Salina Nurse Finds Abandoned Baby in Stolen Car
A Salinas emergency room nurse who stumbled upon a stolen car with a 1-month-old girl in the back seat on Tuesday afternoon said Wednesday she
was prepared to block the car from leaving once she found out it was the subject of an Amber Alert.
Peggy Clancy, a nurse at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, had just returned from a two-hour hike at Toro Park when she heard infant Mariana Corona Vidal crying in the back seat of a white Infiniti Q45 at about 5:30 p.m.
The car had been stolen from the parking lot of Saint Catherine's Church in Morgan Hill, located at 17400 Peak Ave., at about 2 p.m. The baby had briefly been left alone in the car with the keys in the ignition, Morgan Hill police said.
About an hour later, the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert, which Clancy didn't know about at first because she had been hiking.
She said she heard the baby crying and looked over to say hi to whoever was in the car, but to her surprise the baby was alone.
She waited for about five minutes, thinking the mother had gone to talk someone or use the bathroom, and realized the keys were in the car. She then called 911, believing the mother might be in danger or might have abandoned the baby.
"The dispatch asked if the baby had a flowered outfit on, which she did, and I'm thinking, 'OK they're looking for this kid,'" explained Clancy, who has been a nurse for 34 years.
The dispatcher asked if Clancy could wait until police arrived, so she sat in her car and kept an eye on the Infiniti.
"When I found out it was an Amber Alert, I was ready to park my car behind it in case (the driver) tried to leave," she said.
The driver never showed up, though, and law enforcement officers came and took the baby to reunite her with her parents, Maribel Corona and Miguel Vidal.
Grandmother Kidnapper Arraigned in Superior Court
A Southern California woman accused of kidnapping her 4-month-old granddaughter last month and then claiming the child was hers was arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, but did not enter a plea.
Ericka Gallego, a 58-year-old El Monte resident, has been charged with kidnapping and residential burglary.
Investigators allege that she took a bus and a taxi from El Monte in Los Angeles County to Knightsen in eastern Contra Costa County, where her son lives with his wife and four young children. Then, either late on May 21 or early the morning of May 22, authorities suspect that Ericka Gallego snuck into the family's house and abducted Ramy Gallego from her bassinet while everybody was asleep.
Ericka Gallego then allegedly took a taxi back to Southern California with the baby, investigators said.
Ramy's parents discovered that she was missing at about 6 a.m. on May 22 and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office launched a major search.
Ericka Gallego was arrested that evening and Ramy was safely returned to her mother, Kristin Gallego, the next morning.
Kristin Gallego said outside the courtroom Wednesday afternoon that she has gotten the sense from people who have spoken with her mother-in-law that Ericka Gallego thinks she will not be prosecuted and that the kidnapping was not a big deal.
Kristin Gallego's aunt Karla Storrer said it is reassuring to see that Ericka Gallego is in custody and will have to face her alleged crimes.
Kristin, meanwhile, said things at home are slowly getting back to normal, although her older children are still afraid to go into their rooms by themselves and are worried about other people trying to take Ramy, too.
During the arraignment Wednesday, Judge John Allen kept Ericka Gallego's bail at $5 million and referred her to the public defender's office for representation.
She is scheduled to return to court in Pittsburg on June 9 to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea.
SF Mayor Lee Presents Proposed Budget to Supervisors
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday released his proposed budget that he said closes a $306 million deficit for the next fiscal year and will help keep the city "safe, solvent and successful."
Lee presented the $6.83 billion budget Wednesday to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and many other city officials who gathered at City Hall for the announcement.
The board will have to give final approval to the budget by the end of July and can also propose changes to it.
Lee said his proposed budget "reflects a very solid collaboration" between city officials and residents and will "create a foundation for years to come."
His budget includes more than $106 million in reductions to city departments, including $31.7 million from the Department of Public Health and $25.8 million from the Police Department.
Much of the savings to the police budget come from the mayor's request that a wage increase set to go into effect on July 1 be avoided.
Lee said his proposed budget includes no layoffs to police officers or firefighters.
A large part of the budget deficit was also bridged by higher tax revenue than expected, partly due to a drop in unemployment in the city from 10 percent in January to 8.5 percent this month.
"The city is on the rebound already," Lee said.
The mayor's proposal came after 10 budget town hall forums around the city and many meetings with city officials, as well as labor, business and neighborhood leaders that resulted in about $28 million in changes to the plan before it was submitted to the board.
Supervisor Carmen Chu, who worked closely with Lee on the proposal, said the collaborative budget process this year was a change from previous years with former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was elected last November as the state's lieutenant governor, and should lead to less acrimony when the board debates the proposal.
"The key difference is a very concerted effort to work together ahead of time," Chu said.
San Quentin Inmate Hospitalized After Brutal Attack
A San Quentin State Prison inmate returned to the facility Wednesday after he was transported to an outside hospital Wednesday morning for treatment of injuries sustained during what a correctional lieutenant said was a "concerted, orchestrated attack."
The man and his attackers, who were all Hispanic inmates that belonged to the West Block, were in the exercise yard at about 8:50 a.m. when the group of at least five men began attacking the lone victim, Lt. Sam Robinson said.
His attackers used slashing and puncture type weapons, what Robinson characterized as "inmate-made weapons," on the man before staff who observed the fight-in-progress used pepper spray and "less lethal rounds" to "quell" the men, he said.
Inmates sometimes construct the improvised weapons, according to Robinson, by altering prison-issued shaving blades or cutting scrap metal from otherwise harmless objects.
"There are a slew of ways that inmates acquire weapons," he said.
The victim was transported to an outside hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, and Robinson said Wednesday night that the inmate had returned to the prison.
The inmates were assigned to the West Block, which is sometimes referred to as the prison's revolving door because it is the reception facility that processes and reassigns new commitments.
Robinson said that inmates typically stay there for fewer than 90 days until they can be assigned to an institution suitable for their housing, ranging from low-level to maximum-level security facilities.
Since Wednesday morning's attack, the housing unit had been placed on a modified program pending an investigation, Robinson said, meaning that its 814 men are only allowed to leave their cells for medical appointments.
The reception center intakes inmates from 19 counties surrounding and including those in the Bay Area.
Robinson said he did not yet have information on when the victim was initially admitted to the prison, but said he was "fairly new."
"It's safe to say that it was probably a gang-related disturbance, although it is early in the investigation," he said. Investigators still have to interview all the housing unit's inmates as well as the victim and the suspects.
Contractor WIthdraws From Rebuilding San Bruno Homes
The idea of moving back into a home has become a pipe dream for five San Bruno families, whose contractor recently made a mysterious withdrawal from rebuilding houses that were ravaged when a transmission line ruptured in September.
Castro Valley-based Vanderbuilt Construction has apparently pulled out of rebuilding five homes of families who were forced to evacuate when a
gas pipeline exploded under the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood on Sept. 9, destroying 38 homes and killing eight people.
The company sent an email to the customers on Friday saying its operations were stopping until Monday, according to the Contractors State License Board.
A spokeswoman for PG&E -- which introduced Vanderbuilt Construction to the families -- said it was her understanding that the contractor is going out of business.
"We are deeply troubled by this development, and we will continue to do everything we can to help everyone affected by this terrible tragedy," PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said.
Chord said PG&E did not recommend Vanderbuilt Construction to the families, but had the contractor on-hand to pay them out for items like a broken window or damaged door directly following the blast.
She could not comment whether PG&E would be arranging an alternate contractor.
Vanderbuilt Construction representatives were not available by phone Wednesday morning. Calls were routed to an answering service.
"I guess they're taking extended vacation," said Cody, an employee at the answering service who declined to give his last name.
A customer complaint against the contractor was filed with the state license board on Tuesday, but officials have yet to investigate the credibility of the grievance, spokeswoman Venus Stromberg said.
"The complaint was from Concord, not San Bruno," she said.
She said the board did not know if the company was closing.
"Whether they go out of business doesn't necessarily affect their contractor license," she said. "But they're on our radar now."
Woman Accused of Attempted Murder of Ex-Husband and Murdering His Gradmother Testifies
A woman accused of attempting to murder her ex-husband in a custody battle over their daughter and murdering his 91-year-old grandmother said Wednesday that she and her ex-husband had a "very complicated" relationship.
Taking the witness stand in her own defense, Rosa Hill, 36, said she realized shortly after she began dating Eric Hill in 2003 that he had psychiatric problems, so she soon tried to end their relationship.
But Rosa Hill, testifying in a voice so quiet that the judge in her case ordered her to speak up, said she continued dating Eric Hill, eventually married him in 2005, and had a child with him in 2006 because, "He told me he couldn't live without me and if I left him he would die."
Prosecutor Casey Bates told jurors in his opening statement last month that Rosa Hill and her mother, 57-year-old Mei Li of Antioch, murdered 91-year-old Selma Hill at her home in the 770 block of Peppertree Road in Dublin on Jan. 7, 2009, in a "cold-blooded and premeditated" fashion.
Bates said Rosa Hill and Li wanted to kill Eric Hill, 39, and Selma Hill because he had sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody of the couple's daughter, who was two years old at the time. He and the daughter were living with Selma Hill.
Bates said Rosa Hill and Li planned the attack at Selma Hill's home for months, buying a gun, stun guns, a hammer, a sword, a crossbow, an axe, a hacksaw, handcuffs, pepper spray and other weapons.
He said they also did extensive research on the Internet on how to get away with murder and use deadly substances such as arsenic, nerve gas, mustard gas and ammonia.
But Rosa Hill's lawyer, Bonnie Narby, told jurors that she does not think the alleged attack was a murder because Hill never intended to kill Eric Hill or his grandmother.
Instead, Narby said she thinks Rosa Hill acted in the heat of passion because she was overwhelmed by the custody battle over the couple's daughter and their divorce proceedings.
State Appellate Court: Owner of Shot Cat May Sue Alleged Perpetrator
A state appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that a Brentwood man whose cat was partly paralyzed by a shot from a pellet gun can try to sue the alleged perpetrator for $36,000 in surgery and care costs.
The Court of Appeal, in a ruling issued Tuesday, said that even though the costs exceed the market value of Kevin Kimes' cat, California law allows him to seek the reasonable costs of repair of his property.
Pets are considered property under California law.
Kimes's cat, a long-haired orange tabby named Pumkin, was shot with a pellet gun on Oct. 28, 2005, as he sat on a fence between Kimes' and his neighbors' backyards.
Kimes, 46, a semiconductor engineer, claims in a Contra Costa County lawsuit that the neighbors -- either Charles Grosser, who was then an 18-year-old student at Los Medanos College, or his father, Joseph Grosser -- shot Pumkin.
The Grossers deny they had anything to do with the shooting and maintain they did not own a pellet gun, according to their lawyer, Kevin Cholakian.
"This is not the Kennedy assassination," Cholakian said. "This is a poor cat someone shot with a pellet gun. It's really terrible, but it wasn't our kid," the attorney said, referring to Charles Grosser.
The appeals court ruling did not address whether the Grossers are liable for the shooting, but merely allows Kimes to claim at a future trial that they were responsible and to seek reimbursement for $6,000 in veterinary surgery costs and $30,000 for additional care expenses.
A trial jury will decide whether the Grossers were responsible and if so, whether the $36,000 costs were reasonable.
Kimes said of the ruling, "I'm ecstatic about it. Win, lose or draw, I want to be heard in court. I want Pumkin to get his justice.
Caltrain Hits Man on Tracks - Seventh Fatality This Year
A southbound Caltrain struck and killed a man Wednesday night on the tracks south of the San Antonio station in Mountain View, according to a Caltrain spokeswoman.
The man was struck at about 6:50 p.m., spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. The incident remains under investigation and officials had not yet determined whether this was an intentional act, she said.
The 400 passengers about train No. 382, which operates on Caltrain's Baby Bullet express service and makes select stops, were transferred another train that will continue south to the San Jose Diridon station.
Dunn said a bus was provided for passengers on the following Baby Bullet train, No. 386, which was scheduled to reach the Sunnyvale station at 7:21 p.m.
Both tracks in the area of the incident were closed as of 8:30 p.m.
This is the seventh fatality on the Caltrain tracks this year, of which three were determined to be suicides and three remain under investigation. Last year there were 11 fatalities.
Victim of Sunday Shooting in Oakland Identified
A San Leandro man who was killed in a shooting Sunday night in Oakland has been identified by the Alameda County coroner's bureau.
Eric Bush, 29, was shot along with two other victims near the East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club on 8731 International Blvd. at about 9:20 p.m., according to police and the coroner's bureau. The three victims were found with gunshot wounds near the East Bay Dragons' clubhouse, police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said.
Bush and Latoya Jameika Kenny, 28, of Union City, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Another woman, a 28-year-old San Leandro resident, was transported to Highland Hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.
The woman was still being treated for her injuries as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the coroner's bureau.
No arrests have been reported.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Department's Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821.
Pedestrian Hit By Car in San Jose, Dies of Injuries
A man who was struck by a car in San Jose last week has died from his injuries, police said Wednesday.
The accident happened at about 7:55 a.m. on May 25 on southbound Monterey Road at Southside Drive, according to police.
The victim was taken to Regional Medical Center of San Jose, where he died two days later. He has been identified as Jaime Barajas, 41, of Oakland.
Police said Barajas was walking across the southbound lanes of Monterey Road when a 2006 Ford Focus driven by a 41-year-old San Jose woman struck him.
The driver of the Ford was questioned by investigators and released.
Alcohol does not appear to have been a factor in the collision, police said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Detective Michael O'Brien at (408) 277-4654. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at (408) 947-STOP (7867) or visit http://svcrimestoppers.org/.
Suspicious Package in SF Courthouse Deemed Harmless
A suspicious package that prompted the partial evacuation of the federal courthouse at Seventh and Mission streets in San Francisco late Wednesday morning was deemed harmless Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The package was reported at about 11:30 a.m. in a basement mailroom where incoming packages are X-rayed, police Officer Albie Esparza said.
One package was deemed suspicious, and the Federal Protective Service, which provides security at the courthouse, asked the Police Department's bomb squad to respond, Esparza said.
The basement and first floor of the building were evacuated, and people on the other floors were told to shelter in place, he said.
Stevenson Street, an alley that runs behind the building, was closed between Sixth and Seventh streets.
Investigators eventually learned that the object was an electronic device that was being delivered to someone in the building, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.
Many who work in the courthouse decided to go home before the device was deemed harmless at about 3:40 p.m., according to police.
Bomb-sniffing dogs went through the building after the commotion to check for any additional suspicious items.
Baby Swan Hatched at Palace of Fine Arts
Two proud parents welcomed the newest addition to grace the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon Monday.
Martha was hatched on Memorial Day to the excitement of her parents Blue Boy and Blanche, said Gayle Hagerty, who has been caring for swans at the Palace of Fine Arts for 18 years.
Though days old, the baby swan is not afraid to get her feathers ruffled, Hagerty said. Martha is already very active and spends her days swimming in the lagoon.
But like most new parents, Blue Boy and Blanche keep a watchful eye over their cygnet.
"Blue boy is incredibly protective. If you go near the nest or Martha, he'll just come right up after you," she said. "He looks scary."
The nest has three eggs, and if they are not infertile, they will hatch within the next couple days, Hagerty said.
The nest is sectioned off with a small fence to prevent anyone from tampering with the eggs, San Francisco Recreation and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said.
If the eggs do not hatch, the family of three will be the only swans in the lagoon.
Bella, a 2-year-old swan who fractured her webbed foot last month, is still recovering at her birth home in Point Reyes.
"She's on vacation," Chan said.
Jack Long, the exotic bird breeder who is caring for Bella, said she is "perfectly well" and he anticipates her return to the Palace of Fine
Arts lagoon in the next few days.
Letters "written" by Bella address her desire to head home, Long said.
"Hey, I want to go. Jack treats me real nice, but I want to see my buddies," Bella writes, proving that her foot has healed.
Before Bella returns, some of the rocks in the lagoon, which Long suspects she caught herself between, might be removed.
Hagerty said she hopes Bella's return will bring balance to the swans at the Palace of Fine Arts with the coupling of the two pairs.