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Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 10:00 pm

Fire causes damage to laundromat, apartment

An early morning fire damaged a Lodi laundromat Tuesday and left an apartment resident without a home.

The fire started around 2:30 a.m. at 2 E. Tokay St., on the corner of Sacramento Street, Lodi fire officials said.

Flames traveled up the outside wall and into the attic, and firefighters had to cut through much of the roof and ceiling, Battalion Chief Ron Penix said.

A fire wall separated the laundromat from the attached apartment, but the two buildings shared an attic, and the fire spread, Penix said. The resident in the apartment was not injured, but the home is no longer inhabitable.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation but Penix said it was "definitely suspicious" because witnesses said it may have started in a pile of trash next to the building.

FCB projects head to planning commission

FCB Homes will be presenting its Southwest Gateway and Westside projects, which amount to more han 2,000 homes, to the planning commission again today.

At the last meeting, the commission asked to postpone a decision until November while changes were made to the project. According to the agenda released for today's meeting, a note mentions that "the date represents a change from the date stated at the meeting."

The commission will hear the projects again tonight at 6 during its regular meeting in Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.

City Council candidate forum set for Thursday

Lodi City Council candidates will answer questions at a forum Thursday.

The forum, hosted by the Community Partnership for Families, is open to the public. Audience members will have a chance to ask questions of the nine council candidates, and Spanish translators will be on hand.

The forum will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Lodi Boys and Girls Club 275 E. Poplar St.

Lodi House telethon to be broadcast

A telethon for Lodi House, a shelter for women and children, will be today from 7 to 10 p.m. on cable channel 26, SJTV. During the telethon, Lodi House graduates will tell their stories, and entertainment will be provided by Stringin' Along, Tapestry and Mr. Tan's Singers.

Rosewood Bar and Grill will broadcast the telethon.

Lodi House has been in Lodi for more than five years. During the period of time women may stay, they receive counseling, help finding a job and help finding housing.

Possible jumper snarls traffic along 99 in Galt

Highway 99 was closed in Galt for about 40 minutes Tuesday afternoon when a man threatened to jump from an overpass.

Galt police officers ultimately talked him down from the Amador Avenue overpass, north of the Simmerhorn Road exit, around 4:30 p.m.

Police were called at 3:50 p.m., and callers reported a man in a hat and gray jumpsuit, standing on the outside of the railing overlooking the freeway.

Traffic slowed on the freeway and through Galt. There were no injuries.

The man, who is from the Galt area, was not immediately identified by police.

Hearing postponed in strangling case

The preliminary hearing for an Acampo man accused of strangling his pregnant girlfriend was postponed Tuesday by a month, at the request of the defense.

Timon Joel Pool, 28, had been scheduled to appear at the hearing Nov. 5 and 6, after which a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge would rule if the evidence warranted a trial. That hearing is now scheduled for Dec. 4 and 5, Deputy District Attorney Kristine Reed said Tuesday.

Pool is charged with the July 23 death of Lillian Best, 20, who was found strangled in the East Peltier Road home they had shared. Pool allegedly went to his step-mother's home on the same property, then waited outside while she dialed 9-1-1.

Best, who was later determined to be 13 weeks pregnant, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pool is charged with two counts of murder and could face the death penalty, although prosecutors have not said whether or not they will seek it. He is jailed without bail.

Assault suspect's case heading to trial

A man accused of using a gun to hold his girlfriend against her will in an Acampo home has been ordered to stand trial on several felony charges in the case, as well as drug charges.

After a preliminary hearing last Wednesday, a Lodi judge ruled that there is enough evidence for Jason Blasingame, 20, to stand trial, according to San Joaquin County Superior Court records.

He is charged with assault with a firearm, making criminal threats, carrying a loaded firearm and vandalism. He also faces several charges of possessing drugs for sale.

Blasingame was arrested Sept. 22 after allegedly dragging his girlfriend around an East Forest Lake Road home and putting a gun to her head, according to Sheriff's deputies. She escaped to a neighbor's house, and deputies stopped Blasingame as he left the house.

He remains jailed on a total of $450,000 bail and will be arraigned Nov. 1 in Stockton court.

April trial set for homicide suspects

An April trial date has been set for two of three people charged in the December drive-by shooting death of a Thornton father.

Chaz Lee Harrison, 25, of Acampo and Galt, and Richard Anthony Chism, 29, of Lodi, appeared in court Monday, where attorneys set an April 16 trial, according to San Joaquin County Superior Court records. They are also scheduled to return to court Nov. 6 for a pre-trial conference.

Both are charged with murder and gang charges in connection with the Dec. 26 death of Jesus Contreras, 39. He had walked out of a Thornton market and stopped to talk with an acquaintance when a vehicle drove by and an occupant opened fire.

Family members rushed Contreras to the hospital, but he died as medics were preparing to transfer him by helicopter to a trauma center.

Harrison was arrested nearly a month later in Orange County, and Chism was arrested that week in Acampo. Each has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Harrison's girlfriend, 21-year-old Irene Lopez, of Galt, was charged with murder after prosecutors heard testimony at the September preliminary hearing for Harrison and Chism. The alleged driver, she has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to return to court next Monday, where attorneys are expected to set a preliminary hearing date.

Newspaper tech arrives at work drunk, with gun

MODESTO - A Modesto Bee computer technician who told police he was frustrated with co-workers was arrested Sunday for allegedly going to work drunk with a loaded handgun, police said.

Benjamin Yonan, 54, was arrested on suspicion of carrying a loaded firearm in a public place and possession of more than 2.5 ounces of pepper spray, Modesto police said.

A co-worker suspected Yonan was drunk on Sunday and reported him to a security guard, who called police.

Yonan had a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with a fully loaded 10-round magazine in his backpack, police said.

He "made no threats (or) violent actions, except spraying pepper spray in his office," said Sgt. Craig Gundlach.

Yonan said he "had some frustrations" with certain co-workers, Gundlach said.

The Modesto Bee would not comment because it is a personnel matter, said Margaret Randazzo, the newspaper's president and publisher.

First published: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

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