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Child endangerment charges, 'mistaken identity' evolve from SLO Police Chief's missing gun case

No gun found in home search, legality questioned
Child endangerment arrests.jpg
Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-09 13:58:47-04

When San Luis Obispo police searched a man’s home last month for the police chief’s missing gun, they were acting on probation information that was apparently entered into the database by mistake.

Cheyne Orndoff, 33, and his wife, Vanessa Bedroni, 31, were arrested July 10 at their home on O’Connor Way in San Luis Obispo. They appeared in court on felony endangerment charges for the first time on Tuesday.

San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth said Wednesday that the couple was arrested after police found syringes believed to be used for illegal drug injection and determined the environment was dangerous for the children.

The kids, ages 8 and 9, were removed from the home and placed in protective custody, police said.

Police Chief loses gun prompting home search

SLO Police Chief Deanna Cantrell admitted leaving her personal weaponin the restroom of El Pollo Loco restaurant on Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo on July 10th.

Cantrell issued a video press release of the incident to the media late that evening and posted it on social media. The police department also released surveillance photos of the man they suspected had picked up the gun from the bathroom and left the restaurant without reporting the discovery.

Prior to the news becoming public late that night on July 10, police say they received a tip that Orndoff may have taken it.

Dobroth said police searched Orndoff’s name in the criminal database and found that he was listed as being on probation, so they went to his home and searched the residence.

Police generally have the authority to search the home of a probationer without a search warrant.

During the search for the gun, Dobroth said the police found needles and the "filthy" conditions of the home led to the children being taken into custody and turned over Child Protective Services. The search also led to the arrest of Orndoff and Bedroni.

Mistaken Identity?

The police chief's gun was not found during the search of their home. According to Dobroth, after the arrests, it was later determined Cheyne Orndoff was not on probation but rather it was his brother who had previous run ins with the law and had been convicted of trying to illegally use his brother's name.

That means the probation status was wrongly attributed to Cheyne Orndoff, according to Dobroth.

KSBY News found court records show Cole Orndoff, 25, was arrested in January of 2017 for drug possession and prowling. At the time of his arrest, Cole Orndoff gave police the name of his brother, Cheyne.

As a result, the name “Cheyne Eric Orndoff” was entered into the system as an alias for Cole Orndoff.

Whether the home search was legal will now likely be up to the court to decide.

Dobroth said he believes police were acting on good faith, using the probation information linked to Cheyne Orndoff’s name when they searched his home.

Cheyne Orndoff and Bedroni now face charges of felony child abuse for allegedly exposing their children to “circumstances likely to produce great bodily harm.”

Jason Dufurrena, the public defender assigned to Cheyne Orndoff, told KSBY News on Wednesday the couple was released without bond and confirmed their children remain in protective custody.

During the court proceedings on Tuesday, the couple asked for supervised visitation for the birthday of one of their children next week. Their request was denied by Judge Tim Covello.

However, Dufurrena said another hearing will likely be held soon on the birthday visitation issue but said he is still working to get up to speed on all of the issues in the case.

Allegations of police misconduct

Cheyne Orndoff and his wife set up a GoFundMe account, where he claims officers intentionally emptied trashcans in the home to make it "appear dirty." He said police also took his dog at the same time they took his children.

Neither the police nor the District Attorney's office has specifically outlined the details surrounding the arrests and felony child endangerment charges. Those details are expected to be revealed at a future court date during a preliminary hearing.

Cheyne Orndoff said in a GoFundMe post that he’s raising money to pay for legal bills.

Last Month, Chief Cantrell denied a Cal Coast Times report that a door was kicked in during the search and the children were kept overnight at the police department.

Also last month, the police chief clarified the timeline of events including the delay in issuing a “be on the lookout alert” to law enforcement, as stated in the article, calling it "a miscommunication." She also said it is not a requirement for a BOLO to be issued for a missing gun.

A request for comment on Wednesday was not immediately answered by Cheyne Orndoff.

Will the man who turned in the gun face charges?

The gun was turned in by Skeeter Mangan, 30, one day after it went missing.
(Editor's note: This story has been revised to accurately reflect the gun was turned in one day, not two days after it went missing as was stated in original story. We regret the error.)

Mangan's brother-in-law reported to law enforcement that Skeeter likely had the missing gun and arranged to meet the police to turn it in.

On Wednesday, Mangan told KSBY News over the phone he has not spoken to the police since he returned the gun.

When asked why he took the gun, Mangan said he "didn't know."

"I don't think they (the police) have a case," Mangan said. "It's better that I found it and it got back than if something bad had happened," he added.

As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed against Mangan. Dobroth said his office has yet to receive the case referral from police.

A KSBY News records search show Mangan does not have a recent criminal history in San Luis Obispo County.

SLO Police Chief disciplined

The police chief was disciplined by the city for leaving the gun in the restaurant bathroom.

On July 17, San Luis Obispo City Manager Derek Johnson announced Cantrell will receive a one-time pay reduction of $1,598, additional training in firearm safety practices and will have to talk to all members in the police department about the incident and the lessons learned that apply to all officers carrying a firearm.

The one-time pay reduction is equivalent to a two-day unpaid suspension. The discipline prompted swift and harsh online reaction by an overwhelming number of posters who thought the punishment was not severe enough. Many online called for the police chief's termination. Others felt the punishment was just and praised the chief admitting fault.

The San Luis Obispo City Manager previously said the chief’s actions constituted a pair of policy violations.

The discipline was announced the day after more than a dozen Chief supporters spoke at the SLO City Council meeting.

On Wednesday, Dobroff said there is no criminal case against the police chief. He said there is no criminal statute that would make "accidentally leaving a gun in public a crime."

Orndoff and Bedroni will be back in court again later this month.