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Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 25, 2011

News Digest

Palo Alto police apprehend robbery suspect

Palo Alto police have arrested a San Jose man in connection with the robberies of a pizza-delivery man and a woman whose purse was snatched as she returned home.

Dean Allen Holmes Jr., 23, was arrested and booked at the Main Jail in San Jose on Jan. 19 for the robberies, Palo Alto police announced Tuesday (Feb. 22).

On Dec. 11, 2010, a woman was robbed of her purse in front of her home in the 900 block of El Cajon Way at 7:04 p.m.

The victim was returning home and parked her car in the driveway. As she approached her front door, she heard footsteps behind her. The suspect grabbed her from behind, took her purse and fled, police said.

On Jan. 10, 2011, at 9:15 p.m., a local pizza-delivery driver was returning to his parked vehicle in the 4000 block of Ben Lomond Drive when a man approached and robbed him of his property at gunpoint. The victim was not hurt during the robbery, police said.

Holmes was identified as a suspect in the December robbery through extensive investigations and a parole search, police said.

He was arrested after an iPod purchased with the female victim's stolen credit card was found in his home.

During the investigation, information was discovered that Holmes may have been involved in an additional robbery.

The pizza-delivery man was shown a photo lineup and positively identified Holmes as the man who robbed him.

Holmes was booked on charges of parole violation with recommended charges of two counts of robbery, burglary and illegal use of a stolen credit card, police said.

Competency of accused killer Elarms questioned

The man accused of killing East Palo Alto community activist David Lewis in a Hillsdale Shopping Center parking garage last June might not be competent to stand trial, his attorney has told the court.

Gregory Elarms Sr., 58, a childhood friend of Lewis, is charged with first-degree murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait for the 2010 shooting of Lewis. If convicted, Elarms could receive the death penalty. He is also charged with being a felon in possession of a gun, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Elarms' defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Boyarsky, asked the court Friday (Feb. 18) to appoint the doctors to evaluate Elarms' competency. Elarms acted out loudly in court that day while a preliminary hearing date was being set.

Boyarsky told Judge Lisa Novak that he had a doubt about his client's competency to stand trial. On Feb. 23, the court appointed two physicians to evaluate Elarms; they will report back to the court on April 13.

On the afternoon of June 9, 2010, Elarms allegedly followed Lewis, 54, from the San Mateo Medical Center, where Lewis was a counselor and did HIV testing. Witnesses said Elarms allegedly confronted Lewis and fatally shot him as Lewis walked away.

Lewis had co-founded Free At Last, an East Palo Alto nonprofit organization that provides services including substance-abuse treatment and transitional housing and became an internationally known figure in parolee and drug rehabilitation, having risen from a life on the streets, prison and drug addiction.

Big projects to break ground soon at Gunn, Paly

Groundbreaking is likely in June for major new academic buildings at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

The Board of Education Tuesday night discussed solicitation of construction bids for two-story classroom buildings at both schools, as well as a new "media arts building" at Paly and a new gymnasium and air-conditioning retrofits to existing classrooms at Gunn.

The $50 million-plus tab for the projects comprises a significant piece of the $368 million facilities bond measure approved by voters in 2008.

The bond program, which will touch all 17 of Palo Alto's public school campuses, is intended to upgrade and expand the schools to accommodate projected enrollment growth.

The projects discussed Tuesday have received extensive prior scrutiny by the school board, as well as by landscape consultants and facilities committees including parents, teachers, principals and others at both schools.

In other business, the board:

* reacted favorably to a proposal for a trial, full-day kindergarten at Barron Park School beginning this fall. Under the plan, all Barron Park kindergarten students would have the option of attending school from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.

* critiqued a proposal by Superintendent Kevin Skelly to convene an "elementary math task force" of parents and teachers to help spread "best practices" in math instruction.

— Chris Kenrick

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