No bail for man who used hammer to torture victim

Courtesy Photo.

A judge on June 14 refused to set any bail for a man accused of torture in the hammer beating of La Mesa cardiologist Dr. Hassan Kafri.

Kafri, 48, who works at three local hospitals, was hospitalized June 12 after his neighbor, Robert Franklin Whitaker, 57, struck him repeatedly in the head in Kafri’s garage in La Jolla.

Charges of torture and assault with a deadly weapon were filed against Whitaker, who pleaded not guilty before San Diego Superior Court Judge Joseph Brannigan.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco said Kafri suffered a broken wrist, a broken nose, other facial fractures, and broken teeth in an 8 minute incident.

“It was an incredible savage beating that went on and on,” said Greco to the judge. “He presents an extreme danger, incredible danger to the community.”

The prosecutor said the incident began with a tense conversation between both men, who are neighbors, and it erupted in “a brutal beating that does not stop.”

Whitaker’s attorney, Vik Monder, told Brannigran there was “provocation from the victim” and his client was also injured and taken to the hospital.

Monder urged that reasonable bail should be set.

A preliminary hearing was set for June 27.

Spring Valley robbers sentenced

Two men who robbed a Spring Valley cell phone store with a machete have been sentenced to long terms in federal prison.

Carlos Adolfo Soto, 41, who held the machete when he held up the Metro PCS store on Jamacha Road on Jan. 25, 2017, was sentenced to 11 years and eight months.

The getaway driver, Justin Wayne Caldwell, 32, received 12 years and seven months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Whelan on June 3.

Soto apologized to the victim when she spoke May 6 at an earlier hearing. She told him she still has nightmares “and not a day goes by I do not think” of the robbery.

Whelan ordered both men to pay $48,103.65 to all 10 cell phone stores and one Subway restaurant that were robbed during the spree. This includes the costs of new cellphones that were stolen.

Soto and Caldwell both pleaded guilty to all the robberies and admitted they interfered in interstate commerce, which is why the case was in federal court.

Man pleads guilty to manslaughter

An El Cajon murder suspect who recently won his right to defend himself at his second trial pleaded guilty June 7 to voluntary manslaughter of his roommate.

Michael Patrick O’Donnell, 60, admitted to the personal use of a baseball bat which struck and killed Richard Hobbs, 72, on Oct. 13, 2015.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Shim said the agreed upon sentence is a 12-year term in state prison.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Lantz Lewis set sentencing for July 8. O’Donnell remains in jail on $2 million bail.
The jury at O’Donnell’s first trial deadlocked 9-3 for conviction of murder and a mistrial was declared on Sept. 5, 2018.

El Cajon Police responded to a 911 call at Hobbs’ home in the 1000 block of Pine Drive. Officers found Hobbs with significant head injuries. He was taken to a hospital where he died of blunt force trauma.

Arsonist given 16 months

Sixteen months in state prison has been handed down to Joshua Edgell Wright, 40, for setting fire to the Albertson’s sign at the grocery store at 1608 Broadway, in El Cajon.

Wright was suspected of setting another fire outside a Vons store in El Cajon, but it was dropped after Wright pleaded guilty to arson of the Albertson’s sign.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Robert Amador ordered Wright to pay $5,000 in restitution to Albertson’s for the damages, which occurred on Nov. 7, 2018.

A store manager had complained that Wright took a watermelon outside the store without paying for it. Wright has been convicted of 14 misdemeanor charges and received probation, but probation had been revoked many times, according to court records.