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Bay Area News Briefs

By Mike Aldax

February 21, 2008

Police searching for missing Laguna Honda patient

Police are searching for a patient who went missing Tuesday as he was being admitted at San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital, Sgt. Neville Gittens said Wednesday.

It is unclear at what point William Etzler, 54, disappeared, but he was last seen at the hospital at about 4 p.m., Gittens said.

Police described Etzler as "cognitively impaired, confused and disoriented" with impaired speech. He is partially paralyzed.

He is white and stands 5 feet 7 inches with brown hair, brown eyes. He has a receding hairline, a mustache and beard and weighs 178 pounds, police said.

Anyone who sees Etzler should contact the San Francisco Police Department immediately at (415) 553-1071.

Big cat exhibit reopens today

The San Francisco Zoo's big cat exhibit will reopen to the public today for the first time since the Christmas Day tiger escape that killed one zoo patron and seriously injured his two friends, zoo officials announced.

Workers completed construction Saturday on safety enhancements to the exhibit, raising grotto walls and surrounding the exhibit with glass barriers.

For added containment, the zoo installed electric shock-emitting wire along the interior of the moat wall to keep the cats from escaping, a common practice at zoos, officials said.

The big cats were allowed back into the grotto for half the day Sunday and have been there daily since Monday. The cats have shown normal behavior during their reintroduction to the exhibit, officials said.

The big cats will be on display starting today during normal zoo hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Russian Mafia, S&M discussed at Reiser trial

The Russian mafia, sadomasochism, mental disorders and an allegedly unwanted child were all topics of testimony Wednesday in the trial of Oakland computer engineer Hans Reiser's trial on charges that he murdered his estranged wife Nina.

Reiser's father, 65-year-old Ramon Reiser of Seattle, said he told Hans that the Russian mafia or people associated with sadomasochism might follow him after Nina, who was 31 at the time, disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006.

Hans' attorney, William DuBois, apparently put Ramon Reiser on the witness to try to explain Hans' unusual behavior after Nina was last seen alive when she dropped off the couple's two children off at him home at 6979 Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills. The couple had been separated for two years and was in the midst of bitter divorce and custody proceedings.

Several Oakland police officers testified earlier in Hans Reiser's lengthy trial that he engaged in classic countersurveillance techniques, such as hiding his car and driving at irregular speeds and taking unusual routes, when officers followed him in the weeks after Nina disappeared.

Ramon Reiser, a former Army veteran and mathematician, said he warned his son that he might be surveilled by people associated with the former KGB, "Russian mafia groups in California" or "the techno-geek S&M crowd."

The body of Nina Reiser, who was born in Russia and was trained as a physician there before coming to the U.S. in 1999 to marry Hans Reiser, has never been found, despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere. But Hans Reiser, 44, was charged with murdering her because prosecutors believe that DNA and blood evidence proves that he killed her.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

Sonoma County teenager arrested for emailing bomb threat to his school

A student at El Molino High School in Sonoma County was arrested Wednesday on charges he emailed a bomb threat to his school on Tuesday.

Sheriff's deputies served a search warrant Wednesday at a home on Harrison Grade Road, where they arrested the student and seized materials that could be used to build "destructive devices," although no actual bomb was found at the residence or school, authorities said.

Knives, swords and replica firearms were also seized at the home.

The email threat, sent anonymously, gave a specific date as to when the school would be bombed, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

The sender used what county officials called a "hacker Web site" to hide identity and IP address. Property crimes detectives were able to identify the sender and where the message was sent from.

The student's name was not released because the student is a minor.

El Molino High School is located at 7050 Covey Road in Forestville.

Vallejo boy saved from burning vehicle

A Vallejo school district employee, an off-duty firefighter and a Martinez man saved a boy from a burning vehicle that was involved in a head-on crash Wednesday morning, Vallejo Fire Department officials said Wednesday afternoon.

The Vallejo boy was taken to Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland with facial trauma and injuries to his extremities and is in serious condition, Vallejo Fire Department spokesman Bill Tweedy said.

The collision between a Dodge Neon and a Mercedes sport utility vehicle happened around 8:41 a.m. on the Mare Island Causeway Bridge, which connects Vallejo with Mare Island.

Arriving firefighters found the Neon in flames and the Mercedes with major front-end damage on the east side of the bridge, Tweedy said. The boy was in the Neon that was driven by a 49-year-old Vallejo woman. She was taken to the John Muir Medical Center with an arm injury and possible neck and back injuries and is in fair condition, Tweedy said.

The female driver of the Mercedes, a Santa Rosa woman, was taken to a Vallejo hospital and is in fair condition, Tweedy said.

Supervisors and homeless advocates rally for shelter reform

Homeless advocates rallied with members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Wednesday at City Hall in a call for minimum health and safety standards in the city's shelters.

An ordinance proposed by Supervisor Tom Ammiano would amend the city code to require city-funded shelters to supply basic needs such as clean towels, soap, toilet paper, blankets and sheets; to offer fresh drinking water and nutritional meals; to provide transportation to medical and drug treatment and housing appointments; to maintain compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and to train staff to de-escalate violent situations.

The city would monitor shelter compliance and, if necessary, collect damages from those who do not comply.

San Francisco's homeless population has been estimated at more than 6,000, many of whom eschew shelters because of the conditions.

"This is a moral issue, not a political issue," said Ammiano Wednesday before a crowd of several dozen, many of them homeless, on the steps of City Hall. "It's a matter of social justice," he added.

Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Aaron Peskin also expressed support Wednesday for the legislation.

The proposed legislation is the result of a collaboration between city departments, the Coalition on Homelessness, the city's Shelter Monitoring Committee and shelter residents.

Sonoma County man charged for kidnapping attempt

Charges were filed Wednesday against a Boyes Hot Springs man accused of attempting to kidnap a 3-year-old girl during a struggle with her babysitter last week.

Normando Zamora Ramirez, 24, delayed entering a plea Wednesday in Sonoma County Superior Court. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

Sonoma County prosecutors have charged him with attempted kidnapping, first-degree residential burglary, child endangerment, false imprisonment and battery on a custodial officer while he was being booked into the county jail. His bail is $300,000.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said Ramirez ripped the girl's sweater when he grabbed her in an apartment in the 100 block of Boyes Boulevard in Sonoma around noon Friday.

When the babysitter intervened, Ramirez dragged her out of the apartment by her hair and shoved the girl out of the apartment, the sheriff's department said. Neighbors who heard the babysitter's screams detained Ramirez who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, the sheriff's department said.

The child was not physically harmed and the babysitter suffered minor abrasions.

Ramirez faces 10 years and 10 months in prison if convicted of all charges, the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office said.

Leal terminated from Public Utilities Commission

During a special meeting in City Hall Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission voted to terminate the contract of General Manager Susan Leal.

The four-member governing board voted during a closed session at 9 a.m. and the results were announced immediately following the session.

Leal Wednesday released a statement expressing her pride in the accomplishments of the commission while she managed and said she was given no cause for the termination.

"I believe that by almost any measure, San Francisco ratepayers today are served by a more accountable and responsive utility," she said in the statement.

Leal listed the Water System Improvement Program, bringing green power to the Bayview Hunters Point community and reducing flooding risk as some of the commission's feats in her time with the commission.

"Let me say clearly and without reservation that I am very proud of what we've accomplished at the SFPUC in the three and a half years I've been general manager," she said in the statement.

Mayor Gavin Newsom recommended Leal for the position and the members of the commission voted to approve her in August 2004.

Newsom's office Wednesday confirmed Leal will receive $400,000 as part of her severance package in accordance with her contract, which would have run through 2009. City Controller Ed Harrington will approve the exact amount.

Leal will remain in her position for 30 days before Harrington is brought in as interim general manager.




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