Kidnapper, carjacker to be sentenced for 2016 incident

Courtesy Photo.

A jury on March 5 found a man guilty of carjacking and kidnapping a La Mesa teenager. The teenager testified that the man put hypodermic needles to his neck, saying they contained the AIDS virus.

The jury also found Thomas Johnson, 39, guilty of making a criminal threat and car theft to a then-17-year-old junior from Grossmont High School on March 28, 2016.

Johnson was also found guilty of reckless evasion from police, attempted robbery and robbery to other victims.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carberry said a sentencing date will be set later this week after El Cajon Superior Court Judge Evan Kirvin determines if Johnson’s out of state convictions are serious prior felonies which could increase the sentence.

The student testified a man approached him outside a restaurant on Parkway Drive in La Mesa and initially asked for a ride. The student said he didn’t want to give him a ride, but Johnson became aggressive and held some needles somewhat close to his neck.

The teen testified he was scared after Johnson told him “I will stab you with these needles that have AIDS.”

The victim testified he was forced to drive Johnson around in a 40-minute ordeal and Johnson kept changing directions as to where he wanted to go.

He said he punched Johnson in the jaw and escaped from his 2000 Ford Ranger truck. Johnson drove off with his truck, but it was wrecked after he evaded police following other crimes.

Johnson could face several decades in prison. In a previous hearing, Johnson’s attorney said he does have AIDS.

The trial had been delayed because of concerns over Johnson’s mental competency and he spent some time at a state psychiatric facility until he regained his mental competency.

Johnson remains in jail without bail.

Hearing set for man accused of murder

An April 18 preliminary hearing has been set for Michael Anthony Mena, 57, who is accused of stabbing Mark Benjamin Bain, 34, to death in a Feb. 10 incident in El Cajon.

El Cajon Police officers responded to a report of a stabbing in an alley in the 300 block of North Street around 1 a.m. on Feb. 10.

Bain’s wife told officers her husband got into an argument with another man outside their vehicle and was stabbed in the chest. Bain was taken to Grossmont Hospital but he succumbed to his injuries.

Mena has pleaded not guilty in El Cajon Superior Court and remains in jail without bail.

Man accused to killing girlfriend to stand trial

The preliminary hearing for an Alpine man accused of killing his girlfriend has been set for June 10.

The attorney for Paul Alan Paraschak, 43, asked a judge March 7 for more time to prepare in the Feb. 23 death of Melanie Benitez, 27.

Benitez was found dead of gunshot wounds near a white car in a driveway of the 2800 block of Victoria Drive in Alpine. A woman who lives there said she didn’t know the couple.

Paraschak waived his right to have a speedy hearing in El Cajon Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail without bail.

Trial date set for woman in hit-and-run of boy on bicycle

A trial date of April 15 has been set for Courtney Joy Webber, 25, who has been ordered to stand trial for hit and run with permanent injuries to a boy on a bicycle in El Cajon.

Deputy District Attorney Agustin Pena said five witnesses testified in the preliminary hearing conducted by El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson.

The 9-year-old boy was hospitalized after being found at the intersection of West Main Street and Sunshine Avenue around 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2018.

Webber was also ordered to stand trial for driving on a suspended license and running a red light.

El Cajon Police released a photo of the blue Honda Fit seen in surveillance cameras and they found Webber hiding under a bed in a mobile home in Lakeside the next day.

Webber has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail on $150,000 bail.


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