San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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Vatican Announces Francis I as New Pope

The Bay Area religious community is reacting with some surprise to the selection of Pope Francis I Wednesday -- the first pope to hail from the Americas.

White smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney at the Vatican Wednesday signaled that the Papal Conclave had selected a new leader of the Catholic faith, introduced Wednesday afternoon as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina.

The 76-year-old pope has taken on the name of Francis, something that San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon is special for the city also named for St. Francis of Assisi of the Franciscan order.

According to San Francisco archdiocese spokesman George Wesolek, the pope's name choice indicates the pope's concern for the poor.

The pope is also the first Jesuit cardinal, non-European and a noted Vatican outsider, according to Wesolek.

"There's great joy that he's the first from the Americas," Wesolek said.

His connections to Latin America are expected to resonate with the San Francisco Catholic community where about 40 percent of the archdiocese is Hispanic, Wesolek said.

As the first Jesuit pope he is expected to bring the values of that congregation "that specializes in education and has a reputation for intellectual superiority," Wesolek said.

"He lives a very simple lifestyle. He takes the bus to work," Wesolek said about the pope's life as the archdiocese in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Thomas Cattoi, an associate professor of Christology and cultures at Santa Clara University's Jesuit School of Theology, called the election of Pope Francis an "intelligent choice" albeit a surprise given his Jesuit roots and South American origins.

"This is going to strike a really good note with all the Latin American populations that live in California," Cattoi said.

However, despite Pope Francis' dedication to social justice, Cattoi noted he's "not a progressive thinker at all."

The new pope is considered socially liberal, but it is "unrealistic to expect change" in the papacy concerning issues such as abortion, contraception and same-sex marriage, Cattoi said.

Santa Clara Court Releases Shocking Evidence about Threats Made Against Senator Leland Yee

A newly unsealed document in Santa Clara County Superior Court has revealed that the person who sent an email death threat to a state senator in January called himself "a trained Marine sniper" with "39 confirmed kills in Afghanistan."

"Don't make me get to 40," the email said, according to the document filed in the case of Everett Fred Basham, 45, of Santa Clara.

Basham is accused of being the person who sent the threatening message to state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, on Jan. 11.

He faces 12 criminal charges in Santa Clara County Superior Court, including charges of making threats while armed with a rifle and possessing two destructive devices.

The previously sealed statement of alleged facts by California Highway Patrol Officer Byron Wong was unsealed in connection with Basham's ongoing preliminary hearing.

Deputy Santa Clara County District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci said the preliminary hearing will continue in Superior Court on Monday and may conclude that day.

Basham is being held in jail without bail.

The email message received by Yee threatened the senator because of his efforts to work on gun control legislation.

Yee announced last month that the message was a "very explicit threat" by a person who said he was a trained sniper, but details of the message were not disclosed until the CHP statement was unsealed.

The message also said, "I know where your office is and where the state capital building is in Sacramento.I have hiding spots around both with clean view," according to the CHP document.

Wong also said in the statement that Basham graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1990 and described himself on a social media website as a former employee of Hewlett-Packard Co.

The CHP officer said Basham lives in Santa Clara, but maintains an office at his parents' home in Sunnyvale for a company he owns that is called Labrent/Uwave Gov Sys.

Wong said in the documents that investigators found a forged U.S. Army identification card in Basham's car as well as alleged bomb-making materials, rifles, pistols and assault weapons in a search of his home.

Yee said through a spokesman that he could not comment on the newly revealed details because the case is ongoing.

Palo Alto Medical Employee Burglarized 10,000 in Prescription Drugs

Police arrested an employee at Palo Alto Medical Foundation last week in connection with burglarizing a pharmacy after business hours and stealing more than 10,000 pills of prescription narcotic drugs.

Jerry Silveira, 34, was arrested on Mar. 5 for burglarizing a pharmacy at Palo Alto Medical Foundation on Mar. 2. At about 1:15 p.m. on Mar. 2, Palo Alto police responded to a report of a theft of narcotics from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation pharmacy, located at 795 El Camino Real.

Based on the initial investigation, police learned that an unknown suspect entered the pharmacy overnight and stole narcotics from locked cabinets.

Among the stolen narcotics were oxycodone, methadone and morphine, police said.

Detectives also learned that additional narcotics were stolen from the pharmacy's expired medication locker.

With the assistance of staff at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, detectives were able to identify the suspect as Silveira, an employee of Palo Alto Medical Foundation at the time of the burglary, police said.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for Silveira's residence and vehicle, police said.

At about 5:40 p.m. on Mar. 5, police detectives conducted a vehicle stop on the suspect as he was leaving Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

Inside the vehicle, police located a portion of the stolen prescription narcotic drugs.

Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were also found inside the vehicle, according to police.

Silveira was arrested without incident, police said.

Later that same day, detectives served the search warrant at the Silveira's residence and recovered the rest of the narcotics that were stolen during the robbery, as well as more methamphetamine, police said.

Police believe that Silveira stole more than 10,000 pills during the burglary.

An estimate of the street value of the pills is not available, police said, due to the price fluctuation of prescription narcotic drugs on the black market.

Silveira was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail for felonies including commercial burglary, possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics for sale, possession of stolen property and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, police said.

Santa Clara Officials Approve $400 Million in Future Ticket Agreements for 49er Statium

Santa Clara officials overseeing the planned new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers approved more than $400 million in future ticket agreements for the stadium's 2014 opening and are continuing to work with the National Football League about the team's bid to host the Super Bowl in 2016, a spokesman said.

The city's Stadium Authority Board, made up of the town's mayor and city council members, Tuesday executed license agreements with buyers of almost 46,000 seats in the 68,500-seat stadium project set to open in August 2014, city spokesman Jim Beerman said.

The licenses sold so far represent $403 million in fees that will eventually help the city service about $850 million in construction loans to build the $1.2 billion Santa Clara Stadium, Beerman said.

The fee revenues come from sales of stadium builder licenses -- also known as personal seat licenses -- that cost from $2,000 for a reserved seat to up to $80,000 for one in the exclusive Club Level section, according to a city staff report.

The authority's approved vendor, Legends Premium Sales LLC, has sold licenses to almost 6,800 club seats and around 39,000 reserved seats, city officials reported.

The licenses only give the buyer the right to the seats and do not include the cost of the tickets to each game, which involve an additional purchase, for example $850 per seat per season for the cheapest reserved seats.

In a closed session, the board held a conference with a representative of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office to talk about access to city property if the NFL selected the 49ers' new stadium to host the Super Bowl.

What was specifically discussed is still confidential, but the NFL wants to know what facilities would be available if the 49ers won the bid, such as parking lots, hotels and meeting space, Beerman said.

"The NFL has very specific things they need to do during a Super Bowl event in any city," Beerman said.

The proximity of the stadium site to Santa Clara's convention center might be of key interest to the NFL and the city could have to ask organizations that booked the center around Super Bowl Sunday in early February 2016 to leave, Beerman said.

"We may or may not have someone kicked out," he said. "That's the risk."

Devil's Slide Twin Tunnels Grand Opening Slated for March 25

It appears that later this month the "coast is clear" for those hoping to travel through the Devil's Slide twin tunnels, as a grand opening date for the $440 million, eight-year project has been slated for March 25.

The invitation-only grand opening will bring people who worked hard to push the tunnel project through, according to Charise McHugh, CEO of the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce and chair of the grand opening ceremonies for the tunnels project.

"The event will bring together more than 400 attendees, a lot of speakers, the Half Moon Bay High School Band and the Terra Nova High School Band in Pacifica."

Billed as a "win-win" for all, the grand opening of this huge Caltrans project, named the Tom Lantos Tunnels after the late Congressman who lobbied for the project, is a welcomed event for business owners, coastal residents and tourists alike.

Rick Ellis, who has run The Old Thyme Inn on Half Moon Bay's Main Street for 15 years, said that although it will remain to be seen if the tunnels' opening increases business, "it will certainly remove the fear of that access to this portion of the coast side being closed as a result of storm damage, which has happened a great deal in the past."

He added, "I think it will be fun and an interesting thing to drive through the tunnels there, and it's certainly going to allow people to come down and maybe take advantage of the many things to do here," Ellis said.

According to San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, who prior to being elected District 3 supervisor served as the county sheriff for 14 years, the opening of the tunnels is a very welcomed safety addition to the coast side.

"The tunnel is safer and a more direct route, which will make for a much less heart palpitating drive," he said. "It's a beautiful, scenic drive, but you don't dare look over the side."

Horsley said during his time as sheriff, he witnessed many horrific and deadly accidents, leading people to refer to this stretch of roadway as the Devil's Slide.

Police Officials Announce Missing Oakland Woman Presumed Dead

Family members of Erica Maskaleris, an Oakland woman who was last seen alive last Thursday, said Wednesday that Oakland police have suspended their search for her because they believe she is dead.

Oakland police Sgt. Chris Bolton said police told Maskaleris' family, "Based on our investigation it's probable that their loved one jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and is most likely deceased."

California Highway Patrol spokesman Andrew Barclay said Oakland police contacted the CHP to help them investigate the possibility that Maskaleris was the person who was seen jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge last Thursday, the same day she went missing.

Barclay said, "We're investigating a possible suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge on the day that coincides with the missing person from Oakland" and the CHP contacted Maskaleris' family to let them know.

However, Barclay said a body hasn't been recovered so far so the CHP can't confirm that anyone died by jumping from the bridge that day.

Maskaleris, a native of Fresno who has lived in Oakland for seven years, was last seen in a surveillance video from a bakery at 34th Street and Telegraph Avenue at about 8 a.m. last Thursday.

Family members and Oakland police said Maskaleris was wearing jogging clothes, as she had recently started jogging several mornings a week.

A spokeswoman for Maskaleris' family said Maskaleris lost her husband to cancer last year but she did not seem distraught or despondent recently.

Her brother, Steve Torres said on Tuesday that, "Erica was a happy person and was excited about visiting me at my home in Dallas" last Thursday night.

However, Maskaleris didn't make the trip.

The family spokeswoman said Maskaleris is the operations manager at GeekoSystems, a computer consultation company based in Oakland that she started with her late husband in 2009.

Maskaleris was a member of the First Congregational Church of Oakland and a vigil for her was held last Sunday and her brother held a news conference there on Tuesday to ask for the public's help in finding her.

In a statement, Maskaleris' family said, "We thank the community of First Congregational Church of Oakland for all their love and support. We thank all the volunteers for their help in the search for Erica. Finally, we thank the Oakland Police Department for being so diligent in their service to our family."

Man Wanted in Palo Alto Hotel Assault and Robbery

A man who hired a female masseuse from an online advertisement is wanted in connection with the robbery and sexual assault of the woman at knifepoint Saturday inside a Palo Alto hotel, police said.

The man had contacted the woman for a massage at a room at the Glass Slipper Inn at 3941 El Camino Real but after she arrived at about 8:30 p.m., he produced a knife and ordered her to give him her money, police said.

When the woman, who was in her 50s, turned over her money, the man then forced her to commit a sex act with him, police said.

The suspect later left the room and brandished his knife at a second woman who was sitting in a chair and demanded cash from her, police said.

The woman had no money to give and the suspect fled on foot headed north on the east sidewalk on El Camino Real, police said.

Neither of the victims suffered injuries, police said.

The man is described as Asian in his 30s or 40s, 5 feet 5 to 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build and wearing blue jeans and a brown hooded sweatshirt.

Police obtained an image of the suspect from surveillance video taken at the hotel.

Investigators believe that the suspect had targeted the first victim to commit the crimes against her but did plan the attempted robbery on the second victim.

Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to contact the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour non-emergency dispatch line at (650) 329-2413.

Four People are Facing Trail for the Fatal Shooting Man Allegedly Pimping Teenage Girl

Four people accused of a fatal shooting last June of a Los Angeles-area man who was allegedly pimping a teenage girl were ordered Wednesday to stand trial in San Francisco Superior Court on murder charges, prosecutors said.

Calvin Sneed, 22, of Compton, was shot shortly before 2 a.m. on June 4 near Meade and Le Conte avenues in San Francisco's Bayview District.

Sneed was allegedly pimping an underage girl whose parents, Lupe Mercado and Barry Gilton, are two of the four suspects charged with the shooting.

Prosecutors said Gilton, along with his cousin Antonio Gilton and Alfonso Williams, drove alongside Sneed's car and shot him in the head.

Sneed crashed into a parked car and died at a hospital later that morning.

Prosecutors said that Mercado, who was not in the car, called Barry Gilton minutes before the murder.

The four were ordered to stand trial by Judge Bruce Chan Wednesday morning on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, district attorney's office spokesman Alex Bastian said.

Barry and Antonio Gilton and Williams were also held to answer on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, Bastian said.

An enhancement alleging that Barry Gilton personally fired the gun was rejected by Chan, according to Bastian.

Tony Tamburello, who represented Mercado, said he was "disappointed in the judge's decision." Tamburello said, "The prosecution argued that a phone call she made, without even knowing the contents, to her husband was a call that implicated her in the conspiracy and that she directed everybody to set the killing in motion."

He said, "This is ludicrous speculation that no jury on this planet will ever accept as a way of convicting a mother of four children that she was involved in a conspiracy."

Prosecutors have also alleged that Mercado and Barry Gilton traveled to Southern California and, on May 27, found Sneed in North Hollywood, where Gilton fired a gun at him.

The four will return to court on March 27 to be formally arraigned on the charges, he said.

Oakland Woman Testifies about Fatal Shooting of Virginia Man

An Oakland woman testified Wednesday that she and her ex-boyfriend carried out two armed robberies three years ago, including one in which a man was killed, because they'd run out of money even though they received government assistance.

In her second day of testifying against George Huggins, 26, who's accused of murder for the shooting death of a Virginia man in downtown Oakland in 2010 while the victim was visiting the Bay Area for a job interview at Google, Althea Housley, 36, said, they were "broke" and "had run out of food."

Housley said she received welfare payments and Huggins received disability and unemployment payments but they didn't have any more money and "my kids was hungry."

Huggins is charged with murder and attempted robbery for an incident in the 1900 block of Webster Street at about 11:30 p.m. on July 18, 2010, in which he allegedly tried rob 45-year-old Jinghong Kang and then fatally shot him.

Huggins also is charged with two counts of robbery for allegedly robbing a man and woman in the 1700 block of Telegraph Avenue early the morning of June 21, 2010, several weeks before Kang was killed.

Huggins allegedly shot the male victim in the leg in that incident.

Prosecutor Tim Wellman told jurors in his opening statement last week that police ballistics experts have determined that the same .22-caliber handgun was used in both incidents.

Housley faced similar charges for allegedly participating with Huggins in both incidents, but on Feb. 20 she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and attempted robbery for that incident and to two counts of attempted robbery for the earlier incident on Telegraph Avenue.

Wellman said if her testimony against Huggins is found to be truthful she will receive a sentence of 15 years and eight months in state prison.

Wellman said Oakland police obtained video footage of the suspects in the July 18, 2010, incident that was captured by surveillance cameras at nearby businesses that shows Huggins and Housley approaching Kang and a dental hygienist who was with him because she had cleaned Kang's teeth that night.

Huggins and Housley were arrested after witnesses said they were the two people in the videos.

However, Huggins' lawyer, Annie Beles, said in her opening statement that her client is innocent of murder and alleged that the person shown on video with Housley was not Huggins.

Under cross-examination by Beles Wednesday, Housley admitted that the videos don't show Huggins' face and it's hard to identify him from the videos but she insisted that he was the man who was with her that night.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Sunny skies are forecast for the Bay Area this morning.

Highs are expected to be in the 60s, with westerly winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are likely this evening.

Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s, with westerly winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are likely Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the 60s, with westerly winds up to 15 mph.

 

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