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POSTED March 2, 2012 8:42 p.m.

Court orders Chowchilla busnapper release

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An appeals court has ordered that an infamous Chowchilla "busnapper" be immediately released from prison, unless state officials appeal the decision.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday said Richard Schoenfeld has served his sentence after 34 years behind bars and should be released from prison as soon as possible.

The appellate court said the Board of Parole Hearings unfairly set his release date for 2021 even though it concluded he wasn't a threat to society.

The court ordered Schoenfeld released immediately unless prison officials appeal to the California Supreme Court. A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman couldn't be reached for comment late Friday.


Death penalty sought in Bay toll plaza killings

RICHMOND  (AP) — Contra Costa County prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty against a Richmond man charged with fatally shooting a Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll taker and her friend.

Prosecutors announced their decision Wednesday against 48-year-old Nathaniel Burris.

He's accused of killing ex-girlfriend, Deborah Ross, while she was working inside a booth at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza in August 2009. Burris also allegedly killed Ross' friend, Ersie Everette III, a bus driver for Golden Gate Transit who was waiting for her in a nearby parking lot.

Prosecutor Harold Jewett cited the cold-blooded nature of the crimes for the death penalty decision. It would be the first time Contra Costa County has sought the death penalty in six years.

Company sued over bone cement surgery deaths

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A medical firm and former executives convicted of running unauthorized clinical tests of bone cement are blamed in a lawsuit for contributing to the deaths of two elderly California women.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Contra Costa County Superior Court. It alleges that 83-year-olds Ryoichi Kikuchi and Barbara Marcelino each died after receiving bone cement injections during surgeries at a Walnut Creek hospital in 2003 and 2004.

The product was manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Synthes North America.

Synthes and former subsidiary Norian Corp. previously pleaded guilty to corporate health care fraud charges and agreed to pay $23 million in fines. Four former executives also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of illegally promoting the product's "off-label" use.

A Synthes representative did not return an after-hours call for comment Friday.

The company has since been sold to Johnson & Johnson.

Funding deal for Golden Gate Bridge road project

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — State and local transportation officials have lined up enough funding to launch the second phase of a project to replace the San Francisco approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Officials found themselves scrambling after $54 million failed to come through from federal and state sources. The problem threatened to delay construction on the new Presidio Parkway.

Crews are nearing completion on the first phase to replace the old Doyle Drive, the approach built in 1937 that sat on unstable soil and lacks a median or shoulders.

The $1.1 billion project is being run by a private-public partnership.

A tentative deal was reached in which the San Francisco Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and state Transportation Department all chip in the needed funds.


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