Slain Benicia 13-Year-Old Remembered As Smiling Girl Who Loved Writing Songs, Poetry
Several dozen people gathered at a cemetery overlooking the Carquinez Strait in Benicia Thursday to remember the 13-year-old Suisun City girl who was found raped and murdered in a Fairfield park earlier this month.
Under a cloudless blue sky, mourners stood around a white casket adorned with flowers and draped with a poster-size picture of Genelle Conway-Allen. Genelle's body was discovered by a passerby in a parking lot at Allan Witt Park around 6:45 a.m. on Feb. 1.
The man accused of killing her, 32-year-old Anthony Lemar Jones, pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in a Fairfield courtroom Thursday morning.
"I know we would all rather be anywhere else but here today," Pastor Jerry Pollard of Gateway Church in Benicia said at the start of the 1 p.m. service.
"It's a horrific, horrible thing that happened to Genelle," he said.
Some of Genelle's friends and classmates from Green Valley Middle School in Fairfield wore white T-shirts bearing a picture of the teen, who was in foster care at the time of her death.
Many who spoke at the service described Genelle as a girl with a bright smile who loved to write songs and poetry.
"When I first met Genelle, she came up and introduced herself to me. Ever since then, we clicked," one girl recalled tearfully, clutching a tissue. "We'll miss her."
Greg Hubbs, the principal of Green Valley Middle School, remembered Genelle as energetic and outgoing.
The day before her murder, she visited his office and told him "she was doing better in school," he recalled.
When she was reported missing and later found murdered, the school provided grief counselors for students and gave them time to write about their feelings, he said.
On top of missing their classmate, Hubbs said, some students have expressed a sense that "this could happen to me, too."
"You have to say, 'Be careful -- your parents want you to be safe and there's a reason,'" Hubbs said.
A week after Genelle's body was discovered, police announced they had arrested Jones, a Fairfield resident.
Police say they identified Jones as a suspect early on in the investigation and put him under round-the-clock surveillance before arresting him at a home in Fairfield the morning of Feb. 8. He is being held in Solano County Jail without bail.
Jones pleaded not guilty in Solano County Superior Court Thursday morning to murder with special circumstances that the murder was committed during a rape and a kidnapping.
The special-circumstance allegations make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
Man Charged With Multiple Felonies For Cathedral Hill Sexual Assault
A Texas man accused of sexually assaulting a woman in San Francisco's Cathedral Hill neighborhood last weekend made his initial appearance in court Thursday to face multiple felony counts, prosecutors said.
Arthur Salinas, 57, is charged with rape, forced oral copulation, failing to register as a sex offender and kidnapping enhancements for the attack at about 11 p.m. Saturday.
The victim struck up a conversation with Salinas while making a purchase at a store in the 1400 block of Sutter Street near Van Ness Avenue, police said.
The victim and Salinas then left the store together and were walking for about a block when he allegedly forced her into a stairwell and sexually assaulted her, according to police.
The suspect fled the scene and the victim went home, where her roommate called 911. The victim was then taken to a hospital to be treated for her injuries, police said.
Investigators searched the area and spoke with an apartment manager in the 1300 block of Sutter Street who said Salinas matched the description of the suspect.
He was found shortly afterward near Sutter and Franklin streets and was taken into custody on the various charges, as well as for a sex offender parole warrant issued by the Texas Department of Corrections.
District Attorney George Gascon issued a statement denouncing the sexual assault, which came just days after the celebration of the international One Billion Rising campaign seeking to end violence against women.
"Last week, after thousands of people in San Francisco gathered in front of City Hall and demanded an end to the violence against women, we had this monster commit horrific acts against a female resident," Gascon said.
"This is unacceptable and we will aggressively charge this predator and hope he will spend the rest of his life where he belongs, in prison," he said.
Salinas will return to court on Monday to enter a plea. He is a third strike candidate under California's three strikes law and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Crane Working Under New Bay Bridge Drops Large Metal Piece, Tips Over
A crane being used for work on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge toppled over after dropping a 129-ton piece of metal it was removing from underneath the bridge, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman said.
The barge-mounted crane was working in tandem with another crane to lower a section of the bridge's temporary support structure via a large basket onto the barge near the tower under the deck of the new self-anchored suspension span, MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.
For reasons that have yet to be determined, at about 12:15 p.m., the 258,000-pound temporary structure fell out of the basket and onto the empty barge below, causing the crane and its 168-foot boom to lose its center of gravity and also topple over, Goodwin said.
The temporary steel structure punctured the barge but did not sink it. There were four people conducting the work -- two crane operators and two ironworkers -- but no one was injured in the incident, according to Goodwin.
"This has been a remarkable project for the safety of the workers," he said. "We're very pleased that nobody was injured here."
The 99-by-88-foot barge is disabled and will have to be towed away, but remained under the bridge as of late Thursday afternoon, Goodwin said.
The U.S. Coast Guard responded to the incident with a boat and helicopter to make sure there was no one in the water, Coast Guard Lt. Erin Gilson said.
A Coast Guard boat was still patrolling the area Thursday afternoon to enforce a safety zone around the barge, Gilson said.
Protesters Stage Sit-In At City College Over Student Input In Accreditation Efforts
A protest over student input in City College of San Francisco's efforts to stay accredited occupied a college administration building Thursday in an effort by protesters to speak to the school's chancellor and a small group remained there Thursday night, a college spokesman said.
The protest started with a rally planned for about 12:30 p.m. at the school's Ocean campus.
Protesters marched to several of the college's different locations throughout the city before returning to the Ocean campus where a group of about 50 or 60 protesters entered Conlan Hall and climbed the stairs to interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman's office late Thursday afternoon, college spokesman Larry Kamer said.
Scott-Skillman was not on campus and was unavailable to speak with the protesters Thursday, Kamer said.
As of about 7:30 p.m., Kamer said that about 15 people remained sitting in a circle in the lobby of the closed building and that campus police were continuing to monitor the protest, which remained peaceful, and had no plans to escort the protesters from the building.
However, one protester who managed to enter Scott-Skillman's office was escorted from the building earlier Thursday afternoon, Kamer said.
"We're hoping this disperses quickly. It's taxing the resources of an overly-taxed institution," Kamer said. We appreciate their concerns but it does begin to cost money after a while and we hope they bear that in mind."
Shanell Williams, president of the Associated Student Council at the campus, said there has been "a lack of open communication" between students and the administration, which is imposing cuts to student services and school staff in an effort to fend off the possible closure of the school.
City College is required to file a report by a March 15 deadline set by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which last July placed the school on "show cause" status.
The report must show that the school is taking significant steps to address problems cited by the commission, including an excessive number of campuses and high non-instructional faculty costs.
If City College fails to show adequate improvement, the school could lose accreditation and close after the commission issues its ruling on June 10.
A special trustee for City College said in January that the school would likely miss the March 15 deadline.
Childhood Friend Describes Man Killed In Redwood City Motorcycle Crash As Fun, Gregarious
A friend of a 23-year-old man killed in a motorcycle crash in Redwood City early Wednesday said his friend was excited by the prospect of a new job.
Redwood City resident Miracle Moses Leilua Jr. was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which happened at Roosevelt Avenue and Upton Street around 1:35 a.m.
Redwood City police said officers arrived to find two men suffering from serious injuries.
Both were on the motorcycle at the time of the crash, with Leilua believed to be driving, police said.
They were traveling west on Roosevelt Avenue when the bike went off the roadway just west of Upton Street and came to rest in the parking lot of a nearby business, Redwood City police Lt. Sean Hart said.
The second man was taken to a hospital. Hart did not know his condition.
It does not appear any other vehicles were involved in the crash, police said.
Childhood friend Gregory Escolta, 23, lives in Las Vegas but grew up in Redwood City with Leilua, where the two met playing Pop Warner football when they were 8 years old.
Escolta said he saw the Menlo-Atherton High School graduate in early February during a visit to the Bay Area.
Escolta said they remained friends throughout high school even though he went to rival Woodside High School.
"The last time I saw him he was just really happy," Escolta said.
He had been well dressed after coming back from a job interview.
Although not family, Escolta said he called Leilua his cousin and noted his friend was close with Escolta's parents -- who saw him the day before he died riding his motorcycle through the Redwood City neighborhood.
Escolta said Leilua went by "Moses" or "Mo," although his mother named him "Miracle" because he was born on New Year's Day.
"He was a prankster," Escolta said. "He had this laugh...a loud crazy annoying laugh."
A social person, Escolta said, "He pretty much got along with everyone."
The crash remains under investigation, and it is unclear whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident, according to police.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call Redwood City police Officer Peter Cang at (650) 780-7100, ext. 5021.
Proposed Change In Larkspur Ferry Fare To Giants Games
San Francisco Giants fans who take the Larkspur Ferry to the games may be paying $11 one-way this season.
Under a proposal by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, the special event ferry ticket will cost $9 and there will be a $2 service fee added by tickets.com.
The special event Golden Gate Ferry tickets would be sold via the San Francisco Giants website at sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com using tickets.com.
"Customers will be provided a streamlined, 1-step ticket purchasing process that also provides the added convenience of purchasing both game and ferry tickets at the same time," district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
With the online sales, fans can print out the ferry ticket at home, have them sent to a smart phone or mailed to them.
Ferry customers also will be able to buy AT&T ferry tickets by calling tickets.com, and the district is working to secure a walk-up location, Currie said.
The ferry tickets can then easily be scanned with bar code readers provided by tickets.com for verification at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and at AT&T Park for the return trip.
Last year the one-way fare with services fees was $9.75-$10.
The District has tentatively scheduled a public hearing March 7 on the $2 flat service charge per ticket whether it is purchased via tickets.com, online or by phone.
A proposed 50-cent increase in the AT&T Park special event ferry that was to take effect on July 1 will be deferred until Nov. 15, Currie said.
San Jose Jury Rules Man Was Sane When He Stabbed Girlfrend To Death In Dispute Over Louis Vuitton Bag
A jury that had found a San Jose man guilty of slaying his girlfriend in an argument over a Louis Vuitton handbag concluded Thursday he was sane when he committed the murder, a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney said.
Jurors rejected defendant Peter Shui's claim that he was insane when he stabbed 33-year-old Lijia Zheng 11 times with a kitchen knife in her San Jose apartment on Aug. 4, 2011, Deputy District Attorney Erin West said.
The same jury found Shui, 50, guilty of second-degree murder on Wednesday when it could have opted for first-degree murder, as West argued, or involuntary manslaughter, as requested by the defense, West said.
After the jury's first verdict Wednesday, the trial entered a one-day sanity phase Thursday when jurors heard from two doctors as witnesses for the prosecution and one doctor called to make Shui's case, West said.
"(Shui) said he was literally mentally ill" when he stabbed Zheng, West said.
Shui's defense tried to persuade the jury that Shui "suffered from psychosis" and that Shui told a doctor that the victim's "face transformed into the face of the devil" prior to the stabbing, West said.
"The doctors I brought in did not believe he was truthful," West said.
A piece of evidence that hurt Shui's defense during the two-week trial was a recording of his voice in a 911 emergency call he placed after the stabbing, West said.
On the recording, Shui told the emergency dispatcher that he injured Zheng "so many times because she kept yelling at me."
"That's what the (prosecution's) doctors really based their opinions on, that he knew what he was doing, that he really wasn't crazy," West said.
Shui also tried to argue that he stabbed Zheng, a Chinese national, because he was intoxicated, but jurors did not take that into account based on what they said outside the courtroom Thursday, West said.
Prior to the murder, Shui, who was married, unemployed and earning money playing the Chinese tile game mahjong, carried on an affair with Zheng and his wife knew about it, West said.
On Aug. 3, 2011, Shui's wife spotted Zheng at a local mall and noticed Zheng carrying an expensive Louis Vuitton handbag.
His wife confronted him later that day about why his lover had the handbag, West said.
The next day, Shui informed Zheng about his wife's discovery of the bag, to which Zheng replied that Shui did not even buy the bag for her.
As the couple argued, Shui grabbed an 8-inch kitchen knife and stabbed Zheng to death, West said.
West described the murder as "a classic domestic violence rage killing."
Shui faces a penalty of 15 years to life imprisonment at a sentencing hearing set for April 26, West said.
Barbara Lee Announces Grant For Low-Income People With HIV
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced Thursday that the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency is getting a $2.5 million grant to help low-income people with HIV.
Lee said the grant from the U.S. Department Health and Human Services will improve access to a comprehensive, effective and cost-efficient continuum of high quality, community-based care for low-income people and strengthen strategies to reach minority populations.
Lee said in a statement, "Alameda County health providers are leaders in the domestic fight against HIV/AIDS and I am pleased that the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency has been selected for this critical funding that will expand and improve efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the East Bay."
She said, "As Co-chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, I will continue to fight for resources to end the AIDS epidemic and to achieve an AIDS-Free Generation."
The U.S. Department Health and Human Services' HIV Emergency Relief Project Grants provide direct financial assistance to localities that have been the most severely affected by the HIV epidemic to enhance access to a continuum of high-quality care.
Lee said the comprehensive continuum of care includes 13 core medical services specified in legislation and appropriate support services that assist people with HIV/AIDS in accessing treatment for HIV/AIDS infection that is consistent with federal treatment guidelines.
She said comprehensive HIV/AIDS care beyond those core services may include supportive services that meet the criteria of helping individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS to access and remain in primary medical care to improve their medical outcomes.
San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report
Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northeast winds up to 15 mph.
Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening. Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s, with winds up to 20 mph.
Partly cloudy skies are likely Saturday, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s, with winds up to 15 mph.