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Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 10:00 pm

A parolee who broke Lodi jail cell windows after he went to police thinking he was becoming an alligator is going back to prison.

David Joseph Rios, 28, pleaded guilty April 15 to charges of jail vandalism and vehicle theft, according to San Joaquin County Superior Court records.

He was sentenced to 16 months in state prison, with credit for the time he had spent in jail since his April 11 arrest. Prison officials will also determine the amount of restitution he must pay to the city.

Rios initially went to police because he thought people were shooting darts at him, causing him to turn into an alligator. He insisted that it had nothing to do with his three-day meth binge, according to police reports.

Police arrested him for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and later determined that he was also wanted for questioning in a vehicle theft case.

Once inside a city jail cell, Rios managed to rip a phone off the wall and smash the glass windows in the jail cell door, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage. He was subsequently transferred to the county jail.

In exchange for Rios' guilty pleas to the vehicle theft and jail damage charges, prosecutors dismissed a charge of being under the influence, court records show.

Volunteers needed for search dog group

A nationwide group is looking for volunteers in the Lodi area to help find search dogs.

The Search Dog Foundation is hosting a meeting on Saturday to find people interested in keeping tabs with animal shelters in Amador, Calaveras, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to find high-energy dogs with the drive and focus required to be search dogs. These animals are vital in rescuing people trapped in rubble at disaster sites, and were used in the aftermaths of several national disasters including the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina, according to a statement released by the group.

Dogs with the stamina and drive needed to become rescue dogs often have too much energy for the average pet owner, and therefore end up in shelters. The foundation needs people to make regular visits to area animal shelters, evaluate dogs, transport dogs and do online research to help find dogs.

Those interested are invited to a meeting from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. this Saturday. The meeting will take place at a private residence in Lodi, so space is limited and reservations are required.

To make a reservation, contact the Search Dog Foundation toll free at 1-888-459-4376. For more information, visit www.searchdogfoundation.org.

'Capsized' story earns News-Sentinel award

"Capsized: A Story of Survival," which told the story of two Lodi fishing buddies capsized by a sneaker wave near Point Reyes, has won first place in the feature writing-long form category of the Best of the West journalism contest.

The story was published in the News-Sentinel on Nov. 8, 2008, and was written by Rich Hanner, News-Sentinel editor.

Second place in the category went to Marc Ramirez of the Seattle Times. Third place awards were given to Julie Sullivan of The (Portland) Oregonian and Julia Podis Sulek of the San Jose Mercury News.

The Sacramento Bee's Andrew McIntosh won first place in general reporting for a package on the dangers of nail guns.

Administered by First Amendment Funding Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation, the Best in the West draws entries from throughout the Western states.

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