JURY SELECTION UNDER WAY IN MURDER CASE: Attorneys on Friday were busy picking a jury to hear the case of two men charged in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Johansen High School student 3½ years ago. Ernestina "Tina" DeJesus Tizoc was sitting at a picnic table in Oregon Park in Modesto's airport neighborhood, about a half-block from her home, when a bullet from a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle struck her in the chest and pierced her heart about 5:30 p.m. on May 26, 2004. Rigoberto Moreno, 20, and Pedro Castillo, 19, both of Modesto, face murder, conspiracy and gang charges. Two other young men, accused shooter Edgar Barajas, 20, of Modesto and alleged driver Jesus Rodriguez, 29, of Patterson will be tried separately. A fifth man, Mario Garcia, 20, of Modesto is expected to receive a plea deal after he testifies against the others. The authorities said Tizoc was shot because her maroon blouse caught the eye of Sureño gang members who wear blue. They were angry with Norteño rivals, who wear red, because their car windows had been broken the night before. A five-week trial is expected in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
PTA INVESTIGATION HEADS TO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: No arrests have been made, but the Riverbank police sent the findings of its investigation into allegations of theft from a parent-teachers association to the Stanislaus County district attorney's office late Thursday. "It's for them to decide whether or not all of the elements are there for them to go ahead and file on a case and prosecute it," Sgt. E. Kiely said. Reviews of such cases can take months. The matter was the subject of debate at a recent meeting of the Riverbank Unified School District board of trustees. According to authorities, questions about the Rio Altura Elementary School PTA arose after the group split into two associations, one for the school and another for the newly established Riverbank Language Academy, which is housed at the school. The amount of the losses is unknown, but the school PTA's new president filed an insurance claim for $14,000 after state PTA auditors noticed that the books did not add up.
DOGNAPPING SUSPECT NABBED: A Chihuahua was home safe, and a Lathrop man faced possible charges Friday after being accused of holding the dog for ransom. Deputies arrested Donald Lee Vawter, 48, Thursday evening on suspicion of theft of an animal worth more than $500 and of possession of stolen property, according to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. Vawter was released from jail Friday. Deputies said the dog's owner noticed that her Chihuahua, a brown dog with a white spot on its head, was missing from her back yard in the 300 block of East Louise Avenue. She then ran into a person who told her Vawter was holding the dog until she came up with property and money Vawter said she owed. She told deputies she didn't owe any money. "She obviously made clear to officers she doesn't owe any money, and the story (by Vawter) is conjured up," said deputy Dave Konecny. Deputies found the dog with Vawter, he said. "At first, he tried to paint a story that the dog just ran into his place, and further into the story, he does state he took the dog for payment for monies owed." The dog is worth more than $500, he said, which would allow the suspected theft to be charged as a felony. Konecny said the case was referred to the district attorney's office.
CASE INVOLVES DRUGS, PHONY MONEY: Acting on a tip, Ceres police searched an apartment Friday morning and found marijuana, methamphetamine, counterfeit money and $5,000 in cash, Sgt. Allen McKay reported. The search occurred about 10 a.m. in an apartment complex at 1932 Darrah St. Police had suspected drug activity there, McKay said. Police arrested Hilda de Jesus de Cid, 43, on suspicion of possession of marijuana and methamphetamines for sale and possession of counterfeit money, McKay said. She faces an additional charge of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, and was released Friday after posting bail, McKay said. Police are looking for a second person who lives at the apartment.