SPPD personnel recognize, arrest suspect in Vons robbery

January 23, 2009
Santa Paula Police Department

The suspect in Monday’s armed takeover robbery of Vons was arrested Wednesday, exactly 11 years to the day after the suspect was arrested for a similar crime he was convicted of attempting.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe suspect in Monday’s armed takeover robbery of Vons was arrested Wednesday, exactly 11 years to the day after the suspect was arrested for a similar crime he was convicted of attempting. The 1998 attempted robbery of Kmart occurred on the same day - January 19 - 11 years prior to the suspect tying up Vons employees before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash. And although the suspect was elaborately disguised, SPPD personnel recognized him when they viewed Vons’ surveillance photos.Vons was robbed at approximately 6:17 a.m., when the suspect - disguised as an elderly, overweight man and wearing a fake white beard - entered the store, located in the 500 block of West Main Street, and brandished a handgun. According to SPPD Sergeant Ish Cordero, store employees told officers the suspect then two took employees to the manager’s office and tied their hands behind their backs.After the suspect obtained the cash he fled, and was last seen running westbound on West Harvard Boulevard. SPPD investigators also responded to the scene and took over the investigation.“When this happens, we always think of who’s gotten out” of jail that might commit such a crime, and Cordero said the part of the suspect’s face was “exposed enough for me,” Lieutenant Carlos Juarez, Sergeant Jimmy Fogata and Dispatch Supervisor Chris Cook to recognize Peter Khalil Zepeda, 29, of Santa Paula. “He’s got a distinctive nose and eyes,” noted Cordero.By Tuesday, SPPD investigators were able to track down Zepeda to a Westside motel, and he was kept under surveillance until Detective Wally Boggess and another officer obtained a search warrant. On Wednesday Zepeda left the motel in his vehicle; and SPPD investigators, along with patrol officers, conducted a high-risk traffic stop at the west Highway 126 Peck Road onramp and took Zepeda into custody without incident.SPPD investigators then served the search warrant at Zepeda’s room, where forced entry was made after Nadia Estrada, 19, refused to allow the officers inside the room. Cordero said a search of the room - as well as of Zepeda’s vehicle - revealed numerous items of evidence relating to the robbery.“It’s all about the officers doing hard work,” noted Cordero. It is possible that, without the SPPD personnel who recognized Zepeda, the suspect could not have been identified and the crime never solved.
Juarez said Zepeda’s attempted crime of January 19, 1998 occurred when he was “spooked away from a Kmart robbery,” an incident he also remembers was the “first deployment of our Special Response Team.” Aside from the dates, there were also similarities of the crimes: although Zepeda had brought a disguise with him to Kmart, he never donned it.Overall, “The fact that we had personnel here who were able to recognize Zepeda” from the Kmart incident 11 years before led to his swift arrest. “Experience,” noted Juarez, “really pays off... the SPPD knows people, knows their relations, and knows their MOs. When Sergeant Cordero first heard about the Vons robbery he said, ‘It reminds me of the Kmart robbery.’ You would not get that from a new officer.”The newer detectives quickly showed the surveillance photos to “four, independent officers who have been here awhile. When they asked, ‘Who do you think this is?’ we all,” noted Juarez, “said ‘Zepeda!’ “Overall, “It’s neat to have experienced personnel that can remember those things, those people and the ways things happen, in case history repeats itself. In this case we found out who he was, knew what he was driving, found the car, sat on the car over the course of 24 hours,” and successfully made the arrest.“They were able to clear a fairly significant crime in less than 48 hours, with detectives and patrol officers working very aggressively” from the morning of the robbery on, said Chief Steve MacKinnon. “It was a little bit of luck... and some really good, hard work.”Zepeda, who had served jail time for the attempted 1998 Kmart robbery, and Estrada were booked at SPPD. Zepeda was charged with armed robbery, and Estrada for an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant and interfering/delaying and obstructing officers. Both were later transferred to Ventura County Jail.“Due to the severity of the crime,” Cordero said the SPPD is requesting that Zepeda be denied bail, or that bail be set at $1 million. The investigation into the robbery is continuing, noted Cordero, and anyone with information about the crime is urged to call the SPPD at 525-4474 or contact Crime Stoppers at 800-2122-TIPS.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.