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Bill Macfadyen: Dario Pini’s Arrest Development Lands Him on NoozWeek’s Hit List

Crazy stories from Vons, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara's Upper Eastside and a gun store break-in round out an unusual Top 5 as Noozhawk's reach spreads

Noozhawk just missed setting a traffic record in February, falling a few thousand readers short in spite of it being a 28-day month. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect to claim that record this weekend.

To date, last October was our best month yet for site visits, with 245,000, while January of this year was our best for page views, with 487,000. With two and a half days to go in March, we should reach both milestones on March 30 or early on March 31. Overall, March visits are up 63 percent this year, unique visits are up 43 percent and page views are up 82 percent.

Thank you for making Noozhawk your indispensable news source. Let’s do it again in April!

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What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Santa Barbara Landlord Dario Pini Arrested on Burglary Charges

Dario Pini
Dario Pini

As a landlord, Dario Pini leaves a lot to be desired. His properties have a long and sordid history of municipal code violations that have exasperated building enforcement officials for decades. Late last year, the City of Santa Barbara filed a civil suit against him over the condition of many of his properties, calling them “public nuisances.”

As a newsmaker, however, there are few better than Pini to drive up Noozhawk’s site traffic. He was back at it March 22 after our Lara Cooper broke the news of his arrest on burglary charges. In fact, he rocketed to the top within minutes of the story being posted.

The latest chapter started when neighbors of a construction site in the 300 block of West Carrillo Street reported that Pini had been on the property, poking around and taking materials. According to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood, one of the neighbors confronted him as he was walking off the fenced property with an armload of items. Pini insisted he had permission to be there, but he dropped his load and left when the witness threatened to call the police, Harwood said.

A police investigation confirmed that Pini did not have permission to be on the site, and Harwood said he allegedly had taken copper tubing, water heater pipe fittings and coaxial cable, among other things. A warrant was issued for his arrest.

Patrol officers just happened to notice Pini walking about Chapala Street on March 22, at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m., and he was arrested without incident. He was taken to Santa Barbara County Jail, where he was booked on the burglary warrant with bail set at $20,000.

Store surveillance video shows a robbery suspect entering the Vons market, 163 S. Turnpike Road, around 8 p.m. March 22. Judging by the size of that chassis, he's probably not far from any groceries. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department photo)
Store surveillance video shows a robbery suspect entering the Vons market, 163 S. Turnpike Road, around 8 p.m. March 22. Judging by the size of that chassis, he’s probably not far from any groceries. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

2. Sheriff’s Department Releases Photo of Suspect in Robbery of Vons Supermarket

The Vons market at 163 S. Turnpike Road near San Marcos High School is not often the target of a holdup, not with so many tempting Stop-N-Robs in the vicinity. But that’s exactly what happened at about 8 p.m. March 22 when a gentleman strolled in to the store, flashed a handgun and made off with an undisclosed amount of money.

What’s even more unusual is the description of the suspect. Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials called him a “heavyset Hispanic male in his late 20s, about 6-feet-2-inches tall, and 250 to 275 pounds.” 275 pounds? Really?

So a refrigerator-sized guy walks into a supermarket, robs it and scoots out the door in a clean get-away? I’m not just impressed by his cat-like reflexes, but by his apparent self-control. Imagine being that close to the candy display and opting for cash instead of Sour Patch Kids and Peanut M&Ms.

Authorities are still looking for the suspect, as are NFL teams in need of defensive line help. Anyone with information about the guy in the picture is asked to call the sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at 805.681.4171.

3. Santa Maria Police Chief: Murder Investigators Found ‘Horrific’ Crime Scene

Anthony Ibarra
Anthony Ibarra

The torture-murder of 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra of Santa Maria sure grabbed attention, as much for the gory details as for how the case unfolded over the course of several days.

Police Chief Ralph Martin told a March 25 news conference that Ibarra was killed March 17 after being tortured for two to three hours. The next day, police were called to the 1100 block of Donovan Road after a citizen cryptically reported that a “possible violent crime” had taken place at a house there. Officers arrived to find a “horrific” crime scene but no body, Martin said.

Two days after the murder, authorities were tipped that a U-Haul truck might be connected to the case. Soon after, sheriff’s deputies located the truck in Orcutt and found Ibarra’s body inside. Numerous suspects were arrested over the next several days.

Authorities have not offered a possible motive for the killing, but say it was carried out for the benefit of the Sureno criminal street gang. Sources have told Noozhawk that investigators are looking at several possible motives relating to gangs, drugs and a lover’s triangle.

Six people, all alleged gang members, have been charged with first-degree murder and numerous special allegations, including kidnapping, lying in wait, torture and gang enhancements. Two others are charged with being assessories after the fact for allegedly hiding at least one of the murder suspects.

4. Bizarre Details of Alleged Hate Crime Emerge at Preliminary Hearing

Michael John Stinchfield
Michael John Stinchfield

A 55-year-old Santa Barbara man, Michael John Stinchfield, is facing 13 felony charges — including assault to commit rape, false imprisonment and hate crimes — stemming from a violent and truly bizarre incident at his Upper Eastside home last November. Stinchfield has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a preliminary hearing was held this past week to determine whether the prosecution could take its case to a jury.

Police were dispatched to the 1700 block of Garden Street just before 5 a.m. Nov. 2 after a report of a disturbance in progress. Officers arrived to find two women running — screaming — out of Stinchfield’s residence. They told police that Stinchfield had attacked them with a baseball bat, held them against their will for several hours, and sexually assaulted them. Officers testified that both women had visible injuries.

Testimony at the hearing was downright strange, with officers and witnesses describing allegations of alcohol, a hot tub, a guitar serenade, the baseball bat attacks and a naked Stinchfield soliciting sex from both women, who happen to be gay. I could go on but, honestly, I just don’t want to. Click here to read our Lara Cooper’s account.

On March 27, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson ruled there was enough evidence to try Stinchfield and set his arraignment for April 12.

Guns up for SBPD. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Guns up for SBPD. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

5. No Suspect Found in Santa Barbara Gun Store Burglary

Mission and State streets meet at a quiet, unassuming intersection, and few passers-by probably give it much thought, unless they happen to be stopped for a minute at the traffic signal there.

Just up from the corner, at 2009 State St., sits Far West Gun & Supply. It’s a quiet, unassuming shop, but customers who happen to stop there will find a friendly and knowledgeable staff who can answer just about any question on hunting, target shooting, collecting and self defense. When the place is open, the front door is, too. But it’s a gun store, so when it’s not open, it takes on the appearance of an impenetrable fortress.

That didn’t stop an intruder or intruders who apparently tried to enter the store through the roof in the middle of the night on March 28, triggering a burglar alarm. Officers arrived at 4 a.m. and, after determining that someone may be inside, they called for backup. The full force of the Santa Barbara Police Department responded, including SWAT personnel, while Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton and reporter Giana Magnoli double-teamed the story.

As dark turned to dawn and then to day, the area remained closed off, with crisis negotiators and snipers at the ready, and a special sheriff’s team that was dispatched to search the Far West building and those of its neighbors.

Police were unable to find anyone, however, and streets were reopened to traffic about midmorning.

Sgt. Riley Harwood, an SBPD spokesman, said investigators are working with the store’s owners to determine whether anything was stolen in the break-in.

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There were 58,239 people who read Noozhawk this past week. If you value our unmatched breaking news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about, please support our experienced staff of professional journalists and help us continue to provide a vital forum for the community.

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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