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Bay Area News Briefs

By Maya Strausberg

February 12, 2008

St. Mary's College instructor shot dead

An instructor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga and City College of San Francisco was found fatally shot in the backseat of a vehicle in San Mateo County Saturday night and an Oakland man has allegedly admitted to the killing, officials announced Monday.

Just after 11 p.m. Saturday, a San Mateo County sheriff's deputy located a vehicle in the parking lot of Montara State Beach and conducted a security check. As the deputy approached the vehicle's driver, he noticed an arm extending out from a blanket in the vehicle's backseat, according to the sheriff's office.

Sheriff's deputies found the body of John Alfred Dennis Jr., 59, of Oakland, in the blanket and emergency personnel pronounced him dead in the parking lot.

The vehicle's driver, identified as Troy Thomas, 44, of Oakland, was detained, the sheriff's office reported.

About an hour after locating Dennis' body, the sheriff's office contacted the Oakland Police Department and requested that police conduct a security check at an Oakland home, located at 8011 Hansom Drive, in connection with the death, Oakland police Officer Roland Holmgren said.

Responding officers discovered evidence of a crime at the home and homicide detectives were called out to investigate.

Thomas allegedly admitted to murdering Dennis and said he had planned to dispose of the body, according to Holmgren. Thomas was arrested on suspicion of murder and Oakland investigators will present the case to the district attorney's office.

The San Mateo County coroner's office conducted an autopsy that revealed Dennis was killed by a gunshot wound, Holmgren said.

Oakland man indicted for paralyzing Christopher Rodriquez

In an apparent attempt to expedite the case, the main suspect in a robbery and shooting incident that seriously injured 10-year-old Christopher Rodriguez while he was taking a piano lesson in Oakland has been indicted on felony charges that could lead to life imprisonment.

Jared Adams, 24, of Oakland, who originally was charged on Jan. 14 but was indicted on similar charges by an Alameda County grand jury last week, will be arraigned at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Adams is charged with willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, evading a police officer and being an ex-felon in possession of a gun.

His alleged accomplice and girlfriend, 19-year-old Maeve Clifford, also was indicted last week and will be arraigned with Adams on Wednesday morning.

According to Oakland police spokesman Roland Holmgren, the bullet that injured Rodriguez was from one of several shots fired during a robbery attempt at a Chevron gas station at 4400 Piedmont Ave. at Pleasant Valley Road at about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 10. The bullet then traveled across the street and into the Harmony Road Music School, where Christopher was taking a

The bullet entered Christopher's abdomen and ripped through his spleen, kidney and spine before lodging in his spine.

He is paralyzed from the waist down and doctors say it's unlikely he will ever walk again.

San Francisco Baykeeper sues City of Burlingame

An environmental group accused the city of Burlingame in federal court in San Francisco Monday of allowing too many sewage spills, illegally discharging wastewater into the bay near Coyote Point and failing to renovate its 100-year-old sewer system fast enough.

The lawsuit alleging violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act was filed by San Francisco Baykeeper, a citizens' group dedicated to protecting the San Francisco Bay. The defendants are Burlingame and Veolia Water North America Operating Services, which runs the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Baykeeper program director Sejal Choksi announced the lawsuit as part of a "Sick of Sewage Initiative" launched by the group.

Choksi said the project will also investigate possible recent spills by other cities and by the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin, which had two spills into Richardson Bay last month.

"Sewage infrastructure throughout the Bay Area is causing major spills that pollute the bay and sicken residents," she explained.

The lawsuit alleges Burlingame has had at least 198 local sewer overflows since 2002, some caused when storm water intrudes into sewer pipes weakened by tree roots or age.

It also alleges that during heavy rains the city sometimes illegally discharges "treated or partially untreated" wastewater in a shallow area near Coyote Point instead through the usual outfall about a mile into the bay off South San Francisco.

Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell said the city used the Coyote Point outlet only four times since 2002 and released only fully treated wastewater, which he said is cleaner than the bay water. He said the actions were taken to prevent heavy storms from overloading the system and causing spills of untreated sewage.

Public Works Director Syed Murtuza said the storm sewer overflows within the city are typically small, sometimes only one to five gallons, and that the city seeks to respond quickly.

Nantell said the city hopes to work with Baykeeper to "clarify any misconceptions" and reach an amicable settlement of the lawsuit. The city and Baykeeper share the goal of "a highly effective and environmentally responsible wastewater system," he said.

The city operates the sewer system for Burlingame, most of Hillsborough and the unincorporated Burlingame Hills area.

Big Brother: Homeland Security implements finger printing at SFO

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Monday initiated enhanced security procedures for international travelers visiting the U.S. through San Francisco International Airport, the agency announced.

Since 2004, non-U.S. citizens arriving at the airport's International Terminal were subject to photographing and a digital scan of two fingerprints.

Visitors will have all 10 fingerprints scanned, a procedure that according to Homeland Security officials will more accurately verify identities and stop criminals or potential criminals from entering the country.

The scans are crosschecked against records of immigration violators, FBI criminal records and known or suspected terrorists, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition to "stopping potential security risks," according to officials, the program is designed to help prevent the use of false documents and protect visitors from identity theft.

The 10-fingerprint scanning procedure is already in effect at airports in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and Houston, according to officials.

The program is scheduled to be implemented at all air, sea and land border ports of entry by the end of the year.

Nina Reiser's mother testifies

The mother of Nina Reiser testified Monday that Nina was in love when she met and married Hans Reiser, who's now standing trial on charges he murdered her even though her body was never found.

Taking the stand as the last prosecution witness in the lengthy trial of Hans Reiser, a 44-year-old computer engineer, Dr. Irina Sharanova said the couple met in March of 1998 at a cafe in Russia, where Nina was born and raised and was completing her medical studies and where Hans had business.

Speaking through a Russian translator and occasionally shedding tears, Sharanova, who is raising the Reisers' two children at her home in St. Petersburg, Russia, said Nina was to serve as a translator for another Russian woman whom Hans Reiser had arranged to meet but he was more interested in Nina and they began dating.

Asked by prosecutor Paul Hora if it looked like they were in love, 59-year-old Sharanova, who was dressed in black pants and a black jacket, said, "I can only speak about Nina and I know she was in love."

Nina Reiser was 31 years old when she disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, after dropping off the couple's children at Hans Reiser's home at 6979 Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills.

Hans and Nina Reiser married in 1999 but Nina filed for divorce and separated from him in 2004. They were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and battle over the custody of their two children when she disappeared.

Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Sharanova's testimony that Nina was in love with Hans contradicts DuBois' opening statement to jurors, when he alleged that she got pregnant shortly after she met Hans so she could get him to marry her and bring her to the U.S.

DuBois also questioned Nina's medical credentials, saying she wasn't really a doctor.

But Sharanova, who's been a gynecologist for about 30 years, said Nina received a medical degree after spending six years at a medical school in St. Petersburg and undergoing extensive training.

Sharanova said Nina was serious about earning a credential so she could work as a doctor in the U.S. and planned to take a preliminary exam in November of 2006.

But she said Hans Reiser didn't want Nina to become a doctor.

Sharanova said that in 2002 he told her when he was at her house in Russia, "I don't need a smart wife and I don't want her (Nina) to practice medicine."

Sharanova said Nina initially was planning to take a medical exam in the U.S. in August of 2000 but she was pregnant with what would have been her second child and wound up having a miscarriage.

"It was quite a load for her," Sharanova said.

Sharanova will continue testifying on Wednesday, when Hans Reiser's trial continues, as Alameda County courts are observing Lincoln's birthday today.

DuBois is expected to begin presenting the defense's case on Thursday.

Solano County coroner identifies 18-year-old shooting victim

The Solano County coroner's office has identified 18-year-old Kevin Morgan as the man who was fatally shot late Saturday night at the Veterans Building at 427 Main St. in Suisun. An autopsy is under way Monday morning.

A 17-year-old male also was shot but his injuries are not life threatening, Suisun police said.

The shooting happened around 11:45 p.m. at a birthday party attended by approximately 100 people, Sgt. Ted Stec said. Police recovered a firearm believed to be the murder weapon but the motive for the shooting is unclear, Stec said.

Morgan's mother lives in Vallejo but it is not known if he lived with her, the coroner's office said.

Postal Service raises prices

The Postal Service announced Monday that the price of a first-class stamp will jump from 41 cents to 42 cents on May 12.

The prices for other mailing services including standard mail, periodicals, package services and special services will also change, according to the Postal Service.

The price to mail a postcard will increase from 26 cents to 27 cents; large envelope, from 97 cents to $1; certified mail, $2.65 to $2.70; first-class international letter to Canada and Mexico, 69 cents to 72 cents; and first-class letter to other countries, 90 cents to 94 cents.

The price of Forever stamps will also rise to 42 cents, the Postal Service announced.

"The Postal Service developed the Forever stamp for consumers to ease the transition during price changes,'' said Postmaster General John Potter in a prepared statement. "We encourage Americans to buy Forever stamps now for 41 cents, because like the name suggests, they are good forever.''

The Postal Service has sold more than five billion Forever stamps since the launch in April.

Consistent with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, prices for mailing services will be adjusted each May, according to the Postal Service.

New prices for shipping services such as Express Mail and Priority Mail will be announced in March. Prices for all postal products and services may be viewed at http://www.usps.com/prices.

State Supreme Court rules consumers can sue grocery chains

The California Supreme Court gave a green light Monday for consumers to sue grocery store chains to enforce a state law requiring labeling of dyes added to farm-raised salmon.

The high court said unanimously that a federal food labeling law doesn't preclude California citizens from using state consumer laws to enforce an identical state labeling law.

The court issued its ruling in San Francisco in a case consolidating lawsuits filed by individual consumers in Los Angeles, Alameda and Monterey counties.

Justice Carlos Moreno wrote, "Congress appears to have made a conscious choice not to preclude such actions."

The lawsuits say that two petrochemical-based dyes, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, are added to farm-raised salmon to make it appear the same pink color as wild salmon. Without the dyes, the farm-raised salmon would be grayish in color, the lawsuits say.

The suits are seeking to require grocery chains including Albertson's Inc., Safeway Inc., Kroger Co., Trader Joe's Co. and Whole Foods Market Inc. to label the farm-raised salmon as containing dyes.

Kevin Golden, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety in San Francisco, said, "The decision means citizens have a right to know what's in their food and sends a strong message that California citizens can enforce state food safety laws as a matter of state law."

The food safety group filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting plaintiffs in the case.

Craig Spiegel, a lawyer for the consumer plaintiffs, said his clients don't want to ingest the chemical dyes and said, "People have the right to determine whether to put artificial dyes in their bodies."

Rex Heinke, a lawyer for the grocery chains, said they are considering a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as further proceedings on unresolved issues in a state appeals court in Los Angeles.

Heinke said, "We're disappointed with the decision and we believe it is wrong."

Both the federal law, entitled the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and the California law, known as the Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law, require labeling of artificial dyes used in food.

Spiegel said his clients sought to enforce the state law for farm-raised salmon because they were not aware of any federal government efforts to enforce the U.S. law.

Another friend-of-the-court brief supporting the consumer plaintiffs was filed by the Los Angeles city attorney and the district attorneys of 12 counties, including Alameda, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Mountain view police identify shooting victim

Mountain View police Monday identified the victim in a fatal shooting Thursday as 20-year-old Jeffrey Johnson.

Johnson, a Mountain View resident, was shot once in the torso on the 700 block of Ehrhorn Street at approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday. He subsequently drove a white sport utility vehicle across all lanes of El Camino Real before crashing into two other vehicles. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to the Mountain View Police Department.

Detectives said Monday they were able to verify that the shooting was related to another shooting victim that a local hospital notified police about around 7:30 p.m. the same evening.

The victim of that shooting received non-life threatening wounds and was released from the hospital, police said.

Investigators have not determined a motive in connection with the shootings. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call police at (650) 903-6344.

Sonoma County teenager stabbed in back

A 17-year-old boy was stabbed in the back Monday afternoon as he and his friends were pursued by three to five other males on West Avenue in the Roseland area, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said.

The sheriff's office and Santa Rosa police received calls around 1:32 p.m. about a fight in progress in the 700 block of West Avenue, Contos said. The fight continued south to McMaster Lane.

Contos said a group of males approached the victim and his friends and asked them which gang they claimed. When the victim said he wasn't in a gang, the group chased him and his friends, Contos said.

The boy received serious injuries but is expected to survive and his name is being withheld for his safety, Lt. Greg Contos said.

The stabbing suspect is described as a heavy-set Hispanic male, between 16 and 17 years old. He has a goatee and a shaved head and was wearing a black Oakland Raiders jersey and black pants, Contos said.




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