SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A jury has found a 79-year-old former photographer guilty in the decades-old killings of four California women.
After deliberating for less than eight hours, the Marin County Superior Court jury on Tuesday found Joseph Naso guilty of killing two young prostitutes in the 1970s and two others in the 1990s.
Naso acted as his own attorney in the two-month trial in which prosecutors presented DNA and other compelling evidence against him. Marin County deputy public defender Pedro Oliveros assisted Naso and confirmed the Reno, Nev., resident was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder.
The four victims all had alliterative initials in their names. The same jury will reconvene Sept. 4 for the penalty phase of the trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The California Supreme Court has refused to stop gay marriages in the state.
In a brief ruling Wednesday, the high court tossed out a legal challenge by supporters of Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed by voters that banned same-sex marriages in California.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June left in place a trial judge's order striking down the ballot measure as unconstitutional. On June 28, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Prop 8 supporters had asked the state Supreme Court to stop the weddings, arguing that the federal court action applied narrowly and only to the two couples who filed the federal lawsuit challenging the ban.
With little comment, a unanimous state Supreme Court allowed gay marriages to continue.
VISALIA, Calif. (AP) - A California man is being praised for his honesty after he turned in $6,900 in cash he found near a Department of Motor Vehicles office in the Central Valley.
The money eventually was returned to its rightful owner.
Forty-six-year-old Breck Reeves told the Fresno Bee he spotted an envelope on the ground Aug. 6 while going to the Visalia DMV. Inside was a stack of $100 bills totaling $6,900.
Reeves says he might have kept the money if it had been $20 or so, but this was too much. He turned in the money at the DMV, and Visalia police eventually tracked down its rightful owner, 69-year-old retired farmworker Guadalupe Salazar.
Salazar had taken the money out of the bank to buy his son a new car. The envelope apparently fell out of Salazar's car when he opened the door.
Salazar plans to take the Reeves to dinner.
BEAUMONT, Calif. (AP) — A rapidly spreading wildfire chewed through a rugged Southern California mountain range on Thursday, destroying more than two dozen homes, threatening more than 500 other residences and forcing some 1,800 people to flee.
Six people were injured, while more than 1,400 firefighters and nine helicopters battled the flames as they pushed eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert range 90 miles east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins said.
A man near the origin of the fire suffered serious burns, Hawkins said. Five firefighters were also injured, including two who suffered heat exhaustion. Officials did not have details to release on the other three.
After surveying badly charred areas, many of which burned amid the fire's out-of-control growth in the hours after it broke out, officials said 26 homes and one commercial building were destroyed and two other structures were damaged.
Hawkins said the wind-fed fire that sparked at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday is one of the "most rapidly spreading, dangerous fires that I've seen" in his 50 years as a firefighter.
The fire was estimated at nearly 22 square miles Thursday, with 20 percent containment, but it was growing, causing concern that the direction could change in the area, which is known as a wind tunnel.
"The conditions at the front right now are very dangerous," Hawkins said.
Authorities still have not determined what caused the fire.
Evacuation orders were issued in five towns. Flames were marching toward the hardscrabble town of Cabazon, where hundreds scrambled to leave in the pre-dawn hours Thursday as the mountain ridge behind their homes glowed red.
Many returned after sunrise to pack up more belongings and watch the flickering line of fire snaking along the brown, scrubby mountains.
Linda Walls, 62, sat with her family in lawn chairs and watched fire crews scrambling to douse the flames marching toward her modest home less than a quarter mile away. An American flag flapped in the gusty wind that kicked up the fire. She wiped her brow, feeling the scorching heat.
Gray and pink-tinted clouds billowed across the otherwise crystal blue sky. Neighbors could be heard coughing as they filled the beds of pickup trucks with motocross bikes, boxes of clothing, toys and packaged food.
"It seems to be taking off now," she said as sirens whirred by. "All you see are the firemen inside the blaze."
At the end of her street, a group of ostriches paced in their cages as the hill above them burned. A firefighter rushing by said they would do what they can to protect them. Nearby another pen was filled with goats.
In the nearby town of Banning, Lili Arroyo, 83, left with only her pet cockatiel, Tootsie, in its cage and a bag of important papers from her home, which was rebuilt after being destroyed in a 2006 wildfire.
"The smoke was so bad you couldn't see," said Arroyo, who lives in the town of Banning. "There were embers and ash coming down all over the sky. The smoke was really thick. I was starting not to be able to breathe."
Evacuation orders covered an RV resort called the Silent Valley Club, the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Vista Grande, portions of the city of Cabazon along Interstate 10, and a camping area known as Black Mountain.
A veteran of many evacuations, Dana Wright, 43, wiped away a tear as she entered a shelter at a Beaumont school and went with her family to watch TV news. She had no idea whether her Poppet Flats home of 11 years had survived. Friends said a nearby home had burned.
She and her husband hoped to find a way back up into the mountains. "I just want to look to see if we have a house," she said.
Most of Southern California's severe wildfires are associated with Santa Ana winds caused by high pressure over the West that sends a clockwise flow of air rushing down into the region.
This week's fire, however, was being fanned by a counter-clockwise flow around a low pressure area over northwest California.
It was the second major wildfire in the San Jacinto Mountains this summer. A blaze that erupted in mid-July spread over 43 square miles on peaks above Palm Springs, burned seven homes and forced 6,000 people out of Idyllwild and neighboring towns.
The latest fire also burned in the footprint of the notorious Esperanza Fire, a 2006, wind-driven inferno that overran a U.S. Forest Service engine crew. All five crew members died. A man was convicted of setting the fire and sentenced to death.
After touring the area, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who lives in Riverside County, said 165,000 acres have burned in California this year and climate change is setting conditions for more disastrous blazes, while budget cuts are limiting resources to fight them.
"Unless we take action, things are only going to get worse," she said.
A different blaze, a 60-acre wildfire, near Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains forced evacuations of about 75 homes in several mountain communities Thursday afternoon.
The fire broke out around noon, and firefighters struggled to beat back flames in steep terrain. Homes along several winding mountain roads were being evacuated.
Wrightwood is a mountain community popular with skiers located about 40 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
LAKESIDE, Calif. (AP) — Amber Alerts expanded to Oregon and Washington as authorities searched for a Southern California man suspected of abducting a 16-year-old girl and wanted in the death of the girl's mother and possibly her 8-year-old brother.
Oregon state police said there was a possible sighting of James Lee DiMaggio's blue Nissan Versa in northeast California near Alturas on Wednesday, followed by another about 50 miles along the same highway near Lakeview, in south-central Oregon.
Investigators have said DiMaggio may be headed to Texas or Canada with 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and possibly her 8-year-old brother Ethan, though investigators said a charred body discovered along with the mother could be the boy.
Also Wednesday, a friend of Hannah Anderson said DiMaggio told Hannah he had a crush on her and would date her if they were the same age.
DiMaggio explained that he didn't want the girls to think he was weird in an effort to defend himself after noticing they exchanged glances, 15-year-old Marissa Chavez said. She said he spoke while driving them home from a high school gymnastics meet a couple months ago.
Hannah Anderson asked Chavez to join her from then on whenever DiMaggio, 40, drove her to meets.
"She was a little creeped out by it. She didn't want to be alone with him," Chavez said.
DiMaggio was like an uncle to Hannah and 8-year-old Ethan. He was very close with their parents for years.
On Sunday night, authorities found the body of 42-year-old Christina Anderson when they extinguished flames at DiMaggio's rural home. A child's body was found as they sifted through rubble in Boulevard, a tiny town 65 miles east of San Diego on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The child's body has not been identified but it may be Ethan, sheriff's Lt. Glenn Giannantonio said late Tuesday.
Christina Anderson's father, Christopher Saincome, said Wednesday that his daughter visited DiMaggio's home last weekend to say goodbye before he moved to Texas. DiMaggio, who works as a telecommunications technician at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, was a regular presence at the Anderson family apartment in Lakeside, a suburb of 54,000 people.
"He must have had this planned," Saincome said.
Saincome said nothing seemed amiss when he called his daughter at work Friday to let her know she didn't call on his birthday. Anderson, a medical assistant, said she would call back that night but never did.
Investigators had no evidence that the relationship between DiMaggio and the missing girl was more than friendly.
"We're not looking into that directly at this point," Giannantonio said.
DiMaggio is wanted on suspicion of murder and arson in a search that began in Southern California and spread to Mexico and neighboring states.
DiMaggio's sister, Lora Robinson, told U-T San Diego that the allegations against her brother were "completely out of character." She said he spent four years in the Navy, left the service to care for her after their mother died of cancer, and volunteered rescuing animals.
"He is the kindest person in the world," Robinson said.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Protesters angered by the acquittal of George Zimmerman held largely peaceful demonstrations in three California cities, but broke windows and started small street fires in Oakland, according to police.
The gatherings Saturday night ranged from a few dozen to a few hundred people turning out to protest the verdict in the Florida courtroom over the death of Trayvon Martin, and police said some of the demonstrations continued into the early hours Sunday.
The Oakland police dispatch office said about 100 people protested and police were forced to deal with acts of vandalism, mainly breaking windows on businesses and starting small fires in the streets. As the protest wound down with the crowd dispersing, the office said that as of 2 a.m. PDT it had no word of any arrests.
Local media reports said some Oakland marchers vandalized a police squad car and police formed a line to block the protesters' path.
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) - The U.S. Air Force has launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from a California base, a month after the test flight was postponed because of tensions with North Korea.
Vandenberg Air Force Base says the Minuteman 3 lifted off at 6:27 a.m. PDT Wednesday. It later splashed down thousands of miles away in the Pacific.
It's the first Minuteman test-launch of the year. Several Minutemans are launched each year at from Vandenberg to determine the weapon system's accuracy and reliability.
Officials say the original mid-April flight plan was delayed to avoid it being misconstrued by North Korea during a time of heightened tensions. It was rescheduled for Tuesday morning but was pushed back a day due to a problem with range safety instruments.
A 12-year-old chess prodigy from California will make his next competitive move in St. Louis next month.
Tournament organizers say Samuel Sevian, of Santa Clara, is the youngest person ever to compete in the U.S. Championship to be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
For a fifth year the Club is playing host to the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship from May 3rd to 13th.
Tournament organizers say Samuel Sevian was just nine-years-old when he was named a "National Master." At the time, it made him the youngest person to achieve that title in U.S. chess history.
Los Angeles police spokesman Gus Villanueva says the caller reported a sighting of 33 year old Christopher Dorner. Police were sent to the Northridge area but Villanueva later said a search of the Lowe's Home Improvement store yielded no evidence that Dorner was there or had been there.
News helicopters earlier showed police helping customers and employees leave the store. A command post was established nearby.
The search since Thursday evening had focused on mountains 80 miles east of Los Angeles where Dorner's burned truck was found. But authorities have found no recent signs of Dorner.
LA officials announced a $1 million reward earlier Sunday for information leading to Dorner's arrest.