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City hosts annual dog bone hunt

The Hastings Parks and Recreation Department hosted its second annual Dog Bone Hunt on Saturday at the Hastings Dog Park.

The event originally had been planned to take place in conjunction with the department’s annual Easter egg hunt on April 4. Both events were disrupted in the wake of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic.

Recreation Superintendent Ryan Martin said the Easter egg hunt was canceled because the holiday had passed, but organizers wanted to continue with the dog bone hunt since it wasn’t necessarily associated with a holiday.

“It gives folks the chance to interact with some other dog lovers in the community,” he said. “Some people may have never been to the dog park.”

Dog treats were placed in bright-colored plastic Easter egg shells to help owners identify them. Around 150 treats were placed through the first section of the park for two divisions of dogs, under 30 pounds and over 30 pounds. Each division had one specially marked egg that awarded its finder a dog toy as a prize.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

An Easter egg holding a dog bone is nestled in the grass at dog park for the Hastings Parks and Recreation Dog Bone Hunt Saturday morning.

“I thought it was a cute idea,” said Shelley Pryal of Hastings.

Pryal brought her 12-year-old Australian shepherd/Labrador mix named Bella, who was adopted from Start Over Rover about two and a half years ago.

“We come to the park a lot,” she said. “Bella loves the freedom to walk around. This is where she gets her walk.”


State
AP
Golden State Killer admits to dozens of rapes, 13 murders

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A former police officer who terrorized California as a serial burglar and rapist and went on to kill more than a dozen people while evading capture for decades pleaded guilty Monday to murders attributed to the Golden State Killer.

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. had remained almost silent in court since his 2018 arrest until he repeatedly uttered the words “guilty” and “I admit” in a hushed and raspy voice as part of a plea agreement that will spare him the death penalty for a life sentence with no chance of parole.

DeAngelo, 74, did not cooperate with authorities. But he muttered a confession of sorts after his arrest that cryptically referred to an alter ego named “Jerry” that he said forced him to commit the wave of crimes that appeared to end abruptly in 1986.

“I did all that,” DeAngelo said to himself while alone in a police interrogation room after his arrest in April 2018, Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said.

“I didn’t have the strength to push him out,” DeAngelo said. “He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a part of me. I didn’t want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I’ve got to pay the price.”

While prosecutors suggested DeAngelo had been faking a split-personality, Ho said his day of reckoning had arrived.

“The scope of Joseph DeAngelo’s crimes is simply staggering,” Ho said. ”Each time he escaped, slipping away silently into the night.”

There’s no escaping now. DeAngelo, seated in a wheelchair on a makeshift stage in a university ballroom that could accommodate more than 150 observers at a safe distance during the coronavirus pandemic, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of murder and dozens of rapes that were too old to prosecute.

All told, he admitted to 161 crimes involving 48 people, Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said.

The large room at Sacramento State University was made to look like a state courtroom with the seal of the Sacramento County Superior Court behind the judge’s chair and U.S. and state flags on the riser that served as a sort of stage for a daylong proceeding that had a theater-like feel. Large screens flanked the stage so spectators could follow the livestreamed hearing.

DeAngelo, who wore orange jail scrubs and a plastic face shield to prevent possible spread of the virus, listed to one side and his mouth hung open as prosecutors read graphic details of the rapes and killings where snacked on leftover turkey before leaving.

Family members wept as the proceeding went on most of the day. A pile of used tissues sat on the floor next to Jennifer Carole, whose father, attorney Lyman Smith, was slain in 1980 with his wife, Charlene Smith, who was raped before being killed.

“This is much harder than I thought it was going to be. And I thought it was going to be hard," Carole said. “I feel a lot of anger, which I don’t think I’ve felt so powerfully before."

DeAngelo, a Vietnam veteran and a grandfather, had never been on investigators' radar until about a decade after the crimes seemed to end. Investigators connected a series of assaults in central and Northern California to slayings in Southern California and settled on the umbrella Golden State Killer nickname for the mysterious assailant.

Police used DNA from crime scenes to find a distant relative through a popular genealogy website database then built a family tree that eventually led them to him. They tailed DeAngelo and secretly collected DNA from his car door and a discarded tissue to get an arrest warrant.

The retired truck mechanic was arrested at his home in the Sacramento suburbs — the same area he terrorized in the mid-1970s, earning the title East Area Rapist.

Prosecutors detailed sadistic acts he committed after slipping into homes undetected and surprising couples in bed by shining a flashlight in their faces and threatening to kill everyone in the house — including young children — if they didn’t follow his orders.

The masked prowler initially said he only wanted their money to earn their cooperation. He would have women bind their husbands or boyfriends face down in bed with shoelaces, and then he would tie up the women. Victims described being prodded by the barrel of a gun or the point of a knife.

He piled dishes on the backs of men and said they would both be killed if he heard the plates crash while he raped the women.

At a home in Contra Costa County in the fall of 1978, he told a woman he would cut her baby boy’s ear off if she didn’t perform oral sex after he had raped her.

“I admit," DeAngelo said after the prosecutor read the description of that crime.

He stole whatever he could find, sometimes a few bottles of Budweiser and some cash, other times diamond rings. He slipped off into the dark on foot or by bicycle and even evaded police who at times believed they came close to catching him.

DeAngelo knew the territory well.

He started on the police force in the San Joaquin Valley farm town of Exeter in 1973, where he committed his first killing.

DeAngelo was among the officers trying to find a serial burglar in the neighboring city of Visalia responsible for about 100 break-ins.

Community college professor Claude Snelling was killed by the suspected “Visalia Ransacker” after trying to prevent him from kidnapping his 16-year-old daughter.

After three years on the force, DeAngelo moved back to the Sacramento area, where he worked for the Auburn Police Department in the Sierra foothills until 1979 when he was caught shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer — two items that could be of use to a burglar.

DeAngelo killed a couple walking their dog in a Sacramento suburb in 1978, but the majority of murders came after he moved to Southern California.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer choked up as family members of the victims stood during his description of each of the four killings there. Spitzer, who wiped a tear at one point, diverged from other prosecutors to address DeAngelo directly when discussing the May 5, 1986, rape and slaying of Janelle Cruz, 18 — the final killing.

“You attacked her, you beat her and you raped her,” Spitzer said. “You murdered her in the first-degree, bludgeoning her in the face.”

A guilty plea and life sentence avoids lengthy and expensive litigation. Victims will be able to confront DeAngelo during a lengthy sentencing hearing beginning Aug. 17.

Victims began to stand in the audience as accounts of their attacks were read. Nearly two dozen were on their feet in solidarity as a prosecutor from Sacramento — where most of his sexual assaults took place — detailed each case. They cheered and laughed when Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday noted victims consistently reported DeAngelo had a small penis.

One man, Victor Hayes, who was held at gunpoint while his girlfriend was raped in 1977 shouted out that he wanted his name read aloud.

"I've been waiting for 43 years. I’m not ashamed of what happened. I’ve never been John Doe in my life,” Hayes said later. “I want accountability and accountability starts with my name.”

Among the questions that remain is whether DeAngelo actually stopped his life of crime and, if so, why?

Ho cast doubt on DeAngelo's statement in the interrogation room, saying he had “feigned feeble incoherence" to detectives despite appearing sharp while under surveillance the day before his arrest. Ho said DeAngelo had acted crazy when he was arrested for shoplifting three decades earlier in an attempt to avoid charges.

James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said most serial killers do not have dual personalities or inner voices, though movies often portray them that way.

He said serial killers who get away with attacks for years are usually cunning and organized. Someone who suffers from a serious mental illness isn't capable of that. Serial killers who blame an alter-ego for their crimes are usually faking it, he said.

“It’s self-serving for someone to suggest that they did all of these things because of this voice: ‘Don’t blame me, blame the voice,’” Fox said.

———

Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalist Stefanie Dazio contributed from Los Angeles.


Agriculture
AP
World hits coronavirus milestones amid fears worse to come

ROME — The world surpassed two sobering coronavirus milestones Sunday — 500,000 confirmed deaths, 10 million confirmed cases — and hit another high mark for daily new infections as governments that attempted reopenings continued to backtrack and warn that worse news could be yet to come.

“COVID-19 has taken a very swift and very dangerous turn in Texas over just the past few weeks,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but on Friday shut down bars and limited restaurant dining amid a spike in cases.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

More Florida beaches will be closing again to avoid further spread of the new coronavirus as officials try to tamp down on large gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said interactions among young people are driving the surge.

“Caution was thrown to the wind and so we are where we are,” DeSantis said.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit. Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the U.S., Latin America and India.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step toward normalcy as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections. Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitizer, and some in virus-hit areas were told to mail in their ballots.

“I didn’t go and vote the first time around because I am elderly and I got scared,” said Fanny Barouh as she voted in a Paris school.

In Texas, Abbott appeared with Vice President Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Pence praised Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas ... but about two weeks ago something changed,” Pence said.

Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practice social distancing. He and Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he doesn’t have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he’s tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us.”

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Azar said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviors by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally Sunday from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had topped 500,00.

About 1 in 4 of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the U.S. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about 1 in 9.

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher. Experts say that especially early on, many victims died of COVID-19 without being tested for it.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the U.S.

The World Health Organization announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world — topping over 189,000 in a single 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

Overall the U.S. still has far and away the most total cases. At more than 2,450,000 — roughly twice that of Brazil. The number of actual cases worldwide is much higher.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicenter, is now “on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with “Meet the Press.”

The state reported five new virus deaths Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day. New York still leads the nation in COVID-19 deaths with nearly 25,000.

In the state of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee put a hold on plans to move counties to the fourth phase of his reopening plan as cases continue to increase. But in Hawaii, the city of Honolulu announced that campgrounds will reopen for the first time in three months with limited permits to ensure social distancing.

Britain’s government, meanwhile, is considering whether a local lockdown is needed for the central English city of Leicester amid reports about a spike in COVID-19 among its Asian community. It would be Britain’s first local lockdown.

“We have seen flare-ups across the country in recent weeks,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Sunday.

Polish voters were casting ballots, in person and by mail, for a presidential election that was supposed to have taken place in May but was chaotically postponed amid the pandemic. President Andrzej Duda, a 48-year-old conservative backed by the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party, is running against 10 other candidates as he seeks a second five-year term.

Iwona Goge, 79, was encouraged to see so many people voting in Warsaw.

“It’s bad. Poland is terribly divided and people are getting discouraged,” she said.

French voters were choosing mayors and municipal councilors in Paris and 5,000 towns and cities in a second round of municipal elections held under strict hygiene rules. Key battlegrounds include Paris, where the next mayor will preside over the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Italy was honoring its dead later Sunday with an evening Requiem concert in hard-hit Bergamo province. The ceremony in the onetime epicenter of the European outbreak came a day after Italy registered the lowest daily tally of COVID-19 deaths in nearly four months: eight.

European leaders were taking no chances in tamping down new clusters. German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1,300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive.

Africa’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Health
AP
Summer may decide fate of leading shots in vaccine race

People on six continents already are getting jabs in the arm as the race for a COVID-19 vaccine enters a defining summer, with even bigger studies poised to prove if any shot really works — and maybe offer a reality check.

Already British and Chinese researchers are chasing the coronavirus beyond their borders, testing potential vaccines in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates because there are too few new infections at home to get clear answers.

The U.S. is set to open the largest trials — 30,000 people to test a government-created shot starting in July, followed about a month later with another 30,000 expected to test a British one.

Those likely will be divided among Americans and volunteers in other countries such as Brazil or South Africa, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told The Associated Press.

While he’s optimistic, “we’ve been burned before,” Fauci cautioned.

Multiple successes, in multiple parts of the world, are vital.

“This isn’t a race of who gets there first. This is, get as many approved, safe and effective vaccines as you possibly can,” Fauci said.

Vaccine experts say it’s time to set public expectations. Many scientists don’t expect a coronavirus vaccine to be nearly as protective as the measles shot.

If the best COVID-19 vaccine is only 50% effective, “that’s still to me a great vaccine,” said Dr. Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania.

“We need to start having this conversation now,” so people won’t be surprised, he added.

And for all the government promises of stockpiling doses in hopes of starting vaccinations by year’s end, here’s the catch: Even if a shot pans out — and it’s one that your country stockpiled — only some high-risk people, such as essential workers, go to the front of a very long line.

“Will you and I get vaccinated this year? No way,” said Duke University health economist David Ridley.

The home stretch

Vaccines train the body to rapidly recognize and fend off an invading germ. About 15 experimental COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of human studies worldwide.

And while there’s no guarantee any will pan out, moving three different kinds into final testing offers better odds — especially since scientists don’t yet know just how strong an immune reaction the shots must spark to protect.

Measuring that with the first proven vaccine will “really help us understand for all the other vaccines in development, do they also have a chance?” said Oxford University lead researcher Sarah Gilbert.

Only China is pushing out “inactivated” vaccines, made by growing the new coronavirus and killing it. Vaccines by Sinovac Biotech and SinoPharm use that old-fashioned technology, which requires high-security labs to produce but is dependable, the way polio shots and some flu vaccines are made.

Most other vaccines in the pipeline target not the whole germ but a key piece — the “spike” protein that studs the surface of the coronavirus and helps it invade human cells. Leading candidates use new technologies that make shots faster to produce but haven’t yet been proven in people.

Oxford’s method: Genetically engineer a chimpanzee cold virus so it won’t spread but can carry the gene for that spike protein into just enough cells to trick the immune system that an infection’s brewing.

Another vaccine made by the NIH and Moderna Inc. simply injects a piece of the coronavirus genetic code that instructs the body to produce harmless spike copies that the immune system learns to recognize.

Chasing the virus

Researchers must test thousands of people not where COVID-19 is surging — because then it’s too late — but where it’s smoldering, Fauci said.

Only if the virus starts spreading through a community several weeks after volunteers receive either a vaccine or a dummy shot — time enough for the immune system to rev up — do scientists have the best chance at comparing which group had more illness.

Lacking a crystal ball, the NIH has vaccine testing networks in the U.S., South America and South Africa on standby while finalizing decisions on the summer tests.

“We’re going to be doing it in multiple sites with a degree of flexibility” so researchers can rapidly shift as the virus moves, Fauci said. “Nothing is going to be easy.”

The Oxford shot, with a 10,000-person study underway in England, already encountered that hurdle. Gilbert told a Parliament committee last week that there’s “little chance, frankly” of proving the vaccine’s effectiveness in Britain after infections plummeted with the lockdown.

So her team looked abroad. In addition to the planned U.S.-run study, Brazil last week began a last-stage test of the Oxford shot in 5,000 health workers, the first experimental COVID-19 vaccinations in South America. In another first, South Africa opened a smaller safety study of the Oxford shot.

With few new infections in China, Sinovac next month will begin final tests in 9,000 Brazilian volunteers. And SinoPharm just signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates; that study’s size isn’t clear.

EXPECT IMPERFECT PROTECTION

Animal research suggests COVID-19 vaccines could prevent serious disease but may not completely block infection. One study that dripped the coronavirus into monkeys showed vaccinated animals avoided pneumonia but had some virus lurking in their noses and throats. Whether it was enough to spread to the unvaccinated isn’t known.

Still, that would be a big win.

“My expectations have always been that we’ll get rid of symptomatic disease. From what we’ve seen of the vaccines so far, that’s what they do,” said Penn’s Weissman.

The initial vaccines might be replaced with later, better arrivals, as historically happens in medicine, noted Duke’s Ridley.

And while shots in the arm are the fastest to make, those for respiratory diseases require virus-fighting antibodies to make their way into the lungs. Gilbert said Oxford eventually will explore nasal delivery.

WARNING AGAINST SHORTCUTS

Some U.S. lawmakers worry about pressure from the Trump administration to push out an unproven shot during the fall election season.

“We want a vaccine, not a headline,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said at a recent Senate committee hearing.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, pledged to a House committee last week that any decision would be based on science.

Different countries have different rules about when to release a vaccine. For the U.S., Fauci insisted there will be no safety shortcuts, a key reason NIH is investing in such huge studies.

Regardless of how and when a vaccine arrives, each country also will prioritize who’s first in line as doses become available. Presumably they’ll start with health workers and those most vulnerable to severe disease — as long as each shot is proven to work in at-risk groups such as older adults.

Because each vaccine works differently, “which population group it will protect, we don’t know yet,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao of the World Health Organization, which is advising countries on how to choose.