Fog City News Briefs
By Lara Moscrip
May 30, 2007
Police searching for spirituality scam artists
Police are searching for one of two brothers who allegedly used
spirituality to scam hundreds of victims out of thousands of dollars
in the South Bay, San Jose police announced Tuesday.
Since November 2006, police have been investigating a faith healer
named John Alexander Manrique Salazar, 23, of San Jose, who called
himself "Master Alexander," and advertised that he could
solve personal and relationship problems.
In August 2006, an Oakland woman called the advertised phone
number and talked to a group called Comunidad Esotorica located
at 1140 Pedro St. in San Jose, according to police.
The Pedro Street office had an altar room with statues of Jesus
and the Virgin Mary as well as a pentagram and candles and other
items associated with Santeria, Catholicism and Wicca, San Jose
police Detective Manuel Jurado said.
After telling her story to the alleged healers about problems
with her infant daughter, a man named John Salazar told her the
child was cursed and needed saving. John Salazar allegedly said
he could save the child's life for a fee.
The victim gave John Salazar more than $10,000 for a month-long
treatment, police reported.
An investigation revealed a second suspect, Carlos Manrique Salazar,
34, of San Jose, and hundreds of additional victims who paid thousands
of dollars for various treatments.
The brothers allegedly preyed on people throughout the Bay Area
using Santeria, a mix of Afro-Caribbean and Catholic beliefs.
The healers allegedly used Hispanic media to get their message
out, including ads in Spanish language radio and print.
Jurado called the investigation long and tedious and said John
Salazar had agreed to turn himself into authorities.
"He made a commitment he was going to self-surrender but
he went sideways on that," Jurado said.
Jurado turned the case over to the Santa Clara County District
Attorney's Office and the suspects were charged with five counts
of grand theft with false pretense and one count of attempted
Carlos Salazar was arrested in Houston after returning on a flight
from Colombia and is now in custody, but police are still searching
for John Salazar, whom they say could still be practicing in the
Bay Area as a faith healer.
Investigators are encouraging anyone with information on this
case or suspect John Salazar's whereabouts to contact Jurado at
For those wishing to remain anonymous call Crime Stoppers at
Police on high alert after suspects attempted to lure minors
Police along the Peninsula were on high alert Tuesday after a
suspect or suspects attempted to lure minors into vehicles in
San Mateo County during the past two weeks.
The first incident took place in Menlo Park on May 14 when two
men in a white van approached an 11-year-old girl on her way to
school at the intersection of University Drive and Santa Cruz
The driver of the van exited the vehicle to speak with the girl,
but she was able to continue to walk her normal route to school
and the van eventually left the area, according to Nicole Acker,
Menlo Park police information officer.
A second incident took place in the mid-Peninsula town of Hillsborough
on May 22 when a 9-year-old boy was approached by two men in a
brown or tan "Ford Explorer-type SUV," according to
Hillsborough police Capt. Mark O'Connor.
The boy, who was outside his home located on a cul-de-sac near
Skyline Boulevard, said the men offered him a ride and some candy
when they approached him around 4 p.m.
The suspects in this case never exited their vehicle and drove
away when the boy refused their offers, O'Connor said.
The two suspects in this incident are described as white men
in their late 20s. The driver is said to be about 27 years old
with blonde, puffy hair and the passenger is described as a white
man with brown spiky hair. Both were thought to be wearing gray
shirts, O'Connor said.
Menlo Park police have increased patrols around the neighborhoods
where the incidents took place as well as around local schools
since the first report.
Hillsborough police have also stepped up patrols and have been
using both marked and unmarked police units to patrol the town
and schools, particularly during drop-off and pick-up periods,
Anyone with information about the Menlo Park incident is asked
to contact Menlo Park police at (650) 330-6300. Anyone with information
on the Hillsborough incident is asked to call police dispatch
at (650) 375-7470.
Bret Harte Middle Shool drowning investigation could be lengthy
An investigation into the drowning of a 14-year-old Bret Harte
Middle School student at an end-of-the-year picnic at Roberts
Regional Park in Oakland on Thursday could be lengthy, according
to Pat O'Brien, general manager of the East Bay Regional Park
Rudy Rodriguez was found at the bottom of Roberts Pool on Thursday
and transferred to Oakland Children's Hospital, where he succumbed
to his injuries Saturday, according to the Alameda County coroner's
"Our hearts go out to Rudy's friends and family," O'Brien
"This is just a tragedy for everyone."
East Bay Regional Park police Lt. Dave Dubowy said that rescuers
performed CPR and used a defibrillator to revive Rudy. He was
taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Dubowy said police are awaiting results of Rudy's autopsy. Lifeguards,
a lifeguard supervisor and several school chaperones were at the
picnic, and will be interviewed to determine what events lead
to the incident.
O'Brien said this is the first incident of this type since Roberts
Pool opened in 1953.
"While we grieve with the family, we're trying to thoroughly
investigate what happened that day," O'Brien said. "Investigators
need to interview dozens of people who were present, many of them
children who we must treat with sensitivity, so it could be a
Police hoping to locate witness to alleged sexual assault
Police are hoping to locate a woman who frightened away two Hispanic
men who tried to sexually assault a female at Will C. Wood High
School student on Thursday.
Sgt. Charlie Spruill said four Hispanic males between 16 and
19 years old verbally harassed the female student in the 1200
block of Marshall Road as she walked home from the school.
The girl turned to walk back to the school when two of the males
grabbed her and pulled her across the street to some hedges in
an empty parking lot, Spruill said.
As the suspects tried to remove the student's clothing, an unknown
female yelled at the suspects in Spanish and ran toward them,
Spruill said. The suspects let go of the victim and fled south
from Marshall Road, Spruill said.
Three of the four male suspects had short hair and one had collar-length
hair, Spruill said. The incident appears to be a random act and
is not related to the school, Spruill said, and the victim was
not physically injured.
Police want to talk to the unknown woman who helped the victim,
Spruill said. Anyone with information about her is asked to call
Spruill at (707) 469-6600.
Police are also reminding parents to talk to their children about
their safety and about being aware of their surroundings.
Police are advising children to walk home in pairs when possible
and are advising parents to program the police department's main
telephone number, (707) 449-5200, into their children's cell phones
to avoid delays in an emergency.
Advocates laud San Francisco for pioneering Bill of Rights
for incarcerated young mothers
Juvenile justice advocates are lauding San Francisco for its
pioneering Bill of Rights for incarcerated young mothers.
The 10-point declaration, believed to be the first of its kind,
will guide policy in the city's juvenile halls, said Marlene Sanchez,
executive director of The Center for Young Women's Development.
The San Francisco-based nonprofit organization has been working
for about two years with the city's juvenile probation department
on the project. The declaration went into effect in January, and
Sanchez says the next step is training those who work in the juvenile
With two-thirds of the girls in the juvenile justice system either
pregnant or parenting, the document will have far-reaching consequences,
The Bill of Rights ensures that the young mothers are treated
with dignity, said Bill Siffermann, the city's chief juvenile
According to the Young Mothers' Bill of Rights, the girls have
the right to have somebody with them while they're giving birth
and they are allowed to give birth without shackles - something
that was also ensured by state law last year. They have the right
to recover in the hospital after having a baby.
The young women have the right to see, touch and speak to their
children, be informed of their children's well-being and safety,
and have support and advocacy while incarcerated.
The Bill of Rights also affirms the right to prenatal and parenting
Sophia Sanchez, coordinator of the Young Mothers Organizing Project
Program for the Center for Young Women's Development, said the
tenets simply spell out for juveniles the protections that are
already clarified for adult inmates.
"The rights we're demanding as moms are basic human rights,"
Mother and widow of slain San Leandro police officer testifies
The mother and widow of San Leandro police officer Nels "Dan"
Niemi testified Tuesday that their lives haven't been the same
since he was shot to death while he was on duty nearly two years
Testifying in the first day of the penalty phase of the trial
of 25-year-old Irving Ramirez of Newark, who was convicted on
May 10 of murdering Niemi, 42, on July 25, 2005, the officer's
mother, Mildred Niemi of Alamo, said, "Our life is empty
because we're missing part of our family."
Niemi said she and her husband, Rudie Niemi, "hibernated"
after their son was killed and rarely go out and see anyone anymore.
Dionne Niemi, the officer's widow, said the couple's two children,
a son and a daughter, have both been angry and needed counseling
since his death.
Niemi said that for a long period of time their daughter, Gabrielle,
who was only seven when the officer died, had nightmares and had
to sleep in the same bed with her.
At the end of the guilty phase of Ramirez's trial, jurors convicted
him of first-degree murder as well as the special circumstances
of murdering a police officer during the performance of his duties
and committing murder to avoid arrest for the shooting death of
At the end of the penalty phase, the same jurors will choose
between recommending either the death penalty or life in prison
During the penalty phase, jurors will weigh aggravating the aggravating
factors in Ramirez's life, such as his prior crimes and the impact
the murder had on Niemi's family, friends and colleagues, versus
mitigating factors such as any hardships in his life and any good
deeds he has performed.
In the guilt phase of Ramirez's trial, Michael Berger, one of
two lawyers who represent Ramirez, admitted to jurors that Ramirez
killed Niemi but said he did so without any deliberation, a key
component of first-degree murder.
Ramirez, who had been drinking cognac and beer to celebrate his
birthday, was so drunk that he panicked without being fully aware
of what he was doing, Berger said.
In her opening statement in the penalty phase Tuesday, Deborah
Levy, Ramirez's other lawyer, admitted that he "committed
a heinous and monstrous crime" but said "that doesn't
mean that he is a heinous and monstrous person."
Levy said the death penalty should be reserved only "for
the worst of the worst" and she believes Ramirez "is
not the type of individual worthy of the death penalty."
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff is seeking the death
penalty for Ramirez, an immigrant from El Salvador, but he didn't
directly say that to jurors in his brief opening statement Tuesday.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson told jurors
that the attorneys in the case probably will finish presenting
evidence in the penalty phase by the end of the week and give
their closing arguments next Monday.
State Assembly passes bill requiring health insurers pay for
cervical cancer vaccinations
The state Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill requiring health
insurers and health plans to pay for vaccinating young girls for
cervical cancer, Assemblywoman Noreen Evans said.
"We have an historic opportunity to improve women's health,"
said Evans, D-Santa Rosa.
AB 1429 now goes to the state Senate for further review, Evans
Evans said under current law, health plans and insurers that
include coverage for treatment or surgery of cervical cancer must
also provide coverage for an annual cervical cancer screening
test. Her bill would include coverage for vaccination for the
human papillomavirus (HPV).
Evans said current law requires only coverage for girls 16 years
or younger in group plans or insurance policies.
"That leaves out many California women," Evans said.
"This bill is an opportunity to help women, especially Latino
women who are most likely to get cervical cancer and African American
women who are most likely to die from it," Evans said.
In California this year, almost 1,600 women will be diagnosed
with cervical cancer and nearly 400 will die, Evans said. California
has the highest incidence of cervical cancer in the country, Evans
Jury begins second day of deliberations in trial of marijuana
activist Ed Rosenthal
A federal jury begins today its second straight day of deliberations
in the case of an Oakland marijuana activist who claims he was
growing the drug for patients but wasn't allowed to say so in
The jury considered the marijuana cultivation case of Ed Rosenthal,
62, for about three hours Tuesday afternoon and will resume deliberations
in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer this morning.
Rosenthal, the author of a dozen books about marijuana, faces
five counts of conspiracy and growing and selling marijuana at
an Oakland warehouse and a now-defunct San Francisco dispensary
between 1998 and 2002.
Although he has claimed outside of court he was growing starter
plants for patients under California's Compassionate Use Act,
he was not allowed to argue that defense. U.S. drug laws allow
no exception for state medical marijuana laws.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan, referring to Rosenthal's
alleged use of the warehouse to grow plants, told the jury during
closing arguments Tuesday, "It's a federal crime and you
can't do it."
The trial, which began May 15, is Rosenthal's second in the case.
He was convicted in Breyer's court in 2003 on three similar charges
and sentenced to one day in prison. But a federal appeals court
overturned the conviction last year on the ground that a juror
had improperly consulted a lawyer friend during deliberations.
Prosecutors have told the judge that they won't seek a penalty
heavier than the one day already served if Rosenthal is convicted,
but said the retrial is part of their mandate to enforce federal
The jury was given the case at midday Tuesday after the defense
rested Tuesday morning without calling any witnesses and both
sides gave closing arguments.
Trial of computer programmer facing murder charges delayed
The trial of a computer programmer who is facing charges that
he murdered his wife was delayed for a second time on Tuesday
because his lawyer is busy with another case.
Hans Reiser, 43, who remains in custody without bail at the Alameda
County Jail, is scheduled to return to court June 11.
His case will be assigned to a trial courtroom at that time assuming
his lawyer, William DuBois, is finished with a murder trial in
Hayward involving another client.
Hans Reiser's wife, Nina Reiser, 31, was last seen about 2 p.m.
on Sept. 3 when she dropped off the couple's two children at Hans
Reiser's home in the 6900 block of Exeter Drive in Oakland.
The couple married in 1999 but separated in May 2004. They were
undergoing contentious divorce proceedings at the time she disappeared
but the divorce wasn't finalized.
Nina Reiser was awarded custody of the couple's 7-year-old son
and 5-year-old daughter but Hans Reiser was allowed to have the
children one weeknight a week and every other weekend.
Nina Reiser's body hasn't been found, but in October Hans Reiser
was charged with murdering her after Oakland police said they
found biological and trace evidence suggesting that she is dead
as well as blood evidence tying him to her death.
On March 9, at the end of a lengthy preliminary hearing, Judge
Julie Conger ruled that there's sufficient evidence for Reiser
to stand trial on charges that he murdered Nina Reiser, who was
trained as a physician in her native Russia.
Hans Reiser asked for a speedy trial and originally was scheduled
to have his trial start May 7 but his case was postponed at the
request of DuBois.
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