Update: The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office released more information about this case today: Jose is officially charged with one count of murder, and they filed that charge Monday, August 31st, after the LA County Sheriff’s Department arrested him Thursday, August 27th. The D-A’s office is calling it a domestic violence killing of Jose’s ex-girlfriend, the mother of his 2 children. Investigators say he killed LaJoya on Wednesday, June 10th. LaJoya’s body was found in her car parked in the 200 block of West Cypress Avenue in Monrovia June 16th. Jose’s arraignment will take place tomorrow, Thursday, September 3rd in Department D of the Pasadena Branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Prosecutors will ask for his bail to be set at $1 million. If convicted Jose could face 25 years to life in state prison.
The reason is that I have a personal connection to both LaJoya and Jose. Jose is a film-maker. He’s a great story teller and he asked my husband to help him shoot and edit a thriller in 2012 called “The Transition” about a man who can travel through various dimensions to bring back a hidden stash of money. It was very well done. I’m also a filmmaker and had written, produced and directed a short film called “Loving Serenity” about a high school girl who has to choose between keeping her life simple because of the disastrous relationships all around her, or giving in to her high school crush. Jose volunteered on various shows and was part of a film class at the Pasadena Community Network, the station where I shot my weekly, live Crown City News program. When Jose found out I was finishing up a short-film about the same time he was, he and LaJoya asked me to join them in screening the premiere of both of our films in a small theater at the Pasadena Playhouse.
I jumped at the chance. I definitely wanted people to see my movie, and this would be the perfect opportunity to start getting it out there. Also this couple seemed to have it all together. Two adorable little kids that liked to play with my son. I was jealous about how well behaved their children were because it isn’t always easy for me to corral my little ball of energy. They also seemed to be a match made in heaven because of his film-making skills and LaJoya’s ability to organize events. She was also an extraordinary marketing professional with a Master’s degree. She knew all the right steps to take to get the word out about our movies, how much to charge, who to reach out to, how to create beautiful invitations. I told both of them often as we organized our event that whenever I needed marketing for future projects I was definitely reaching out to LaJoya. She was super smart, gorgeous, with large almond shaped eyes and soft-spoken. But very matter of fact and direct. She knew exactly what I was talking about, knew what needed to get done, asked the right questions, and knew how to deliver results. She handled all the publicity, all the invitations, all the catering. All Jose and I had to worry about was making sure our films were edited and ready to go for the premiere.
Well, the time for the premiere came, and she knocked it out of the park. Everything was perfect. The people came, they mingled, had a nice reception. Jose welcomed them, and LaJoya and I collected money and tickets. The crowd ate the great food and settled in for the movies, filling up the entire theater. Afterward the actors and directors (Jose and I) sat on the stage and took questions from the crowd. The audience was engaged, and wanted to know many details about each of the films and the process of making them. It was a great experience. Very professional from start to finish. It felt just like some of the blockbuster movie screenings I’d attended in Hollywood. But this time I was the one on the stage telling eager audience members what it took to get the film made. A dream come true. And it was all possible because of Jose and LaJoya.
When the premiere and screening finished up, we were all euphoric. We couldn’t believe it was already over. We wanted a way to remember this amazing event, so the four of us had our picture taken in front of the Pasadena Playhouse sign. Me, hubby Chavel (who worked on both movies), Jose, and LaJoya. My husband and I cherished that picture.
That’s how I know Jose and LaJoya. Outside of that project I only saw them together one other time as a couple. They had come to the Pasadena Community Network. I can’t remember what for. I was on my way to buy pizzas for my crew at the Dominos up the sidewalk in the Hens Teeth Square Shopping Center on the border of Pasadena and Altadena. I hugged them both, and Jose went to the studio while LaJoya and I talked for a while at their car. I told her again how I hope to use her marketing services for my next projects. We chatted about our kids, and I said goodbye after ordering the pizzas. I’d send a crew member later to pick them up. My son Beau wanted to play with her kids, but we had to go back to the studio to get the news show started. We went into the studio and I said goodbye to Jose as he prepared to leave and I headed into the control room with Beau to produce the show.
The next time I saw Jose was after my family’s 6-month adventure in Mongolia, something we had talked about during the film projects because my family was preparing to move there right afterward, and 2 years after the station, now called Pasadena Media, had moved to new digs in the Pasadena Office Tower by the Hilton Hotel. It was in early June, just a few short months ago. I can’t remember if Jose was volunteering on a show as he did in years past, or if he’d just stopped in to keep in touch. I saw him in the hallway and gave him a hug. We talked about what a great time we had with the screening, and how we needed to do that again. He suggested I show my short film again, but this time at the Alkebulan Cultural Center in Northwest Pasadena. He’d spent a lot of time there and thought it would be beneficial to the community to hold another screening there. I told him that was a great idea, and that I needed to finish up a couple of things, and then I’d reach out to him about that. He told me it was there, and that all I needed to do was give him a call. I thanked him and we parted ways.
Then the devastating news came out. LaJoya was dead. She’d been killed and her body was found in her car near her Monrovia home, and there were signs of foul play. One of my reporters did a story about it. My heart was breaking. Because I work in news and watch far too many police crime dramas, my first thought was “did Jose do it?” I dismissed the thought immediately. No way. NO WAY! He was quiet, gentle, kind, professional, smart, I could go on and on listing what I know of him. But the nagging thought remains that I only knew them in the setting of the film screening project. I don’t know what life was like for them at home. Jose and LaJoya weren’t married, but they had been together for about a decade and had 2 children. So they were about as close to marriage as you could get, and I imagine they must have faced challenges as all couples and families do, but for it to come to this? Please God, no.
As soon as I heard the news, I called Jose on his cell phone. It went to voicemail. I left him a message, letting him know I was devastated about the news, and that I was so sorry for his loss. I asked him to call me back when he had a chance, to let me know about funeral services. I did not know that they had been separated for a couple of years.
I don’t know if Jose killed LaJoya. I pray he didn’t and that his arrest and the charges filed against him are all just a big mistake. My heart breaks over this horrific and unimaginable situation, and especially over the thought that their children will grow up without their mother, and now possibly without their father. I can’t even begin to imagine what their family members are going through. I weep for them, for the loss of my friend LaJoya, and for the terrible reality that my friend Jose has been arrested and charged with her murder.
Here’s the Crown City News report about this story in June.