A Los Angeles Unified School District special education teacher’s assistant is facing charges of smuggling heroin and cell phones to a death row inmate convicted of eight murders in Southern California.
Teri Orina Nichols, 47, of Bellflower, was arrested at San Quentin State Prison during a visit with 50-year-old killer Bruce Millsap.
Nichols posted bail and is scheduled to return to a Marin County courtroom for arraignment on Sept. 13, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
Prison officials told the newspaper that when questioned about some plastic bags in a trash can in the Thursday visit, Nichols pulled out a large cloth beanie from under her clothes that held 18 cellphones with chargers, two unidentified blue pills and roughly three ounces of heroin.
There was no immediate word of the connection between Nichols and Millsap.
LAUSD officials said Nichols was hired in 1992 as a substitute special education trainee and most recently worked at South East High School in South Gate. She was reassigned to a non-school site Monday pending the outcome of the criminal case, according to a statement issued by the district.
“Nichols is not a teacher, and these allegations do not involve students,” the statement reads in part.
Special education assistants aid teachers by “caring for the physical needs of students with disabilities and helping in their training and education,” according to a job description posted online by the LAUSD.
Millsap and co-defendant Kendrick Loot were sentenced to death in 2000 for the robbery-murders of two armored car guards and a third man during a yearlong crime spree in 1995-1996.
Millsap was also convicted of five other killings, including a witness and another armored car guard, prompting Los Angeles Superior Court Judge J.D. Smith to comment at sentencing, “I’ve been around 46 years and I’ve never seen a case quite like this.”
A police investigator said the crew, which included two other men, never gave guards the opportunity to surrender the cash. “They would just sneak up, execute them and take the money,” Detective John Gentzvin said.
Millsap was also charged with trying to take a contract out on the lives of two deputy district attorneys as well as two other witnesses against him, but prosecutors decided against pursuing those allegations.
Millsap’s victims included:
— armored car guard Fernando Herrera at Queen City Bank in Long Beach in November 1995;
— Ramone McKissick in November 1995;
— Manuel Garibay, a witness against Millsap in an unrelated case, in January 1996;
— armored car driver James Moon at Curtis Junior High School in Carson in February 1996;
— Francisco Parocua, Carlos Nuno and Patrick Barnett, killed during robberies in August 1996; and
— armored car guard Lamont Smith, killed outside a Walmart in Highland near San Bernardino in November 1996.
–City News Service