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Conflicting portraits of 2 suspects charged in Stow beating

The two new suspects in the beating of a baseball fan at Dodger Stadium live six doors apart on a quiet cul-de-sac in Rialto. Neighbors say the men played catch with their kids and welcomed newcomers to the street. They seemed like regular, friendly fathers.

But authorities now believe Louie Sanchez, 29, and Marvin Norwood, 30, were responsible for the March 31 attack that left Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old paramedic and San Francisco Giants fan, with brain damage. They were charged with assault and mayhem Friday afternoon and remained in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail. Both have violent criminal histories, according to court records.

A third person connected to the case, Dorene Sanchez, also was arrested Thursday on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact to a felony, police records show. A neighbor and a relative of Norwood’s said Sanchez, 31, is the sister of Louie Sanchez and either the wife or longtime partner of Norwood. She was taken into custody but later released on bail.

On Friday afternoon, she was seen by a Times reporter entering the grand jury room on the 13th floor of the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s downtown criminal courthouse. Two law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the grand jury had been probing the Stow case.

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The fast-moving developments came as Los Angeles police officials faced tough questions over the handling of the case, particularly their continued insistence that an alleged gang member, Giovanni Ramirez, was the assailant.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Ramirez, who was arrested in May, had nothing to do with the beating. “In policing, it is just as important to exonerate the innocent as it is to implicate the guilty,” he said.

Residents on the street where Norwood and Dorene Sanchez live in a brown stucco two-story home said heavily armed LAPD officers swarmed the neighborhood Thursday morning. Police searched the suspects’ homes and vehicles, and towed a truck that neighbors said belonged to Norwood.

Detectives then went door-to-door asking neighbors whether the suspects had ever displayed Dodgers banners or other paraphernalia at their homes or on their cars, and whether they had bragged about the stadium attack. Marie Love, 43, said police asked her: “Did you hear any bragging? Did anyone hear any bragging, anything like that?”

She said she had not heard any such talk and was shocked that Norwood and Sanchez would be arrested. They were known as family men who often played baseball with their children on a small patch of grass in front of Love’s home.

Love said that Norwood and Dorene Sanchez live with three children: a toddler and two older children, between 9 and 11 years old. Louie Sanchez’s son, she said, is about 9 or 10, and visits his father on weekends.

Witnesses to the beating reported seeing a child about 10 years old in the car in which the two assailants fled after the attack. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the case, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said a child has provided authorities with information about the attack.

Love described Louie Sanchez as laid-back and friendly, saying he organized events for single parents in the neighborhood to get their children together and enjoyed putting on Fourth of July fireworks shows for the youngsters. “I really hate this because he’s a great guy,” she said. “I’ve known them for a real long time. That’s a good family there. For this to happen is a shock….I’m willing to believe that they arrested the wrong guy a second time.”

Both men have violent pasts, according to court records. In March 2006, Norwood was convicted of inflicting bodily injury on a spouse or partner, court records show. Three years earlier, Sanchez was found guilty of the same crime and sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to court records. In 2004, Sanchez was convicted of carrying a loaded firearm, and in 2000 Norwood was found guilty of disturbing the peace, the records show.

Fontana police noted Sanchez’s neck tattoos when he was arrested for drunk driving in 2005, according to court records. The LAPD has described one of the assailants in the Stow attack as possibly having tattoos on his neck.

In July 2006, a girlfriend, Tanya Felix, sought a temporary restraining order against Sanchez, saying they had been living together and he had beaten her repeatedly over the previous year. In the request, she said that he had recently broken down her front door looking for another man. Felix never appeared at a scheduled court hearing to determine whether to grant her request, and the request was denied.

A woman briefly opened the door at Louie Sanchez’s home on Friday morning. “He doesn’t live here,” she told a Times reporter before closing the door. No one answered the door at Norwood’s home.

Norwood, according to arrest records, stands 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds, roughly matching witnesses’ description of one of the attackers. And records show Louie Sanchez is 5 feet 11 and weighs 175 pounds, figures that also are close to the description witnesses gave of the second assailant.

Norwood’s mother, Diana Page, said in a brief interview Thursday evening that she did not know why her son was in custody but had learned about his arrest from a friend of her son’s. Norwood, a construction worker, is a Dodgers baseball fan but his mother said she did not know whether he was involved in the assault on Stow.

“I don’t know the last time he was at a game,” she said.

The abrupt change in the investigation’s course has left many LAPD observers wondering why investigators first focused so intently on Ramirez. The 31-year-old was taken into custody May 22 after his parole agent expressed suspicion that he might fit the description of one of the attackers, and two witnesses picked Ramirez out of photo lineups.

But the case against Ramirez stalled almost immediately as detectives scoured mobile phone records, thousands of images from surveillance camera footage, financial records and hundreds of other possible links and tips, but failed to link him to the beating.

Without any hard evidence, prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Ramirez. Instead, police held him in custody for allegedly violating the terms of his parole from a previous conviction. Last month, Ramirez was sentenced to 10 months in prison for the violation.

At a news conference Friday, Ramirez’s family expressed anger and frustration at the LAPD for what they consider a rush to judgment.

“If they didn’t have any proof, why did they … say he’s the suspect?” said Soledad Gonzalez, Ramirez’s mother.

One of Ramirez’s attorneys, Jose Romero, said there are lessons to be learned from the case. “We do have a system of justice in place by which suspects are proven innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have just the opposite here.”

phil.willon@latimes.com

jack.leonard@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com

Times staff writers Rick Rojas in Riverside County and Andrew Blankstein, Abby Sewell and Richard Winton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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