Search Continues for Hayward Nursing Student - Police Suspect Homicide
As the search for a missing Bay Area nursing student continues into its second week, police in Hayward announced Monday that the department has classified the case as a homicide.
Michelle Le went missing on May 27 at 7 p.m. from Kaiser Permanente Hayward Medical Center at 27303 Sleepy Hollow Ave.
Le told classmates she was planning to drive to Reno after her rotation at the Kaiser hospital in Hayward.
She left during a break and did not return, according to Hayward police.
Based on what police said is compelling evidence recovered during the investigation that "points conclusively to homicide," the search has officially become "an effort of recovery," according to police.
"We realize this is the worst possible news for Michelle's family and friends, and for everyone involved in looking for her," police said in a statement Monday night.
Factors that led to this classification, police said, include forensic evidence collected from Le's car and the area of the parking structure where it was located, information collected during interviews, examination of evidence gathered during service of search warrants, review of video footage from the garage and other locations, and examination of Le's cellphone records.
As of Monday, more than 25 people have been questioned regarding the case, police said.
No one has been charged for Le's murder.
The Alamdea County District Attorney's Office is also evaluating the case, and police said that there would be no reduction in investigative staff working the case.
Earlier Monday it was announced that the reward for information leading to Le's whereabouts increased with pledges from the university where she was enrolled in a nursing program and her workplace, a university spokeswoman said.
Samuel Merritt University and Turner Construction Company pledged a combined $45,000 reward, totaling $65,000 when combined with family contributions and donations for information leading to the 26-year-old's safe return.
Le has worked with Turner Construction Company part-time as an accounting clerk for five years, Samuel Merritt University spokeswoman Elizabeth Valente said.
Le is 5 feet 6 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information about Le's whereabouts is encouraged to call Hayward police at (510) 293-7000.
Union Members Protest at San Jose City Hall for Pension Reform
Since 4 a.m. Monday, members of three labor unions have been in an RV parked across from San Jose City Hall to coax city officials to come and negotiate pension reform.
The members are part of the Association of Engineers and Architects, the Association of Maintenance Supervisory Personnel and the City Association of Management Personnel.
A row of them stood before the RV at a demonstration Monday afternoon holding a large sign that read, "Tell the truth, negotiate now."
"The best way to reform the pension system is to negotiate, not dictate," Ben Fields, from the South Bay Labor Council, said.
Fields was there to support the unions, who were demonstrating because they say the city administration is ignoring the City Council's direction to meet and discuss cost-saving pension reform proposals and retiree health care benefits for current and future employees, according to Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the firefighters union.
He said that, publicly, the city has been clamoring for pension reform, but instead of sitting down to discuss the issue with the unions, city officials want to discuss ballot language for Mayor Chuck Reed's proposed pension reform measure.
The proposal would have to be approved by voters because many of the recommendations require changes to the city charter.
Reed has said retirement costs are "skyrocketing" and contributing to the city's $115 million budget deficit, which will likely force the city to lay off hundreds of workers, including 195 sworn police positions and 64 firefighter positions as well as reduce library service to three days a week.
Retirement costs are projected to rise to $400 million by 2016, and could be closer to $650 million after actuarial adjustments.
Reed has said his proposal, which calls for setting limits on retirement benefits for new employees, current employees and retirees, would help the city avoid further cuts to services and the loss of hundreds of jobs, but that it is not the only solution to the fiscal problem
Dublin Woman Admits to Killing Ex-Husband's Grandmother
Rosa Hill admitted Monday that she killed her husband's 91-year-old grandmother and then stuffed her into a garbage can.
Hill, 36, conceded that she was armed with a gun, a Taser, a stun gun, a sword and other weapons when she went to Selma Hill's home in the 7700 block of Peppertree Road in Dublin on Jan. 7, 2009, but said she acted in self-defense because the elderly woman was wielding a knife.
Rosa Hill said she went to the residence because her then-husband, Eric Hill, lived there with their daughter and she believed that he had been molesting the girl, who was 2 years old at the time.
Eric Hill has denied that he molested his daughter.
Rosa and Eric Hill got married in 2005 and had their daughter in 2006 but separated in 2007 and ultimately were divorced.
There was a custody battle over their daughter and a family court gave Eric Hill sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody over her.
In her third day on the witness stand in her trial on charges that she murdered Selma Hill and attempted to murder Eric Hill in an alleged plot to take her child back, Rosa Hill said she saw her husband and daughter naked together in a compromising position when she climbed a tree to spy on them on Jan. 7, 2009.
Rosa Hill said that after her husband drove off, apparently to go to work, she approached Selma Hill when the elderly woman was taking out the garbage and tried to talk to her about her concern that Eric Hill was molesting their daughter.
But Rosa Hill said Selma Hill told her that her grandson "could do whatever he wanted to do" because he had custody and "if I interfered I would never see my baby again."
She said she was "shocked" and "really upset and angry" about Selma Hill's comments and she hit Selma Hill after the 91-year-old picked up a knife and "it seemed like she was swinging the knife toward me."
Marin Supervisors Consider More Cuts to Balance Budget
Marin County Administrator Matthew Hymel will present the county's 2011-12 budget to the Board of Supervisors today.
The $440.6 million operating budget is 0.7 percent less than last year's budget, and the $372.4 general fund budget is 0.4 percent less than the 2010-11 budget, Marin County's budget manager Dan Eilerman said.
Marin supervisors have already approved $4.3 million in cuts to balance the 2011-12 budget, and Hymel is proposing an additional $1.3 million in reductions, Eilerman said.
The $5.6 million in total reductions eliminates 60 positions in the general fund budget, including 24 potential layoffs that are part of the additional $1.3 million reduction, Eilerman said.
Twelve of the 24 layoffs will occur because the county is closing its obstetrical clinical services program at the Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael, Eilerman said.
When the county opened the clinic 18 years ago, no other agency provided women's health services, Eilerman said. Marin Community clinics now provide comprehensive primary care and obstetrical services and they are able to receive significantly higher federal reimbursements than the county, Eilerman said.
The latest $1.3 million round of reductions will impact 40-50 employees, Eilerman said.
There has been a hiring freeze in the county since 2007 that has resulted in the elimination of more than 200 positions, 85 percent of which were reduced through attrition, saving the county $30 million over four years, Eilerman said.
Marin County has set aside $5 million in anticipation of an anticipated loss of state revenue for county programs, Eilerman said.
County departments also will develop contingency plans to reduce spending further once the state budget impacts are known, Eilerman said.
Marin County is still feeling the effects of reduced sales and property tax revenue and has taken a multi-year approach to balance its budget Eilerman said. "The proposed budget reflects our fourth consecutive year of budget reductions to adapt to our new economic reality," Hymel said.
Hercules Mayor and Councilmember May Be Recalled
Voters in Hercules will be deciding whether to recall Mayor Joanne Ward and City Councilman Donald Kuehne during a special election today.
Organizers of the recall effort say on their website that the need for the recall became clear when the Hercules City Council fired interim City Manager Charlie Long in December.
Recall proponents have argued that Long was fired for "revealing the truth about city financial woes," according to recall papers served on the council members in January.
Former mayor Ed Balico resigned in January moments before he too was served with recall papers.
The notices accuse Ward and Kuehne of "failed leadership" that has led to the "unprecedented financial crisis" the city is now facing.
According to the notices, the mayor and council members voted to approve multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts to a company owned by former City Manager Nelson Oliva's family and supported "sweetheart development deals that have depleted the city's redevelopment funds."
When Long was the city manager, he published weekly reports which allegedly revealed the city's negative financial condition, organizers said.
Kuehne could not be immediately reached for comment, but on his website, truthaboutherculesrecall.com, he claims that he is being blamed for things that happened before he was elected to the city council in 2008.
"In my first year on the City Council, I advocated independent audits of the City's budget and la
ter I pushed for outside reviews of the City Manager," Kuehne said on his website.
"I was confronted by a stone wall when I asked probing questions. I was told time and time again that all financial information could only come from the City Manager. I was shocked when the City Attorney said that the conflict-of-interest with the City Manager's daughters was legal!"
Ward also could not be immediately reached for comment.
She was elected to the city council in 2000 and is currently serving as mayor in her third consecutive four-year term, according to the city's website.
Community Organizing Peace March After 5 Shootings in Oakland
Following a violent weekend in Oakland with five separate shootings that left one man dead, an Oakland community is planning a peace march, organizers said.
Oakland Community Organizations expects more than 400 parents, students, and teachers from Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School and St. Bernard Church to convene today at the elementary school for a 3 p.m. "peace walk" through what community organizers call "the most violent neighborhood in East Oakland," according to organizer Emma Paulino.
After the walk, a meeting is scheduled with city officials, including Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts, to demand a response to increased gun violence in the area, Paulino said.
"We have been working with the city for years and nothing has happened," Paulino said about community efforts with the community's Oakland police patrol division.
The march follows six shootings over the weekend, some near the school and community, including a shooting Sunday afternoon in the 1400 block of Seminary Avenue that police say left one person in critical condition.
Another nearby shooting in the 2400 block of 90th Avenue injured a 52-year-old Oakland resident in the man's apartment complex driveway on Saturday night, Oakland police said.
The victim was reported in stable condition.
On Saturday afternoon, in the 2900 block of High Street, 50-year-old Leo Dunson was shot and died from his gunshot wounds, police said.
Other shootings from the weekend left five people with gunshot injuries, police said.
At about 1:22 a.m. in the area of 59th and Genoa streets, officers found two men suffering from gunshot wounds that did not appear to be life-threatening injuries.
Just before 2 a.m., a shooting outside of a nightclub in the 1200 block of Webster Avenue left one man in critical condition and hospitalized two other men, according to police.
Two of the gunshot victims, who were taken to the hospital, were in stable condition.
The third man was scheduled to undergo surgery for critical injuries Sunday morning after he was found shot at 1:55 a.m., Oakland police Officer Kevin McDonald said.
Dumped Body in Sunnyvale Identified as Hispanic Female
Preliminary results from an autopsy of a body found stuffed into a garbage bag and dumped into the bushes of a Sunnyvale home on Sunday morning reveal the body was that of a Hispanic adult female, a Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety captain said.
Capt. Dave Verbrugge said further details identifying the Hispanic adult woman were not available, as the autopsy was still underway.
Once dental records, DNA or any other type of identification are found, officers can start piecing together who this woman was and how she ended up in the 800 block of Ticonderoga Drive in a loosely cinched large garbage bag, he said.
Hayward police, who are investigating the disappearance of 26-year-old Samuel Merritt University nursing student Michelle Le -- last seen in Hayward on May 27 -- spoke with Sunnyvale officials Monday to see if the body had been identified as an Asian female.
Since results have identified the body as a Hispanic adult female, Hayward police determined the body was not connected to the Le case, Verbrugge said.
The Santa Clara County Crime Lab and the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office took custody of the body after someone reported the bag at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, Verbrugge added.
More details are expected to be disclosed when the medical examiner's office completes its autopsy of the body, according to Verbrugge.
Anyone with details about the body is asked to call the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety at (408) 730-7110. Those who wish to remain anonymous can provide information by sending an email to SVTIP@tipnow.org.
Redwood City Mother Protected Sons With Own Body in Shooting
A 22-year-old Redwood City mother said Monday that she used her body to try to protect her two children during a shooting in East Palo Alto that killed her infant son early Sunday morning.
Ivonne Garcia Lopez, who was shot in the leg in the attack, said she threw herself over her 4-year-old son Isaiah and 3-month-old son Izak Jesus when two people opened fire on the family's car as they left a baby shower on Wisteria Lane around 1 a.m.
"They destroyed my family," Garcia Lopez said. "I am so devastated with this loss."
The young mother cried intermittently as she gave her account of the shooting at a noon news conference held by East Palo Alto police, who were announcing the arrest of a 17-year-old boy in the case.
Garcia Lopez said she and her husband, 22-year-old Oscar Jimenez, were driving away from the party when the gunmen opened fire, shooting at the car from the side.
Isaiah was not injured in the shooting, Garcia Lopez said.
Izak, who would have been 4 months old on June 12, suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
"I took him out of the car seat and he had a hole in his head," she said, weeping. Jimenez called 911 to report the shooting and drove the family to Stanford Hospital, where Izak was declared dead at about 2:15 a.m.
Investigators believe the shooting may have been a mistaken act of retaliation for a gang-related beating that occurred in Redwood City on May 31.
Acting police Capt. Jeff Liu said investigators believe the teen they have arrested for the killing mistook the victims for Sureno gang members who had beaten him up.
Investigators believe that early Sunday morning, the 17-year-old and a second person spotted the victims in East Palo Alto and thought they were the attackers, Liu said.
"Our investigation tells us that the suspect that we've arrested saw two individuals on Wisteria he believed to have participated in the crime in Redwood City," Liu said.
Police believe the teen and his cohort then armed themselves and opened fire on the car, he said.
SF Supervisors Consider Appeal of Treasure Island Development
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today will consider an appeal by opponents of a $1.5 billion project to transform Treasure Island.
The proposal would add up to 8,000 residential units, up to 140,000 square feet of commercial space and as much as 100,000 square feet of new office space to the island, as well as new and upgraded roads and infrastructure, including a new ferry terminal.
The city has been working to redevelop the 404-acre island in the middle of the Bay since the U.S. Navy closed its base there in 1997.
The San Francisco Planning Commission narrowly approved the project's environmental impact report by a 4-3 vote in April, and last month, a Board of Supervisors committee voted in favor of the plan.
But before the project could go in front of the full board, on May 11 a group of environmental advocates and other opponents of the plan filed an appeal that seeks to overturn the Planning Commission's approval of the plan.
The opponents include Golden Gate Audubon, Sierra Club, Arc Ecology and Aaron Peskin, former president of the Board of Supervisors.
Among the complaints in the appeal, opponents argue that the environmental review did not adequately address various impacts of the project, including increased congestion on the Bay Bridge, and the island's vulnerability to flooding from a tsunami or liquefaction during an earthquake.
Although the board meeting starts at 2 p.m. at City Hall, the opponents' appeal will not be considered until 5 p.m.
Supervisors have a busy agenda for today's meeting -- besides the Treasure Island issue, the board will also consider an appeal of the environmental review of the North Beach Public Library, and is also expected to give final approval to a plan to revamp the Parkmerced complex near San Francisco State University.
For more information about the Treasure Island redevelopment project, visit www.treasureislandsfbay.com.
SF Man Arrested for Carrying Loaded Gun, Resisting Arrest
A San Francisco man was arrested in Antioch early Saturday for allegedly carrying a loaded gun in his pocket, wearing body armor and resisting arrest, police said Monday.
At about 12:45 a.m., police received a report of several people gambling at a bar at 2500 Sycamore Drive.
When officers got there, they saw several people kneeling on the ground with money and dice in front of them, according to police. As the officers approached, most of the people ran away, police said.
One man, however, walked toward the officers.
The officers saw that the man, later identified as 42-year-old San Francisco resident Aaron Harris, was wearing body armor under his sweatshirt, and spotted what looked like a gun inside the front pocket of his sweatshirt, police said.
When the officers attempted to arrest Harris, he allegedly resisted, according to police.
He was arrested after a struggle, and police seized the gun.
During the arrest, someone else fired two rounds in the parking lot of the bar, and other officers went to look for the shooter but didn't the person.
Harris was booked into county jail on suspicion of several firearms violations, being a felon in possession of body armor and resisting arrest.
He has what police described as a "lengthy criminal history," which includes a prior conviction in San Mateo County for possession of crack cocaine for sale in 1989 and a prior conviction in Contra Costa County for assault with a firearm, first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon in 1994.
Harris was sentenced to state prison in both cases, police said.
Tourist Mugged near USF
A German tourist was robbed at gunpoint near the University of San Francisco campus on Saturday afternoon, police said.
The robbery was reported at 4:45 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Clayton and Fulton streets.
The tourist was robbed of his phone, camera and cash, according to police.
The robber used a black pistol.
The suspect fled and has not been found. He is described as a black man between 18 and 25 years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds.
He has black hair, and was last seen wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and dark, baggy jeans.
German tourists have also been the victims of other crimes in San Francisco in the past year.
In August 2010, Mechthild Schroer, a 50-year-old woman from Germany, was fatally shot when she was apparently caught in the crossfire of a shootout between groups of people in the city's theater district.
Less than a week later, Nils Linke, 21, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding a bike in the city's North of Panhandle neighborhood.
An arrest was made in the hit-and-run case shortly after it happened, and last month seven people were arrested in connection with Schroer's death.
Both cases are pending in San Francisco Superior Court.
Anyone with information about the robbery Saturday is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
Oakland Leaders Unveil New Police and Fire Communication System
City of Oakland officials unveiled a new police and fire communications system Monday that they believe will minimize radio problems that interfered with operations earlier this year.
Mayor Jean Quan, who was joined by City Administrator Lamont Ewell, Interim Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann and other officials at a news conference at Highland Hospital, said the new system offers more streamlined communications operations for first responders in the field and fewer dead spots than the old and outdated system it is replacing.
The new system complies with national standards for digital radio communications, which are called Project 25, or P25 for short, Quan said.
The previous system was analog. She said Oakland is the first city in the Bay Area to be fully compliant with P25 standards.
The new system cost about $18 million but it was paid for by federal funds, according to Quan.
There were several incidents earlier this year in which problems with the radio communication system prevented police officers who were responding to serious crimes from talking to one another or dispatchers for long periods of time.
The problems also hampered communications for the Oakland Fire Department.
The problems were so bad that at one point Police Chief Anthony Batts had officers ride two per patrol car as a safety measure. Generally, patrol officers ride alone, which allows more cars to be available to respond to crimes.
When officers double up, there are fewer patrol cars on the streets. Batts said he wanted to make sure that officers could back each other up until the communications system issues were resolved.
Quan had previously said the new system might not be ready until the end of the summer, and she said she is pleased that it is now in place.
It started operating on Sunday morning.
The system was tested for a month before it began operating, she said.
The Bay Area is expected to be mostly cloudy this morning, becoming partly cloudy, with highs in the upper 50s.
It is expected to be mostly clear this evening, becoming mostly cloudy, with lows in the lower 50s.
West winds of 15 to 20 mph are also expected. Wednesday is expected to be mostly cloudy with highs in the upper 50s and southwest winds of 10 to 15 mph.