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Fog City News in Brief

By Lara Moscrip

May 22, 2007

Humpbacks become science experiment

The mother humpback whale and her calf, Delta and Dawn, swam three times beneath the Rio Vista Bridge on Monday and traveled at least fives miles north of the bridge Monday afternoon before they reversed course around 6 p.m. and made their way south toward the bridge, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game said.

Researchers were able to take a tissue sample from the mother whale about the size of a pencil eraser from which they hope to evaluate her overall health and confirm whether she's a whale out of California/Mexico or Alaska, spokeswoman Bernadette Fees said.

A plan to outfit the mother whale with a barbed tracking device into the base of her fin had to be abandoned because of the windy conditions Monday, but if conditions are right, an attempt could be made today, Fees said. The tracking devise would be helpful as authorities try to guide the whales back toward the ocean.

The hope is, according to Fees, that authorities can keep the whales just close enough to monitor them, without causing undue stress.

"It's up to them, we want to be there when they make a decision to move," Fees said.

On Sunday the whales traveled about 25 miles and Fees hopes that the whales can make some additional progress today. The whales are still at least 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

The monitoring of the whales will begin again around 7 a.m. today, Fees said.

Santa Clara Count District Attorney's Office not pursuing charges in alleged rape case

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office announcement Monday that it will not pursue charges in an alleged rape at a party attended by De Anza College students in March is a learning opportunity for students, De Anza College spokeswoman Marisa Spatafore said on Monday.

Eight baseball players at the college were suspended from the team after the rape allegations surfaced and authorities began to investigate what happened at the party, at a home on south Buena Vista Avenue in unincorporated San Jose the evening of March 3-4.

Spatafore said the eight students were suspended for not adhering to an athletic code of conduct but she wouldn't give specific details about what behavior had sparked the school's concern.

The college's baseball coach passed along information that led to the school's decision to suspend the students, she said.

The students allegedly involved in the incident were likely in their first or second year at the college, she said.

Privacy issues would prevent her disclosing anything further she learned about the suspensions in any case, she said.

"The legal process has clearly taken its course," she said. "We really are taking the opportunity to turn this into a learning experience for students, quite frankly."

Classes remains in session this quarter at the 22,000-student community college in Cupertino, although the baseball season is over.

Spatafore said she wasn't sure how quickly news of the decision had spread among students Monday.

Solano County Public Health Officials evaluating tuberculosis case

Solano County Public Health officials confirmed Monday afternoon that someone associated with Vallejo High School has active, contagious tuberculosis.

Public Health and school officials are evaluating all students and staff to determine who may have been in close contact with the individual, officials said.

"Our number one priority is to ensure the health and safety of the staff and students at Vallejo High School," said Ronald W. Chapman, MD, MPH, Health Officer and Deputy Director of Solano County Health and Social Services.

Vallejo High School Principal Phil Saroyan said the school is cooperating with the public health officials.

"We have very few days left in the school year to do the investigation and provide free tests for the TB germ before our staff and students go on summer vacation," Saroyan said in a written statement.

Chapman said the risk of contracting TB is generally low but health officials must find anyone who had significant contact with the contagious person and test them and treat them if necessary to stop the spread of the disease.

TB is a serious and treatable bacterial lung disease that is transmitted from person to person through microscopic droplets that enter the air while coughing, sneezing, talking or singing. Health officials said the most common way to get the disease is by spending a lot of time in enclosed spaces with a person who has active TB disease.

Health officials immediately began a thorough contact investigation starting with the patient and his or her immediate family and close friends, Chapman said.

An informational meeting for students, parents and school staff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday May 31 at the Vallejo High School library.

Sonoma County autopsy results in presumptive identity of missing Santa Rosa woman

The Sonoma County coroner's office said Monday afternoon an autopsy indicates a body found in a secluded area Sunday is that of a missing Santa Rosa woman.

Coroner's Sgt. Mitch Mana said a "presumptive identity" is that the body is 39-year-old Lolita Courts who has been missing since May 15. Mana said a positive identity is one that is established through DNA, fingerprints or dental records and toxicology tests should be completed in three or four weeks. A presumptive identity is made through photographs or tattoos, Mana said.

Santa Rosa police said the body found in a secluded area within a mile of Courts' home on Cooper Drive at 9:20 a.m. Sunday matches Courts.

Preliminary indications are the victim committed suicide, police said.

Courts called her ex-husband May 15 and told him she was going to commit suicide, police said.

Santa Rosa police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said the body resembled Courts, it was close to her home and Courts personal items, including medication, were where the body was found.

Lake Berryessa waterway to be closed Memorial Day Weekend

A popular party spot at the Pope Creek Bridge waterway at Lake Berryessa will be closed this Memorial Day weekend because of overcrowding, near-drownings and disorderly conduct.

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation is closing the area to all motorized and non-motorized watercraft between 1 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. May 29. The area at the northwest section of the lake will close again for several days over the July 4 and Labor Day holidays.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Napa County Sheriff's Office say that when as many as 400 boats with thousands of visitors tie together at the Pope Creek Bridge, problems happen.

"Overcrowding on boats, near-drownings, disorderly conduct, offensive behavior, underage drinking and assaults have occurred," Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Jeff McCracken said.

Major injuries and several deaths have occurred from people jumping off the bridge and from a huge rock at Pope Creek. Buoys will mark the closed area and the gates at the Pope Creek parking lot will be locked by 10 p.m., McCracken said.

This is the first time the area will be closed during the three holiday weekends.

"We've been working on this since last summer," said Napa County Sheriff's Capt. John Robertson.

Robertson has seen as many as 400 boats tied together in the water at the Pope Creek Bridge and there have been alcohol-related crimes, including sexual assaults, in the past few years, he said.

The Sheriff's Office assigns as many as a dozen deputies to patrol the water along the lake's 160-mile shoreline and an additional 20 deputies patrol the area on land, Robertson said. California Highway Patrol officers also provide enforcement on the holiday weekends, Robertson said.

San Jose grass fire threatened homes

Firefighters got a taste of what could be a familiar sight this summer when a 30-acre wind blown grass fire threatened homes Monday on San Jose's Communication Hill.

The call came in just after 11 a.m. and crews responded, eventually reaching four alarms until firefighters from San Jose and Cal-Fire gained control of the blaze at 1:13 p.m., according to San Jose fire Capt. Alberto Olmos.

The fire reached the opposite side of a street lined with nearly completed condominiums at the peak of the hill but firefighters formed a line and saved the new homes.

Residents were blocked from returning to their Communication Hill development homes until 1:45 p.m. when San Jose police allowed them back in.

On an adjacent hill about 15 people gathered to view the burned hillside as a helicopter continued to dump large amounts of water on the still smoking hill and firefighters walked the black ground with hoses.

No injuries were reported and no structures were lost.

Fire crews will monitor the scene throughout the night, Olmos said. Olmos said it is just the beginning of fire season and that it will likely get worse.

"We should always be cognizant that we are in fire season,'' Olmos said. He also reminds people to keep their homes defensible with 100 feet of cleared brush and vegetation surrounding homes and to keep firewood at least 30 feet from homes.

Olmos also warned against using motorized gardening tools that can kick off sparks. If they must be used it is safest early in the morning when the ground and vegetation are still moist.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Girl stabbed in a San Francisco bakery is expected to survive

A 15-year-old girl who was stabbed in a San Francisco bakery Saturday is expected to survive, police reported Monday.

"She's doing much better. She's in stable condition," said San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina.

Police arrested a suspect Saturday thanks to a person who witnessed the stabbing at Creighton's Bakery at 673 Portola Drive and then followed the suspect when he fled. The suspect eventually ran behind the Laguna Honda Hospital, where the witness pointed him out to police, Mannina said.

The suspect is described as a man in his late 20s who is a parolee out of Los Angeles.

Another person who was in the bakery during the stabbing that occurred just after 4 p.m. tried to intervene between the suspect and the girl. That person also was stabbed, Mannina said. Both people were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

Police don't know what motivated the attack, Mannina said Monday.

San Francisco police seek public's help in solving murder of 17-year-old

San Francisco police on Monday asked for the public's help in solving the murder of a 17 year-old boy on a Tenderloin street.

The teenager, whose name has not been released pending notification of his family, was shot in the head at 5:20 a.m. Friday and died at San Francisco General Hospital at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said.

"We're still actively investigating. Any witnesses to the event or anyone who may have information about this crime should contact us," he said.

The boy was seen walking in the 700 block of O'Farrell Street just before police were called to a report of a shooting in the area, police said.

Officers found the wounded victim on the street and transported him to the hospital.

Anyone with information is being urged to call the Police Department's confidential tip line at (415) 575-4444.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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