Couple arrested during search for police chief’s gun had drugs in home, prosecutor says

A married couple arrested on felony child endangerment charges during a July 10 hunt for the police chief’s lost gun appeared Tuesday in court, where the prosecutor mentioned evidence of needles and methamphetamine found in their home.

Specifics on the alleged presence of drugs were not detailed by Deputy District Attorney Phillip Joo in the case against defendants Cheyne Eric Orndoff, 33, and Vanessa Marie Bedroni, 31.

More details are expected to come out in at future court hearings. Orndoff and Bedroni have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

But Joo touched on the drug evidence as part of the couple’s request for a supervised visit to attend a birthday party for one of their two children later this month.

Judge Tim Covello denied the request, but a court hearing relating to supervised visits of the couple’s kids will be held Aug. 15, in advance of the party, when Child Protective Services will provide a better understanding of the situation.

“I would recommend that we discuss these issues at the Aug. 15 hearing,” Jason Dufurrena, Orndoff’s public defender, told the court.

In response to the accusation of the needles, Ordnoff told The Tribune Tuesday that he has a prescription to inject a medication that requires needles.

Ondroff provided a photograph of the medication with his name and dosage detailed on the side of the vial, saying he is currently prescribed two injections per week.

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San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell speaks after being sworn in at City Hall in 2016. Joe Johnston

Case shaping up to be a battle over legality of search

At some point in the criminal proceedings, defense attorneys also are likely to question the legality of the search of the couple’s home.

The search took place as SLOPD investigators scrambled to find Police Chief Deanna Cantrell’s missing gun, which was taken a few hours earlier from an El Pollo Loco bathroom, where she had inadvertently left it behind.

Cheyne Orndoff Courtesy photo

They ended up at Orndoff’s front door after receiving a tip from Morro Bay police that he looked like the man from surveillance video captured at the restaurant.

SLO detectives believed Orndoff was on probation when he actually wasn’t, city officials said last week, based on an error in a crime database system that maintains records for police reference. That mistaken information meant they thought they could search the house without a warrant, which they did after viewing conditions in the home through the open door.

“Our officers acted properly and relied on official information available to them,” City Attorney Christine Dietrick told The Tribune last week.

SLO police haven’t revealed what they found in the home that led to the couple’s arrest. City officials have acknowledged that Orndoff didn’t have the police chief’s gun.

The back story on what led police to Orndoff

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SLO Police Chief Deanna Cantrell reported leaving her gun behind in a bathroom stall at El Pollo Loco on July 10. The gun has been recovered after a Los Osos man, Skeeter Carlos Mangan, turned it in. Mangan is pictured in this surveillance image. Courtesy photo

In a twist to the story, Orndoff’s brother, Cole Orndoff, previously used Cheyne’s name when he was arrested on drug-related charges in 2017 and later entered a no contest plea for impersonating someone else in attempt to make them liable for a crime. Cole is on bench probation through March 2020 for that conviction, according to court records.

In court documents, Cheyne’s name comes up as an alias for Cole Orndoff, which may have created some confusion in how the criminal data was logged. But it’s unclear precisely how the records may have been mixed up.

Orndoff, however, said last week that “regardless of who got in trouble for assuming my identity, the police outright refused to look at documentation that would have kept them from violating our rights.”

The man who took the chief’s gun, Los Osos resident Skeeter Carlos Mangan, turned the weapon in two days after Cantrell reported it missing, police said.

The case was initially charged by the District Attorney’s Office as a misdemeanor child endangerment case, but it was amended to felony charges against Orndoff and Bedroni.

Covello ruled Tuesday to allow the defendants to remain out of custody, provided they don’t use or possess any controlled substances.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.