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By Michael Aldax

August 21, 2007

Santa Clara County Superior Court judge unseals documents in rape case

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ordered court documents unsealed Monday in a hearing for two men accused of the July 22 rape and murder of 46-year-old Sany San.

James Chadwick, attorney for a local newspaper, argued that the documents should be made available for public access under the First Amendment and that the information contained in the documents would not impact the safety or ability to hold a fair trial for the two accused men.

Julio Cesar Jovel, 30, and Luis Alberto Lorenzo, 18, sat shackled, listening to the proceedings translated by interpreters.

Chadwick said there is intense public concern about this case that could only be eased by more information.

Neal Kimball, supervising deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County, argued that the defendant's access to a fair trial and their physical safety would be jeopardized by the release of the documents.

Deputy Public Defender Ken Mandel referred to language in the documents as "extremely inflammatory.'' He said that the bulk of the information in the document, except for the inflammatory language, had already been publicly reported. Mandel also said that his client, Lorenzo, had been assaulted in custody citing the "nature'' of the crime as the cause for the attack.

Judge Jean High Wetenkamp ruled that the documents are to be unsealed Friday at noon, pending any appeals by the district attorney's office. Wetenkamp said the case had not garnered more press attention than other similar cases that were tried successfully in the county.

Ballard declares surveillance cameras "working"

San Francisco officials plan to release the results of a report in October regarding the effectiveness of surveillance cameras that have been installed in the city's high-crime areas, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom's spokesman.

"This is one tool that law enforcement can use to fight violent crime and we believe it is worth a try," the mayor's spokesman, Nathan Ballard, said Monday.

The 64 cameras already in use have a price tag of $500,000, Ballard said. The city will be installing 25 new cameras in 2008.

Data collected from surveillance cameras has been used in at least six investigations, Ballard said. One arrest has been made definitively because of the cameras.

"We believe the program is working," Ballard said.

Cities throughout California are working to install such video surveillance cameras on plazas and public streets without regulating them or evaluating their effectiveness, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report released Monday.

"We are issuing this report because we are hoping that policy makers will take a step back and question whether this is the road they want to take," said Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director of ACLU's Northern California chapter.

The 25-page report looks at the threat video surveillance cameras pose to privacy and free speech, examines law enforcement justifications for video surveillance programs, and reviews the findings from an ACLU public records survey.

Antioch World Savings Bank robbed twice in one month

A World Savings bank in Antioch has been robbed twice this month, most recently Monday morning, according to Antioch police.

Police are searching for a woman who robbed the bank at 2601 Somersville Road at around 11:25 a.m. Monday.

The suspect, said to be in her early 20s and wearing a black shirt with a superman logo, used a deposit slip to demand money from a teller, police said.

She fled on foot southbound from the bank with an undisclosed sum, police said.

The same World Savings bank was also robbed at gunpoint the morning of Aug. 6 by two men, police said.

At around 9:30 a.m., the thieves reportedly forced customers and employees to the ground, stole cash from the teller stations and briefly entered the vault before fleeing with an undetermined sum, police said.

The suspects were described as two adult black men.

No one was injured in either incident, police said.

No arrests have been reported and investigations into both incidents are ongoing.

Zhou's father reveals results of second autopsy

The father of a 23-year-old Stanford University student who was found dead in the trunk of her car in January still insists his daughter was killed and he said last week an autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma.

Yitong Zhou said Thursday on his daughter's Web site that a second autopsy on Mengyao "May" Zhou was performed May 10 by a pathologist with 40 years experience.

Zhou said the autopsy disclosed multiple sites of trauma, including the head and extremities, on his daughter's body. He said Santa Rosa police declined twice to go to San Diego to view the forensic evidence.

Zhou also offered to exchange the second autopsy results for the results of the autopsy conducted in Sonoma County. He said police declined that offer.

Santa Rosa police said the Sonoma County autopsy found no visible outward signs of trauma and no indications of foul play. Police also said they found items in the trunk of Zhou's 2006 Toyota that indicated she may have committed suicide. They did not elaborate on that statement on Jan. 25 when Zhou's body was found in a parking lot of Santa Rosa Junior College.

In February, Sonoma County coroner's Sgt. Mitch Mana said toxicology tests revealed the presence of diphenhydramine, a prime ingredient in the antihistamine Benadryl, a sleep aid available without a prescription.

Mana said the level of the drug found in Zhou's body was "potentially toxic." The autopsy also found no acidic, neutral or basic drugs or ethyl alcohol in her system.

On Friday, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Sgt. Paul Henry said the investigation of Zhou's death is nearing completion and leads have clarified some of the issues in the case.

Wente Vineyards gold course remains closed

The driving range at Wente Vineyards golf course in Livermore remained closed Monday as a precautionary step while it is evaluated after a golf cart with six people crashed Friday night, according to the vineyard's president.

Five of the six people were injured. Three people have been released from local hospitals but one person is still receiving treatment Monday, President Peter Chouinard said.

"We're saddened by the accident. It definitely was traumatic for us and the folks involved," he said.

Three people had to be extricated from the overturned six-passenger golf cart and one person suffered major injuries following the collision around 6:45 p.m., the California Highway Patrol reported.

The cart was traveling downhill as it approached a left curve in the trail. The driver then apparently hit the brakes before turning the golf cart left along the curve, according to the CHP.

The cart flipped to its right and trapped the driver and two passengers, the CHP reported.

The driver and five passengers in the golf cart were employees of Wente Vineyards, according to the CHP.

The official cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Pedestrian advocates call recent deaths "unacceptable"

Pedestrian advocates in San Francisco are asking the city Monday to pay more attention to preventing and investigating pedestrian deaths after three people were struck and killed by vehicles within a week.

"The events of this past week have been unacceptable," said Manish Champsee, president of Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group.

Walk San Francisco is calling for better San Francisco Municipal Railway driver training and a reduction in the distractions that operators have while driving, like talking on cell phones.

"We wouldn't allow people to drive Muni buses while drunk, so we shouldn't allow them to do so while talking on their cell phone," Champsee said in a prepared statement.

On July 14, Marina Vafiadis, 83, died after being struck by a Muni bus.

San Francisco police are also investigating two fatal hit-and-run accidents that occurred during the weekend.

Mark Ashley, a 27-year-old Canadian Navy lieutenant, was struck and killed by a Mercedes Benz while crossing the Embarcadero early Saturday, according to the San Francisco medical examiner.

On Sunday, Roger Tennyson, 77, of San Francisco, was fatally struck in the 100 block of Sanchez Street near his house at about 1:30 a.m., according to police. Tennyson died at the scene.

Walk San Francisco is calling on the city to investigate the crimes. The group has also asked the mayor's office to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Hayward man convicted for murder, eligible for death penalty

A Hayward man who previously had been convicted of raping two women and abusing his ex-wife was convicted Monday of first-degree murder with special circumstances for strangling a 33-year-old Hayward woman 12 years ago.

The special circumstances clause, which is committing murder during the course of a rape, makes Carl Molano, 50, eligible for the death penalty when the penalty phase of his trial in Alameda County Superior Court begins on Sept. 25.

Jurors deliberated for only a day and a half before convicting Molano of strangling Suzanne McKenna with her panties, bra and a leather shoelace from a moccasin in her Hayward home on June 16, 1995.

According to Alameda County Deputy District Attorney James Meehan, authorities didn't have any leads in the case until May of 2001, when Molano's ex-wife, Brenda Molano, came forward with information that implicated him in the death of McKenna, a neighbor who worked as a waitress at a Carrows restaurant in Castro Valley.

Brenda Molano was a key prosecution witness in the trial, Meehan said.

Carl Molano wasn't arrested until March 31, 2003, after DNA evidence connected him to the crime, Meehan said.

Molano was at San Quentin State Prison at the time because he had violated his parole for his conviction for felony spousal abuse for choking his ex-wife 10 months after McKenna was killed, according to Meehan.

Molano also has been convicted of raping and sodomizing a 20-year-old woman in Long Beach in 1982 and of raping and stabbing a 60-year-old woman in Oakland in 1987.

Meehan said Molano's two prior rape victims testified about the incidents during the current murder trial and "provided very powerful evidence about his propensity to commit rape."

Meehan said prosecutors consider Molano to be a sexual predator and are seeking the death penalty both because of the circumstances of McKenna's death as well as the fact that Molano has two prior convictions for violent rapes.

Santa Cruz purse thieves beaten by victim's husband and off-duty officer

Three men who allegedly tried to steal a woman's purse from her lap not only learned that crime doesn't pay, but that it can sometimes hurt.

The men were chased and beaten by an angry husband and an off-duty lawman Saturday night in the 300 block of Cedar Street, police said.

Santa Cruz police responded to reports of a fight at about 7:40 p.m. and encountered the 56-year-old husband of the robbery victim, an off-duty Santa Clara County district attorney investigator and three men allegedly involved in the purse theft.

One of the suspects was bleeding from the mouth as a result of a blow he took during the scuffle, which Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend described as a "street fight.''

The husband chased one of the suspects who reportedly snatched his wife's purse as she got out of a parked car, police said. Two other men joined the attack on the husband. That's when the off-duty investigator left his car and charged into the fracas.

Carlos David Zamarripa, 26, Juan Diego Araque, 19, and Edmundo Vasquez, 24, were arrested after being detained by the off-duty investigator and the husband.

Both the investigator and the husband sustained minor injuries in the fight, according to Santa Cruz police.

Los Gatos father faces felony DUI and child endangerment

A Los Gatos father is facing felony DUI and child endangerment charges Monday after his 7-year-old daughter suffered a severe concussion and cuts and bruises to her body after she fell from the back of his truck.

Michael James Bankosh, 37, was driving home Saturday after taking his daughters, 7 and 9, for a pizza dinner in Los Gatos when his 7-year-old fell from his 2004 Dodge truck and landed on her head.

The girl fell as Bankosh made a left turn on Canon Drive about a quarter-mile from Overlook Drive.

Bankosh stopped the car and found his daughter in the street unconscious, but breathing, and called 911.

"They had some dinner in town and he had a few beers,'' California Highway Patrol Officer Todd Thibodeau said.

The girls' mother was contacted and she asked officers to place the 9-year-old girl into the custody of her friend, according to the CHP. The girl is reported to be in stable condition, Thibodeau said Monday.

In light of Saturday's events, the CHP strongly urges people to be aware of the dangers of riding in the backs of trucks and the potential consequences of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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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