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State news briefs
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MAN CHARGED WITH MURDER IN CONCRETE BODY CASE: WHITTIER  (AP) — Los Angeles County prosecutors have charged a 45-year-old man with murder in the case of a body found in concrete at a heating and air conditioning business.

Juan Manuel Ramirez, also known as Juan Alberto Galviz, appeared in court Wednesday, but his arraignment was postponed until Jan. 23.

He was arrested shortly after the body of a man was found encased in a newly poured concrete floor inside the business in Santa Fe Springs. Following a phone tip, Whittier police used cadaver dogs to locate the body and a coroner's excavation team retrieved it Monday.

Prosecutors have withheld the victim's name because his family has not been notified.

Ramirez is also charged with special allegation that he personally discharged a shotgun. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

ELDERLY WOMAN HIT BY NEW YEAR'S BULLET: LOS ANGELES (AP) — An elderly woman sitting in her den at midnight on New Year's Eve was struck in the foot by a bullet fragment.

The 74-year-old Gardena woman heard glass breaking and felt the metal piece hit her foot.

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators say it didn't break the skin and she declined treatment.

The Sheriff's Department says in a news release Wednesday that it was one of 94 reported incidents of celebratory gunfire from 8 p.m. Monday until 4 a.m. Tuesday.

The department provides police services in 130 unincorporated communities and about half of the county's 88 cities.

CHURCHES APPEAL SANTA MONICA'S PUBLIC NATIVITY BAN: SANTA MONICA  (AP) — Churches and other groups say they'll appeal Santa Monica's ban on unattended Nativity scene displays in a public park.

The Los Angeles Times reports the coalition of churches and other groups filed a notice of appeal last week.

In a vote last year, the City Council sided with atheists seeking to ban unattended religious displays from Palisades Park, where they were erected annually for nearly six decades until debates in recent years.

U.S. District Court Judge Audrey B. Collins backed the ban, saying the city had a valid argument that administrative burdens of the controversy justified a ban.

The display of life-sized figures depicting the birth of Jesus Christ was erected on private land this year.

SUBJECT OF STATE'S FIRST SILVER ALERT FOUND: ELK GROVE  (AP) — An 82-year-old Sacramento-area man who went missing, prompting the state's first-ever Silver Alert, has been found.

Authorities tell said that Robert Grappi was discovered Wednesday morning after police in Nevada County conducted a vehicle stop.

Grappi left his Elk Grove home Monday and was believed to have been driving to his son's house in Nevada County. Elk Grove police say he has shown signs of dementia.

A Silver Alert went out for him the next morning after he was reported missing.

It was the state's first Silver Alert — a program that went into effect this year.

The California Highway Patrol asks news media, law enforcement and the public for help in locating elderly individuals believed to be at risk.

Unlike Amber Alerts, the system used to locate missing children, Silver Alerts do not show up on electronic highway signs.

CALIF. CITRUS GROWERS APPEAR TO HAVE BEATEN FROST: FRESNO  (AP) — Citrus growers in California's Central Valley appear to have escaped with little or no crop damage after a series of unusually cold nights.

Officials with the citrus growers association, California Citrus Mutual, said Wednesday temperatures were not low enough over a long enough period of time this week to cause significant damage.

The National Weather Service issued a freeze watch for the region on Sunday, with nighttime temperatures expected to dip to 26 degrees in some areas. Prolonged temperatures in the mid-20's can damage citrus crops.

Citrus Mutual's Paul Story said growers ran wind machines and water to protect crops. The coldest temperatures were also recorded outside prime citrus-growing areas.

Temperatures are expected to rise through the rest of the week and into the weekend.