WILKES-BARRE – On Feb. 12, Joshua Carlos Ovalles, now a homicide suspect, was incarcerated at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
His girlfriend was nine months pregnant, he was facing attempted homicide charges and his attorney, Peter Moses, wanted his client out of jail.
Ovalles had no “substantial” criminal history, Moses wrote in a request to reduce Ovalles $100,000 bail.
“(Ovalles) is a hard-working individual, needing to provide for himself and his family, including his girlfriend who is nine months pregnant with his child,” Moses wrote.
Nine days later, Ovalles’ family posted 10 percent of his $100,000 bail, and he was released from the county prison.
Five months later, Ovalles is alleged to have been involved in a another incident involving a gun – this time, deadly.
Ovalles was taken into custody around 8:30 p.m. Thursday by Wilkes-Barre city police at police headquarters. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Moses contacted police Thursday night notifying them that Ovalles was going to turn himself in.
Ovalles is charged with killing Vaughn Kemp, 24, outside 174 S. Grant St. on Sunday morning. Police said the men were at a party at the home.
Moses did not return messages Friday seeking comment.
“We didn’t feel he was a threat because people he knew were involved in the shooting,” Salavantis said. “It wasn’t a random act.”
Ovalles is now being held at the Luzerne County jail without bail.
According to court documents, before coming to Pennsylvania from New Jersey, Ovalles was involved in criminal court in Passaic, N.J. The details of that incident are unknown.
In October 2012, Ovalles’ legal trouble continued when he was charged with two misdemeanor counts after police found him in possession of marijuana and plastic bags on Hazle Street in Wilkes-Barre.
He was released on $1,000 unsecured bail, set by District Judge Rick Cronauer.
Three months later, he was charged with criminal attempt to commit criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of carrying a firearm without a license and terroristic threats.
In that case, police say Ovalles, also known as “Albe,” shot Michael Kubiak in the face, upper right chest and right thigh on Jan. 9.
Kubiak said he called a man he knows as “Albe” to purchase heroin. Kubiak ordered one bag of heroin and was told to meet “Albe” on Lehigh Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Kubiak said Ovalles displayed a silver semi-automatic handgun and fired several shots in to the air.
A short time later, Kubiak observed Ovalles leaving his Kent Street home, where Ovalles got in his vehicle and fired shots.
A warrant was issued for Ovalles’ arrest, and on Feb. 2, police were advised that Ovalles was at a Hazle Street restaurant where he was found in possession of suspected heroin.
Police charged Ovalles with having the drugs, and he was lodged on $100,000 bail on Feb. 3, for the homicide attempt — a bail amount that was posted 18 days later.
Defendant makes bail
Henry Malet, of ABC Bailbonds who posted Ovalles’ bail, said Friday that up until Sunday’s incident, Ovalles had been compliant with his bail conditions when he was released from the county prison on Feb. 21.
Malet, who has been in the bail bonds business for almost 15 years, said anyone who isn’t charged with an open count of homicide is entitled to bail, and as long as a defendant meets certain criteria, Malet and the company he works for will agree to be their bail bondsman.
“A judge sets a bail amount based on the information he is given,” Malet said. “Bail guarantees (court) appearances. It’s not meant as punishment.”
Malet said in Ovalles’ case regarding the attempted homicide charges, Ovalles’ family contacted him regarding the bail, and after a screening process and going through a number of documents, Ovalles was determined to be a candidate for bail. Ten percent of his bail — $10,000 — was posted by his family.
“I’m not the ultimate decision maker,” Malet said. “My job is just bail. We can’t predict what people are going to do.”
Malet said in some cases collateral may be used as forms of bail, such as a home or other property, and that typically 10 percent of a bail posting is accepted.
Malet said Ovalles was compliant with all terms of his bail that were set by District Judge Rick Cronauer, and that Malet knew where Ovalles was at all times and was in contact with his family.
The only time Ovalles violated terms of his bail, Malet said, was when he was charged with killing Kemp on Sunday.
When police get involved, Malet said, he lets them do their job and helps when needed.
“Most times, we put in as many hours in on something like this as law enforcement does,” Malet said.
Malet said it is likely prosecutors are already in the process of revoking Ovalles’ $100,000 bail, and that Malet would have done the same since Ovalles was charged with a new crime.
“Wilkes-Barre police did a great job on this,” Malet said.
Family members’ PFAs
Ovalles’ name appears on other cases in Luzerne County Court.
In February and May last year Ovalles’ family members — including his mother — filed protection-from-abuse orders against him, alleging Ovalles told them he had a “bullet with” their names on them.
In February 2012 Ovalles’ mother, Emma Piantini, who lists Ovalles’ Kent Street address as her addresss, filed a PFA petition against her son, alleging he showed up at their home, demanded she open the door and kicked the door in.
Piantini said she called police, and Ovalles fled before they arrived.
“He is very aggressive and carries a huge knife on him at all times,” Piantini wrote. “I’m afraid of what he can do to me or my other kids – even himself.”
In three other PFA petitions filed simultaneously in May 2012, by Piantini and Ovalles’ sisters, Camille and Karen Piantini, the women alleged Ovalles promised a “bullet” for each of them in a May 29 incident.
Emma Piantini wrote in the petition that Ovalles showed up at the Kent Street home and knocked on the door. Piantini wrote that Ovalles was told he wasn’t allowed in the home because he was a danger to the family, when Piantini said she was going to call the cops.
“He answered, ‘Call them because I have a bullet for them and each of you,’” Piantini wrote. “He kicked my door in and then fled.”
The women alleged in their petitions that Ovalles often has in his possession a shotgun, a 9 mm handgun and an 8-inch knife.
The women wrote that Ovalles is also associated with a gang, and one petition specifically says that gang is the Crips – a California-based street gang.
Temporary PFAs were put into place, and a county judge later permitted a one-year PFA in each petition.