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July 4, 2007

Alameda County coroner's office supervisor dies

An Alameda County coroner's office supervisor and her friend died nearly instantly after their car crashed in a remote area of Oregon on June 8, autopsies revealed Tuesday.

After a search lasting weeks, the bodies of Cheryl Gibbs, 61, of Union City, and David Schwartz, 52, of Orange County, who had been traveling together in Oregon, were found around 2 p.m. Sunday, about 25 miles east of Seaside, Oregon.

Both Gibbs, a 30-year employee of the coroner's office, and her longtime friend Schwartz, a Jesuit priest, died within minutes of the crash due to blunt force traumatic injuries, Deputy State Medical Examiner Dr. Christopher Young said after their autopsies Tuesday afternoon.

Both suffered massive chest injuries, and Schwartz, who was driving, also sustained severe neck trauma, Young said.

Neither was wearing a seatbelt, according to police.

"There are no indications the vehicle swerved or lost control," or that alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash, according to Lt. Gregg Hastings, a spokesman for the Oregon State Police Department. Toxicology tests are still pending, he added.

The pair had last been seen at a Portland motel on the morning of June 8. That afternoon, heading eastbound back toward Portland on state Highway 26, their red Toyota Corolla went off the road in a heavily forested area and landed about 20 feet down an embankment, according to Hastings.

A man who called 911 at about 4:15 p.m. that day reported seeing a red car drive off the road, but police and fire responders conducting a search of the area were not able to locate the car from the roadway, Hastings said. Driving slowly through different sections of the highway, officers were unable to find any signs of skidding or other signs a vehicle had left the road, he said.

Even if officers had been able to locate the car that afternoon, the pair's lives could not have been saved, according to Young.

Contra Costa County fire contained

Firefighters have contained a brush fire that threatened several homes on Duperu Drive in Crockett Tuesday afternoon, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Dave George said.

Firefighters were able to protect all of the structures threatened by the blaze, George said, and no injuries were reported.

Fire officials were still working to determine the number of acres burned. The most recent estimate was over 20 acres, according to George. Investigators are also looking to see whether any structures were damaged.

The fire was first reported at 2:11 p.m. near Cummings Skyway and Interstate Highway 80, according to a fire dispatcher. It was later reported to be burning near Pomona Street and Duperu Drive.

The blaze was declared under control at 4:19 p.m., although several spot fires were still burning, George said.

The Crockett-Carquinez Fire Protection District, which was the lead agency for the fire response, received mutual aid help from Cal Fire and Contra Costa County Fire, according to George.

Some power lines were reported down in the area, causing a power outage, George said.

Reverend Jesse Jackson visits San Francisco's Western Addition

The Bay Area has become a war zone, according to a local community group, and something has to be done about it.

That's the reason concerned San Francisco residents will join Reverend Jesse Jackson at a community rally on Sunday in San Francisco's Western Addition.

Jackson plans to attend a call for peace at Ella Hill Hutch Community Center at 1050 McAllister St. at 2 p.m.

His planned visit is a response to the violence that claimed more than a dozen lives in the Bay Area last weekend.

The recent spike in violence has some locals saying enough is enough.

"There were more people killed in the Bay Area this weekend than U.S. soldiers in Iraq," said Kevin Bard, a San Francisco State University political science student and intern of the CLAER Project, a community group that helps families of violence victims and promotes peace on San Francisco streets.

"We've seen more coverage of Paris Hilton's criminal activity than on the war on our streets," Bard added.

Two early homicides in Oakland kick-started a weekend of violence that included four killings each in San Francisco and Oakland and more in Richmond and unincorporated North Richmond.

Some blame the rise in homicides on hot, agitating weather and on more youths on the streets during the summer school break. Others are citing lack of legislation geared at stopping violence as the reason for increased bloodshed.

"We as a society had a fleeting moment of attention on this contributing gun violence as a result of the Virginia Tech incident," said Sharen Hewitt, The CLAER Project's executive director. "This incident vanished from the headlines and in the continued silence, weapons of mass destruction continue to proliferate inner-city neighborhoods while the NRA (National Rifle Association) goes unchallenged, and our youth are now more likely to have access to a gun than to a one-day pass to an amusement park."

Richmond Deputy Fire Marshal identified as Vallejo car crash victim

Deputy Fire Marshal Ron Wiley, a 16-year veteran of the Richmond Fire Department, was identified Tuesday as the victim who died in a solo-vehicle crash that occurred on the Carquinez Bridge in Vallejo on Monday, Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks confirmed.

Wiley, 47, is survived by his two children, a son, 24, and a daughter, 22. His wife died of cancer last year, Banks said.

Wiley was driving back from a business meeting in Vallejo in a fire department vehicle, a white Ford Crown Victoria, when he was observed swerving erratically, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., when Wiley was about halfway across the Carquinez Bridge on westbound Interstate Highway 80, witnesses saw the car swerve from the left lane, smash into a guardrail and then burst into flames, according to the CHP.

Wiley, who was the only person in the vehicle, died at the scene, the CHP reported.

Banks said that Wiley's death was extremely shocking for everyone in the fire department.

The fire department is setting up a memorial fund for Wiley's family at the Mechanic's Bank, according to Banks.

CHP investigators want anyone who witnessed the accident to contact the Solano area CHP office at (707) 551-4100.

Napa Valley school dress code in violation of federal and state constitution

A Napa County Superior Court judge has ruled that the Napa Valley Unified School District's dress code is in violation of the federal and state constitution and the California Education Code.

Judge Raymond A. Guadagni said the district's appropriate attire policy, which allows only certain solid colors and prohibits logos, words, patterns, pictures and jeans, is broad and restrictive.

"If the defendants wish to continue enforcement of their attire policy, they must provide six months' notice of the policy and they must provide parents with an opt-out provision," Guadagni said in issuing a preliminary injunction Monday. The judge heard arguments in the case in May.

The American Civil Liberties Union Northern California sued the district on behalf of students of the Redwood Middle School.

Seventh-grade student Toni Kay Scott claimed she was sent to the principal's office last year for wearing socks that included the Winnie the Pooh character Tigger. Her sister was cited for wearing a T-shirt with "Jesus Freak" on the front and "Galatians 4:18" on the back, according to the ACLU.

Attorney Thomas Loran III, acting in cooperation with the ACLU, said the case is still not resolved. The court has scheduled a case management conference in August when a trial date might be set and the preliminary injunction can be appealed, Loran said.

"We're very pleased and gratified with the temporary outcome," Loran said Tuesday afternoon.

East Bay union leader declares garbage worker lockout "irresponsible"

The leader of a union that represents 500 East Bay garbage workers alleged Tuesday that it was "irresponsible" for Waste Management of Alameda County to lock them out after three months of unsuccessful contract negotiations.

Chuck Mack, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 70, said the lockout, which started at 5 p.m. Monday and continued Tuesday, is "unfair to workers and the community and is outrageous and arrogant."

Flanked by about 100 garbage workers at a news conference at union headquarters, Mack said he thinks Waste Management no longer deserves to "feed at the public trough" and will ask East Bay political leaders to think about hiring a different company to collect garbage in the region.

Mack said he believes there was no need for a lockout because the union told Waste Management on Saturday that it wouldn't go on strike and the union hasn't staged any strikes at Waste Management and its predecessor companies over the past 40 years.

But Waste Management spokesman David Tucker said management decided to lock out workers because it believes the union has failed to respond to a comprehensive contract proposal offered by management June 15.

"It takes two sides to have a negotiation and they've refused to respond," Tucker said.

Tucker said management had to take action "to protect ourselves" because the union has held meetings to consider the possibility of going on strike, even though it says it won't take that step.

Tucker said management "remains open" to further contract talks and has called for a federal mediator to try to "re-engage the leadership of Local 70."

Retired Army Captain sentenced to 15 years for child pornography

Retired U.S. Army Capt. Warren Crecy, Jr., 54, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison for transporting child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

According to court documents, Crecy engaged in an Internet chat with a 14-year-old girl, sent child pornography to the girl over the Internet, and asked her to take nude photographs of her genitalia and send them to him in the mail.

But in reality the 14-year-old girl was an undercover police officer, prosecutors said.

Crecy was arrested by federal agents on March 23, 2006, at the U.S. Post Office in Emeryville when he went there to pick up the anticipated photographs of the girl while he was on his way to sex offender treatment therapy.

On May 15 of this year, Crecy pleaded guilty to transporting child pornography.

U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong also sentenced Crecy to a lifetime term of supervised release and imposed a $1,000 fine.

In addition, Crecy will be required to register as a sex offender.

Crecy, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is a retired captain from the U.S. Army and a retired Colonel from the Army Reserves.

At the time of his arrest, Crecy was living in a room at St. Columba's Catholic Church in Oakland.

Santa Clara County's property value rises by 8.25 percent

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone announced Tuesday that the total value of the county's residential and commercial property rose by 8.25 percent this year to about $284 billion.

Stone said the growth rate is a return to a more stable growth rate not seen during the "roller coaster'' highs and lows of the 1990s and early years of this decade.

"What is really remarkable is that just as major parts of the residential market cooled during the last 18 months, the commercial and industrial market has come back strong throughout the county,'' Stone said. "While the 'boom' in the late 1990s was significant, long term it is much healthier for the economy to have greater balance among all property types.''

Last year the number of commercial and industrial building permit requests made to the assessor's office rose by 13 percent.

"This indicates that tenants have confidence in the direction of Silicon Valley's economy, and are choosing to expand or improve their facilities,'' Stone said.

Which companies are making the permit requests also provides a window into the dynamics of the local economy, according to Stone.

"It ... demonstrates the continued realignment of the local economy from high-tech manufacturing to an Internet-based economy. Companies like Adobe, Yahoo, Google, eBay and Apple are expanding while other companies like Sun and HP are consolidating their facilities,'' Stone said.

While the commercial real estate sector is thriving, local residential real estate has definitely experienced a downturn with a 19 percent decline in the number of recorded deeds.

Vallejo man tried for shooting off-duty police officer

A Vallejo man was held to answer Tuesday in Solano County Superior Court to the murder of off-duty Richmond police officer Kaliah Harper outside a Fairfield memorial service.

Quartus Lee Hinton, 28, faces a trial for allegedly shooting Harper, 28, of Suisun City, on Nov. 24 outside the Fairfield Community Center where a service was being held for two brothers the couple knew who had died in a vehicle accident on Nov. 17.

Hinton was arrested at the Vallejo Marina where he surrendered on Nov. 25.

Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael Ogul said Hinton was held to answer to murder and allegations he used a gun and lay in wait to kill Harper.

During a two-day preliminary hearing, Chief Deputy Public Defender Michael Ogul played a tape recording of an interview Hinton had with Fairfield police. Ogul said Hinton believed Harper wanted to kill him because of a confidential conversation Hinton had with Richmond police about Harper.

Man convicted of robbing elderly Asian people sentenced to 61 years in prison

A man convicted of robbing elderly Asian people at knifepoint was sentenced to 61 years to life in prison, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris announced Tuesday.

In February, a jury convicted Dan Bahn, 38, of two counts of robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Bahn is connected to a series of robberies in 2003 in which he stole money and jewelry and threatened the lives of his victims.

On Thursday, Bahn was sentenced for crimes like the Aug. 24, 2003, incident where he robbed a 50-year-old man in the Tenderloin of $90 and a necklace while threatening to kill him. He also told the man and another victim that he would find them if they told police, according to a statement from the district attorney's office.

Bahn was arrested for a parole violation on Sept. 2, 2003, after an extensive investigation. He had seven prior convictions for robbery against elderly victims.

"This defendant will no longer be able to prey upon and terrorize vulnerable victims,'' Harris said. "I thank SFPD and Assistant District Attorney Clark for ensuring that this criminal will now spend the next 61 years where he belongs -- behind bars and not on our streets.

Concord man sentenced for drowning his wife

A 23-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison Tuesday 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 Tuesday. "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.

The couple met when Latda Sanchez was 33 and Jaime Sanchez was 19. Latda Sanchez was a Laotian immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1996. Jaime Sanchez, a native of Mexico, was in the country illegally.

Throughout their brief marriage, Jaime Sanchez had at least two girlfriends and the couple frequently fought about his cheating.

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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