Briefly in Public Safety

Driver involved in seven-car crash dies

A Laguna Beach man died last week, a few days after he allegedly hit seven cars along South Coast Highway.

About 3 p.m. Sept. 22, authorities received reports of a hit-and-run on South Coast Highway and Diamond Street, according to Laguna Beach Police Lt. Jason Kravetz. Witnesses reported that a Jeep Cherokee hit three parked cars and fled southbound on South Coast Highway.

Police later concluded that Lee Henry Vuille, 73, was the Jeep's driver.

Vuille rear-ended a car at Nyes Place, causing another four-vehicle crash, Kravetz said.

A 4-year-old girl and a 31-year-old were taken to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo after the second incident.

Vuille was also taken to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo, where he died due to natural causes Sept. 26, according to the Orange County coroner.

Kravetz said alcohol and drugs were not immediately suspected, but the crash is still under investigation. Traffic investigators have obtained a blood sample, he said.

"We do suspect that he may have been having some type of medical issue, but cannot conclusively say that was the cause until we receive the toxicology results," Kravetz said.


Cause of boutique fire unknown

A fire erupted at Virtu boutique Saturday morning, and the majority of its inventory was damaged, according to the Laguna Beach Fire Department.

Firefighters responded at 9:36 a.m. to 1042 N. Coast Hwy. They observed smoke coming from the ground-level boutique and located the fire inside, Division Chief Dan Stefano said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

"Laguna Beach firefighters quickly had to force their entry, locate the fire and promptly extinguish what could have been a much larger fire had a nearby resident not heard a smoke alarm and called 911," Stefano said in an email.

The boutique has two residential floors above it. One of the apartments had moderate smoke damage but no fire damage, Stefano said.

Efforts by Laguna Beach and Orange County Fire Authority firefighters limited the structural damage, Stefano added.

A tenant was treated for a leg injury, but officials do not believe it was directly related to the fire.


Murderer extradited to O.C. Jail

A previously convicted serial murderer that allegedly killed a Laguna Beach woman in 1986 has been extradited from Illinois to Orange County Jail.

Andrew Urdiales, 47, faces five felony counts of murder with special circumstances for committing multiple murders and the use of a firearm in three of those cases. Urdiales also has Illinois murder convictions for the deaths of three women.

On Jan. 18, 1986, Robbin Brandley, 23, was walking to her car at Saddleback College after a jazz concert when Urdiales allegedly followed her and stabbed her 41 times in her hands, back, chest and neck, and then fled the scene.

Urdiales, a Marine, reportedly drove to Saddleback from Camp Pendleton with the intent to kill.

Urdiales is accused of killing five women from Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

Urdiales is eligible for the death penalty. He is currently being held without bail. His arraignment will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.


Woman claims Realtor used home as an office

A Laguna Beach homeowner reported to police that she believed her Realtor was squatting in her vacant home while the sale of her home closed.

The woman reported on Sept. 25 that she and the Realtor who had helped her sell her Loretta Street home had a "falling out" during escrow, according to Laguna Beach Police Lt. Jason Kravetz.

She could not fire the real estate agent because she was contractually obligated to continue with the sale, Kravetz said.

The woman reported that documents that required her approval had forged signatures on them. After noticing this, she went to her home to retrieve a key from the lockbox, Kravetz said. It was when she arrived that she noticed that cable and gas were set up for the home, indicating someone was staying there.

She reported that she saw her Realtor's desk and chairs inside her home, indicating he may have been using her home as an office.

Detectives are investigating, Kravetz said. Charges have not been filed.

— Joanna Clay

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