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Posted: Monday, September 22, 2003 10:00 pm

Two robbed at gunpoint

Two people were allegedly robbed at gunpoint early Monday morning as they left a Lodi restaurant.

Minutes after midnight, two people left Lyon's Restaurant, 233 S. School St., when a black vehicle pulled up, said Lodi Police Sgt. Tod Patterson.

Two male passengers in the vehicle allegedly brandished a sawed off shotgun and a revolver, then demanded a man's wallet, Patterson. The man first said he didn't have a wallet, then gave it to the suspects, Patterson said.

The men then allegedly demanded a woman's purse, and she gave them cash, Patterson said.

The men, described as Hispanic males, never got out of the four-door vehicle, Patterson said.

Anyone with information may call the Lodi Police Department at 333-6727, or anonymous calls may be made to Lodi-Area Crime Stoppers at 333-6771.

Rape suspect's hearing postponed

The preliminary hearing for a Lodi man who was allegedly linked to an unsolved rape through DNA was postponed Monday so that his attorney could review more evidence.

Arquimedes Mendoza, 24, was arrested Sept. 4 on North Jack Tone Road after he allegedly fled from camouflaged detectives who had been hiding in a nearby vineyard.

He has been charged with a 1999 Lodi rape that went unsolved until Mendoza's DNA was allegedly matched to evidence earlier this year, according to Lodi Police.

Mendoza has pleaded innocent to the rape charge, in addition to charges of vehicle theft, evading police and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Mendoza was first appointed a public defender, but when the Public Defender's Office said it had a conflict, he was appointed local attorney Gary Hickey.

Hickey officially became Mendoza's attorney last Tuesday, and on Monday, he asked for more time to review the case.

The preliminary hearing was rescheduled to Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m., and Mendoza will remain without bail in the San Joaquin County Jail until that hearing.

No major incidents at Grape Festival

The Grape Festival ended its four-day run this weekend with no major incidents, police said Monday.

Overall, about 20 people were arrested, not counting those who were asked to leave the festival, said Lodi Police Capt. David Main.

"Most of those arrests were people with warrants, public intoxication or fighting," he said.

The busiest time was Saturday evening, when 16 people were arrested, Main said. That number was a little higher than last year, Main said, and he attributed that to a "no tolerance" approach police were taking.

Numerous uniformed and undercover officers were on patrol throughout the festival, and private security guards hired by the festival were also on duty. They handled incidents ranging from lost children to fights.

Kings' chaplain to speak at prayer breakfast

Bishop S.C. Carthen, who is beginning his 14th season as chaplain for the Sacramento Kings basketball season, will be the keynote speaker at Thursday's Greater Lodi Prayer Breakfast.

Carthen is planning to bring current and former players and coaches to the breakfast. The public is invited to unite as a community and celebrate Lodi's, California's and the United States' heritage of their dependence on God.

The breakfast will begin at 6:30 a.m. Thursday in the Wine & Roses Garden Ballroom at Turner and Lower Sacramento roads. Tickets are $15, which includes a breakfast buffet. Doors will open at 6 a.m.

Tickets are available at Vine & Branches Christian Bookstore, 110 W. Oak St. For more information, call 334-9309 or see the Web site at www.leadershipprayerbreakfast.org.

Forum on water issues tonight

Several water experts will participate in a forum on tonight to discuss water issues in the Galt area.

Speakers will include James McCormick from the Sacramento Water Forum, a coalition of several water and environmental interests from the Sacramento region; Herald resident Gerald Schwartz, Central Valley liaison for the East Bay Municipal Utility District; Herb Niederberger, division chief of Sacramento County's water resources department and someone representing the city of Galt.

The purpose of the forum is to educate Galt-area residents on where water comes from, how much the Galt area uses, how much water the area south of the Cosumnes River will need and how Galt and Herald are affected by nearby cities and counties, said LeeAnn McFaddin and Carol Backert, who are coordinating the forum.

Questions will be taken from the public.

The forum will begin at 7 p.m. in the Anthony Pescetti Community Room, located at the new police station, 455 Industrial Drive.

Police to seek warrant for alleged kidnapper

Authorities will seek an arrest warrant today for Wayne Russo, who reportedly kidnapped his girlfriend on Lammers Road on Saturday morning.

Witnesses told police they saw the 43-year-old Russo dragging Jennifer McLachlan, 29, of Jamestown, into his 1988 SAAB on the 12200 block of Lammers Road at about 9:35 a.m.

Aware that San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department deputies were looking for Russo, his attorney contacted deputies over the weekend, said sheriff's spokeswoman Nelida Stone. She said that he told deputies McLachlan was with Russo by choice.

He promised to bring Russo into the sheriff's office in French Camp at 1 p.m. Monday, but neither arrived.

Russo is reportedly a member of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang. He goes by several aliases, including Nelson Barrate. He lives in Oakland.

Russo is described as white with a dark complexion, 5 feet 10 inches, 220 pounds, brown eyes, with a black and silver ponytail and goatee. He was last seen wearing a gray tank top and blue jeans.

Witnesses said the SAAB was silver and blue, with cardboard plates. The car was last seen traveling toward Bethany Road.

Central Valley, Central Coast to receive $700K in grants

More than $700,000 in transportation grant money will go to the Central Valley and the Central Coast regions, according to state officials.

The money is part of $5.7 million in state and federal transportation grant money the state released last week, Gov. Gray Davis said in a written statement.

Caltrans received 172 applications statewide for "environmental justice"

projects this year and selected 24, worth an estimated $3 million. The funds will go toward planning, transit and environmental justice projects to help minority and low-income communities.

"Careful planning and strategic investments help us improve our quality of life, while California's economy and population continues to expand," Davis said.

Another 26 grants, worth $2.7 million, will go toward public transportation projects throughout the state.

The two largest grants, worth $300,000, were awarded to evaluate four transportation corridors in Riverside County and transportation projects in the Bay Area.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments received $158,000 to find solutions to relieve congestion along Highway 101.

Calaveras County will need more housing units

Nearly 2,000 additional housing units will be needed to accommodate low- and moderate-income residents in Calaveras County during the next six years, according to a new study.

The study by the Central Sierra Planning Council estimates the Sierra Nevada county will need 736 homes for those with very low incomes, 523 units for low-income residents and 726 homes for those with moderate incomes by 2009.

The Planning Department says the county currently doesn't have a plan to address those needs. But the Board of Supervisors, in updating its General Plan, may consider a requirement for developers to build affordable housing or pay in-lieu fees to provide low-income or moderate housing.

The strategy, known as inclusionary zoning or inclusionary housing, has created more than 34,000 affordable homes and apartments in the state during the past 30 years, the California Coalition for Rural Housing said.

Some county supervisors and the development industry are opposed to inclusionary zoning, saying the proposal would extort builders to capitalize on the open-market system.

Two men in slingshot case plea to lesser charge

Madera County prosecutors have reduced child endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and shooting at a moving vehicle charges against two men accused of injuring a school bus driver with a slingshot.

Allan Ross Sanders and Andrew Peter Biscay were allowed to plead guilty to one count of vandalism. Charges against Elio Joao Lima Alves were dropped, Assistant District Attorney Eric Wyatt said.

Biscay was sentenced to one day in jail and probation and Sanders was given two days in jail and probation earlier this month, according to court records.

All three men could have faced up to 37 years in prison if found guilty of child endangerment and the other initial charges.

Wyatt said the charges were reduced because "our ability to prove the case was basically severely limited. … It was an attempt to try to balance justice as best we could."

The three men, all 18, were arrested about four hours after shattering glass injured bus driver Jerry Cortez. Investigators said the men fired a ceramic marble from a slingshot from a nearby vineyard. Seven children aboard the bus were uninjured.

Cortez, who suffered a wound to his shoulder and scrapes on his neck and chin, called prosecutors' actions too lenient.

"This can't be justice," Cortez said. "They almost killed me, and seven children could've been killed, also."

Tourists urged to visit small California farms

A new map depicting farms in the Sacramento region encourages tourists and locals to explore the small farms of Yolo, Solano and Napa counties.

The map provides details on more than 90 farms, ranches, wineries, parks, and fruit stands that are open to visitors. It has directions to a wide variety of farms, from a Yolo County alpaca ranch to an olive tree orchard in Guinda.

"We're trying to connect the public with the farms," said Desmond Jolly, director of the University of California's Small Farm Program, which produced the map. "And we're trying to use the farm and the ranch as an income-earning asset in a larger sense."

Many small farms struggle financially and are often eclipsed by larger operations. In recent years, farms with less than 180 acres have dwindled in California, while larger agricultural operations have grown.

Sonoma and Calaveras counties already have similar programs to promote agricultural tourism.

"We want to foster this region as a destination zone," said Yolo County Supervisor Dave Rosenberg, who is chairman of the county's economic development council.

He thinks promoting agricultural tourism through the maps will be a boon for the entire county.

High school opens despite three-alarm fire

A Sacramento area high school in Citrus Heights was open Monday after a three alarm fire damaged a classroom and a restroom.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District is investigating the possibility the San Juan High School blaze was set intentionally, said Capt. Patrick Ellis.

Firefighters arrived at the school early Sunday to discover flames burning throughout a boys restroom, on the verge of engulfing 20 classrooms.

"The fire was within inches of taking off down the hallway," Ellis said.

More than 40 firefighters fought the blaze, which caused up to $400,000 in damage.

Investigators said they found a small file left half burned on a picnic table near the fire's origin.

It took firefighters three hours to extinguish the blaze.

School officials were planning to renovate part of the school, but that project will now be delayed.

From staff and wire reports.

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