A convicted felon who broke into a house that had been evacuated due to threats from a wildfire near Hemet pleaded guilty today to burglary and was immediately sentenced to two years probation.
Michael Edward Serrano, 50, of Hemet admitted the felony count under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In exchange for his admission, prosecutors dropped two related allegations.
Superior Court Judge Paul Dickerson certified the terms of the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. In addition to the term of probation, the judge ordered Serrano to serve 37 days in county jail and pay victim restitution, in an amount to be determined by the Department of Probation.
The plea came as the case was called for a preliminary hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta. Serrano's co-defendant, 31-year-old Deven Jessica Hooker of Hemet, was slated to appear for the same hearing, but court records did not specify whether she was present.
Hooker is charged with burglary and possession of controlled substances and is being held on $100,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
Another co-defendant, 43-year-old John Jason Blackwood of Hemet, posted a $10,000 bond immediately after his arrest. He's slated to be arraigned on a burglary charge on Oct. 24.
The trio were apprehended by sheriff's deputies on the afternoon of Sept. 10 within the Fairview Fire evacuation area.
According to sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Pelato, patrol deputies were alerted to a vehicle cruising the area of Cora Lee Lane and Diamond Valley Road in Sage, an unincorporated community southeast of Hemet.
The sparsely populated neighborhood was among multiple locations placed under an evacuation warning or mandate because of the deadly Fairview Fire, which erupted on Labor Day and scorched just over 28,000 acres before it was fully contained two weeks later.
"Deputies performing high-visibility patrols safeguarding evacuated properties responded rapidly to canvass the area in search of the suspicious vehicle and persons," Pelato said. "The deputies located the vehicle with one suspect inside and began a ground search for the additional suspects."
Hooker was arrested at the wheel of the car.
Pelato said deputies spotted a house on Cora Lee with a broken window and conducted a search, locating the two men inside. They were taken into custody without incident.
According to court records, Serrano has prior felony convictions for burglary, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Blackwood has prior convictions for possession of controlled substances while armed, making criminal threats and vehicle theft. Hooker has prior misdemeanors for possession of controlled substances and shoplifting.