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Posted: Monday, October 17, 2005 10:00 pm

Armed robber sentenced to 53 years in prison

A man who was convicted of eight armed robberies, including three in Lodi, was sentenced Monday to 53 years in state prison.

Alex Gabriel Rodriguez, 21, of Isleton, must serve 85 percent of that time before he is eligible for parole, and a judge also fined him $10,000, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott said.

A jury in August convicted Rodriguez of robbing a number of stores, including Tokay Market, 2525 S. Hutchins St.; Weinerschnitzel, 220 S. Cherokee Lane; and USA Gas at the corner of Lower Sacramento Road and Lodi Avenue.

Rodriguez was arrested after a Sept. 9 incident in Turlock, when a suspect tried to burglarize an ATM and then got into a shoot-out with police.

Rodriguez is now on his way to Stanislaus County, where he is wanted on charges of attempted murder of a police officer.

Casino planner pleads not guilty again

A man who wanted to build a casino near Lodi pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of fraud and grand theft in connection with an Indian tribe's bank account.

William Bills, 46, had faced the same charges, but San Joaquin County prosecutors dismissed them when federal authorities began investigating. A federal grand jury did not return an indictment last week, and local prosecutors again filed the case.

Bills was arrested Sept. 27 when he tried to access a Winnemucca Indian Colony bank account at a Lodi bank. He had first tried days earlier, but bank employees got suspicious and called police.

Detectives began investigating, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs said Bills does not have permission to access the tribe's accounts, according to Lodi Police Detective Dale Eubanks. Bills says he is the tribe's chief, and his position is the subject of a federal lawsuit in Nevada.

Bills, who had written to city and county officials of his plans to build a casino in Tower Park near Interstate 5 and Highway 12, remains in jail and is scheduled to return to court next Monday.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 31.

'Cat burglar' takes purse from house

A Lodi resident awoke to a noise early Monday morning and soon learned that a 'cat burlar' had entered her house and stolen her purse.

The incident happened at 3:17 a.m. when a woman in the 300 block of West Locust Street heard her door shut, according to Lodi Police. The residents had left the door open so a cat could come and go.

Though officers were in the area when the crime happened, they did not find a suspect, Lt. J.P. Badel said.

The thief got away with cash, credit cards, a wallet and a Bible, Badel said.

Group delivers 'Blankets of Love'

From right: Ann Jordan, Kimberley Borgens and Cheri Spivey of Leadership Lodi class of 2005 hand over one of the 600 blankets to the Salvation Army's Pam Kludt and Ted van Alen at the Salvation Army's newest location on Sacramento street in Lodi on Monday. (Mike Graffigna/News-Sentinel)

The Leadership Lodi Class of 2005 delivered 100 handmade fleece blankets Monday to the Salvation Army ahead of the November opening of the new shelter for women and children.

Dubbed "Blankets of Love: Just for You," the individually wrapped blankets can be personalized with a child's name and are part of the class' annual project to provide warmth and comfort for disadvantaged youths in their time of need.

The Leadership Lodi class, comprised of members of the local business community and coordinated by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, made more than 500 such blankets this year and will distribute them to local women's shelters, social service organizations and law enforcement agencies.

Class members solicited donations from businesses and residents in the community to fund the project. Additionally, an anonymous party in the community assisted the class' effort and on Monday dropped off 20 handmade blankets to help the effort.

"This whole project had just total community support," said Ann Jordan, a member of the class and an aide to state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno.

Council to review disaster plans

The Galt City Council, meeting at 7 p.m. today, will consider adopting a disaster preparedness plan in the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe.

The council will also consider:

• A policy governing city expenditures toward nonprofit organizations in Galt.

• Adopting a resolution supporting Measure B, the $29 million bond measure by the Galt Joint Union High School District.

• A four-way stop sign at the heavily traveled Fermoy Way-Lake Canyon Avenue intersection.

• A crosswalk placement at Fourth and F streets.

• A gate on the west side of Lions Oak Park.

• Amending the map for the Chancellor Estates Unit 6 subdivision

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 380 Civic Dr.

Blood drive Sunday for cancer victim

A replacement blood drive for 13-year-old Galt resident Daniel Pepin will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Littleton Community Center, 420 Civic Drive, Galt.

Pepin, a McCaffrey Middle School student, is battling brain cancer. Photo identification is required for first-time donors. Donors must be at least 17 years old, or 16 with parental permission, weight at least 110 pounds and be in good general health. Do not skip meals and drink plenty of fluids before donating.

For more information, call his mother, Susan Stillwell at 745-1481 or 712-4388, or send an e-mail to dinadoor@comcast.net. Information is also available from Delta Blood Bank, 1-888-94-BLOOD.

Family fun festival Saturday

Games, karaoke and emergency services demonstrations will highlight the "family fun festival" sponsored by the Woodbridge Neighborhood Watch group from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Residents are invited to bring an alcohol-free picnic lunch to Woodbridge Community Park on Mokelumne and Augusta streets. Activities include face painting, gunny sack races and demonstrations by the Woodbridge Rural Fire Protection District, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol.

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