Bay Area News Briefs
By Mike Aldax
February 22, 2008
74-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder in cold
A 74-year-old man was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday
in San Francisco Superior Court for the 1972 murder of a young
nurse in the Inner Sunset District, a cold case that was revived
two years ago by DNA evidence linking him to the crime.
John Puckett was 37 years old at the time Diana Sylvester, a
22-year-old nurse at the University of California, San Francisco
was raped and murdered on Dec. 22, 1972.
After an approximately three-month trial presenting extensive
DNA evidence, which Judge Jerome Benson Thursday described as
"complicated" and "detailed," a wheelchair-bound
Puckett listened silently to the unanimous verdict as members
of Sylvester's family hugged and wept.
Sylvester was found naked and stabbed to death next to a Christmas
tree in her Sixth Avenue apartment, according to San Francisco
homicide inspectors Joseph Toomey and Holly Pera, who investigated
Puckett eluded authorities until 2005, when a state crime lab
linked his DNA to the crime. He was arrested while living in a
trailer park in Stockton in April 2006, according to Pera.
At the time of her murder, Sylvester, who grew up on the East
Coast and had just moved to San Francisco, worked the night shift
at the hospital and was either followed home that morning by Puckett
or confronted by him at her apartment, according to Pera.
Puckett lived in San Francisco and had a job laying carpet at
the time of Sylvester's death, according to Pera.
According to Toomey, at about 8 a.m., a female neighbor heard
a loud disturbance and came to Sylvester's door, which was open.
Looking inside, she saw a man who hid his face from her.
"He said, 'We're making love, close the door,'" and
then ran from the apartment, Pera said.
San Francisco man convicted of sexually abusing daughter,
threatening to kill family
A 50-year-old San Francisco man convicted of sexually abusing
his daughter and threatening to kill his entire family was sentenced
to 18 years in state prison Thursday in San Francisco Superior
Court, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.
Eduardo Naval was convicted in October of sexually assaulting
his daughter for nearly five years, from the time she was 8 years
old until she was 13, according to prosecutors.
District Attorney Kamala Harris Thursday called the crimes "one
of the most outrageous and damaging offenses an adult can commit
against a child."
"I am extraordinarily grateful that the Judge agreed that
this perpetrator spend the better part of the remainder of his
life behind bars," she said.
Naval was arrested on Nov. 28, 2005, after the girl's mother
According to the District Attorney's Office, the girl told her
mother in April 2004. When the mother confronted Naval, he threatened
to kill the entire family if they reported the crime or left him.
After the mother took the girl and her younger brother into the
bedroom, locked the door, and called 911, Naval tore the hinges
off the door with a hammer, but fled when he heard police sirens
approaching, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Following a five-week jury trial, Naval was found guilty on Oct.
31 of continuous sexual abuse of a child, criminal threats, intimidating
a witness and assault with a deadly weapon.
California courts will consider report proposing reforms for
domestic violence cases
The governing body of California courts will consider a task
force report proposing major reforms in the handling of domestic
violence cases in state courts at a meeting in San Francisco today.
The report was more than two years in the making and has 139
recommendations for improved court rules and procedures to make
domestic violence victims safer and batterers more accountable.
The Judicial Council's Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure
Task Force was appointed by California Chief Justice Ronald George
in September 2005.
The action came in the wake of a report by then-Attorney Bill
Lockyer that concluded the entire criminal justice system was
woefully deficient in protecting domestic violence victims.
George said at the time, "Our goals are to ensure fair,
expeditious and accessible justice for litigants in these critical
cases and to promote both victim safety and perpetrator accountability."
Council spokeswoman Lynn Holton said that if the council approves
the recommendations at its business meeting at the State Building,
the agency will then go about implementing the new rules, education
for judges and proposals for needed legislation.
The recommendations fall into five areas: judicial leadership
and education; guidelines for issuing restraining orders; entry
of those orders into a statewide database; procedures for requiring
abusers to surrender their guns; and criminal justice procedures
in domestic violence cases.
Three Bay Area refineries make list of top polluters in state
Although overall industrial toxic chemical releases in California
were down nearly 3 percent in 2006, three Bay Area refineries
made it onto a list of the top polluters in the state, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
Tesoro Corp.'s Golden Eagle refinery in unincorporated Contra
Costa County ranked number four for releasing 1.8 million pounds
of chemicals, Valero Energy Corp.'s Benicia Refinery ranked number
5 for its release of 1.7 million pounds of chemicals and Chevron
Products Co. Richmond Refinery was at number nine for its release
of 1.2 million pounds of chemicals, according to the EPA.
The data was compiled from the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory,
which measures the toxic chemicals released and toxic waste generated
by facilities throughout the United States.
Total releases include chemicals discharged to the air, water,
by underground injection, to the land and landfills as well as
the amount of toxins transferred off-site for disposal.
Statewide, 1,357 facilities reported releasing a total of 45.2
million pounds of toxic chemicals, a decrease of 1.5 million pounds
from 2005, according to the EPA.
The top offender in California in 2006 was Chemical Waste Management
Inc. in Kings County for its release of 8.8 million pounds of
chemicals, the EPA reported.
Acalanes High School student arrested for bringing homemade
bomb to school
An Acalanes High School student was arrested Thursday after he
accidentally brought a homemade bomb to school, Lafayette police
Officer Berch Parker said.
The 15-year-old boy told police that he forgot the bomb was in
his pocket when he got ready for school Thursday morning and inadvertently
brought the device onto campus, Parker said.
Sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., the boy realized he had
the bomb with him and immediately gave it to his teacher "because
he didn't want to get in trouble," Parker said.
The teacher notified authorities and the Walnut Creek bomb squad
was brought in to disarm the bomb, Parker said.
The boy was arrested and released to his parents, Parker said.
Nobody was hurt during the incident and police do not believe
the boy had any intention of detonating the bomb, which was small
and equipped with a fuse. However, they also don't know why the
boy built the bomb, Parker said.
According to Parker, investigators believe the device would have
worked and could have created an explosion large enough to injure
more than one person.
The boy could face potential charges of felony possession of
an explosive device if the Contra Costa County District Attorney's
office decides to file charges against him, Parker said.
Oprah Winfrey to deliver Stanford commencement address
Stanford University announced Thursday that Oprah Winfrey will
deliver the commencement address to the university's Class of
The commencement ceremony will be held at Stanford Stadium on
"Each year at commencement we encourage graduating students
to think about the skills they have acquired and the impact they
can have in the world,'' Stanford University President John Hennessy
said in a statement. "I can think of few people who have
put such advice to better use than Oprah Winfrey. She has not
been content to simply succeed, and succeed spectacularly, at
her given profession. She has relentlessly continued her education
and sought to improve the world in remarkable and varied ways.''
In recent years, Stanford's commencement speakers have included
Tom Brokaw, Steve Jobs and Sandra Day O'Connor.
Santa Rosa shooting was gang-related, police say
Santa Rosa police said the shooting of an adult man while he
was driving his truck on West Ninth Street Thursday afternoon
is gang related.
The victim was shot in the back and was taken by ambulance to
a hospital and his injury is not life threatening, Sgt. Lisa Banayat
The driver and a passenger were riding westbound in the truck
near Link Lane around 1:36 p.m. when they were fired at from an
unknown direction, Banayat said. They called 911 and police found
the injured driver at West Ninth and Rockwell streets, Banayat
Police have no information about the suspect, Banayat said.
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