Dehesa Superintendent faces felony charges

Courtesy Photo.

Nancy Hauer, the superintendent of the Dehesa School District, has been placed on paid leave several days after she denied committing a felony charge involving misappropriating state public funds by inflating enrollment figures at charter schools.

Hauer, 57, is only charged with one felony count and appeared with nine other school officials on May 29 in San Diego Superior Court to answer to charges in a massive grand jury indictment.

Hauer’s attorney, Gretchen von Helms, told Judge Michael Smyth she is not accused of illegally receiving any funds herself as part of her work with the Dehesa School District in El Cajon.

The judge allowed Hauer to remain free on her own recognizance and ordered her and the nine others to return to court June 11. 

Hauer pleaded not guilty.

Steve Van Zant, 56, the only other East County educator who was indicted, is charged with five counts in the 235-page indictment. Van Zant is the former superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District but is now charged as a consultant contractor.

Van Zant pleaded not guilty. His attorney told the judge that Van Zant has sold his company that was mentioned in the indictment and only learned of the investigation last week.

Van Zant was released on his own recognizance. He pleaded guilty in 2016 to conflict of interest involving his work as superintendent and a company he formed. He was ordered to reimburse the Mountain Empire Unified School District for approximately $50,000 on probation.

Hauer and Van Zant are relatively minor figures in comparison to others who were indicted with them, and several people were jailed with high bail. A $75 million warrant for the arrest was issued for the alleged ringleader, Sean McManus, 46, who is believed to be in Australia.

The case alleges that school attendance figures were inflated and that McManus and Jason Schrock, 44, encouraged the others to open 19 charter schools in the state. The District Attorney’s office said 70 witnesses testified behind closed doors before a county grand jury.

District Attorney Summer Stephan held a press conference announcing the indictments and she said investigators encountered widespread misappropriation of public funds.

Man convicted of first-degree murder

A jury has convicted a man of first-degree murder in the stabbing of David Twofeathers Durbin outside an El Cajon 7-Eleven store.

An El Cajon Superior Court jury deliberated two hours before finding Antonio Jesus Muro, 30, guilty in the July 28, 2018 death of Durbin, 25.

Deputy District Attorney Clayton Carr said Muro faces a maximum sentence of 28 years to life in prison. Judge Herbert Exarhos set sentencing for June 21.

Carr said Muro and Durbin had a heated physical confrontation and a week later Muro stabbed him in the heart without warning or provocation.

Muro faces 25 years to life for the murder plus one year for using a knife. He also faces another two years in prison for having prior convictions that led to him being in prison, said Carr.

The stabbing took place in front of the store in the 700 block of Jamacha Road. Muro was arrested about 30 hours later in Spring Valley, said Carr. Muro remains in jail without bail.

Man alleging self-defense is given life in prison

A jury convicted Christopher James Artale of second-degree murder on May 28 in the 2017 shooting death of Aldo Alfonso Prado outside Artale’s home in La Mesa.

Artale, 42, faces a sentence of 16 years to life in prison. El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson set sentencing for Aug. 20.

Deputy District Attorney Valerie Ryan told the jury Prado, 35, was shot in the forehead on Oct. 3, 2017, outside 4490 Glen Street in La Mesa.

Prado had been vandalizing Artale’s truck and had stabbed one of his tires. Artale’s attorney, Richard Boesen, argued for acquittal, saying it was self-defense.

The trial began April 23 with jury selection. The eight-woman, four-man jury began deliberations on May 16 and the verdict was read May 28.