BAY AREA POSTAL INSPECTOR INDICTED IN THEFT CASE: SAN JOSE (AP) — A federal grand jury has returned a three-count indictment charging a San Jose postal inspector with stealing and destroying mail.
The indictment announced on Wednesday alleges that Quan Phan Howard unlawfully opened packages at a San Jose mail distribution center and took a variety items. They included a silver bar, jewelry, coins, gift cards, a gun silencer, a Rolex watch and other items.
Howard is also charged with possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute.
He was arrested last month following an investigation where hidden cameras caught him rummaging through mail and taking the alleged items.
JUDGE HALTS DRILLING PERMITS NEXT TO CONDORS: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California court has delivered a setback to an oil company seeking to drill wells within a few miles of condor habitat at the state’s Pinnacles National Park.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that authorities in central California should have weighed the long-term environmental impact before they authorized an oil company to drill 15 oil wells next to the park.
The Center for Biological Diversity environmental group brought the case against San Benito County officials, and announced the ruling Wednesday.
Pinnacles is one of the country’s newest national parks. It’s been a base for efforts to restore endangered California condors since 2003. Environmentalists argued the oil wells could harm the roughly two dozen condors that make a home at Pinnacles
HIKER RESCUED IN CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST DIES: SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County sheriff’s officials say an 18-year-old hiker rescued from a trail in the Cleveland National Forest has died at a hospital.
The woman was airlifted out Tuesday afternoon after suffering heat-related distress near Three Sisters Falls.
Lt. Herb Taft says the woman’s companion called for help. He says the two had been hiking and had no water.
The victim, who was suffering from dehydration, was unresponsive but breathing when rescue crews arrived.
The high temperature in nearby Julian was 85 degrees on Tuesday.
SHERIFF: CALIFORNIA HOUSE FIRE GANG-RELATED: PORTERVILLE (AP) — Sheriff’s officials in Central California say a house fire that claimed the life of a woman was started by gang members who mistakenly thought a gang dropout was there.
Forty-one-year-old Tonya Huff died over the weekend from burns she suffered in the February fire in Porterville. Tulare County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Gist said investigators have now determined gang members fired a gun into the house and threw gasoline and a flame into Huff’s room.
Gist says they thought a gang dropout was at the residence, but that wasn’t the case.
Huff suffered third-degree burns. Sheriff’s officials are working to identify suspects in the attack. Gist says investigators have determined at least two suspects approached the house on foot.
SAN JOSE POLICE TURN TO CIVILIANS FOR HELP: SAN JOSE (AP) — Police in San Jose are turning to civilians to ease some of their workload, as they try to address ongoing staffing shortages in the department.
The city began training a 25-person battalion of civilian community service officers on Tuesday. The San Jose Mercury News reports (http://bit.ly/WD5dAF) that the civilians will be taught to respond to non-urgent burglary and vehicle theft calls and write reports, among other duties.
Police Chief Larry Esquivel said the program will free up patrol officers to conduct more proactive police work.
The civilian officers will not respond to any calls that include an active suspect and will be armed only with pepper spray.
The training program comes as the city’s police ranks have shrunk from more than 1,400 in 2008 to just over 1,000 now.
CONVICTION UPHELD FOR CHEF IN BOILED-BODY CASE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A state appeals court has upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a Southern California chef who claimed he cooked his wife’s body in boiling water.
City News Service reports that a court panel on Wednesday rejected a claim that there was insufficient evidence to convict David Viens.
The chef is serving 15 years to life for the 2009 killing of his wife, Dawn.
Viens told investigators that during an argument, he bound and gagged his wife with duct tape, fell asleep and woke up to find her dead. Viens said he boiled her body for four days and dumped the remains in the trash. Her body was never found.
However, Viens later denied cooking his wife and said he’d just had surgery and was hallucinating when he spoke to detectives.
2 SENTENCED IN SLAYING OF 3-YEAR-OLD IN OAKLAND: OAKLAND (AP) — Two men will spend the rest of their lives behind bars for their roles in a drive-by shooting that killed a 3-year-old boy in Oakland.
An Alameda County judge on Wednesday sentenced 29-year-old Lawrence Denard to 137 years to life in prison and 25-year-old Willie Torrence to 121 years to life for the fatal shooting of Carlos Nava.
Nava’s death in 2011 sparked widespread outrage. The child was in a stroller outside an east Oakland strip mall when he was struck in the neck by a stray bullet intended for two men nearby.
FOUL ODOR FORCES EVACUATION OF CORONER’S OFFICE: OAKLAND (AP) — The foul odor of a badly decomposed corpse forced the evacuation of the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau in Oakland.
The Oakland Tribune reports 15 employees complained of eye and throat irritation after someone opened a body bag containing the corpse on Wednesday. One person was taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said the corpse belonged to a man in his 70s and was found on July 16 in his Berkeley garage in an advanced state of decomposition.
Oakland Fire Department officials say that when a deputy coroner picked up the body from a mortuary, it had been covered in a deodorizer known as Smelleze.
A Hazmat team took a sample of the powder and determined that it did not pose a health hazard.