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State news briefs
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1 DEAD, 2 WOUNDED IN STOCKTON HIGHWAY SHOOTING: STOCKTON (AP) — Police say a rush hour shooting on a Stockton highway that left one man dead and two other people wounded was gang related.

The three victims were in a vehicle heading east on Highway 4 a little past 5 p.m. Tuesday when shots broke out from another vehicle.

Stockton police spokesman Pete Smith says one of the victims was dropped off at a Stockton police station. The other two went on to St. Joseph's Medical Center, where one of them, 22-year-old Johnny Reaves, was pronounced dead.

A fourth person in the vehicle was not struck by gunfire.

At least one of the two surviving victims was in stable condition.

REMAINS CONFIRMED AS 'SPEED FREAK' VICTIMS: LINDEN  (AP) — Human remains uncovered in Northern California with the help of a convicted serial killer have been confirmed as two of his victims.

DNA tests identified the remains as those of 25-year-old Cyndi Vanderheiden and 16-year-old Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler — two of four deaths attributed to Wesley Shermantine.

The 45-year-old Shermantine led authorities to the remains earlier this month. They were on property that his family once owned about 60 miles south of Sacramento in Calaveras County.

Shermantine has also led authorities to a well in San Joaquin County where investigators have found hundreds of human bone fragments.

Shermantine and childhood friend Loren Herzog were referred to as the "Speed Freak Killers." Authorities say the two went on a methamphetamine-fueled killing spree in the 1980s and 90s.

MORE THAN 50,000 HENS FOUND STARVING ON RANCH: TURLOCK  (AP) — An estimated 50,000 hens are dead or will be euthanized after authorities found them starving on a chicken ranch in Central California on Wednesday.

The hens were found on property near the town of Turlock that is rented by A&L Poultry. Authorities say the hens had not been fed in more than two weeks.

Annette Patton of the Stanislaus Animal Service agency says that about one-third of the hens died of starvation. The rest are in such poor condition they must be euthanized.

Owner Andy Keung Cheung declined to comment when the newspaper reached him by telephone.

Patton says animal service officials investigated after a citizen complained about the business. She says the owner is potentially facing animal neglect charges.

COURT RETURNS CALIF. MEDICAID CASE TO LOWER COURT: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has thrown out a federal appeals court ruling allowing patients and health care providers to sue over California's cuts in Medicaid payment rates.

The narrow ruling Wednesday is not a total loss for the parties challenging the Medicaid cuts. By a 5-4 vote, the court sent the case back to the federal appeals court in San Francisco to consider whether private parties or only the federal government can object to Medicaid reductions.

The facts of the case have changed significantly since it first came to the Supreme Court. California originally put cuts in place without federal approval. In recent months, however, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department endorsed the reductions.

CSU FACULTY TO VOTE ON MAJOR STRIKE OVER CONTRACT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California State University faculty union is planning to vote on whether to strike on all 23 CSU campuses if contract negotiations remain unsuccessful.

The board of the California Faculty Association decided Tuesday to hold a strike authorization vote in mid-April.

It will be the second time the union has taken a strike vote in the past four months. The last vote led to one-day walkouts at the East Bay and Dominguez Hills campuses on Nov. 17.

At issue are contract proposals that would increase benefit costs or deny wage increases. The union also is seeking limits on class sizes and more faculty rights in CSU's for-profit arms, including Extended Education classes.

The union represents about 23,000 professors, lecturers, coaches, counselors and librarians.

SANTA CRUZ PRO SURFER GETS JAIL FOR SELLING METH: SANTA CRUZ  (AP) — A professional surfer is headed to jail after pleading no contest to selling methamphetamine.

A Santa Cruz County judge sentenced Anthony Ruffo on Tuesday to two years in prison, but new state sentencing rules mean Ruffo will only have to serve one year in county jail.

Ruffo entered his plea in December to possession of drugs for sale, being under the influence and being a felon with a stun gun. The charges stemmed from a 2010 raid of his home.

The 48-year-old previously was convicted of selling meth in 2005.

Prosecutors argued for a strong sentence, saying they received emails describing how Ruffo's drug-dealing ruined young surfers' lives.

WOMAN ON LEAVE OVER NAKED DAUGHTER: TEMECULA . (AP) — A teacher's aide in Southern California has been placed on leave after her naked 12-year-old daughter was found wandering the streets and eating garbage.

Temecula Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Melanie Norton said Wednesday that 40-year-old Tracy Lynn Betts, of Murrieta, was on paid leave.

Betts was arrested last week on suspicion of child endangerment after leaving her daughter in the car while she was at work at the nearby Vail Elementary School.

Sheriff's Sgt. Andy Woods told The Riverside Press-Enterprise ( that Betts took her daughter's clothes away to prevent her from leaving the car.

Neighbors called 911 on Feb. 16 after seeing the girl attempting to cover herself with a floor mat while eating trash.

COAST GUARD LEADER CALLS FOR MORE SHIPS: ALAMEDA  (AP) — Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp needs ships.


Big ships to intercept national security threats in the middle of the world's oceans. Fast ships to run down drug runners. Nimble rescue ships that can endure severe seas.

Right now, the Coast Guard's commandant has 40 "major" ships under his command. But in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, the Coast Guard's leader said the vast majority of those ships are more than 40 years old and urgently in need of replacement.

Papp said he will deliver a similar message on Thursday when he gives the annual "state of the Coast Guard" speech.

Papp will deliver his speech while standing in front of the Coast Guard's three newest ships, called National Security Cutters that are based in Alameda.

CALIF. MAY LOWER FINES FOR UTILITY IN FATAL BLAST: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A state administrative judge is proposing to fine a utility under fire for the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion only $3 million, rather than going with a prior plan to charge Pacific Gas & Electric Co. $1 million each day for shoddy record-keeping.

A California Public Utilities Commission judge issued the proposal Wednesday, but it still needs approval by the commission before taking effect.

The new plan would significantly lower the company's penalties from the original proposal made by the commission's executive director last year.

That plan would have fined PG&E $1 million a day for failing to hand over key safety records about its transmission lines, including for sections of the gas line that ruptured in San Bruno.

The Sept. 9, 2010 blast killed eight people and destroyed three dozen homes.