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POSTED February 22, 2012 7:56 p.m.

Tortoises' heating pad blamed for garage fire

CASTRO VALLEY (AP) — Authorities are blaming a garage fire in Castro Valley on a heating pad used to keep a pair of tortoises warm.

The fire began around 3 a.m. Tuesday in a detached garage in a residential neighborhood and took about ten minutes to put out. Alameda County Fire Battalion Chief Dan O'Hara says it appears an electrical malfunction in the heating pad caused the blaze.

The two African tortoises, each about 3 feet in diameter, escaped unharmed. The fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage.

Lawsuit says ambulance firm dissected man's brain

SAN MATEO . (AP) — A Northern California coroner is being sued by the parents of a man whose brain was given to an ambulance company for dissection.

The New York couple's 30-year-old son was killed in a 2008 car crash.

The San Francisco Chronicle says Jerald and Sandy Wolkoff's negligence lawsuit claims the San Mateo County coroner caused them emotional distress by releasing their son's brain to American Medical Response.

The ambulance firm wanted to gather forensic information to defend itself in a separate, wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the Wolkoffs.

County lawyers say the coroner was complying with a subpoena to release brain tissue.

The couple sued the ambulance company claiming a procedure paramedics used to help their son breathe caused brain damage and contributed to his death.

That suit has been settled.

Police say son attacked  mom with baseball bat

SAN RAMON  (AP) — Investigators say a Northern California man attacked his mother with a baseball bat.

San Ramon police Lt. Dan Pratt says the woman, who is in her early 60s, is hospitalized with significant head and body injuries.

The San Jose Mercury News says 27-year-old Aaron Ricks was arrested Monday night and he was booked for investigation of attempted murder. Bail is set at $1 million.

Couple charged with misusing county agency funds

OAKLAND (AP) — The heads of a now-defunct Alameda County agency are facing charges that they misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds intended to help low-income residents, youth and parolees.

An arrest warrant was issued for Nanette Dillard and her husband, Paul Daniels, on Tuesday. They are facing felony counts of grand theft, conspiracy to commit a crime and crime by a public official.

Authorities say Dillard and Daniels illegally obtained more than $400,000 in federal funds while running the Alameda County Associated Community Action Program and then used those funds for unauthorized expenses such as payroll costs, gift cards, massages and high-priced dinners.

County officials learned about a year ago that the more than 30-year-old program was unable to pay its bills. It was forced to shut down.

UC Davis students sue over pepper-spray incident
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Students who were pepper-sprayed while sitting peacefully during a University of California, Davis protest last fall sued school officials Wednesday, claiming that campus police officers weren't trained on how to handle demonstrations properly.

Nineteen students and alumni represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and other campus administrators in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

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