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State news briefs
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DEAD WOMAN MISSING MOST OF HER FACE: CERES,   (AP) — There's a mystery surrounding the discovery of a dead California woman missing three-quarters of her face: Was it gnawed by animals or cut off by an attacker?

Ceres police investigating 55-year-old Leslie Hodge's death say there's no sign of foul play and dogs and rats likely chewed off most of her face.

The body was found Sunday in a Voyager's Cove mobile home in the San Joaquin Valley.

An autopsy surgeon stopped midway through his examination on Tuesday after deciding an instrument caused the face mutilation.

Detectives then went back to the mobile home to search for more clues.

On Wednesday, another forensic pathologist said he believes animals caused the injuries.

CITY MOVING FORWARD WITH MANURE-TO-POWER PROJECT: NORCO (AP) — A Southern California city known as Horsetown USA because of its equestrian lifestyle is moving forward with a proposed $36 million manure-to-power conversion plant.

The Norco City Council voted Wednesday to go ahead with an environmental impact report.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise ( says it will take about 18 months to build the plant, which will disposed of an estimated 65 tons of horse manure produced daily by the city's 17,000 horses as well as up to 150 tons of green waste.

Trucks currently haul the waste out of the Riverside County city for disposal.

Chevron Energy Solutions is the plant's general contractor.

STARVING HORSES FOUND AT LOTTERY WINNER'S RANCH: SANGER  (AP) — Eight starving horses have been found on the California ranch of a man who won $40 million in a lottery 11 years ago.

Fresno County sheriff's deputies arrested 47-year-old Jose Francisco Romo on Wednesday and he was booked for investigation of felony animal cruelty. Bail is set at $40,000.

The Fresno Bee reports Romo signed over ownership of 11 horses on the 40-acre San Joaquin Valley ranch to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The last three horses are being removed from the Sanger ranch on Thursday.

A neighbor called the SPCA about the emaciated horses.

Romo and his wife moved to the ranch shortly after winning the California SuperLotto jackpot in 2001.

POLICE ARREST NAKED FRESNO WOMAN WHO BEAT TODDLER: FRESNO (AP) — A 2-year-old Fresno girl is recovering at the hospital in a bizarre case involving a naked woman who was seen beating then trying to abandon her.

Police arrested 22-year-old Diana Ochoa on suspicion of child cruelty.

Witnesses told police that Ochoa stripped the clothes off herself and her niece on Wednesday, then beat the child while walking along a busy street.

Police say Ochoa then left the bloodied little girl in front of an apartment complex and ran naked in and out of traffic.

Investigators say that prior to stripping naked, the woman and child had entered a business, where Ochoa tried to give the toddler away.

Police could not confirm whether drugs or mental health were factors in the case.

The child remains hospitalized in stable condition.

EX-SAN JOSE COP HELPS NAB BANK ROBBERY SUSPECTS: SAN JOSE  (AP) — A former San Jose police officer is being credited with helping nab three bank robbery suspects.

The San Jose Mercury News reports ( that Michael Nasser was on his way to the gym on Tuesday when he spotted three men in hooded sweatshirts run into a Wells Fargo bank.

He followed the suspects after they left the bank and provided police with their descriptions and license plate number. The men were arrested by Salinas police about an hour later.

San Jose police say two of the men were armed during the robbery. They allegedly made off with more than $7,000.

The men are also suspected of an armed robbery at another San Jose bank on Monday.

Nasser left the San Jose Police Department last year amid concerns about layoffs. He is in the process of being reinstated.

MISSING SACRAMENTO COUPLE SPENT 3 NIGHTS IN CAR: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Friends say a missing Sacramento couple spent three nights trapped in their Porsche in the snowy Placer County foothills.

Fifty-five-year-old Mark Schroeder and 52-year-old Janette DeGrace were found on Wednesday near Georgetown, a remote area about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento.

Schroeder apparently left the car to seek help and hiked several miles through two feet of snow before getting a cellphone signal and dialing 911. Authorities say he was picked up by a California Highway Patrol helicopter and then led the crew back to DeGrace.

CHP Air Officer Kevin Neeley said the couple were suffering from exposure but were otherwise in good spirits.

Friends say they were on their way home from a remote mountain bar on Sunday when Schroeder's Porsche 911 got stuck in the snow.

The couple rationed snacks and ran the engine to stay warm.

FIREFIGHTERS LET HOUSE BURN BECAUSE OF AMMUNITION: ORANGE  (AP) — Firefighters have allowed a Southern California home to burn because of exploding ammunition.

No one was hurt.

Orange Fire Capt. Ian MacDonald says smoke and flames were showing when firefighters arrived at the home at about 12:09 a.m. Thursday.

Firefighters entering the home noticed a flashover, apparently from exploding ammunition stored in the garage.

City News Service says firefighters then took a defensive approach, battling the blaze from outside the home.

STATE REGULATORS CLOSE SF BAY AREA NURSING SCHOOL: SAN JOSE  (AP) — State regulators have shut down a San Francisco Bay area nursing school over concerns about its accreditation and finances.

The California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education closed the Institute of Medical Education on Wednesday. The for-profit school serves about 250 students on campuses in San Jose and Oakland. In addition to nursing, it offers courses in dental hygiene, phlebotomy and MRI and ultrasound technology.

Department of Consumer Affairs spokesman Russ Heimerich told the Bay Area News Group ( that the school has had operational, accreditation and financial problems.

The department oversees the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.

But school Operations Director Khoi Lam called the closure "ridiculous." She said school officials may sue the state.

Regulators are expected to be on campus on Thursday to answer questions from displaced students.

WOMAN ABDUCTED ON LOS ANGELES STREET DIES IN CHASE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police say a woman abducted off a street has died of injuries suffered when the suspected kidnapper's SUV crashed head-on into another car as police were in pursuit.

Cmdr. Andrew Smith tells KABC-TV that a bystander called for help when the woman was grabbed west of downtown shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday and police chase the vehicle for about a mile.

Smith says the victim was leaning out the window of the SUV during the chase, which ended when the vehicle crossed the center line and smashed into a Volvo.

The SUV driver tried to run off but was captured. Smith says the Volvo driver has minor injuries.