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April 07, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Digest Digest (April 07, 2004)

Teenager sexually assaulted in East Palo Alto

An intruder sexually assaulted a 14-year-old East Palo Alto girl in her bedroom Sunday morning, April 4, while other family members slept, police Detective Sgt. Rich Yearman said.

Police believe a stranger committed the assault, which occurred at approximately 6:37 a.m. in the family's apartment in the West Park Apartments complex at 4 Newell Court.

Yearman said police do not yet have a description of the suspect.

"What we are looking for is to alert the public and to get help from them in case anyone saw something suspicious," Yearman said.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call Detective Rich Maher at (650) 599-7423, Detective Sergio Lopez at (650) 599-7427 or the Anonymous Witness Line at (800) 547-2700.

-- Bay City New Service
Weekly photographers honored

Weekly Chief Photographer Norbert von der Groeben and Staff Photographer Don Feria were honored over the weekend by the San Francisco Bay Area Photographers Association.

Von der Groeben won a third-place award in the category of "Newspaper Portrait/Personality" for his shot entitled "Shmuzzles Master," which ran in the Weekly's Dec. 24, 2003 issue. The photo was part of a greater story on toy inventors.

Feria won an "Award of Excellence" in the category of "Newspaper General News" for his shot entitled "Tears," a portrait of two children mourning Amy Malzbender's hit-and-run death from the Feb. 7, 2003 edition of the Weekly.

The awards, part of the association's 30th annual photography competition, were presented Sunday, April 4 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center in Walnut Creek. More than 175 news photographers and photojournalism students in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento region submitted over 4,000 images and tapes for the competition.
New bike-friendly projects

Bicyclists have better access to the Palo Alto area now that two new bike-friendly projects are complete, according to Palo Alto City Manager Frank Benest.

Benest said the Willow/Waverley Bridge has been re-opened between Menlo Park and Palo Alto in Downtown North across San Franciscquito Creek.

The cost of much of the bridge project was covered by San Mateo County Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds. The remainder was split between the cities of Menlo Park, the lead agency on the project, and Palo Alto. Palo Alto was able to use Santa Clara County TDA funds to pay for its part.

The project began in 1999 and the bridge was closed for five months. The new bridge was just installed in December and opened in March.

Benest also said the barriers in the California Avenue bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing have been replaced with newly designed barriers that allow better access for bicycles hauling trailers, recumbent bicycles and strollers.

That project was completed in two days, Benest explained, with construction causing only minor delays for bicyclists and pedestrians.

-- Bay City News Service
Conviction upheld for woman who gave husband 'poisoned milkshake'

The attempted murder conviction and life sentence of an East Palo Alto woman who tried to kill her husband with a poisoned milkshake have been upheld by a state appeals court in San Francisco.

Elizabeth Fuentes-Ortiz, 34, was convicted in San Mateo County Superior Court in 2002 of trying to poison her husband, Gilbert Ortiz, 10 years earlier.

She delivered the insecticide-laced milkshake along with a hamburger and French fries to her husband for lunch at his job at a Toys R Us store in Redwood City on March 11, 1992.

The next day, as Ortiz lay in critical condition at a hospital, Fuentes-Ortiz fled to Mexico with the couple's 2-year-old son.

Fuentes-Ortiz was arrested by FBI and Mexican authorities in a town near Guadalajara eight years later. The boy was found several months afterward and returned to his father's custody.

While Fuentes-Ortiz was a fugitive, a story about the crime ran several times on the television show "Unsolved Mysteries.''

The poison caused Ortiz to suffer cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, lung collapse and permanent nerve damage.

In a decision made public last week, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal unanimously rejected Fuentes-Ortiz's appeal argument that her trial was flawed because the jury was not instructed that it could find that she acted in self-defense.

Fuentes-Ortiz had claimed she was abused by her husband and feared she was in imminent danger. But the appeals court said there was no evidence that Fuentes-Ortiz had reason to believe she was in immediate danger and that she was therefore not entitled to a self-defense jury instruction.

Fuentes-Ortiz's sentence was for life in prison with possibility of parole, with an additional six years for concealing a child and inflicting great bodily injury.

-- Bay City News Service

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