In the Pasadena Courthouse This Week

Published : Monday, February 4, 2019 | 5:39 AM

This week, three high-profile Pasadena criminal cases will move forward in Pasadena Courthouse of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Here’s an update and profile of each of these cases.


Pretrial for Jacob Mallory Bersson, February 4

Jacob Mallory Bersson, 33, is accused in the fatal stabbing of his cousin, Pasadena chef Lawrence Bressler, and Bressler’s wife, Denise, in October 2014.

He is facing two counts of capital murder, and with a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders and personally using a knife in the murders.

Bersson was living with the Bresslers at the couple’s apartment in the 200 block of North Madison Avenue at the time of the attack, a Pasadena Police Department investigation showed. Court records also showed Bersson had just recently moved from Florida to Pasadena that year and was living with the victims at 290 N. Madison Avenue.

Police said Bersson forced his way into the Bresslers’ bedroom in the early morning of October 13, 2014 and stabbed the couple repeatedly with a knife.

Lawrence Bressler was able to call 911 before 6:30 a.m. and identified Bersson as the attacker. Bressler later died in surgery; his wife Denise had died shortly after arriving at a hospital.

Bersson was arrested on the day of the murders and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

During his arraignment in 2016, Bersson pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Deputy District Attorney Fernanda Barreto is prosecuting.


Preliminary Hearing for Lance Anthony Semkus, February 4

Lance Anthony Semkus, 74, of Pasadena, is charged with one felony count each of willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder, mayhem, attempted second-degree robbery and two counts of cruelty to an animal.

He is also facing charges which include allegations of great bodily injury and use of a knife.

On January 4, 2018, Semkus pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On October 23, 2017, Semkus allegedly attempted to drag a 19-year-old Pasadena woman and her dog into his vehicle in front of a pet store in the 3300 block of Sierra Madre Villa Avenue. Passersby saw what was happening and came to her aid. The suspect fled in a black SUV.

About an hour and a half later, Semkus reportedly approached a 26-year-old Winnetka woman and slashed her throat with a knife outside of a strip mall in the 600 block of South Arroyo Parkway. She screamed and fought Semkus off, but suffered severe injuries to her hand and neck.

The suspect fled in an SUV and was tracked by the Pasadena police helicopter in the area of Fair Oaks Avenue near California Blvd. Officers conducted a traffic stop and arrested him.

The woman was taken to a local hospital.

Semkus, said to be a Vietnam veteran who once served in the Burbank Police Department, is being held in lieu of $10 million bail. He faces a possible maximum sentence of more than 32 years to life in state prison if convicted.

Los County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Erlich is prosecuting.


Preliminary Hearing Setting for Donte Antoine Fox, February 5

Donte Antoine Fox, 22, is charged with one felony count each of murder, vehicular manslaughter, hit-and-run driving resulting in death, grand theft of an automobile and driving or taking a vehicle without consent, in connection with the hit-and-run death of a motorcyclist in Pasadena on October 6, 2016.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said the felony complaint includes allegations that Fox was convicted in 2016 of first-degree residential burglary.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges in July.

Records of the case show Fox allegedly stole a Tesla Model S 85D and later crashed into motorcyclist Oscar Chavez, 60. The victim died at the scene and the defendant reportedly fled and remained at large until his arrest on June 21.

Fox faces more than 36 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged. Bail is set at more than $2.1 million.

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Erlich is prosecuting.


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