Stabbing spree: In Garden Grove, a baker’s short break from the heat may have spared her life

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Stabbing spree: In Garden Grove, a baker’s short break from the heat may have spared her life

by Roxana Kopetman

The day’s breads and pastries were baked. It was hot. And she needed to charge her cell phone.

So Donaji Beltran took a short break from her family-owned bakery in Garden Grove and walked to her parked car, where she would be able to charge her cell phone and enjoy a few minutes of cool air-conditioning.

The simple decision Wednesday afternoon may have saved her life.

Shortly after she stepped away from her shop, a man walked into the bakery to rob it: the same man who later would be accused of stabbing to death four people in Garden Grove and Santa Ana.

“If I had been behind the cash register, he would have killed me,” a shaken Beltran said Thursday.

When Beltran, 45, first saw the man walk into her family’s M Bakery late Wednesday afternoon, she thought he was a customer.

“So, I got out of the car to see what I could offer the client.”

But as she reached the doorway, she saw him behind the counter, attempting to break into the cash register.

“What are you doing,” she asked him.

“He said, ‘This place is closed.”

“What?” she responded.

Then he lifted his shirt and pointed toward his waistband. She believes she saw a weapon. She doesn’t remember specifically what it was. It happened all too fast.

That’s when she ran off to a neighboring dentist office, yelling: “My bakery is getting robbed! I’m being robbed!”

Staff at that office quickly locked the front door and called police. Beltran peeked out through the window. She saw the man carry out her cash register, put it in his older-model Mercedes Benz with tinted windows, and drive off.

Garden Grove police arrested Zachary Castaneda, 33, for the stabbing spree that left four dead and two wounded. Police officials could not say what motivated Castaneda, a documented gang member with a criminal history, to attack people in what they said appear to be randoms act of violence.

“I’m still in shock,” Beltran said Thursday.  “I couldn’t sleep last night. I have a headache. I’m tired. This has been very traumatic.”

Ironically, Beltran is not typically alone at the bakery. Her husband’s family has owned M Bakery, also known as Casa Croissant, for some 25 years, and they just opened last month a second one in Orange. Relatives and workers are at the sites from early morning until nighttime baking some 50 different types of breads and pastries. Customers’ favorite: “cuernitos” – or croissants.

“Twenty-five years and nothing has ever happened,” she said.

The man who came in to her bakery didn’t just want to steal, she said. “He came to rob and kill,” she said. “This man wanted to kill everyone.”

Back at her South Orange County home Thursday night, Beltran said she was still feeling a bit scared. But she was also feeling lucky.

All credit goes to Roxana Kopetman Originally published on

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