Alleged kidnapper caught in La Cañada

A man wanted in connection with kidnapping and assault was found Monday morning at 9 a.m. sitting at the bus stop in front of the La Cañada Unified School District office at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Cornishon Avenue. Detective Todd Samms of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station arrested James Richards, 39, without incident.

“I was working the patrol position [on Monday] and was driving down Foothill,” Samms said. He noticed a man sitting at the bus stop in front of the school district offices.

“I didn't know it was him at first but he was similar in appearance to the description [released by the Sheriff's Station],” Samms said.

“I told him to stop and he did everything I asked him to do. It wasn't until I got close enough and saw his blue eyes,” Samms said. Richards' description noted his “piercing” blue eyes.

Samms found a gun on the suspect when he was captured.

The arrest ended a search that stretched from Boulder, Colorado to La Cañada for the man who was wanted on several charges stemming from a kidnapping in Colorado in January. Boulder County Sheriff's Department had requested assistance from local law enforcement after Richards had made threats against a La Cañada family.

The story unfolded on Easter morning when a Glendale Police Department unit was on patrol and noticed a vehicle matching one owned by Richards in the 1900 block of Tondolea Lane in La Cañada.

“Glendale Police just happened to be in the area,” said Lt. Greg Sisneros of the Crescenta Valley Sheriffs Station.

The red Volkswagen Paseo was parked a few houses down from a vacant home owned by Julie Pernecky and Brad Lefebvre. Officers suspected Richards was in the vacant home.

“The home has been empty for about six months,” Lefebvre said. “The electricity and water are on but the gas has been shut off.” Lefebvre said that he had been at the house last week but only to check the pool.

“I never went inside,” he said.

“He was planning on going [Sunday],” Pernecky added.

But when the couple approached the neighborhood, they found a massive force of service vehicles and helicopters flying overhead.

A grid from Palm Drive to Castle Road and from Tondolea Lane to Lombardy Drive had been cordoned off by deputies. Sheriff deputies and detectives, the Sheriff's Enforcement Bureau K-9 unit and a bloodhound and Glendale police all assisted in the search. Several residents were evacuated during the almost seven hour hunt. But in the end, Richards eluded authorities.

“It was obvious he was here [previously],” Sisneros said. “The neighbors saw him driving and walking up and down the street.”

Neighbors confirmed that they had seen Richards but didn't think anything of it because many people had guests during the Easter holiday.

Sisneros said that Colorado law enforcement had found evidence in Richards' apartment that he was in possession of three weapons. A search of his vehicle on Sunday found two guns, and it was assumed he was in possession of the third.

“We consider him armed and dangerous,” Sisneros announced Sunday night.

Eluding authorities was not new to Richards. According to Boulder County Sheriff Jim Pelle, Richards had become obsessed with a woman he had a romantic relationship several years prior. The woman had since married and she and her husband lived in Boulder County. As the woman's husband drove into his garage on Jan. 5, Richards appeared from the shadows. He held the husband at gun point for 14 hours while they waited for his wife to return, but she was out of the country at the time. The husband was handcuffed to a pole and his feet were bound. Richards had bought the handcuffs from a sex shop, so they were not of the highest quality.

“Richards fell asleep in the chair and the victim was able to break the handcuffs and run out of the house,” Pelle said.

Richards woke up and chased the husband who had flagged down a woman driving by in a truck. He jumped into the bed of the truck and told the woman to keep going. They called 911, but by the time deputies arrived, Richards was gone.

“He disappeared off the face of the earth,” Pelle said.

Pelle said that during the 14 hour ordeal Richards had made threats against the woman's sister who lives in La Cañada. Boulder authorities contacted local law enforcement and warned them of his possible presence in the area.

“On March 14, the sister reported that she saw Richards in La Cañada,” Pelle said. “We really ramped up the investigation, exchanging information with the [local authorities].”

Richards is wanted in Colorado for first degree burglary (burglary with a gun), second degree kidnapping, menacing with a weapon (assault) and false imprisonment. According to Sgt. Ray Harley of the CV Sheriff's Station, Richards will most likely be charged with possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm on a school campus because he was located near the district's office, and possible stalking charges.

“We are ecstatic that they found this guy,” Pelle said. “This family has been living in absolute fear. This has up-ended their lives.”

“It was just one of those moments when you are on patrol. He became a priority and was a concern for all of us,” Samms said. “The family here was so affected by him; now maybe they can rest a little easier.”

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