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State news briefs
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MAN ARRESTED AFTER WOMAN FOUND IN ATTIC: OROVILLE  (AP) — A 29-year-old Northern California man is in custody on suspicion of torture and false imprisonment after authorities say they found a woman behind drywall mud in the attic of a home.

The woman told authorities she had been held against her will there for about two weeks and repeatedly sexually assaulted by the suspect, Lawson Rankin.

Butte County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Hail says Rankin was covered in drywall mud when sheriff's deputies arrived at the Oroville home to check on the woman on Monday. Rankin denied having seen her, but authorities saw an area of the kitchen wet with the mud and broke the seal to find the woman trapped inside.

MISSING COUPLE FOUND IN SIERRA; MAN DEAD: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A man who left his vehicle in search of help after he and his girlfriend got stuck in a Sierra snowstorm has been found dead, but his girlfriend survived.

The Sacramento Bee reports that 46-year-old Paula Lane was found walking along Highway 88/89 Wednesday night in Alpine County. The body of 44-year-old Roderick Clifton was located in deep snow.

The couple was reported missing Nov. 29 after leaving a relative's home in Citrus Heights.

Police said the couple got stuck while sightseeing in their four-wheel drive.

After staying in the vehicle for a day, Clifton left seeking help.

Lane later managed to make it back to the road, where a relative out searching for her saw her walking on the highway. Lane is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

MAN HITS GRANDMOTHER AND TORCHES HER HOME: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Investigators say a California man punched his grandmother and torched her home.

The 69-year-old woman didn't need hospitalization after the Wednesday afternoon incident in the Sacramento suburb of Rosemont.

The 24-year-old grandson, Donald Eugene Evans, is in jail without bail.

He was booked for investigation of arson, assault, elder abuse and threats of violence as well as a probation violation.

Sheriff's investigators say Evans and his grandmother were arguing when Evans struck her and set fire to the home. The nature of the dispute hasn't been disclosed.

Sacramento firefighters extinguished the flames. There is no damage estimate, but the home is uninhabitable.

JURY CALLS FOR DEATH FOR KILLER OF DAVIS STUDENTS: DAVIS  (AP) — A Sacramento County jury is calling for the death penalty for a man convicted of killing two University of California, Davis students more than 30 years ago.

The Sacramento Bee ( reports jurors recommended the sentence for 63-year-old Richard Joseph Hirschfield on Thursday after less than four hours of deliberation.

Hirschfield was found guilty of murder last month in the deaths of college sweethearts John Riggins and Sabrina Gonsalves, who were 18 when they were killed on Dec. 20, 1980.

Two days after they were abducted, their bodies were found later in a ditch 30 miles away. Gonsalves had been sexually attacked.

Hirschfield was in a Washington state prison for child rape eight years ago when cold-case investigators matched his DNA to evidence from Riggins' van.

WATCHDOG OPENS INQUIRY ON LAWMAKER'S VEHICLE: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California's campaign watchdog said Thursday it is reviewing whether a former state senator broke the law when he used campaign funds to purchase a vehicle formerly owned by the state.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has sent a letter to Republican Bob Dutton, the former minority leader from Rancho Cucamonga, questioning why the title for the 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe is in his name if it was for campaign use.

Depending on the response, the commission could open a formal investigation as early as next week, said Gary Winuk, chief of the commission's Enforcement Division.

Dutton said he believed he was following the law.

MAN JAILED FOR MENACING GIRLFRIEND WITH BLOWTORCH: TEMECULA  (AP) — Investigators say a Southern California man threatened his girlfriend with a knife and a blowtorch.

The woman wasn't seriously injured.

Authorities say 43-year-old John David Allen's girlfriend telephoned the Riverside County Sheriff's Department on Monday night and said she was hiding in bushes after escaping her boyfriend.

The woman told deputies she was terrorized in the couple's Temecula home for two hours while Allen held a knife to her throat and menaced her with a blowtorch. She says he also set fire to her belongings.