News Briefs


Burglary suspect arrested

Fresno police arrested a suspect Sunday in a series of recent home and vehicle burglaries after receiving a call that stolen gift cards were being used at a Shaw Avenue restaurant.

Robert Tesnear, 39, of Fresno was arrested near the Red Lobster at Sixth Street and Shaw Avenue, police said. In his car officers found two handguns, electronics and other property. In addition, the vehicle he was driving had been reported embezzled, police said.

Tesnear was booked into Fresno County Jail on suspicion of receiving stolen property, embezzlement and various weapons and driving-related charges.

Man arrested in shooting

Fresno County sheriff's deputies arrested Sambatt Sao, 22, of Fresno on suspicion of firing into a house during a Cambodian New Year party Sunday.

Deputies went to a house on the 3200 block of East North Avenue after shots were fired about 6:30 p.m. Two suspects came to the party, got into a fight with others there and one pulled out a handgun and started firing, said Chris Curtice, sheriff's spokesman. No one was injured. People at the scene identified Sao as the person who fired the gun.

Sao was arrested later at his apartment on the 4800 block of East Fillmore Avenue.

Help sought in sex case

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department is asking for the public's help in locating Ramiro Velasquez, 46, of Firebaugh, wanted on suspicion of sexual assault.

A 21-year-old Firebaugh woman called deputies about 4:30 a.m. Friday after she was awakened by a man assaulting her in her bed. The woman yelled and the man ran from the house, said Chris Curtice, sheriff's spokesman.

Velasquez is described as Hispanic, 5-foot-4, 140 pounds. He has wavy black hair, brown eyes, a mustache and a goatee. He was last seen wearing jeans and a blue sweat shirt.

Anyone with information about Velasquez is asked to contact the Sheriff's Department at (559) 488-3111 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-7867.

Police set license sting

Clovis police Monday began a sting to catch people with suspended driver's licenses who drive away from the Fresno County courtroom near downtown Clovis.

Officers were stationed inside and outside the courtroom where hearings on seven suspended license cases were held Monday morning.

One defendant who said in court he did not have a valid license drove away after the hearing. A Clovis officer stopped the man and cited him.

Man dies of crash injuries

A third victim has died of injuries suffered in a traffic collision Saturday in Clovis.

David Wells, 48, of Tollhouse, died Sunday, the Fresno County Coroner's Office reported. Two others died at the scene Saturday: William Rowland, 58, and Keri Wells, 50, both of Tollhouse

A fourth victim, a 47-year-old Tollhouse woman, was treated and released.

The crash happened shortly after 6 p.m. on Shepherd Avenue between Minnewawa and Peach avenues, Clovis police said. Kelly Mulligan, 20, of Fresno was traveling east on Shepherd in a sport utility vehicle when she swerved to avoid an object, crossed into westbound traffic and hit a Saturn carrying the driver, Rowland, and passengers Keri Wells, David Wells and the 47-year-old woman. Mulligan was treated and released.

Drivers blamed in crash

A speeding Camaro broadsided a Toyota Tundra that was turning left, knocking the Toyota into a Clovis restaurant Monday, Clovis police reported.

The black Chevrolet Camaro was southbound on Clovis Avenue about 10:30 a.m. when it hit the Toyota Tundra, which was turning left onto Ninth Street, Clovis police said.

Witnesses told police the Camaro was traveling about 60 mph in a 35 mph zone when the collision occurred. The Tundra was knocked into an enclosed walk-up counter of Fosters Freeze restaurant.

Police said the Camaro's driver, a man in his early 20s, appeared to suffer a broken leg. The driver of the Toyota, a man in his late 70s or early 80s, apparently hit his chest on the steering wheel.

Traffic officers said both drivers were to blame. Police said the driver of the Camaro was speeding and the driver of the Toyota didn't yield the right of way and turned into the Camaro's path.

Man arrested in killing

Visalia police arrested a second person Monday in last week's shooting death of a 26-year-old man at a southwest apartment.

Officials said Enrique Gomez, 25, of Visalia was arrested about 12:10 p.m. and booked into Tulare County Jail. Noe Torrez Garcia of Visalia was killed Thursday near Victor Court and Woodland Street about 8 p.m.

Shortly after the shooting, officers arrested 22-year-old Roberto Teran of Farmersville on suspicion of murder. Officials are looking for 27-year-old Farmersville resident Gerardo Javier Leal.

Help sought in girl's death

Tulare County sheriff's officials are asking for the public's helping in finding out how a 14-year-old girl ended up dead in a field near Ducor.

The partially decomposed body of Marion Ferrell, 14, of Poplar was found April 10 near Road 240 and Avenue 68. The cause of death hasn't been determined, and no obvious signs of trauma or foul play were found.

Toxicology tests are pending to determine a cause of death and to help determine how long the body had been there, said Sgt. Chris Douglass.

She said the girl was reported missing by her family in mid-March, but there are varying descriptions of when she was last seen, Douglass said.

Sheriff's officials don't yet know whether the victim died in the field or whether her body was placed there later.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the Sheriff's Department at (800) 808-0488.

Man held in car assault

An argument between two Visalia men late Sunday ended with one trying to run over the other with a car, causing injuries that were not life-threatening, Visalia police said.

The victim was identified as Fabian Sanchez, 30, and the suspect as Jaime Venegas, 31. Police said the two were acquaintances who got into an argument on Giddings Avenue north of Houston Avenue.

According to police, during the argument Venegas got into his vehicle and tried to run over Sanchez, missing twice but hitting him on the third try.

Sanchez was treated at Kaweah Delta Medical Center for cuts as well as neck and back pain. Police said Venegas was stopped and arrested at Mineral King Avenue and Akers Street on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and driving under the influence. He was booked into the Tulare County main jail.


Arson suspected in blaze

Suspected arson caused an estimated $10,000 in damage to a warehouse and commercial structure Sunday in southwest Fresno.

A Fresno Fire Department spokesman said the fire was reported shortly after 8 a.m. in the northeast corner of a building at 2925 S. Elm Ave. Broken windows and doors were discovered, as well as burn patterns suggesting arson, according to the department.

The fire had been put out with fire extinguishers by the time crews arrived.

Blaze damages garage

A fire heavily damaged a detached garage near a Visalia home Monday.

The blaze broke about noon Monday in the garage behind a home near the corner of Noble Avenue and Conyer Street.

When fire crews arrived, the garage was fully involved and flames threatened a nearby trailer, said Visalia fire battalion chief Brian Adney. Firefighters extinguished the blaze in a few minutes. No one was injured.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.


No contest plea in killing

One of four defendants who was charged with the murder of 16-year-old Courtney Rice pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter with a gang enhancement Monday in Fresno County Superior Court.

In February, a jury convicted Albert Vargas, 25, of attempted forcible rape and imprisonment, but acquitted him of first-degree murder. But the jury could not reach a decision on whether he was guilty of second-degree murder.

Prosecutors had said they planned to retry Vargas for murder, but dropped their case against him after he agreed to enter the no contest plea to manslaughter. A judge indicated that he would sentence Vargas to 16 years and eight months in prison.

A second defendant in the case, Rodger Alley, 26, was found not guilty on two counts -- forcible rape and attempted forcible rape -- but the jury was deadlocked on whether he is guilty of two other charges: murder and imprisonment. Alley's retrial on those charges will begin May 5. He is representing himself with the help of private investigator Rick Barclay.

Jury deliberates killing

Jurors in the Ramadan Abdullah murder trial finished their first day of deliberations Monday without reaching a verdict.

The jurors, however, did ask the court to provide them with office supplies, including markers and paper. They continue their deliberations today.

In July 2001, Abdullah ran away from his family in New York, joined an Islamic camp in the Tulare County foothills, and then ran off and broke into an unoccupied home near Dunlap on Aug. 21, 2001. When sheriff's deputy Erik Telen, 26, and his partner, deputy Brent Stalker, entered the home to investigate, Abdullah shot and killed Telen.

Abdullah, now 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in Fresno County Superior Court. If he is convicted of first-degree murder and found to be sane, he faces the death penalty.

Man guilty in murder

A Tulare County jury found a Visalia man guilty Monday of the robbery and murder of another Visalia man at his home in March 2006.

Jeffrey Allan Hill, 31, was found guilty of charges including first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, being a felon in possession of a handgun and possession of methamphetamine, said assistant Tulare County District Attorney Don Gallian.

He said testimony during the trial indicated that Hill beat to death Danny Davidson, 44, as part of a robbery, possibly for money and drugs the victim was believed to possess.

Hill was arrested hiding near a bridge off of South Lovers Lane, just south of the victim's home.

Superior Court Judge Gerald Sevier set Monday for a court trial on prior charges against Hill. A sentencing date will be determined at that time.

Porn hearing delayed

A competency hearing was delayed Monday in Tulare County Superior Court for a man accused of looking at pornography on a library computer and possessing images of child pornography at his residence.

The defense attorney representing Donny Chrisler, 39, requested the hearing last month after becoming concerned that Chrisler was not competent enough to participate in his own defense.

Chrisler, who is deaf and mute, is charged with seven felony counts of possessing child pornography. Police searched his residence after a Lindsay library aide, Brenda Biesterfeld, reported seeing him viewing pornography on a library computer at the Lindsay branch of the Tulare County library.

Biesterfeld says she was fired for going over her supervisor's head and telling police about Chrisler viewing child pornography.

Judge Elizabeth Krant delayed Monday's hearing because a psychologist's report on Chrisler's competence wasn't completed, said Roland Soltesz, a deputy public defender representing Chrisler. The hearing was rescheduled for May 12.