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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
Lead stories from "First Look with Scott Cox's" Big 6:
PANTHER? Is there a panther on the loose in Shafter? Some folks think so. Several Shafter residents are buying the story that the large non-native black cat has made a home in the orchards by Highway 43 and Fresno Avenue. Meanwhile, no one has turned up evidence of a panther living in the Shafter area, and no one has reported a sighting of the large cat in a month. Many residents are skeptical there was ever a panther in the area. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say they have never found evidence of a panther in California. Read the full story here.
BITTERSWEET GRADUATION: Highland High School's commencement exercises were bittersweet for Valerie Mility, who accepted an honorary diploma on behalf of her late son Thursday. The Bakersfield Californian's Courtenay Edelhart reports Derrick Duff was an 18-year-old senior and basketball captain at Highland who died March 30. He was killed in an auto accident on Highway 101 near Paso Robles. Duff moved to Bakersfield from the Chicago area last summer with his mother and younger brother Derrius, also a student at Highland. Read the full story here.
POSTAL CRIMES: A federal grand jury in Fresno returned a 10-count indictment Thursday charging two Bakersfield and three Los Angeles residents with committing postal crimes. The defendants allegedly used fishing devices made from sticky rat traps, pennies and shoestrings to steal mail from post office collection boxes inside the Wasco post office and elsewhere. Some of the defendants served as lookouts while the others stole mail. They also had a post office mail key that wasn't theirs. They obtained third-party and financial information from the stolen mail, including account numbers, checks, money orders and access devices. The Bakersfield suspects are 29-year old Mayra Soria, and 24-year old Mateo Santiago. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the three suspects from Los Angeles face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Read the full story here.
REWARD OFFERED: Ten Grand -- that's how much the Secret Witness Program will pay out in reward money to help put a suspected local murderer behind bars. Twenty-one-year-old Julio Romero is wanted in connection with the double homicide and double attempted homicide which happened Sunday morning at the scene of a party in the 3700 block of Columbus Street. Police found four victims of gunshots; two of those victims died -- 20-year old Jose Garcia III, and 17-year old Feliberto Ponce. Anyone with information regarding Romero's whereabouts is asked to call the Bakersfield Police Department or the Secret Witness line at 322-4040. Read the full story here.
CHP SENIOR VOLUNTEERS: The California Highway Patrol is looking for senior citizen volunteers to assist in administrative and field capacities. Administrative duties would include report filing, photocopying, and assisting the front desk officer with general public service. Field duties would include working at community events, directing traffic and assisting in transportation of vehicles and equipment. Applicants must be 55 or older, work a minimum of four hours a week, pass a background check, have a good driving record and complete a CHP Senior Volunteer training program. Contact the CHP for more information. Read the full story here.
MAULING: The Associated Press reports that a 29-year-old Southern California man has been arrested on a felony murder warrant stemming from the mauling death of a jogger by a pack of dogs earlier this month. Los Angeles County prosecutors say Alex Jackson was taken into custody Thursday. The warrant also charges him with owner negligence. The attack on 63-year-old Pamela Devitt occurred May 9. Read the full story here.
WHAT'S TRENDING ON BAKERSFIELD.COM
In case you missed it, here are the stories that are tending across bakersfield.com
PANTHER SIGHTINGS SPARK SKEPTICISM AND WONDERMENT: Elia Sanchez keeps a baseball bat just inside the front door of her apartment. She keeps it there in case the Shafter panther comes prowling. "I believe it, you know," Sanchez said earlier this month of reports that the large non-native black cat has made a home in the orchards by Highway 43 and Fresno Avenue. She's not alone. Several people have reported sightings of the predator. Despite her fears of a wild, vicious predator stalking the night, no one has turned up evidence of a panther living in the Shafter area, and no one has reported a sighting of the large cat in a month. Many residents are skeptical there was ever a panther in the area. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials have never found evidence of a panther in California. Spokeswoman Janice Mackey said they receive reports of panther sightings a few times a year. "We get calls about panthers across the state and none of them have ever been verified," she said. The panther, however, has its own Facebook page. Read the full story here.
MOTHER OF STUDENT KILLED IN CRASH ACCEPTS DIPLOMA: Highland High School's commencement exercises were bittersweet for Valerie Mility, who accepted an honorary diploma on behalf of her late son Thursday. Derrick Duff was an 18-year-old senior and basketball captain at Highland who died March 30. He was killed in an auto accident on Highway 101 near Paso Robles. Mility was regal as she rose from the audience and walked across the stage in a long, white dress that contrasted with the sea of green caps and gowns behind her. She paused briefly and held the diploma high in the air, beaming and shaking it in a victory gesture. Duff moved to Bakersfield from the Chicago area last summer with his mother and younger brother Derrius, also a student at Highland. Read the full story here.
REWARD OFFERED FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO ARREST OF MURDER SUSPECT: The Secret Witness Program is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and filing of a complaint against Julio Jesus Romero, 21, for the double homicide and double attempted homicide which occurred Sunday in the 3700 block of Columbus Street. Anyone with information regarding Romero's whereabouts is asked to call the Bakersfield Police Department at 327-7111, Detective Ryan Kroeker at 326-3546 or the Secret Witness line at 322-4040. Read the full story here.
PG&E RATE HIKE HEARING ATTRACTS A FRIENDLY CROWD: At a Thursday afternoon hearing, one speaker after another heaped praise on PG&E for its support of many nonprofits in Bakersfield rather than speak ill of the company seeking a residential rate increase of 18.8 percent over the next three years, beginning Jan. 1. The company says it needs the revenue to pay for planned safety and reliability upgrades. PG&E hopes to raise most residential electric and gas rates by 6.3 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively, next year. Smaller increases would follow in 2015 and 2016. Initially, customers would notice that their bills have gone up by about $12. Read the full story here.
PARENTS OF MARINE SHOOTING SUSPECT REMEMBER HIM AS A LOVING, SMART MAN: As a child growing up in southeast of Bakersfield, Esteban J. Smith enjoyed racing toy cars down his porch and was a big fan of building structures with Legos, according to his mom. Oftentimes when school let out, Rosalva Jimenez said from the home Thursday, she would go to greet him at the front door and find him on the porch holding a new achievement certificate to hand to her, a smile on his face. He'd later be a We The People champ at Arvin High School. Jimenez just can't believe it's the same boy who died Sunday in a gunfight with Texas authorities after, police say, he went on a violent shooting rampage for unknown reasons, killing one and hospitalizing several others. Police say 23-year-old Smith earlier stabbed his wife, fellow Bakersfield resident Rubi Estefania Smith, 21, in North Carolina. Her body was found at a motel near the Marine base where Esteban was stationed, Camp Lejeune, Sunday afternoon. The other victims were strangers. Read the full story here.
THE ENERGY REPORT
WHAT IF NUCLEAR POWER IS THE FUTURE OF ENERGY?: That's exactly the question that is being raised by a provocative documentary movie that debuts next month in theaters and on CNN in November. The movie was financed by billionaire Paul Allen -- one of Microsoft's founders. The movie, called Pandora's Promise, was an official selection at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, but it's certain to generate controversy with it positive portrayal of an energy source that has been vilified by many. Filmmaker Robert Stone shows the growing controversy within the scientific community about the viability of nuclear energy versus other sources, including coal and oil. Many scientists featured in the movie, along with environmentalists, were once opposed to nuclear energy, but have now changed their minds. Read the full story here.
THE TECH REPORT
MOTOROLA FACTORY: Motorola Mobility is opening a smartphone factory in Texas, joining a small but growing movement toward bringing technology jobs back to the United States. Motorola officials said they see significant business logic to having a factory close to the engineers who are designing the new Moto X smartphone. Motorola's partner in the Texas project, Flextronics, has leased a factory in Fort Worth and has begun recruiting the nearly 2,000 workers who will assemble the Moto X, due to be released this summer.
NETFLIX V. BLACKBERRY: Netflix apparently doesn't think much of the BlackBerry platform. The streaming giant has created apps for various TVs, video game consoles, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and mobile devices. Netflix has not, however, built a BlackBerry app -- and some BlackBerry users are furious. They've gone online to call for a public boycott of Netflix. Netflix -- with 36 million subscribers -- hasn't commented.
THE HEALTH REPORT
MERS DEATHS: A lethal new respiratory virus has claimed the lives of three more people in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of deaths globally to 30. The latest victims ranged in ages 24 to 60, had chronic diseases, and had been hospitalized for more than a month. The World Health Organization says MERS is a respiratory infection in the same family as SARS, which was behind a deadly 2003 outbreak in Asia. MERS has sickened more than 49 people worldwide since the agency started tracking the infection last September.
DOCTORS IN TRAINING: A study published this week shows that doctors in training are only spending about eight minutes with each patient. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University shadowed internal medicine interns documenting what they spent their time doing. The study found that interns now spend almost half their days in front of a computer screen, more than they do with patients, since most documentation must be done electronically.
PENCIL LODGED IN MAN'S HEAD: A man suffering from headaches for years found out what's been hurting him -- a pencil that's been lodged in his head for more than a decade. German doctors say the 24-year-old man spent 15 years with a pencil in his head and sought help after suffering for years from headaches, constant colds and worsening vision in one eye. The unnamed man said he didn't know how the pencil got there but recalled that he once fell badly as a child. Doctors removed the pencil and say the man has recovered.
THE SPORTS REPORT
HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD: Two athletes from Bakersfield will be the favorites in three races at the CIF-State Track and Field championships that begin tonight at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Stockdale junior Blake Haney is the state's No. 1-ranked distance runner and is favored in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter runs. Ridgeview senior Ivan Gonzalez graduated on Wednesday but he's hoping his high school career ends with a state title in the 800 meters, where he's the No. 1 seed. With the pursuit of the rare distance double, Haney has a big target on his back heading into the meet. Haney and Gonzalez join a contingent of 12 Kern County athletes and relay teams at the state meet.
THE BLAZE: The Blaze were upended by a Bakersfield native on Thursday night when Centennial High grad Jarrett Martin pitched six strong innings, striking out eight, as the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes dealt the Blaze a 5-2 loss. Martin told The Californian's Jeff Evans it was good to pitch in Sam Lynn Park. "As a pitcher, I love it. It feels good to be back home." The Blaze and the Quakes meet again tonight at 7:30 p.m. Dodgers star Hanley Ramirez, who is rehabbing an injury, is expected to start for the Quakes. Read the full story here.