Man Sought for 3 Years in 4 Killings Is Captured : Fugitive: An accused drug trafficker is a suspect in the shooting deaths at a San Fernando Valley crack house in 1988.
Jon Preston Settle was surprised and confused when his mother-in-law’s station wagon was surrounded by a swarm of armed officers at a quiet intersection near MacArthur Park on Tuesday morning.
Then he knew the game was over.
After eluding authorities for nearly three years, Settle, who was to be added later this week to the FBI’s 10-most-wanted list, was arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of four people at a Lake View Terrace crack house.
“He was absolutely stunned,” said San Fernando Police Lt. Ernie Halcon. “I really, really think he thought he had beat the system.”
For a time, it appeared that he had.
Settle, 31, disappeared immediately after the Aug. 28, 1988, slayings of Andre Armstrong and James Brown, both of Pacoima; Lorretha Anderson of Seaside, and her daughter, Chemise English, 2, at a crack house in the 11400 block of Wheeler Street. Anderson’s 18-month-old son, Carlos English, was wounded in the attack but survived.
Authorities suspect that Settle is one of 12 people who planned and carried out the murders, which stemmed from a disagreement within a drug ring that controlled most of the cocaine sales in Pacoima for a decade. The other 11 suspects are awaiting trial in San Fernando Superior Court on murder and various drug charges.
Settle “was the last loose end. Now he’s tied up,” said Los Angeles Police Detective Jim Vojtecky, part of a San Fernando Valley drug task force that involves the FBI, San Fernando police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
During his time on the run, Settle continued to peddle narcotics nationwide and was supported by a network of criminals who hid him from authorities, investigators said. He was featured on the television program “America’s Most Wanted,” but he consistently evaded detectives who tracked him at various times to Oakland, Las Vegas and Louisiana.
Settle told investigators that he repaired and sold cars for a living, but Deputy Dist. Atty. Jan Maurizi said Settle is a “high-ranking official” in a drug ring that authorities believe is operated by state prison parolee Jeffrey Bryant and some of his family members. The Bryant ring is suspected in 18 murders committed since 1982, Maurizi said.
Based in Lake View Terrace, the ring has drug operations in 20 to 25 cities, the largest of which are in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, according to investigators.
After several weeks of legwork, investigators were able to locate Settle, living with his wife, daughter, mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law in the Westlake district. They obtained a search warrant earlier this week but decided not to storm his apartment in the 2800 block of Leeward Avenue for fear that he might respond violently.
“Settle was a known survivalist who carried many different types of weapons and was extremely violent,” San Fernando Police Lt. Rico Castro said.
“Because of his history of violence, we didn’t want to storm the house in the middle of the morning,” Halcon said.
Instead, officers staked out the apartment about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Settle emerged about 11 a.m. with his wife, Norma, and their 4-year-old daughter, Sarah. As the family drove away, investigators followed. Vojtecky said Settle apparently saw the tail and tried to slip down side streets to evade capture.
But near the intersection of 4th and Carondelet streets, investigators surrounded Settle and, facing 11 drawn guns, he gave up.
Settle was unarmed when he was arrested, but Vojtecky said several rounds of ammunition were found inside his apartment. Norma Settle also was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting a felon. The mother-in-law and sisters-in-law were not charged. The child was placed in the care of her maternal grandmother.
Settle pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of murder and various other charges stemming from the attack. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
Times staff writer Bob Pool contributed to this story.