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State news briefs
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SAN QUENTIN DEATH ROW INMATE DIES IN CELL: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California death row inmate convicted 23 years ago for a Modesto contract killing has died in his San Quentin cell of natural causes.

Prison officials say 69-year-old Dennis Lawley was found dead on Sunday afternoon.

Lawley had been trying to overturn his conviction for the 1989 killing of Kenneth Lawton Stewart, a convicted felon who had been robbing drug dealers.

Prosecutors say Lawley hired Brian Seabourn to kill Stewart because Stewart robbed and beat Lawley at his Modesto cabin.

Seabourn was convicted of second-degree murder. He later admitted killing Stewart, but said the order came from the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang.

There are 722 inmates on California's death row.

_POLICE: MAN, WOMAN SHOT AT MODESTO MOTEL: MODESTO  (AP) — Police are investigating an early-morning shooting at a Modesto motel that left two people wounded.

Officers responded to the Quality Inn around 2 a.m. Wednesday on a report of a shooting. Inside they found a 36-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman with gunshots wounds.

Both victims, who are Las Vegas residents, were taken to the hospital. Police say the woman was treated and released, but the man is in critical but stable condition.

No arrests have been made. Witnesses told police that at least two people involved in the shooting may have fled in a white vehicle.

Investigators have not released a possible motive for the shooting.

COURT: HERZOG PAROLE TO LASSEN COUNTY WAS LEGAL: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A California appeals court has ruled that corrections officials had a right to send convicted killer Loren Herzog to remote Lassen County when he was paroled in 2010.

Herzog's release had drawn heated opposition from authorities and residents who believed he was responsible for a killing spree in the 1970s and 80s.

He and childhood friend Wesley Shermantine, a pair dubbed the Speed Freak Killers, were convicted of multiple murders. But Herzog's conviction later was overturned because of an illegally obtained confession.

He instead pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was paroled to a trailer outside the gates of Susanville's prison. The city and county sued to get rid of him.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday that corrections officials have exclusive discretion to place parolees.

Herzog committed suicide in January.

2 MEN ARRESTED IN FAIRFIELD KILLINGS RELEASED: FAIRFIELD (AP) — Two men arrested in connection with a drug-related double homicide in Fairfield last week have been released.

Authorities say Darren Trahan and Marcus Rutherford-Chew walked out jail Tuesday after prosecutors decided not to file charges. The 21-year-old Trahan and the 18-year-old Rutherford-Chew had surrendered to police over the weekend.

Solano County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jack Allen says the two were released pending further investigation. He did not provide additional details.

Trahan and Rutherford-Chew had previously been wanted in the fatal shootings of Rutherford-Chew's cousin, 24-year-old Vedell Jamar Chew of Fairfield, and 18-year-old Bernard Francis Knight of East Palo Alto.

Chew and Knight were gunned down during an apparent dispute between several people outside a condominium complex last Wednesday.

Allen said authorities are still looking for a third person in the shooting, 21-year-old Blake Johnson, of Vallejo.

SCHULLER'S DAUGHTER SETS UP TEMPORARY CHURCH: ORANGE  (AP) — The daughter of Crystal Cathedral founder Robert H. Schuller is setting up a temporary church in a movie theater at a local shopping mall after splitting with the church her father began.

Sheila Schuller Coleman said Wednesday that her new church, called Hope Center OC, will hold services on Sunday at the AMC Theaters at the Outlets at Orange.

Schuller Coleman left Crystal Cathedral Ministries last Sunday one day after her father and mother quit the church's board because of a dispute over intellectual property claims and breach of contract allegations.

There are now no Schuller family members left at the storied Crystal Cathedral megachurch, which declared bankruptcy in 2010.

The cathedral said Tuesday it will continue to hold services and air the "Hour of Power" without the family.

SOUTHERN CALIF. HOME SALES JUMP 8 PCT. IN FEBRUARY: SAN DIEGO (AP) — Southern California home sales jumped sharply in February as investors paid cash to snap up the lowest-priced properties, a research firm said Wednesday. Prices continued to fall.

There were 15,573 new and existing homes and condominiums sold in a six-county region last month, up 8.4 percent from the same period of 2011, DataQuick said. It marked the highest February tally in five years, boosted by an extra day of sales on Leap Year.

Sales of homes less than $300,000 soared 9.5 percent from last year, accounting for the entire increase. Sales of homes between $300,000 and $800,000 slipped 0.8 percent, while transactions above $800,000 tumbled 12.6 percent.

The median sales price was $264,750, down 3.7 percent from the same period last year.

John Walsh, DataQuick's president, cautioned against reading too much into the sales increase. Without Leap Day, sales would not have reached a five-year high.

ARREST MADE IN NEARLY 40-YEAR-OLD OAKLAND SLAYING: OAKLAND . (AP) — Authorities have arrested and charged a man with murder in the nearly 40-year-old slaying of a 13-year-old Oakland girl.

Sixty-three-year-old Curtis Tucker was taken into custody last week in the Aug. 9, 1974 death of Julie McElhiney. Alameda County prosecutors charged him with murder on Monday.

Authorities say DNA evidence recently found on clothing McElhiney was wearing was a match to Tucker. Tucker's DNA profile was in a national database following his arrest in 1978 on suspicion of rape in Spokane, Wash.

Police believe Tucker came across McElhiney and attacked her while burglarizing a home. An autopsy showed she died of blunt-force trauma to the head and had been sexually assaulted.

MYSPACE PREFDATOR CONVICTED: RIVERSIDE  (AP) — A California man who used the social networking site MySpace to exploit and abuse young girls across the country was convicted Wednesday of dozens of felony charges.

A jury found Joshua David Threlkeld, 34, guilty of 79 felonies and one misdemeanor charge after deliberating a little more than two days in Riverside County Superior Court.

Between 2007 and early 2009, Threlkeld created a fake modeling agency and created an online identity as a 13-year-old model named Sara to lure young girls into sending him nude pictures, prosecutors alleged.

The victims were between the ages of 11 and 17 and jurors heard from 41 of them during the trial.

BEAR FOUND DIGGING IN GLENDALE GARAGE REFRIGERATOR: GLENDALE (AP) — Glendale authorities say residents should keep an eye out for a bear after a resident found one rifling through his garage refrigerator.

The Glendale resident was awakened by strange noises coming from his garage at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The bear was seated next to an open refrigerator in the resident's garage.

City spokeswoman Vicki Gardner says the resident made eye contact with the large animal before going back inside the house and locking his door.

Police arrived just in time to see the bear leaving the back yard.

Gardner says the city has received reports that a bear had been plundering outdoor trash cans in the area.

Gardner says it's possible the animal wandered into the nearby Verdugo Mountains.