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NYC cabbie accused of sneaking past bridge toll 3,000 times

A New York City cab driver is facing criminal charges after prosecutors say he snuck past toll booths on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge more than 3,000 times.

The Queens District Attorney’s office alleges Rodolfo Sanchez tailgated other, paying drivers as they entered the bridge so he could pass the toll plaza before the gates dropped.

According to WCBS, Sanchez snuck onto the bridge from August 2012 to April 2014. He ducked a total of more than $28,240 in toll payments. (Via YouTube / WC Westwood)

“Sanchez says he did it to save money for his family. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.” (Via WABC)

The New York Times explains investigators discovered Sanchez thanks to an expired E-ZPass transmitter in his cab.

Authorities matched the tracking data from the transmitter to video footage of taxi cabs ducking tolls and to cab company records of when Sanchez was driving.

“He is charged with grand larceny, theft of services and criminal possession of stolen property.”(Via MSNBC)

Sanchez was arraigned Thursday and released on bond. His next court date is May 22.

Published: Sat, 19 Apr 2014 06:08:16 -0700

Gwen Stefani to replace Christina Aguilera on 'The Voice?'

‚ÄčIn with one blonde singer and out with another. If the rumors are true, everyone’s favorite Hollaback Girl could be headed to “The Voice.”

Several news outlets are reporting Gwen Stefani will replace veteran judge Christina Aguilera on Season 7 of the hit show. (Via Hollywood LifePerez HiltonThe Wrap

The timing makes sense — Aguilera announced she was pregnant with her second child in February, meaning she’d be eight or nine months along by the time the new season kicks off in June. (Via NBC / "The Voice")

‚ÄčAs for Stefani, she too has been busy with her family. In February, she gave birth to her third child with hubby Gavin Rossdale. (Via CoolNews.TV

And assuming the rumors are true, she won’t be the only new addition to “The Voice.” It's rumored Pharrell Williams has been tapped to replace CeeLo Green. (Via Columbia Records / Pharrell Williams)

It would be something of a reunion for the duo. They collaborated on Stefani’s hit single “Hollaback Girl” back in 2004. (Via Interscope Records / Gwen Stefani)

The No Doubt singer will also join coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton — both of whom are expected to return. (Via YouTube / Celebified)

According to TMZ, Stefani is reportedly only signed on for one season. Aguilera will be back for Season 8.

There's still no official confirmation from NBC — even though many outlets say Stefani’s contract is a done deal. A rep for the network told Us Weekly "We haven't made any decisions at this point."

Published: Sat, 19 Apr 2014 06:06:50 -0700

Man claims he found Loch Ness Monster with... Apple Maps?

‚ÄčA Loch Ness Monster enthusiast claimed Friday that he found proof of the monster’s existence in the one place nobody thought to look: Apple Maps.

So, yeah. That’s it. The mighty Nessie — the famed, majestic sea monster! Or just the wake from a speed boat. 

After monster hunter Andy Dixon told the Daily Mail of his discovery, it was soon confirmed with an "objective" analysis by Gary Campbell of the Official Loch Ness Monster Club.

Campbell added, "Unless there have been secret submarine trials going on in the loch, the size of the object would make it likely to be Nessie."

And Dixon told the Mail he was excited to collect further proof. "I was a believer in Nessie even before this but I had never been. Now I am so excited, I can't wait to get up north and pay a visit - with a camera of course."

And you can count Google in on the Loch Ness conspiracy as Nessie does not appear on Google Maps satellite images. But some are citing the fact that Dixon found the image on Apple Maps as proof that… there is no proof.

The inconsistent app endured a famously tortured rollout in 2012, leading drivers in all the wrong directions and featuring some hilarious visual gaffes. The reaction was so bad that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an apology to customers. (Via Fox NewsTumblr)

But… maybe this is Maps’ turning point? As BGR says, "While you may curse at Apple Maps for giving you the wrong directions to your local pizza joint, you’ll find that it’s all worthwhile once it helps you find Bigfoot or the lost city of Atlantis."

Dixon’s Nessie sighting breaks up a drought for fans of the mythical beast — last year, for the first time in 90 years, there were zero viable sightings of the monster. And Dixon, who also records sightings, tells the BBC that the monster has been “seen” over 1,000 times in the last 1,500 years.

But in 2013, the three most prominent Nessie reports were dismissed as a wave, a photo not actually taken at Loch Ness and a duck.

Published: Sat, 19 Apr 2014 05:29:09 -0700

Indian man ate gold to get through customs

‚ÄčFor a couple of days, an Indian businessman was sitting on gold, albeit a little unusually and painfully. 

The 63-year-old businessman swallowed 12 small gold bars, weighing nearly 1 pound, in an attempt to smuggle the precious metal past Indian customs. The Guardian reports the man checked himself into a hospital after a few days of vomiting and trouble defecating, according to his doctor. After a three-hour surgery doctors called "tedious," the nearly $16,000 worth of gold was safely removed from the man's stomach and promptly confiscated by the police. (Via The Guardian)

The man's doctor at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital says it was one of his strangest operations. "I remember having taken out a bladder stone weighing 1kg from a patient. But finding gold in a patient's stomach was something unbelievable." (Via BBC)

Believe it or not, gobbling gold isn't unheard of in south Asia. Because India imports the most gold in the world, its 15 percent import tax on the metal is one of the highest and spurs many to go "bottoms up" with their bars. (Via YouTube / Periodic Videos)

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The hike has caused gold imports to plummet nearly 90 percent in the past year. But the element remains popular for Indians of all areas and classes, according to the BBC.

"Shops sell it from north to south India. The rich buy it more, but even those people who generally struggle to meet their basic day-to-day needs don't hesitate to buy it whenever they possibly can."

And smuggling is on the rise, due to the tax increase. In September, two Sri Lankan men were caught with several kilograms of gold biscuits concealed in their rectums before a flight to India. It was the most gold Sri Lankan officials had ever found in a human body, according to source.

The Air Intelligence Unit at a Mumbai airport says concealing gold bars inside the body can lead to infections, pain and rashes.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 23:51:13 -0700

CHP officer hit standing outside vehicle along 101

Officers are looking for a silver sedan missing its driver’s side rear-view mirror after the driver allegedly hit a CHP officer on Highway 101 in San Jose Friday night.

Officials say two officers had made a traffic stop along northbound Highway 101 near the McKee Road exit when the driver of the silver sedan crossed the median, to take the exit, and hit one of the officers before driving off.

The officer was taken by ambulance from the scene but CHP officials say his injuries were minor.

Officials say they found the driver's side rear-view mirror at the scene of the crash.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 23:25:21 -0700

Sliver of good news comes for drought-stricken farmers

It's a sliver of good news for drought stricken farms and cities.

Thanks to the rain and snow from February and March storms, the California Department of Water Resources announced Friday that it would increase water allocations for State Water Project deliveries from zero to five percent.

In the Tri-Valley, an area that relies heavily on state water, officials said while the increase is a good thing, the extra water won't be available until September, meaning mandatory water conservation will continue for folks in Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin.

"Obviously we were excited to hear some good news for a change. That's the first time this year the allotment has gone up. But there's some tempered enthusiasm," said Daniel Smith, Director of Public Works Operations in Pleasanton.

Continuing conservation efforts across the board is critical, he said.

"I think we're concerned with how people will react to that and say, well things are getting better so I don't have to conserve," said Daniel Smith, Director of Public Works Operations in Pleasanton. "If it's dry again next year, and we don't get much water, we're going to be in a much worse situation."

At Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore, workers said they've seen a steady stream of customers in recent days, panicking about the mandatory 25 percent cut to water use announced earlier this week for the Zone 7 Water Agency area.

"It was really important to us to allay their fears, and let them know yes, we can make everything work. We can preserve our existing landscape, and we can investment," said Jacquie Williams-Courtright, nursery owner.

She said she's been advising her customers to switch from spray and timed watering systems to drip systems and hand watering so there's less waste. Workers also recommend drought-resistant plants.

"I think mulch is probably one of the number one things people can do. We're calling it the miracle of mulch. Three inches equals a 30-percent savings of water," said Williams-Courtright. "It insulates the moisture in. It keeps it from evaporating out."

Santa Clara Valley Water District also gets water from the state. A spokesperson issued a statement, saying that the increase didn't change its water supply outlook for the year.

"We still need people to reduce their water use by 20 percent in order to make sure that we have sufficient groundwater reserves if this unprecedented drought continues into 2015," the statement said.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 23:08:47 -0700

Beloved teacher found dead on Mt. Tamalpais

The second women found dead in less than a week on Mt. Tamalpais has been identified as a 50-year-old beloved Oakland teacher.

The area’s pristine and peaceful beauty lures hikers, but just one day after the discovery of Marie Christine Sanner, many are wary of their surroundings.

"I'm scared," said one woman who was hiking Friday evening.

She and others say they are extra cautious, not convinced that it's a coincidence that two female hikers have died in recent days.

"I kept looking over my shoulder. I kept checking out each person who came," said one hiker who says she comes to the area up to three times a week.

One man who asked KTVU not to identify him says around 9:45 Wednesday night, he saw a woman matching Sanner's description standing by a green Honda Civic with a man and a German Shepherd.

Authorities have confirmed that the Honda Civic belongs to Sanner and she had her dog with her.  

Shortly after, the witness says he saw the man and the woman walk up the trail when it was completely dark.

Investigators say they are still sorting out exactly what happened.

"Those parties separated from one another and she decided to return to her car here in the parking lot and he decided to continue hiking up the mountain. Sometime after that, the accident happened," said Lt. Doug Pittman with Marin County Sheriff's department.

"I was really sad she was alone when she passed away," said Celia Pascual, who used to work alongside Sanner at Hawthorne Elementary School as teachers in Oakland.

Pascual's son was also a student of Sanner.

Sanner had been teaching kindergarten at Think College Now, a public school, in East Oakland

She was a dedicated and loving teacher by all accounts.

Sanner has kindergartners waiting for her return from spring break on Monday.

"The impact that has on children when their teacher is gone - is huge," said Pascual.

"Everybody loved her, everybody loved Marie Sanner. She loved the outdoors she loved people she was great with parents," said David Silver, founder of Think College Now elementary school.

Sanner's family tells KTVU she's dedicated her life to caring for underprivileged children and had a great love of animals.

Marin County Sheriff's Department says an autopsy on Sanner is scheduled for Monday.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:57:22 -0700

Crash sends 2 to hospital with serious injuries

Two people were rushed to the hospital with life-threatening after an accident involving several cars and a woman in a wheel-chair.

The crash happened on Silver Avenue and Mission Street in San Francisco around 9:40 p.m. Friday.

A worker at a Taco Bell near the crash says the woman in the wheelchair was pinned underneath one of the vehicles.

One car also crushed into a bus shelter.

Police say Muni service in the area has been affected.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:45:52 -0700

NBA Playoffs will start without Craig Sager

The NBA playoffs start Saturday, but one of the flashiest people in and around the NBA will be notably absent from the coverage. 

NBA on TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager is reportedly battling leukemia and began treatment Friday. (Via YouTube / Foot Locker)

Sager's son, Craig Sager, Jr., broke the news on Twitter saying his father will undergo three to four weeks of acute leukemia treatment. 

A writer for Deadspin notes if the timeline of Sager's treatment and the younger Sager's follow-up tweets are any indication, the questionably dressed veteran sports reporter will miss the NBA playoffs this season. 

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Sager is probably best known to sports fans and athletic novices alike as the man with the eclectic wardrobe. And over the years, he's taken some serious flack for his sartorial selections. (Via Bleacher Report)

But Sager's resume is long and storied — he's worked for CNN and TBS, worked the 1990 World Cup and several Olympic Games. (Via Flickr / Keith Allison)

On his show Thursday night, Keith Olbermann said it's all of that hard work — not the outfits — that makes Sager such an powerful presence. 

"Craig Sager has worked, has worked from any angle and worked hard all the damn time. Leukemia picked the wrong opponent." (Via ESPN / "Olbermann")

Sager's son responded to the deluge of messages of support on his Twitter feed, saying he and his father will be watching basketball together during the playoffs while brainstorming some new outfits. 

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:14:27 -0700

Homeowners Assoc. takes issue with girl's pet chickens

For 9-year-old Raine Matthes, the four chickens she's been raising in her family's backyard in Kentfield are part of the family.

"I love them," she said.

She even has names for the chickens, Phillipa, Lucy, Izzy and Collette

Matthes says she is able to see in them what perhaps most people miss.

"They're really sweet and nice. And they always seem to understand whenever you talk to them," she said.

But Matthes’ pets are ruffling the feathers of the homeowners association that governs her neighborhood.

The Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association has demanded the chickens be removed; saying homeowners are restricted to more common household pets.

"Our codes don't allow to have chickens here at Kent Woodlands. They're considered farm animals. We don't allow goats or pigs," said Barry Evergettis of the Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association.

But the Matthes family says they haven’t received any complaints from neighbors.

"Raine goes around on chicken play dates. She brings eggs around and it really brightens everyone’s day," said Andy Matthes, Raine's father.

But more than a fight over what constitutes a proper pet, for one little girl this has become a matter of the heart.

"It's going to be hard for us if she loses them," said the girl’s mother, Tracy Matthes.

"I would be really sad if I had to give them away because they've been with me almost their whole life. And they really love me, I feel like," said Raine.

The issue is being put to a vote by the homeowners and if the majority says the chickens can stay, they stay. If not, this could all end up in court.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 21:26:42 -0700

Changes promised at SJSU months after hate-crime

Months after an alleged hate crime sent shockwaves through the San Jose State campus, there is a plan for change.

A task force handed down more than 50 recommendations Friday in the hopes that administrators will take action.

Still task force member Gary Daniels isn't ready to claim success.

"I have no reason to be optimistic," says Daniels.

He says their final report, released Friday, means nothing without action.

"Yes this incident happened to an African American student but it could have happened to anyone. And it likely will happen to another student unless something is truly done on our campus," says Daniels.

The incident at San Jose State involved four white students, who are now charged with misdemeanor battery and hate crimes for harassing their black roommate.

Afterward there were protests on campus, and from administrators, the promise of change.

"It's just really shocking and disheartening to have something like that happen on campus," says student Jacquelyn Guerra.

"I don't think things are going to change immediately," says student Victor Hernandez.

Judge LaDoris Cordell, who headed up the task force, hopes change will be swift.

"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste," says Cordell.

And she hopes it will be a catalyst.

Among the recommendations handed over Friday were create an Office of Diversity, require extensive training for faculty and RA's, and establish a user-friendly link on university website for reporting hate crimes.

University President Mohammad Qayoumi released a statement Friday saying, "There are no easy or quick fixes. I am committed to thoughtful and sustainable actions..."

"The President is aware of that skepticism. And I have said to him in a very public fashion... it is now up to you to prove them wrong," says Cordell.

The task force hopes the university will have an action plan within 45 days and give public progress reports.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 21:01:19 -0700

Judge reduces bail for firework throwing fan

The explosion in the stands at AT&T Park Wednesday night startled players and left fans- including Diane Lundquist and her partner Noel Grandrath with ringing ears.

The two women were sitting about 30 feet away from spot where police say a 21 year-old man threw a lit M-80 firework.

"All of a sudden, just heard a really, really loud bang," said Lunquist. "Looked over, kind of like, 'What was that?' and saw a lot of smoke billowing up from where those special seats are right along the wall."

"[I] saw a few people exiting the area with their hands over their ears because obviously it hurt," said Grandrath. "My left ear is actually still sore today."

San Francisco prosecutors say Paolo Allesio Pavone of San Bruno threw the explosive from his seat in section 142 at a Coors Light beer stand. He faces felony counts of possession of a destructive device in a public place and possession of an incendiary device, and a misdemeanor count of discharging dangerous fireworks. If convicted, prosecutors say Pavone could be registered as an arsonist.

"There was the possibility of injuries to others, there was the possibility of panic, people running getting hurt," San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon told KTVU. "I think this person probably thought it was funny but obviously it's not."

Fireworks experts say the M-80s are banned in many counties for good reason.

"They are extremely powerful, they've been rated to be as powerful as a quarter stick of dynamite," said Jeff Thomas of Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, the company that did the opening day fireworks at AT&T Park last week.

On Friday afternoon, Pavone entered a plea of not guilty and mouthed "I'll be alright," to family members in the courtroom. The judge agreed to reduce his bail from $2.4 million to $100,000.

Attorney Paul DeMeester said his client has never been in trouble and indicated the higher bail was an overreaction to other violent incidents linked to Giants games.

"What the original bail reflected was probably the Brian Stow case, and the damage to the Muni buses case during the World Series celebration," said DeMeester.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:21:57 -0700

2 hikers found dead in same area within days of one another

KTVU has confirmed that the hiker found dead Thursday night on Mount Tamalpais was a teacher at an Oakland school for disadvantaged children.

Marie Sanner, 50, had been hiking on Mount Tam when she disappeared Thursday.

Sanner was the second woman found dead in the area within five days.

Marin County's Mt. Tamalpais, known as The Sleeping Princess in a Miwuk Indian Legend, was bustling with hikers Friday.

Jackie Mohanna of San Francisco told KTVU she and her daughter hike the Matt Davis trail every Friday. She knew of the deaths adjacent to the trail.

“They're saying it's unrelated from what we read, but it's too much of a coincidence," said Mohanna. "(Someone's)pushing these women over the edge.”

People left flowers Friday near where 33-year old Magdalena Glinkowski's body was found Saturday. She was from Menlo Park and had been missing two weeks. Officials say her body showed no sign of trauma, toxicology tests are incomplete.

Then about a half mile away off the Matt Davis trail, late Thursday, searchers found Sanner's body. The Mill Valley woman had only been missing a few hours.

Both women were down a rocky drainage common in the area.

"It shocked me and it worried me a little bit because I also hike quite frequently around Mount Tam," said Filipa May who lives on the mountain.

Hikers told KTVU, here where cellphones are iffy, the deaths have upped safety concerns. They say bright clothing, a whistle, or a GPS-satellite tracker can mean life or death.

"I hope it doesn't deter people, gives us more appreciation of what we have and be safe and aware," said hiker Theresa Salcedo of Daly City.

Investigators tell KTVU there is nothing that links these two deaths and no obvious signs of foul play although they say they have not yet ruled anything out.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 18:55:23 -0700

Marijuana vending machines could be coming to California

It's not a candy machine but the Zazzz will dispense marijuana edibles.

The machines currently being installed in Colorado dispensaries could be headed to California as early as this summer.

The man behind the machine, Stephen Shearin, says the Zazzz is aimed at eliminating product theft inside dispensaries.

Here's how it works: After presenting your medical marijuana card to enter a dispensary, once inside you swipe your license at the Zazzz. The machine uses facial recognition software to make sure the license is yours.

Currently Zazzz does not read medical marijuana cards.

"We believe that our technology is equally capable as a doorman would be at a bar. So if they have an adequate ID that they're faking out a human, they may be able to fake us out," said Shearin.

"We're not taking blood and DNA," he added.

That makes Bloom Room employee Carey Grafmiller uncomfortable. Bloom Room is a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary. Grafmiller says he has other concerns as well.

“One of the biggest things I think is overmedicating,” said Grafmiller.

Without employee expertise he's concerned patients won't know what they're getting.

“You run the risk of ingesting far too much of your medication and being very uncomfortable,” he explained.

Grafmiller's other concern is product freshness, especially when it comes to edibles.

“Is it old, is it not good anymore, is it possibly stale, is it possibly moldy?”

Zazzz is climate controlled. Shearin says product expiration dates will be monitored.

Right now the machines are only legal inside dispensaries, but Shearin says he believes the law will evolve to include other locations. 

“If the law does that and the law is comfortable with the way our machine verifies then absolutely,” said Shearin.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:55:59 -0700

Oakland woman dies after collapsing at Coachella

An Oakland woman died days after collapsing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, authorities said Friday.

Kimchi Truong, 24, collapsed while attending the music festival in Indio, Calif. last Sunday, according to a report by the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner's Bureau.

She was taken to JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio and transferred to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, where she died on Thursday, according to the report.

An autopsy and toxicology test are being performed to determine Truong's cause of death and results may not be released for another six weeks, according to the coroner's bureau.

The two-weekend music festival is continuing today, Saturday and Sunday.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:39:31 -0700

Car plows into busy candy store

A See's candy store, full of Easter shoppers, became a chaotic scene Friday afternoon when a car crashed through its front doors. 

Pleasant Hill Police say it's remarkable no one was seriously hurt.

"It was actually quite crowded," Sgt. Scott Vermillion told KTVU, "at least 11 employees and just as many customers."

Everyone dove for cover when the Toyota Avalon sent glass flying.

The woman at the wheel was taken away on a gurney by paramedics, but her injuries were not considered serious.

"I've been here on the holidays like this and it's massively packed," one shopper told KTVU as she arrived to find the store a mess and police tape restricting access.

Through the gaping hole in the store, Easter candy was visible strewn on the floor, and shopping baskets were left where customers dropped them. 

"It's going to take a while to repair this and make it safe for everyone," added Sgt. Vermillion.

Investigators say the incident started as a two-car collision on Contra Costa Boulevard. One Toyota sedan turned into the path of another. After they collided, one driver somehow shot straight up a walkway, between two railings, and through the storefront.

Spectators marveled that the car's path would be difficult to manage, even intentionally.

"They had to fit through those metal bars," Jen Rosier of Martinez said, smiling, "they must have really wanted candy badly."

The driver of the other car was helped onto a stretcher, but her injuries were said to be minor as well.

"We have reports of pain, and people shaken up," explained Sgt. Vermillion, "thankfully there are no serious injuries at this time."

Friday evening, a steady stream of customers arrived, only to be turned away.

Cash drawers hung empty and Easter shoppers left empty-handed.

"I came for chocolate eggs," said one customer, "I'm disappointed, because now I have to find another store." 

So far, Pleasant Hill Police have not issued citations to either driver.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:07:57 -0700

No human remains found at site of suspected arson fire

No human remains were found by arson investigators who searched the charred wreckage of a vacant former television studio used as a shelter by dozens of squatters, a San Jose fire captain said Friday.

The San Jose Fire Department on Thursday called off its search for evidence of human victims in the five-alarm, suspected arson fire Sunday that destroyed the one-time home of KNTV at 645 Park Ave., fire Capt. Rob Brown said.

"They were not about to isolate any human remains at this time," Brown said. "The arson investigation is completed as far as searching the property."

The fire department turned over the site to the city of San Jose for demolition of what is left of the structure, Brown said.

A 55-year-old man, Stillman Pfeffer, was charged Wednesday with residential arson and first degree burglary in the fire, after prosecutors alleged he sprayed flammable liquid on a mattress inside the building Sunday while 20 to 40 transients were living inside it.

According to a report prepared by San Jose fire arson investigators, three people were unaccounted for of those living in the vacant building and "possibly were unable to exit the building at the time of the fire."

Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, which used the arson investigation report as part of its case against Pfeffer, asked a judge on Wednesday that Pfeffer be held without bail and reported that murder charges could be filed if anyone had been killed in the fire.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the fire department used human remains detection dogs to sniff the front and rear areas of the devastated building and the dogs indicated finding several "hits" for potential human remains, but none proved to be genuine.

Officers from Santa Clara County Animal Car & Control on Thursday recovered and removed the remains of a pet dog of one of the transients who had lived in the building, according to fire Capt. Cleo Doss.

On Tuesday, accelerant detection dogs brought in to find possible evidence of flammable materials identified some items that were bagged and taken to the county Crime Lab, according to San Jose fire arson investigators.

San Jose firefighters were called about the fire at 3 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Park and Montgomery avenues near the San Jose Caltrain station. The blaze eventually was upgraded to five alarms.

The fire was controlled by 5:47 p.m. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

Property damage to the building was estimated at about $3.2 million, Deputy District Attorney David Boyd said.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:17:43 -0700

Popular teacher turns self in for alleged sexual-relationship with student

A popular math teacher at San Leandro High School is accused of two felonies, related to an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

Leon Chang, 27, turned himself in to police Thursday afternoon.

He’s facing statutory rape charges and contacting a minor for lewd purposes.

"She's a senior, and it's been going on since junior year," student Ramon Cuevas told KTVU, "One of the teachers caught them in the act and reported it to the administration.”

Without going into details, San Leandro Police confirm they were alerted to the inappropriate contact by school personnel.

"We have a great relationship with the school district," Lt. Mike Sobek told KTVU, "and they called us at the right time."

Investigators have been working on the case for a few months, developing forensic evidence before seeking charges.

"These are highly sensitive cases," added Sobek.

Chang has been teaching math at San Leandro High School for almost six years, and in an online profile, described himself as an activities director and a coach of various sports at the school.

Videos he has posted online show skits and flash-mob dances he has orchestrated with students.

"It just all went to waste but he was a great teacher," senior Ramon Cuevas told KTVU, "I loved him, I actually loved him as a teacher."

School is on spring break this week, and the students say the affair, and fall-out, will be a big distraction when students and staff return Monday.

The San Leandro Unified School District issued a letter to parents, acknowledging it is "deeply concerned" about the allegations, and has suspended Chang without pay and directed him "not to return to work or be on district property.”

"It's always surprising when it's a teacher," said Lt. Sobek, "It's always unfortunate."

Sobek said Chang surrendered to San Jose Police, not San Leandro, and may have family in the South Bay.

He is currently out on bail, but no one answered the door at his Oakland condominium. Neighbors said he lives there with his wife of two years.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:00:54 -0700

Lost llama takes stroll through Colorado community college

Students at a community college in Colorado were shocked to see a llama roaming the campus earlier this week.

Officials at Trinidad State Junior College in southern Colorado shot video of the llama walking through the school’s campus on Wednesday.

The animal wasn't aggressive, but it didn't allow anyone to get close.

Police followed the llama, but lost track of the animal when it headed toward the foothills.

Officers believe the llama was recently sold from the area, but somehow escaped from its current owner, and wandered back to familiar surroundings.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:44:37 -0700

Judge orders brothers to be tried together in 25-year-old murder case

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Friday agreed to grant a motion from the District Attorney's Office to consolidate the murder cases of Robert Zimmer and his brother David who are accused of murdering David's estranged wife in San Jose 25 years ago.

Judge Hector Ramon also entered a not guilty plea for Robert Zimmer and set a preliminary hearing for both to begin on May 23.

The two defendants watched from a courtroom jury box in the Hall of Justice as their attorneys argued against the prosecution's move to consolidate their cases.

Ramon entered the not guilty plea for Robert Zimmer, 70, after Zimmer's attorney said he would not instruct his client to enter the plea himself.

Robert Zimmer, who with his brother David, 66, are charged with murder in the former cold-case death of 38-year-old Cathy Zimmer, whose strangled body was found inside her car in San Jose on March 10, 1989.

Both men are being held without bail in the county Main Jail in San Jose beside the courthouse.

David Zimmer pleaded not guilty to the murder charge when he was arraigned on March 10, the 25th anniversary of the discovery of Cathy Zimmer's body. Robert Zimmer was arraigned on the charge on Feb. 27 but did not enter a plea.

Arguing in favor of consolidating the Zimmer brothers' cases, Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani said that both involved a single set of facts and there is a large amount of evidence common to both men.

But the men's attorneys each vigorously opposed combining the cases.

Michael Cardoza, attorney for David Zimmer, said that his client's case ought to proceed separately, since the prosecution will use DNA evidence against Robert Zimmer and not David, and Robert Zimmer's attorney would need more time to prepare.

"My client should not have to wait," Cardoza said.

Steve Defilippis, Robert Zimmer's lawyer, said that he only received Kajani's motion to consolidate on Monday and that he had to review about 800 pages of reports, including 400 to 500 pages of lab materials, and 16 compact discs containing prosecution evidence.

Since his defense of Robert Zimmer would require analysis of DNA evidence and other issues, he needed more time to prepare for the preliminary hearing, Defilippis said.

"This case should be kept separate," Defilippis said.

Defilippis said he also would have to review wiretap evidence and affidavits that Kajani had filed under seal.

Kajani said that the defense could petition to have those materials unsealed.

Ramon said that he would be "inclined to unseal" those documents. He ruled in favor of consolidating the cases, citing a state statute permitting it.

The judge asked Robert Zimmer if he was willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing until May 23 and he responded "yes."

Outside of court, Defilippis maintained that he did not have sufficient time to put together his side of the case.

"I'm getting this rammed down my throat," he said.

When Cathy Zimmer's body was found, it was wrapped in a quilt blanket on the rear floorboard of her 1986 Chrysler New Yorker that San Jose police found parked at San Jose International Airport.

According to Kajani, Robert Zimmer was arrested on the basis of DNA evidence taken from clothing on Cathy's body and from statements by his daughter to investigators.

Robert Zimmer's daughter Paula Zimmer told a San Jose police detective on Nov. 9, 2010, that she recalled her father saying he had met Cathy on the day the woman died and was concerned his fingerprints would be found in her car.

In 2012, the district attorney's Crime Lab examined a DNA swab from the zipper and button of pants worn by Cathy Zimmer when her body was located and it was determined that Robert Zimmer was a possible contributor to a mixture of DNA found on it, according to prosecutors.

David Zimmer, a one-time engineer at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, was taken into custody based on the alleged motive that he collected about $400,000 from the sale of his and Cathy's home and from life insurance policies covering Cathy at the time of her death, Kajani said.

Cathy Zimmer's murder was a cold case for nearly 25 years until the district attorney's office disclosed in January that it had reopened it and released photos of the quilt that her body was wrapped in.

Published: Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:19:02 -0700