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Walnut Creek police investigate suspcious package near Buena Vista Elementary

By Theresa Harrington

The Walnut Creek police issued the following community alert at 8:11 a.m. today (Tuesday):

“Police are investigating a suspicious package near Buena Vista Elementary School**. Avoid area.

The Walnut Creek Bomb Squad is responding to the north parking lot of Buena Vista Elementaty School to investigate a suspicious package that was left in the lot. Residents on Alvarado Avenue have evacuated or are sheltering in place. San Juan Avenue is closed to traffic. Alvarado Avenue is closed to traffic from Buena Vista Avenue to San Juan Avenue. Buena Vista School staff have been notified and students will remain in the school buildings. It is suggested that people stay out of the area until further notice.”

Further details are at

Posted on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Under: Crime, Education, Walnut Creek School District | No Comments »

Man reportedly approached Buena Vista Elementary student in Walnut Creek

By Theresa Harrington
The Walnut Creek School District has sent out the following warning regarding a man who reportedly approached a Buena Vista Elementary student last week:

“August 30, 2010
Dear Walnut Creek School District Community,
We had a serious incident at Buena Vista School on Friday evening. A fourth grade student was leaving the Buena Vista campus after 5:00 p.m. by herself after attending our after-school program.
A man described as white, approximately 55 years old, with blond hair, approached the fourth grader in an older large white model convertible. He spoke to her first in his car and then on foot. The adult did not touch or threaten the student.
The student ran home, informed her parents. The Walnut Creek Police Department were contacted immediately and responded immediately.
WCPD recommend that all of us remind students:
Avoid walking alone when walking to and from school.
Do not talk to strangers.
Report any suspicious or awkward situations immediately to an adult and/or the police.
Your student’s safety is our highest concern.
Patricia Wool, Ed.D.
Walnut Creek School District”

Posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010
Under: Crime, Education, Walnut Creek School District | No Comments »

Mt. Diablo district corrects erroneous information about yard duty arrest

Janis Thompson, 44, of Martinez

Janis Thompson, 44, of Martinez

By Theresa Harrington
In an effort to quickly get information out to parents about the arrest of a noontime yard duty supervisor earlier today, the Mt. Diablo school district inadvertently distributed erroneous information about where the arrest occurred.
Janis Thompson, 44, was arrested at her Martinez home and not at Hidden Valley Elementary in Martinez, as originally reported by the district. The Martinez police and Contra Costa Times released accurate information to the public.
Superintendent Steven Lawrence said the district assumed the arrest had occurred at the school, based on conversations with the principal and police. Lawrence said he has recorded an automated telephone call, which parents should receive this evening.
Here is the corrected message:
“This morning at approximately 9:30 a.m. the Martinez Police Department arrested one of our employees, a noon duty supervisor at Hidden Valley Elementary school. The employee is alleged to have committed child exploitation acts using the Internet and X-box. The Martinez Police Department and other law enforcement agencies have conducted an extensive investigation and have not identified any Hidden Valley Elementary School or Mt. Diablo Unified School District students as potential victims.
District administration has taken appropriate action to keep all our children safe, and this employee will not return to work unless the allegations are found to be false. I would like to ensure you that every employee receives a finger print clearance prior to their first day on the job.
This police investigation is an important reminder of the vigilance we must all use to monitor our children’s communications and interactions on the Internet.
If you receive any information that you believe can assist law enforcement in their investigation please contact Martinez Police Detective Mike Estanol at 925-372-3452.”
More informatation about the arrest is on the Contra Costa Times website.

Posted on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
Under: Crime, Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington | No Comments »

Trained dogs used to search home of suspect in Jaycee Dugard case

By Mike Taugher
Contra Costa Times

ANTIOCH _ Specially trained canines sniffed around a home Sunday where convicted rapist Phillip Garrido held Jaycee Dugard captive for more than 18 years.

Cadaver dogs were used as police looked for evidence that might link Garrido to open murder cases in the area. By early evening, the search was concluded but authorities said they would return to the house on Monday to resume their search.

A neighboring house was also searched but Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee emphasized that Garrido’s neighbor, Damon Robinson, was not a suspect. Rather, Robinson’s house was being searched because of Garrido’s connection to it.

“We know Phillip Garrido had access to the property,” Lee said. “It looks like he lived in a shed on that property.” The house was vacant in 2006, but Lee said authorities did not know when Garrido might have lived there.

Meanwhile, Jaycee Lee Dugard was secluded with her mother and daughters in the Bay Area.

“They’re basically trying to make this less painful for the girls,” said Jaycee’s stepfather, Carl Probyn. “They’re just trying to bond and get it together a little bit.”

Posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2009
Under: Crime | No Comments »

Jaycee Lee Dugard, missing Tahoe girl found in Concord, tops Google Trends

Eighteen years after Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted from a bus stop on her South Lake Tahoe street, her name has gained new prominence.

Details of the story about Dugard, 29, who re-appeared Wednesday afternoon in Concord for the first time since her kidnapping June 11, 1991, are available in our Contra Costa Times story.

The search term “jaycee lee dugard” was the top item on Google Trends at 10 a.m. today and remained there as of just a few minutes ago.

Google Trends is an hourly-updated “snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing the fastest-rising searches for different points of time.” The search engine has given the search term a ranking of “volcanic.”

Update, 1:40 p.m.: The search term “phillip garrido” has entered the Google Trends top-20 list at No. 20 with a ranking of “medium.” Garrido, a resident of unincorporated Antioch and a registered sex offender, was arrested in connection with the Dugard case after a Wednesday parole hearing in Concord.

Update, 5 p.m.: The search terms “jaycee lee dugard” and “phillip garrido” were briefly at Nos. 1 and 2 on the Google Trends’ top-100 “hot trends” list before their displacement this evening. Other related terms now trending include “jaycee lee dugard press conference” at No. 2, “philip garrido” at No. 3, “el dorado county sheriff” at No. 8, “kidnapped girl found years later” at No. 9, “nancy garrido” at No. 11, “god s desire” at No. 15, “1991 kidnap victim found” at No. 44, and “carl probyn” at No. 74.

Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2009
Under: Crime | No Comments »

Update: Two dead in Richmond-San Rafael Bridge shooting

By Gary Klien and Jennifer Upshaw
Marin Independent Journal

Two people were shot dead – one of them a toll taker – at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Tuesday evening after the driver of a shuttle van armed with a shotgun opened fire and then fled toward Richmond.

The vehicle, described as a white van with orange and black lettering with the words “Western Shuttle” stenciled along the side, entered the toll plaza and shot the unidentified toll taker before turning around and heading east. Information about the second fatality was not immediately available.

The driver was described as a black male or female with short hair, according to police broadcasts. The van was last seen headed toward Interstate 80, the broadcasts indicated.
Domenic Toboni of San Rafael said he was about 200 yards from the shooting.

“All I saw is the guy shooting into the toll plaza,” he said. “It was a

Toboni said the gunman fired at least three times.

At the toll plaza, at least three dozen law enforcement units with officers from Richmond police, the California Highway Patrol, the Marin sheriff’s office and others secured the crime scene. One toll booth was sealed off with a body inside.

Traffic was snarled in both directions. Just before 7 p.m., five of the seven westbound lanes were closed including the two FasTrak lanes.

Contact Gary Klien at and Jennifer Upshaw at

Posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009
Under: Crime | No Comments »

Video of Melissa Huckaby’s grandparents being interviewed

The Rev. Lane Lawless and his wife Connie Lawless, grandparents of murder suspect Melissa Huckaby, gave interviews to KSBW TV8, a Monterey area station, about the Sandra Cantu case, when they were attending a church conference in Salinas last month. To read our story about the Lawless family and how the case has affected them and their church, click here.

Posted on Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Under: Crime | 2 Comments »

Man who found Sandra Cantu’s body to accept reward Thursday

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Scott Webb, director of the Sund/Carrington Foundation, will present a reward check to Jose Luis Franco for finding the suitcase that contained the body of Sandra Cantu.

On April 6 Franco found a large black suitcase floating in a dairy farm pond near Whitehall Road. He thought it was suspicious, as it hadn’t been there two weeks ago when the pond was last drained, so police were called in at about 10 a.m.

After a day-long investigation, that had media helicopters hovering over the farm site to film shots of the suitcase, it was transported by San Joaquin County coroner’s officals and opened at their facilities.

Tracy kidnapping victim Cantu, 8, had been missing since March 27. She was last seen alive just two miles away from the pond, at the Orchard Estates Mobile Home park.

The suitcase would prove to a key piece of evidence in leading to the arrest of 28-year-old Melissa Huckaby, who told a local newspaper just a few days after Sandra’s body was found that she had a similar suitcase stolen from her driveway the day Sandra was reported missing.

Huckaby was arrested on murder, kidnapping and rape charges on April 10.

According a press release issued by Tracy police, the check will be handed over in a presentation expected to last about 30 minutes.

Although it was initially reported that the workers who found the body were refusing to accept a reward, last week police said about $20,000 would be given to an anonymous recipient — much to the chagrin of Los Angeles psychic Dana Pedlow, who claims she gave police key tips about the case.

Apparently, as Franco ended up giving media interviews, he’s no longer anonymous. According to one TV report, he planned to use the money to help his children attend college.

Posted on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Under: Crime | 1 Comment »

Nightline is latest to feature Sandra Cantu story on TV

It’s always strange to be a member of the media when a story you’re covering becomes big in the national news, as has been the case in Tracy ever since an abused boy in chains was discovered in December.

When you see a town in your midst reduced to a four-minute TV feature, complete with the sober voice of a broadcaster lamenting the loss of innocence, it gives one new perspective on how easy it is for the truth of a place to get lost in the spin.

A piece aired by Nightline last night, titled “American Gothic,” was the latest, following a long string including Nancy Grace segments, Dr. Phil and even a feature in People magazine.

The Nightline piece wasn’t bad (although I could have lived without 10 shots of the good old downtown water tower), but the title was a little much for a town of 82,000 that’s become a major residential hub for commuters working in the Bay Area.

Alluding to the classic 1930 Grant Wood painting of a stoic buttoned-up white Iowa farm couple really doesn’t have much to do with a Central Valley community where the population as of 2007 was about 30 percent Hispanic or Latino, with a long history of Portugese immigrants in the mix.

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009
Under: Crime | No Comments »

Psychic in rift with Tracy police over Cantu case posts her predictions about Sandra

Whatever you believe about psychics, Dani Pedlow’s initial thoughts about the Sandra Cantu case certainly seemed to have a tinge of truth, assuming this e-mail exchange she posted on her website this morning is true.

The posting is in response to our story about her beef with the Tracy police department.

Police and psychics working together to solve crimes isn’t anything new, but in the case of the Sandra Cantu murder case, this time it seems to be more a situation of Police vs. The Psychic.

The Los Angeles-based Pedlow, whose claim to fame is she predicted on live radio how a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., serial killer would be found, is upset because she swears she sent some tips to the Tracy police that identified where Sandra’s body would be found and is entitled to some of the reward money.

(Incidentally, Bay Area residents, Pedlow says she did undergraduate work in psychology and minored in criminology at Cal Poly and was offered a scholarship to U.C. Berkeley, but she instead went to New York to work on the radio.)

Here’s a few tidbits from her website biography: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2009
Under: Crime | 7 Comments »