicted and that no foul play was suspected. The age and gender of the victim were not shared by authorities as of 10 p.m.
An investigator from the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office was headed to the scene, Jenkins said. The medical examiner’s office ultimately determines cause and manner of death.
The trail remained closed as detectives investigated. No other details were immediately available.
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Life insurance agent allegedly stole from clients
CAMARILLO – A former Camarillo life insurance agent pleaded not guilty Thursday to stealing over $1 million from several of his clients, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
Steven Franklin Gordon, 67, was arraigned in Ventura County Superior Court on multiple felony counts of grand theft, forgery, identity theft and credit card theft. The charges date as far back as 2014 and involve at least three former clients, prosecutors said, although investigators believe there may be more victims who have not been identified.
Gordon, as owner of Geetis Group Inc., is accused of stealing from his clients by withdrawing from their life insurance annuity accounts, forging checks from their bank accounts and charging their credit cards. He allegedly hid the crimes by changing account mailing addresses to his home address and rerouting electronic bank statements to email addresses he controlled. Gordon reportedly sent clients false documents that omitted the unauthorized withdrawals, according to prosecutors.
Gordon’s lawyer, Stefan Sacks, said there is more to the case than what prosecutors claim.
“As more information comes out about the case and it moves through the court system, I think it will shine a different light on Mr. Gordon in a much more favorable fashion,” Sacks said after Thursday’s hearing.
The California Department of Insurance said it launched an investigation after a life insurance company notified them of several suspicious withdrawals from a customer’s account. The agency withdrew Gordon’s license in April. The case is being investigated by the insurance department and the DA’s fraud and technology crimes unit.
Gordon, who was arrested Aug. 26 and released from jail on a bail bond, is due back in court on Oct. 26.
The state insurance department believes there may be more victims. Anyone with information can call Investigator Randy Vickrey at 661-253-7530.
New indictment in child murder case
SAN DIEGO – A Santa Barbara man accused of killing his two young children in Mexico last month was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported, in a revised filing of charges.
Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, was charged with two counts of foreign first-degree murder of U.S. nationals, prosecutors said. The charges are eligible for the death penalty, although the U.S. Attorney will decide later whether to seek the death penalty.
Coleman allegedly killed his 2-year-old boy and 10-month-old girl with a spearfishing gun on Aug. 9, authorities previously said. He owns the Lovewater Surf School in Santa Barbara, which sometimes held classes at Mondos Beach in Ventura County. His wife had reported him missing after he left with the children in a Mercedes Sprinter van before the family had been slated to go on a camping trip, authorities said. He was arrested as he crossed back over the U.S. border.
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Coleman was previously charged with the same crimes in a federal complaint filed in Los Angeles. In that document, an FBI agent said Coleman had confessed to the killings during a recorded interview, saying he had been enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories. He reportedly told authorities he had received visions that his wife had “serpent DNA” and had passed it on to their children, believing they would grow into monsters, the initial document said.
Prosecutors intend to dismiss the earlier complaint and will prosecute the case in U.S. District Court in San Diego, according to Wednesday’s release.
The new complaint alleges Coleman killed the children “willfully, deliberately, maliciously and with premeditation and malice.” The document also claims each killing involved substantial planning and that the acts were done in an “especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner” that involved torture and serious physical abuse.
“There are no words to describe the profound grief that envelops an entire community when a child is murdered,” Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement.
Motorcyclist injured in crash with truck
OXNARD – A motorcycle rider suffered serious injuries in a collision involving a pickup truck Thursday morning in Oxnard, according to police.
The accident was reported around 6:45 a.m. near Rice Avenue and Celsius Avenue, said Oxnard Police Department Cmdr. Marc Amon. The crossing is south of Camino Del Sol.
Details from traffic investigators weren’t immediately available, he said Thursday afternoon, but it appeared the crash took place as the truck made a left turn.
The male rider was taken by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center with injuries that appeared serious, Amon said. His age and city of residence were not immediately available.
Deputies nab vehicle theft suspect
CAMARILLO – A 20-year-old man was arrested last week after he was suspected of stealing property from cars parked in a Camarillo neighborhood, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
The arrest took place around 1:48 a.m. Sept. 2 in the 100 block of Camino Ruiz in Camarillo.
Locals had first reported a suspicious person walking in their backyard with a flashlight. Deputies were able to find the person described in the call, later identified as a 20-year-old man from Ventura, and discovered he was in possession of several items that did not belong to him.
After the suspect was detained, seven victims who live in the 100 block of Camino Ruiz and the 5100 block of Via Calderon reported having items stolen out of their parked vehicles.
The suspect was booked into county jail on suspicion of theft from a vehicle, violation of probation, prowling and misappropriation of found property. Several of the victims were later able to recover most of their stolen property.
Jeremy Childs is a breaking news and public safety reporter covering the night shift for the Ventura County Star. He can be reached by calling 805-437-0208 or emailing [email protected]. You can also find him on Twitter @Jeremy_Childs.