Laguna Beach Police have arrested a man in Hawaii on suspicion of robbing John’s Jewelry on Forest Avenue at gunpoint Feb. 6. The suspect allegedly used a semi-automatic handgun to steal $50,000 in diamond rings, after initially conversing with employees of the shop.
Leslie Giovanni Church, 34, was arrested March 3 by officers from the California Department of Corrections on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Corrections officials had been working closely with investigators from the Laguna Beach and San Diego Police Departments on the case. Besides the Laguna Beach robbery, Church is also suspected of committing two other armed robberies of jewelry stores in San Diego County, police said.
Church was released from State Prison in November of 2008 after serving a sentence for auto theft, grand theft and prison escape, according to police. He moved to the San Diego area before allegedly fleeing to Kauai in mid-February.
Laguna Beach Police Investigator Debra Kelso identified Church as the suspect in the robbery after obtaining an anonymous tip. As she began to look into Church’s whereabouts, police believe he fled his San Diego home.
At this time, investigators from both San Diego and Orange Counties are working with their respective District Attorney’s Offices to officially charge Church with multiple counts of armed robbery. Church was arrested in Hawaii on a no bail parolee at-large warrant. The warrant was issued after Church fled the state without notifying his parole agent.
Police said they believed it was imperative to get Church into custody as quickly as possible given the potential that another armed robbery might occur. Church’s photo is not being released at this time because of potential witness identifications.
CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.