News briefs


$345,000, meth found hidden in car in Merced

Nearly $345,000 in cash and an estimated $75,000 worth of methamphetamine were found hidden in parts of a car driven by a Southern California man, Merced police reported.

Charles Loretto Morales, 28, of South Gate was in a four-door Honda Accord LX when he was stopped Friday afternoon near Main and T streets in Merced by a detective acting on an anonymous phone tip, Cmdr. Floyd Higdon said.

A search of the vehicle assisted by a police narcotics-sniffing dog and members of the Merced Multi-Agency Narcotics Task Force uncovered hidden compartments, which yielded bundles of $5 to $100 bills and two packages of crystal methamphetamine.

Morales denied any knowledge of the money or drugs, and he signed a disclaimer of ownership for both the narcotics and the cash, Higdon said.

Morales was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, drug trafficking and possession or use of a false compartment with intent to conceal a controlled substance.His bail was set at more than $1 million.

10 arrested at DUI checkpoint in Fresno

Ten people were arrested Friday night on suspicion of driving under the influence during a DUI operation in central Fresno, police reported Saturday.

In addition to the arrests, 53 vehicles were impounded when the drivers were found without a license, police said.

Woman found dead in southeast Fresno is ID'd

The Fresno County Coroner's Office on Saturday made public the name of the woman found dead Friday afternoon in her apartment in southeast Fresno.

Joy Littlejohn, 21, was found on the 5700 block of East Kings Canyon Road.

Fresno County sheriff's deputies Friday described the death as gun-related, but they said they could not immediately determine whether the case was a homicide.

An autopsy was conducted Saturday, but a deputy coroner said investigators still did not know whether they were dealing with a homicide.

Missing at-risk man found safe in Merced

A missing at-risk Richmond man was reunited with family after he was found safe Saturday in Merced, a Merced County sheriff's deputy reported.

Lionel John Ward, 57, walked away from Mercy Community Medical Center about 3 a.m. Friday. He was found by Merced police about 1:30 a.m. Saturday as he was walking near the hospital, deputy Tom MacKenzie said.

Ward reportedly has been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia, along with other medical problems. He had been reported missing Monday from his home in Richmond.

He was found about 12:30 a.m. Friday on the side of Highway 99 south of Merced and was taken to Mercy Community Hospital, but he walked away before he could be turned over to Adult Protective Services.

Trail of blood leads to burglary suspect's arrest

A trail of blood from a broken school window has led to the arrest of a suspect in connection with a burglary last week at the Willow Glen Elementary School, Visalia police said Saturday.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, officers were dispatched two minutes apart to two locations. They went to the home of Andy Ross Sharp, 32. He was found to have a large cut on his arm and was transported by ambulance to Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

And they went to Willow Glen Elementary at 310 N. Akers Ave., where a broken window was found in the office, along with a trail of blood from the school to Sharp's home.


Fire destroys abandoned house in Reedley area

Fire early Saturday destroyed a two-story abandoned house at American and Buttonwillow avenues in the Reedley area, Cal Fire investigators reported.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately determined, Capt. Mike Bowman said. It was reported shortly after 6 a.m.

Five engines and two water tenders were dispatched. No injuries were reported.