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Diablo's Week in Review: February 21-28

San Francisco Chronicle may stop printing, son charged in parents' murder in Pleasanton, rats reportedly infest Walnut Creek movie theater, and Danville couple wins free house.



San Francisco Chronicle may close: The Chronicle, long an essential part of daily life for many Bay Area residents, could close in a few weeks. Owner Hearst Corp. says it is trying to salvage the paper by cutting a “significant” number of jobs and finding a new buyer for the daily, which lost $50 million in 2008. The Chronicle, founded shortly after the Gold Rush, has been losing money since 2001 due to the dot-com bust and the rise of free news and competing advertising options offered on the Internet. The Chronicle’s loss would make San Francisco the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. 

No more DUI and other misdemeanor prosecutions in Contra Costa? Faced with having to trim $4.1 million from his budget, Contra Costa County District Attorney Robert Kochly says he would have to lay off 33 prosecutors--36 percent of attorneys on his staff. Kochly warns the layoffs could mean that starting May 1 his office would no longer be able to prosecute misdemeanors, which includes DUIs, petty theft, and minor drug possession cases. 

Son charged in couple’s murder at their Castlewood Country Club home: The 30-year-old son of former San Ramon Valley School District trustee Ernie Scherer Jr., 60, and his wife Charlene Abendroth, 57, faces the death penalty in their March 2008 killing. The couple, who had been married 31 years, were found beaten and stabbed to death in their pajamas. Ernie Scherer III, a professional poker player, was arrested in Las Vegas Monday night and returned to Alameda County where he was arraigned Thursday on two counts of murder with special circumstances. Saying the son, known in his family as “Skip,” was in serious debt, investigators allege he killed his parents for financial gain.

Alamo cityhood to be decided this week: Voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether or not they want their 16,700-resident unincorporated community within Contra Costa County to become a city, with its own governing council and planning, police, and public works departments. Sixteen people are also vying to serve on Alamo’s first city council. 

Proposal to triple size of Los Vaqueros Reservoir: County and federal officials say that adding nearly 200,000 acre-feet to the eastern Contra Costa reservoir could stabilize Bay Area water supplies, especially in drought years, and alleviate some of the Delta’s environmental problems, including the deaths of fish at massive pumping stations near Tracy. But the project would inundate up to 1,000 acres of watershed, including a potential corridor for an endangered fox, and take 22 acres of farmland out of production.

Danville couple lucks into $2 million house: A week after her husband was laid off from his high-tech sales job, Susan Wells of Danville learned she had won a $2 million house in Marin with a raffle ticket had bought on a whim. The couple can either take the 4,400-square-foot home on San Rafael hilltop or $1.2 million in cash. To view the home, visit the website for Community Action Marin nonprofit, which assists the poor and needy in Marin County

Men “freak out” in Dublin after friend dies during drug-laced hot tub party: Three men, two in their 50s, apparently left their friend in a Dublin back yard when he died while all four were hot-tubbing and reportedly using methamphethamine and GHB, known to users as “liquid ecstasy.” The body was found after one of the partyers, from Lodi, was stopped by police for a registration violation. He and the home’s owner were arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs for sale.

Trial begins in Walnut Creek killing: The prosecution and defense presented their opening statements this week in the murder trial of a former assistant football coach at Benicia High School. Jonathan Marvin is accused of shooting to death his friend and fellow marijuana grower, Eric Martin of Pittsburg, in a Walnut Creek parking lot in December 2007 to clear a $10,000 to $15,000 debt.

Rat infestation reported at Century 14 Walnut Creek theater: Two women complained to the Contra Costa Times that their viewing of Revolutionary Road on February 20 was interrupted by rats they saw scurrying near the screen and in the aisles. The Contra Costa Health Services cited the theater for major rodent violations back in May, but that those had since been abated.

Two cases of senior East Bay women found dead in homes after long absences: Piedmont police are investigating the case of the mummified corpse of an elderly woman found dead in a house. The body is believed to belong to the owner who had not been seen by neighbors in years. In Walnut Creek, the partially mummified body of a 62-year-old woman was found February 18 in her condominium in the Diablo Keys complex on North Civic Drive. Police and the Contra Costa Coroner's office tell Diablo that she was found by a workman and had probably been dead five to six months.