July 3, 2007
By Ananda Shorey
Concord man sentenced for murdering wife
A 23-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison
today for drowning his 36-year-old wife in the bathtub of the
couple's Concord apartment last July.
Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge John Kennedy said that
the evidence presented during the trial showed that Jaime Sanchez
had subjected his wife, Latda Sanchez, to mental and physical
abuse, that he had been unfaithful and that he caused her death
intentionally and painfully when he drowned her July 21, 2006.
Kennedy said he believed the jury had reached a just verdict
when they found Jaime Sanchez guilty of second-degree murder and
imposed the statutory sentence, which is 15 years to life in prison.
"To me you're a monster," Mina Fitzpatrick, Latda Sanchez's
younger sister, told Jaime Sanchez today. "It makes me sick
to my stomach to look at you."
Fitzpatrick said that she and her family had to sit in court
every day during the trial and listen to Jaime Sanchez make up
lies and excuses for his actions and now she wanted him to sit
in prison and think about what he did.
"My sister was a good person and all she wanted was to be
loved and to have a family," Fitzpatrick said. "You
cheated my sister out of her life. I want you to be locked up
for the rest of yours."
Grandfather convicted for molesting granddaughters
A Santa Clara County grandfather's conviction for molesting two
of his granddaughters was upheld by a federal appeals court in
San Francisco today.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a claim by Russell
Schroeder that evidence allowed at his state court trial violated
the U.S. Constitution's ban on retroactive punishment.
Schroeder was convicted in Santa Clara County Superior Court
in 2000 of committing four lewd acts on two granddaughters and
was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The crimes took place in 1994, when the girls' mother left them
with Schroeder overnight while she was away on a short trip.
During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Schroeder
had previously molested both his daughters, including the girls'
mother, over a period of several years and had paid other young
girls to take off their clothes.
The evidence was presented for the purpose of showing that Schroeder
had a propensity for sexual misconduct with young girls.
The testimony was admitted under a 1996 state law that allows
evidence of prior misconduct in sexual offense cases. In most
types of cases, propensity evidence is not permitted at criminal
Schroeder argued that allowing the prior evidence in his case
violated the constitutional ban on retroactive punishment because
the law went into effect two years after the 1994 incidents.
But three judges of the appeals court unanimously ruled that
the conviction was valid because the law changed only the admissibility
of evidence and not the burden of proof required of prosecutors.
Autopsy underway for Vallejo car crash victim
An autopsy is underway today on a person who died Monday in a
fiery crash on Interstate Highway 80 involving an official vehicle
registered to the city of Richmond, a California Highway Patrol
officer said today.
Around 4:36 p.m., a white Ford Crown Victoria was observed weaving
erratically on westbound freeway lanes near the mid-span of the
Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo, according to the CHP.
Witnesses said the car swerved from the left lane and smashed
into a guardrail before bursting into flames.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Identifying details
were not available this morning.
Initial reports indicated the Crown Victoria was a Richmond Fire
Department vehicle, CHP Officer M.A. Williford said.
Alcohol is not considered a factor.
Investigators want anyone who witnessed the accident to contact
the Solano area CHP office at (707) 551-4100.
Waste Management of Alameda County lockout begins
After several months of fruitless negotiations, Waste Management
of Alameda County has locked out 500 garbage collectors throughout
the East Bay.
Waste Management said in a statement that the lockout began at
5 p.m. Monday and willcontinue "until such time that the
union comes to the table and the parties can agree on a new contract."
Teamsters Union Local 70, which represents the workers, scheduled
a news conference for today to comment on the lockout.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums strongly criticized the lockout, saying
in a statement that it "will put the health and safety of
Oakland residents at risk, will seriously disrupt life for residents
and businesses and will harm the locked out drivers and their
Dellums called on Waste Management to end the lockout and for
both sides to negotiate in good faith.
Waste Management said it will deploy substitute workers to provide
services to the communities it serves, which are Albany, Emeryville,
Oakland, Hayward, Newark, Livermore, the Castro Valley Sanitary
District, Oro Loma Sanitary District in parts of San Leandro and
San Lorenzo, San Ramon and unincorporated Alameda County.
The company said drivers represented by Local 70 on average earn
more than $75,000 a year in wages plus $16,500 in health and welfare
benefits and $14,000 in pension contributions.
It says it has offered above-market increases in all those areas
as well as a safety program designed to prevent serious accidents
Elie Wiesel's attacker pleads insanity
A 22-year-old New Jersey man told a San Francisco Superior Court
judge this morning he was not guilty by reason of insanity of
charges that he attacked and imprisoned Nobel laureate author
The court plans to convene again July 11 so lawyers can discuss
the appointment of mental health experts to evaluate the psychiatric
status of the defendant, Eric Hunt, at the time of the alleged
offenses, according to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.
Hunt is facing felony charges of false imprisonment, battery,
elder abuse, stalking and committing a hate crime in connection
with the alleged Feb. 17 attack on Wiesel, a 78-year-old Holocaust
survivor and author, in a San Francisco hotel. He remains in custody.
After the assault, Hunt allegedly bragged on a Web site for Holocaust
deniers about attacking Wiesel. He was extradited from New Jersey
earlier this month.
Police say Hunt accosted Wiesel in an elevator at the Argent
Hotel, telling him he wanted an interview, before trying to drag
him into his hotel room. Wiesel began yelling, and was able to
Pacifica man's gunshot self-inflicted
Police investigators believe a shooting Monday night that left
a 20-year-old Pacifica man dead was likely self-inflicted.
Police and fire units responded to a report of a gunshot victim
at a home in the 500 block of Dolphin Drive around 11:10 p.m.,
and upon arrival, found the man deceased.
"Preliminary investigation indicates a probable self-inflicted
gunshot wound," police reported in a prepared statement.
A San Mateo County coroner's office investigator confirmed this
morning that the death is not being investigated as a homicide.
Police continue to investigate the case.
Criminal proceedings reinstated for assisted living facility
Criminal proceedings were reinstated in Sonoma County Superior
Court this morning against a man accused of slashing a woman in
a Petaluma assisted living facility with a pruning saw in January.
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau reinstated proceedings
against 53-year-old David John Cooper who has been found mentally
competent to stand trial for assault.
Cooper has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. A preliminary
hearing on the assault charges is scheduled for July 18.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi has maintained the
case is unusual because Cooper's competence "is determinate
on the time of day.''
Petaluma police said Cooper allegedly assaulted a female resident
and an employee of the Sunrise Assisted Living facility Jan. 30.
The employee was treated at the hospital and released.
The resident, Suzanne Scott, 64, was admitted to Petaluma Valley
Hospital with head injuries but returned to the facility.
Cooper also allegedly threw a wheelchair down a stairwell and
threw the pruning saw at a police officer. He was subdued when
he was shot with beanbags and a Taser.
Sonoma man pleads not guilty after brandishing firearm at
A Sonoma man pleaded not guilty in Sonoma County Superior Court
this morning to assault and brandishing a firearm at a party Sunday
Jesus Bernal, 22, was arrested by Petaluma police after the 4:20
a.m. incident on Lombardi Lane. Officer Patrick Gerke said Bernal
was upset because he was not invited to a party.
Bernal allegedly showed a female friend a loaded .38 caliber
handgun in the driveway of the residence, pointed it at her and
told her to get his friend, Gerke said.
When the girl refused and ran into the house, Bernal forced his
way through the front door, brandished the gun and demanded to
see his friend, Gerke said. Bernal then argued with his friend
and waved the gun around until his friend convinced him to leave,
Bernal left in his vehicle and police located it on S. McDowell
Boulevard. Police found the gun in the trunk and Bernal was arrested
for assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a firearm and possession
of a loaded handgun in public, Gerke said.
Judge Rene Chouteau set Bernal's bail at $70,000 and scheduled
a bail hearing for Friday morning.
Gas leak capped near Children's Hospital in Oakland
Crews have capped a leak in a gas main a block away from Children's
Hospital & Research Center in Oakland that prompted temporary
evacuations of residents this morning.
Natural gas whistled from a damaged gas main for about 90 minutes
in the area of the 5300 block of Dover Street before Pacific Gas
and Electric Co. staff could stop the flow of gas, Oakland fire
Capt. Melinda Drayton said.
There were no injuries reported. An Oakland Fire Department hazmat
team was sent to test ambient air, Drayton said.
First reported at 8:27 a.m., the line was capped by 10:02 a.m.,
PG&E spokesman David Eisenhauer said.
Contractors working in the area dug in the wrong spot and pierced
a 4-inch gas main, which led to the evacuation in the immediate
vicinity, he said.
The location is one block away from the hospital but no patients
were evacuated, the fire captain said.
Repairs to the main were underway, Eisenhauer said.
Sonoma County man killed in auto accident
The California Highway Patrol said a 24-year-old Sonoma County
man died this morning when his four-door 1990 Acura went off Guerneville
Road and struck an oak tree just west of Olivet Road.
The CHP said his name and place of residence will not be released
until next of kin are notified.
CHP Officer Barbara Upham said witnesses saw the Acura driving
west on Guerneville Road at about 50 mph when for no apparent
reason the driver left the right side of the road and hit the
tree around 9:13 a.m.
The Acura spun and the tree impacted the left front of the vehicle,
Upham said. The man suffered blunt force trauma to the head and
neck and was pronounced dead at the scene, Upham said.
There was no evidence of alcohol and the driver may have fallen
asleep or suffered a medical emergency, Upham said. The driver
was wearing a seatbelt, Upham said. Traffic was not impacted by
Upham said the fatality will not be included in Fourth of July
holiday traffic death statistics because that count begins at
6 p.m. today. The crash, however, is a reminder to motorists to
slow down, drive carefully and not drink and drive, she said.
Palo Alto building declared unsafe after fire
A two-story building in Palo Alto that was gutted during a four-alarm
fire has been deemed unsafe and will have to be reinforced before
local and federal arson investigators can get inside to work.
The suspicious fire at 310 University Ave. began Sunday at about
9:30 p.m. and took firefighters five hours to get under control.
The second level offices were completely gutted and a Subway sandwich
shop and Walgreen's pharmacy on the first floor also received
A private contractor was called today to assess the stability
of the roofless building to determine what sort of support it
needs to allow investigators in. It will take about two days before
the building is accessible.
"We're kind of dead in the water,'' Palo Alto police agent
Rich Bullerjahn said about the structural delays.
Estimates for structural damages are between $2 and $3 million.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives
is aiding Palo Alto and Santa Clara County arson investigators
with the investigation.
University Avenue will be closed for at least seven days between
Waverley and Ramona Streets. Bryant Street between University
and Hamilton Avenues will also be closed during the investigation.
Businesses along University Avenue are open to pedestrian traffic
except for a few businesses immediately adjacent to the burned
Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to contact
Palo Alto police at (650) 329-2190.
Atherton revises construction permit approval process
Town officials in Atherton have begun to correct flaws in the
residential construction permit approval process, according to
a San Mateo County civil grand jury report released today.
"The Town has remedied, or is in the process of remedying,
many of the deficiencies identified in the several investigations
of the Building Department," the report, released this morning,
Construction in Atherton, a residential community in southern
San Mateo County with a population of about 7,200, has jumped
in recent years to about 40 new homes each year, according to
the grand jury.
In February, the grand jury issued an interim report criticizing
town officials for not including the Menlo Park Fire Protection
District in the approval process of permits for construction and
Fire District Chief Harold Schapelhouman at the time expressed
concern that his office's lack of input creates a potential fire
safety risk to both residents and firefighters.
The grand jury today noted that Atherton is now working with
the Fire District in the permit review and approval process. In
addition, the town has added new Building Department staff, bought
a computerized permit tracking system, created new permit approval
policies, and has ordered its zoning ordinance to be rewritten,
according to the report.
"The full impact of misdeeds in the Building Department
may not be known for years, but the effects are beginning to surface,"
the report said.
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