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State news briefs
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COMMERCIAL SALMON FISHING SEASON OPENS: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Commercial salmon fishermen are heading to sea from San Francisco and other area ports in what is expected to be a strong fishing season.

The season officially started Wednesday in ports south of Pt. Arena in Mendocino County.

Fishermen are optimistic after hearing positive reports from sport fishermen, who started fishing on April 6.

Federal forecasters called for strong returns to the Sacramento River in California, which accounts for most of the salmon swimming offshore.

That was good news for commercial salmon fishermen, who suffered through fishery closures in 2008 and 2009 after the salmon returns to the Sacramento plummeted.

Larry Collins, manager of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association, says plentiful krill, or tiny shrimp, being consumed by the salmon offshore should make for very flavorful fish.

SO. CAL MAN SENTENCED FOR LICENSE PLATE SCAM: RIVERSIDE  (AP) — A Southern California man has been sentenced to jail for filing phony paperwork to obtain free government license plates for a dozen vehicles.

Patrick Colleary of Canyon Lake registered the vehicles as belonging to a phony fire agency called the "Menifee Wildomar Fire District."

Riverside County actually handles fire service for the cities of Menifee and Wildomar.

The 62-year-old Colleary is a former firefighter. He pleaded guilty to forgery on Monday and was sentenced to 105 days in jail, most of which will be served in a work-release program.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK CLOSURE EXTENDED: JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK,   (AP) — Authorities say they need more time to clean up graffiti that's marred an historic Native American site at Joshua Tree National Park.

Rattlesnake Canyon, a popular hiking spot in the Southern California desert park, was closed for cleanup earlier this year after graffiti was found spray-painted on ancient boulders at 17 sites. Rangers say taggers posted their work online, prompting copycat crimes.

The canyon was supposed to reopen on Tuesday but the closure will be extended another 30 days while authorities continue the cleanup along a mile of the canyon.

If caught and convicted, vandals could face up to $5,000 in fines and six months in jail.

MAN FOUND DEAD IN BURNING CAR COMMITTED SUICIDE: ANAHEIM  (AP) — Anaheim police say a man who was found dead in a burning car committed suicide.

The Orange County Register says he's 23-year-old Shimon Phal.

Police and firefighters were called to an apartment complex on April 5 by a report of an explosion and a burning car.

Phal's body was found after the blaze was doused.

Sgt. Bob Dunn says investigators determined that Phal intentionally set the fire that killed him.

Relatives tell the Register that Phal was a psychology student at Cypress College.

POLICE: HEALTH DROVE NORTHERN CALIF MURDER-SUICIDE: REDWOOD CITY  (AP) — Investigators say a Northern California man who shot his wife to death before killing himself was apparently motivated by his failing health.

Redwood City police Lt. Sean Hart says 69-year-old John Padgett recently had some new diagnoses. Hart declined to elaborate.

Padgett had such severe back problems he was left bent over at a 45 degree angle and used a cane in each hand in order to walk.

Police say Padgett shot and killed his 72-year-old wife, Sandra, a San Jose prep school counselor, on April 22. He then turned the gun on himself.

HIKERS CHALLENGE FOREST ADVENTURE PASS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Four hikers fed up with paying fees to visit national forests in California have filed a lawsuit seeking to do away with the U.S. Forest Service's Adventure Pass.

The suit seeks to apply a 2012 appellate ruling in an Arizona case to the Angeles, Los Padres, San Bernardino and Cleveland national forests. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Forest Service cannot charge for hiking, walking, picnicking, parking or visiting undeveloped areas of national forest land.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter has ordered lawyers for the plaintiffs and the Department of Justice to enter into settlement talks.

Critics say the fee amounts to "double taxation" but forest managers say the fees are essential as federal budgets are slashed.

CA APPELLATE COURT BLOCKS RELEASE OF 3-STRIKER: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California appeals court has thrown out an order freeing a three-strikes prisoner, citing his violent past.

The  panel on Tuesday ordered a lower court to consider whether Steven Kaulick would be a danger to the public if released. A Los Angeles County judge last year reduced his sentence from 25 years to life to seven years, making him eligible for immediate release.

The reduction was made under Proposition 36, passed last year, which permits reductions for some prisoners whose third-strike crimes weren't violent or serious.

Kaulick was convicted in 2000 of false imprisonment of a woman at his home. But the appellate court says he had a violent past that included kidnapping his parents at gunpoint and that he committed misconduct in prison.