San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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Alameda Co.: Deputies Find Alligator Guarding 34 Pounds of Marijuana in Castro Valley

Sheriff's deputies found 34 pounds of marijuana being guarded by an alligator during a probation compliance check in Castro Valley on Tuesday afternoon, an Alameda County sheriff's sergeant said Wednesday.

The dried, processed marijuana was found in a bedroom at a home in the 19000 block of Mt. Jasper Drive around 1:30 p.m., along with the live 5-foot-long alligator, which was living in a Plexiglas tank, sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.

The suspect, 32-year-old Assif Mayar, was booked into the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on drug possession and sales charges, according to the sheriff's office.

Nelson said Mayar apparently acquired the alligator, named "Mr. Teeth," in 1996 to commemorate the death of rapper Tupac Shakur.

It appears the animal was being used as a deterrent to scare away would-be marijuana thieves.

Mr. Teeth was taken to the Oakland Zoo, where zoo officials said he is being treated at the veterinary hospital.

Vets are accessing his health, as it appears he is fairly sick and likely stressed from the events in the past few days.

After he's checked out he will be placed in quarantine, zoo officials said. According to the zoo, Mr. Teeth may be a caiman, a reptile in the alligator family. 

Regional: Bone Fragment Found in 'Speed Freak Killers' Mass Grave Not Those from Hayward Kidnapping Victim

Bones discovered at a well in San Joaquin County last October are not those of Hayward kidnapping victim Michaela Garecht, police said Wednesday.

Michaela Garecht was abducted on Nov. 19, 1988, at age 9 as she rode her scooter with a friend to the Rainbow Market on Mission Boulevard in Hayward.

In the more than 24 years since, her family has been working with Hayward police who had found a possible connection to Michaela's disappearance to the "Speed Freak Killers" -- Wesley Shermantine, 45, and Loren Herzog, who hanged himself at age 46 early in 2012.

The two are believed to have buried their victims in a Linden, Calif., well after killing a number of people in the 1980s and 1990s.

They were dubbed the "Speed Freak Killers" because they were allegedly high on methamphetamine at the time of the killings.

Shermantine, who has been convicted of four counts of murder and is on death row, sparked interest in Michaela's case when he said in early 2012 that Herzog, who attended Linden High School with him in the 1980s, may have abducted Michaela.

Herzog was convicted in 2001 of three counts of murder and accepted a plea deal in which he was sentenced to 14 years in state prison.

In 2010, he was paroled to a trailer outside the High Desert State Prison in Susanville.

Authorities said he killed himself there the night of Jan. 16, 2012.

A bone fragment that was found in a first well in Linden last February was identified as that of a juvenile between the ages of 5 and 14 and was sent to be tested as a possible match to Michaela in October.

Initial results were inconclusive, but after further testing Hayward police said Wednesday that the bones belong to a previously identified murder victim with no connection to Michaela or any other Hayward case.

The identity of that victim is not being immediately released, police said.

Regional: Bonds Denied Entrance to National Baseball Hall of Fame But Can Be Reconsidered Next Year

Former San Francisco Giants outfielder and all-time home run champion Barry Bonds was denied entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by baseball writers Wednesday.

The hall, based in Cooperstown, N.Y., announced that Bonds received 206, or 36.2 percent, of 569 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

A vote of 75 percent is needed for induction into the hall. Bonds, 48, played with the Giants from 1993 to 2007.

While on the team, he set the Major League Baseball career home run record of 762, as well as the single-season record of 73, which he batted in 2001.

The former outfielder received seven Most Valuable Player awards. Bonds was one of 37 players considered by the writers this year.

For the first time since 1996, and for the eighth time ever, no candidate achieved the required 75 percent vote for induction.

Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said in a statement, "We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era." 

"The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers' Association of America," Idelson said.

"We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide," he said.

Because he received a vote of more than 5 percent, Bonds will remain eligible for consideration up to 14 more years.

This year was his first on the ballot.

Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said, "We respect the process, and ultimately the decision is up to the baseball writers.

"We hope that at some point, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame," Slaughter said.

Bonds' legacy has been clouded by allegations of the use of performance-enhancing drugs distributed by the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.

He was indicted in federal court in San Francisco in 2007 on charges of lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he denied ever knowingly having taken steroids or human growth hormone from his trainer, Greg Anderson.

The panel was investigating alleged distribution of the drugs by BALCO.

In a trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco in 2011, a jury convicted him of obstructing justice by giving the grand jury evasive testimony, but deadlocked on three perjury counts.

Prosecutors later dropped the perjury charges.

Regional: Transportation Agency Seeks $31M for Bay Bridge Security System

Staff members of a key transportation agency said at a meeting Wednesday that they are seeking $31 million to pay for a new security system for the Bay Bridge, most of it for the new eastern span that's scheduled to open in September.

Bay Area Toll Authority staff member Peter Lee told the agency's Oversight Committee that Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol are seeking $26.3 million for a comprehensive security system to monitor the 2.2-mile-long eastern span.

An additional $5.1 million is being requested for a similar upgrade for the Bay Bridge's western span, Lee said.

He said the total for the eastern span includes $15.7 million for installing 175 cameras, including video, infrared and thermal imaging cameras, $3 million for a control system, $3.2 million for a telecommunication system and $4.4 million in contingency costs.

The funding request seemed to surprise members of the Oversight Committee, who previously had allotted only $8 million for the eastern span.

Bill Dodd, a Napa County supervisor who chairs the Bay Area Toll Authority, said he didn't understand why toll payers would have to pay the entire cost, saying, "It's not clear why Caltrans and the CHP can't" pay for part of it.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said the new eastern span needs a state-of-the-art security system because it's a potential terrorist target, just like the Golden Gate Bridge, which already has an extensive security program in place.

Heminger said he also had questions when he first learned about the need to spend a large sum to protect the Bay Bridge but his concerns were satisfied when he had a private meeting at which CHP officials revealed their security concerns.

He suggested that the committee set up a similar meeting with the CHP so that committee members can also be briefed on the subject.

The Oversight Committee forwarded the matter to the Bay Area Toll Authority's full board for final approval next month, assuming the committee members' concerns are resolved.

Daly City: PFLAG Founder, Jeanne Manford Dies at 92

The founder of iconic gay rights organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays died at her home in Daly City on Tuesday, PFLAG officials confirmed Wednesday.

Jeanne Manford, who was 92 years old, launched PFLAG in 1973, months after accompanying her gay son in New York City's Christopher Street Liberation Day March, a precursor to Wednesday's Pride parades, according to PFLAG.

Manford, then a schoolteacher living in New York, carried a sign that read "Parents of Gays: Unite in Support for Our Children."

During and after the march, many young gay and lesbian participants approached Manford and asked her to speak to their own parents.

Those requests helped plant the seed for PFLAG, originally called Parents FLAG, and the first formal meeting was held in 1973.

As word of the parents' support group spread, similar groups began meeting nationwide, and a movement was born.

Today, PFLAG has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 supporters nationwide, according to the organization's website.

Julia Thoron, Chair of San Francisco's PFLAG chapter, described Manford as a quiet woman who was spurred to action after her son was beaten in a homophobic attack.

"She had the strength of her convictions, and it was that her son deserved the protection of society and didn't deserve to be beaten up," Thoron said.

In a 2009 speech, President Barack Obama called Manford's work "the story of America...of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating, educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury."

A private memorial and burial will be held for Manford, and PFLAG officials said a later celebration of the founder's life is also in the works.

Manford's family requests that any donations be made to the Jeanne Manford Legacy Fund to support the ongoing work of PFLAG National.

Donations may be sent to 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 660, Washington, D.C. 20036 or made online at

Oakland: Man Facing Charge of Murdering the Stalker of His Sister

An Oakland man was ordered to stand trial Wednesday on a charge that he murdered a man who allegedly was stalking his sister.

The motive for Donald Tremayne Britton, 38, to fatally shoot 50-year-old Leo Dunson in the 2900 block of High Street on June 4, 2011, is that Britton was trying "to protect his sister from the person who had been stalking her," prosecutor Chris Cavagnaro said at the end of a preliminary hearing that spanned parts of two days.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner said the prosecution produced sufficient evidence to have Britton stand trial on the murder charge as well as a charge that he was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

Oakland police Sgt. Sean Fleming testified that Britton's sister, Chantelle Britton, told police in an interview last Aug. 3 that Dunson lived near her and had been stalking her and "felt like her life was in danger."

Fleming said Chantelle Britton told police that on June 4, 2011, "she had called her brother to come down and talk to Dunson."

Chantelle Britton said that when her brother arrived she pointed at Dunson and he gave her a hug and then she saw the two men standing about one to two feet apart, according to Fleming.

She then turned away but about 5 to 10 seconds later she heard one or two gunshots, Fleming testified.

Chantelle Britton told police that when she saw her brother at a relative's house in West Oakland later that day she asked him why he carried out the shooting and he replied, "You shouldn't have to deal with that, you're my little sister," Fleming said.

Chantelle Britton said in the interview that her brother had dreadlocks at the time of the shooting but when she saw him later that day he had cut them in an apparent attempt to alter his appearance.

Donald Britton remained at large until last Aug. 1, when he was arrested at his job at a Walmart store in Carson City, Nev.

Britton's lawyer, Kathleen Guneratne, told Judge Horner that he shouldn't give much consideration to Chantelle Britton's statement to police because she wasn't available to testify at the preliminary hearing and couldn't be cross-examined.

Guneratne said there was a murder warrant for Chantelle Britton when she was interviewed and if she had testified she would have faced "Fifth Amendment issues" about not incriminating herself because if her statement to police is true she could be considered an accessory to murder.

Palo Alto: Wife of Late Actor Patrick Swayze Lauds New Law to Fight Pancreatic Cancer

Flanked by the wife of the late actor and cancer victim Patrick Swayze, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo Wednesday celebrated the passage of a law that requires the federal government to fight harder against the most deadly cancers.

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, co-sponsored the Recalcitrant Cancer Research Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 3.

The law directs the National Cancer Institute to focus on early detection and treatment of cancers with very low survival rates -- including pancreatic cancer, which has the lowest survival rate of the five major cancers.

"A very dear friend of mine, Ambassador Richard Sklar, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer," Eshoo said at a news conference at Stanford Hospital Wednesday morning.

"It really took a toll on us, and when I asked why I haven't heard from (victims) about this, he said, 'because they're all dead.'"

Eshoo continued, "Pancreatic cancer is one of the recalcitrant cancers -- one that is essentially a death sentence."

The congresswoman said the law is meant to push such cancers to the frontlines of research.

Pancreatic cancer, now the fourth-highest cause of death from cancer behind lung, colon and breast, is estimated to become the second-leading cause by 2020, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, an advocacy group based in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Lisa Niemi Swayze, whose husband, actor Patrick Swayze, died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at age 57, said Eshoo's law was needed because the survivability of the cancer has not changed in the 40 years since the last major law to combat cancer, the National Cancer Act, was passed in 1971.

"This is the first time that a plan has been put in place" for pancreatic cancer, Swayze said.

"Survival rates have been going up for the other major cancers and pancreatic cancer is the only one that is decreasing," Swayze said.

Her husband, a Broadway dancer and film actor best known for the 1987 movie "Dirty Dancing," lived for 22 months after his diagnosis compared to three to six months for the average person, Swayze said.

"It was way longer than the tabloids could predict," Swayze said. "The tabloids said he'd last only five or six weeks. He said to me, 'They must be getting tired of predicting I'm going to die next week.'"

San Jose: Walgreens Agrees to Pay More Than $1M Penalty for Overcharging Customers

In a settlement reached in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose Wednesday, Walgreens must pay more than $1.4 million in penalties for overcharging patrons and offer discounts when overcharges occur in its stores statewide for three years, a prosecutor said.

The penalty settles a lawsuit filed jointly by prosecutors in Santa Clara and three nearby counties saying the retailer charged prices higher than marked on store shelves over a three-year period, Deputy District Attorney Martha J. Donohoe said.

The prosecutors also faulted Walgreens for telling consumers they were eligible for discounted prices through "Register Reward" coupons without informing them they had to buy another item to get the discount, Donohoe said.

The settlement, to affect 625 Walgreens stores in California, took place three years after a store customer in Santa Clara County told county officials that products at a Walgreens outlet cost more after they were scanned at cash registers, Donohoe said.

"There was definitely a consumer complaint that got the ball rolling," Donohoe said.

Under the settlement, which was brought by several counties including prosecutors from San Mateo, Contra Costa and Santa Cruz counties, Walgreens will be assessed $200,000 to cover investigation costs and $1.25 million in civil charges, Donohoe said.

In addition, all Walgreens stores in California will have to give either a $5 deduction or a $5 merchandise card each time a customer finds out they were charged more than the lowest advertised price, Donohoe said.

If the product cost less than $5, Walgreens must let the patron have it for free, Donohoe said.

Walgreens will have 60 days to post notices about the offer, called the Scanner Price Guarantee, in all of its stores in the state and the guarantee must continue for the next three years.

Vivika Panagiotakakos, spokeswoman for Walgreens at its headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., said that the company does not yet have a response prepared about the case.

SF Bay Area Thursday Morning Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning with a chance of rain.

Highs are likely to be around 50, with northwest winds up to 20 mph. Partly cloudy skies are likely this evening.

Lows are expected around 40, with northwest winds up to 20 mph. Partly cloudy skies are expected Friday morning.

Highs are likely to be in the lower 50s, with northwest winds up to 20 mph.


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