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Diablo's Week in Review April 5-12, 2009

Police arrest mom, Sunday school teacher in murder of Tracy's Sandra Cantu, Lafayette's multi-million-dollar tax scofflaw, BART fares may rise, and destructive Pleasanton fire labeled "arson."

Police arrested a suspect late Friday in the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu of Tracy.

Tracy Police Department

Mom, Sunday school teacher arrested in murder of 8-year-old Tracy girl: Melissa Huckaby, 28, was booked into San Joaquin County jail late Friday night in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Sandra Cantu. Huckaby is a neighbor of Cantu's family in a Tracy mobile home park, her 5-year-old daughter is one of Sandra's playmates, she is the granddaughter of a baptist pastor whose church was searched this week, and she herself teaches Sunday school at the church. Sandra's body was found Monday, stuffed into a large suitcase floating in a pond a couple miles north of the mobile home park.  Huckaby told different media outlets that the suitcase belonged to her, and that it was stolen from her driveway on the afternoon of March 27, when Sandra went missing.  Huckaby also said that Sandra stopped by her home, which she shares with her pastor grandfather, that afternoon, asking to play with her daughter, but that she sent Sandra on her way. A memorial service for Sandra is set for Wednesday.

Top income tax scofflaw from Lafayette: A guy named Winson T. Lee of Lafayette owes $9.9 million in personal income tax, according to a list of top 250 tax scofflaws published by the state’s Franchise Tax Board. Lee has had a tax lien placed on him since 2002. State law directs the board to publish this list annually. Other East Bay suburbanites on the list include: Marvin T. Levin on Walnut Creek ($1.9 million); Dennis L. Tiner, of Orinda ($643,000); and Artem A. Martinov, Lafayette ($403,000).

BART may raise fares 10 percent: Facing a $54 million deficit in its $641.5 million budget, BART may raise fares 10 percent this summer, reduce service on Sundays and at night, and impose parking charges at more station lots.

In other BART news ... Protester splatters red paint on BART general manager: In a sign of ongoing tensions over the January 1 shooting death of a BART passenger, a BART board meeting erupted into chaos when a protester threw paint on General Manager Dorothy Dugger. The protester apparently was upset about the investigation into the death of Oscar Grant, who was fatally wounded by a BART police officer trying to break up a scuffle at the Fruitvale station. BART police wrestled the paint-thrower to the ground, and then out of the room and cleared the meeting for an hour. You can watch a video of the incident here.

Walnut Creek mom identifies her son's killer: A Walnut Creek woman, testifying Thursday, identified Nathan Medina as the man who broke into her home on March 20, 2008, and shot and killed her 25-year-old son Joshua Rhoads. Medina, 43, is on trial in Contra Costa County Superior Court, charged with murdering Rhoads and attempting to kill the mom, Beverly Rhoads. The prosecution alleges that Medina killed the young man over a lawsuit Beverly Rhoads filed against Medina's stepfather for work on an addition to her home. 

Orinda says it's strapped for cash, seeks donations: City officials in Orinda, one of the most affluent communities on the planet (or at least in the Bay Area) say they don't have enough money to pay for road and drain repairs, as well as for public art and community events, such as Orinda in Action Day. So they are open to accepting donations.   

UC workers may face pay cuts, furloughs: The 170,000 full-time and part-time faculty and staff of the 10-campus UC system could face salary cuts and furloughs if the state’s economy gets worse.  UC President Mark Yudof needs to trim system’s $9 billion payroll, though imposing salary cuts would be complicated by the fact that about 60,000 of those workers are covered by labor contracts. Yudof’s proposal comes after he froze the salaries of top UC executives.

Destructive Pleasanton home fire labeled arson: Police have determined that a December 8 fire that destroyed a home near downtown and critically injured the female resident was “arson.” But investigators still aren’t ready to name a suspect or the exact cause. Neighbors heard an explosion at about 11 a.m., and Deonna Zuffa, who suffered second- and third-degree burns, running out of the East Angela Street house that was quickly engulfed in flames. Zuffa’s husband, and their two school-age sons and two dogs were not home at the time. The fire also damaged two neighboring homes and displaced another family.

No more plastics at Berkeley farmers markets! With the three Berkeley farmers markets designated “Zero-Waste Zones,” vendors will supply compostable bags that customers can use—for a small charge--to fill up on fruits and veggies. Vendors selling prepared foods must also use compostable packing and utensils.

Oakland police attend funeral of slain Pennsylvania police officers: A little more than two weeks after the Oakland Police Department lost four of its own in two related gun battles on March 21, members of the department were to travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to attend the memorial Thursday for three officers killed last Saturday in that city.