From the daily archives: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

By Mario Conde

The Calexico School Board will consider a salary increase to Superintendent Richard Fragale at today’s meeting.

Superintendent Richard Fragale announced that some time ago that due to recent legislative changes were made that apply to individuals who have retired from STRS and are under a contract with a school District would force him to step down from his position as Calexico Superintendent. Fragale would not be able to continue to receive retirement payments after earning in excess of $40,000 dollars from the public school district.

Instead of resigning from his position, Fragale proposed in a letter that the Board of Trustees increased his compensation in the amount of $30,000.00 for the 2012-2013. Fragale said in the letter that he was willing to defer the payment of the increase until January 2013 and have his salary increased monthly by $5,000 for the remainder of the school year. He also proposed that his vacation days be increased by a total of six days.

“I would ask that you keep in mind that by hiring me the District saved in excess of $39,000.00 when comparing my total compensation package to that of Dr. Christina Luna for the 2011-12 school term.” Fragale said in his letter and added that there was an additional $4,680.00 in savings beginning 2012-2013 school term because Dr. Luna would have been contractually entitled to an additional 3% increase in salary beginning July 1, 2012.

The total compensation proposed by Fragale would be $192,000.00 for 2012-2013.

“Together we have accomplished some monumental tasks over the course of the last year. There are a number of items that I would like to see through to completion. I am proud to be your Superintendent and confident that together we will straighten out some remaining items at the District.” Fragale said.

The meeting will be held today at 6:00 p.m. and it will be held at the CUSD Administration Board Room on 901 Andrade Avenue.

Strange things are happening in the most southern part of California. Just two weeks after a swarm of earthquakes hit the Salton Sea area we now are experiencing a sulfur smell that is covering most of Southern California and  has traveled over 200 miles to the Venture County.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is studying air samples taken in and around the Salton Sea and Palm Springs area to an attempt to confirm that the foul smell that hit Southern California Monday was caused by a fish die-off at the sea.

The AQMD took the samples Monday night and plans to process them before making a final determination into the cause of the smell, which officials described as unprecedented.

They said they hope onshore breezes Tuesday will reduce the foul odor that authorities said is coming from dead fish in the Salton Sea.

Residents clogged 911 lines with calls, prompting health officials from Ventura County to Palm Springs to send investigators looking for everything from a toxic spill to a sewer plant leak.

The prime suspect, however, lay more than 100 miles away from Los Angeles. The leading theory is that the stink was caused by the annual die-off of fish in the Salton Sea. Officials believe Sunday evening’s thunderstorms and strong winds churned up the water and pushed that dead-fish smell to points west overnight.

Officials from the AQMD and other agencies said they have never dealt with a stench quite like this. Although the fish die-off usually causes foul odors in parts of the Inland Empire, officials cannot recall it traveling this far.

“It’s very unusual that any odor would be this widespread, from the Coachella [Valley]  to Los Angeles County,” said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “We’re talking well over 100 miles. I can’t recall ever confirming an odor traveling that distance.”

The AQMD put out a statement, adding: “AQMD deployed field inspectors today to the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, Colton, San Bernardino, Riverside, Perris, Temecula, Banning, Palm Springs, La Quinta and the Salton Sea in an attempt to locate the source of the odor.  Several sources have reported hot weather and a possible release of bacteria from the bottom of the sea due to winds there. Those conditions could cause strong sulfur odors.”

The Salton Sea did track 40-mph winds Sunday night, and officials said that probably served as a trigger.

“The winds could have stirred up the water,” said Bill Meister, president of the Sea and Desert Interpretive Assn. “Because the lake is so shallow, and there is 100 years’ worth of decayed material at the bottom, you’d get that rotten egg smell.”

At its deepest points, the Salton Sea is only about 50 feet, said Andrew Schlange, general manager of the Salton Sea Authority. The 360-square-mile body of murky, highly saline water is also receding into the desert. More water is evaporating from the sea than is flowing in from agricultural runoff. In some places the falling waterline has uncovered thermal fields studded with features like geysers and boiling mud pots spewing clouds of steam and sulfur dioxide gas that smells like rotten eggs.

The “accidental sea” was created in 1905 when the Colorado River jumped its banks during a rainy season and gushed north for months, filling an ancient salt sink. It’s 35 miles long, 15 miles wide and 227 feet below sea level.

Schlange said it’s common for fish populations to explode and then suffer die-offs when oxygen is depleted from the sea.

“The problem is [the odor] would have to have migrated 50 to 100 miles without it being dissipated by mixing with other air. It doesn’t seem possible,” he said. “I’ve been in Southern California my whole life, and I’m not aware of any time in the past where the odor from the Salton Sea has migrated as far as people are telling us.”

Schlange said several factors could explain the far-traveling smell. In the last week, the blistering heat reduced oxygen levels in parts of the Salton Sea, causing fish to die and settle to the bottom, where they decomposed with other organic material.

Then a thunderstorm barreled through the area Sunday night, churning moisture-laden air counterclockwise and pushing it from the southeast.

“That atmospheric flow would bring the smell up from the Salton Sea into the L.A. Basin here,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “This was an ill wind that dropped from the Coachella Valley into the Inland Empire cul-de-sac and boogied west … into the San Gabriel Valley and L.A. County. The stink is normal around the Salton Sea. The strong winds are the unique occurrence that moved it into our ‘hood.’ ”

Whatever its provenance, the stench made the rounds.

Pacoima comedian Jose Chavez said at first he thought some eggs he bought had gone bad.

“When I realized it wasn’t the eggs, I thought it must be me, so I changed my clothes,” Chavez said. “Finally I saw the reports…. With the weather the way it is, the smell was awful.”


A latent thumbprint from the crime scene (inset) was matched to this IAFIS record.

30-Year-Old Murder Solved
Fingerprint Technology Played Key Role


A cold case is just that—an investigation of a crime, usually a violent one, where all leads have been exhausted and the trail has gone cold. But in recent years, the use of various technologies has begun heating up many of these cold cases, uncovering new leads for investigators and providing justice for victims.

One immediate technology example that comes to mind is automated fingerprint searching—more precisely, searches of latent prints of violent unknown perpetrators left at crime scenes. The FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), which houses known records for approximately 73 million criminal subjects, is used daily by local, state, tribal, and international law enforcement for current cases, but increasingly for help in solving cold cases as well. And once a year, the Bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division recognizes an outstanding major case solved with help from IAFIS.


The Latest on Latents

Latent prints are impressions—usually invisible to the naked eye—often left at crime scenes that are produced by the ridged skin on human fingers, palms, or soles of the feet. The FBI’s IAFIS receives an average of 700 latent search requests per day from authorized law enforcement agencies…with an average response time of one hour.

Our Next Generation Identification system, an incremental replacement of today’s IAFIS, will specifically focus on the latent user community next March when a National Palmprint System (NPPS) is scheduled to be established. The NPPS will create a centralized repository of known palmprints within the FBI’s database, allowing searches of unknown palmprints against the repository…as well as searches of known palmprints against the Unsolved Latent File. Both types of searches will enhance law enforcement’s ability to identify criminal and terrorist suspects.

The 2012 Latent Hit of the Year Award was presented last month to two employees of the Omaha Police Department—Detective Douglas Herout and Senior Crime Laboratory Technician Laura Casey—for their efforts to identify the man responsible for a brutal murder more than 30 years ago.

The crime: In 1978, 61-year-old Carroll Bonnet was stabbed to death in his apartment. Police collected evidence, including latent fingerprints and palmprints from the victim’s bathroom (officers believed the killer was trying to wash off blood and other evidence before leaving the apartment). The victim’s car was then stolen.

The investigation: The car was found in Illinois, but after collecting additional latent prints, investigators couldn’t develop any new leads. The crime scene evidence was processed, and latent prints recovered from the scene and the car were searched against local and state fingerprint files. Investigators also sent fingerprint requests to agencies outside Nebraska, but no matches were returned and the case soon went cold.

The re-investigation: In late 2008, the Omaha Police Department received an inquiry on the case, prompting technician Laura Casey to search the prints against IAFIS (which didn’t exist in 1978). In less than five hours, IAFIS returned possible candidates for comparison purposes. Casey spent days carefully examining the prints and came up with a positive identification—Jerry Watson, who was serving time in an Illinois prison on burglary charges.

The case was officially re-opened and assigned to the cold case squad’s Doug Herout. Working with laboratory technicians and analysts, Herout reviewed the original evidence from the case, including a classified advertisement flyer with “Jerry W.” scribbled on one of the pages. Herout also discovered that Jerry Watson had lived only a few blocks from where the victim’s car was recovered.

And the discovery was made just in time—Watson was just days away from being released from prison.

Herout traveled to Illinois to question Watson and presented him with an order to obtain a DNA sample. Subsequent testing determined that Watson’s DNA matched DNA recovered at the crime scene, a finding that—combined with Watson’s identified prints—resulted in murder charges and a conviction. On October 17, 2011—33 years to the day that Bonnet’s body was discovered—his killer was sentenced to life in prison.

It’s yet another example of the vital role that technology plays in getting dangerous criminals off our streets.



Image of Publication Cover Make sure your home and valuables are insured, your important documents are protected, and you have back-up access to cash, your bank accounts and your personal identification in case a disaster strikes. Know what to do to help speed your recovery if a disaster impacts you financially.Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Released: 2011
Pages: 8
Publication ID: 6097
Item number: 592X

Sheila Birnbaum, Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), released the following statement on the final rule by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to include certain cancers into the World Trade Center Health Program: 


“As previously stated, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) will follow the medical analyses conducted by the doctors and scientists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) who operate the World Trade Center Health Program (Health Program).  Individuals who have been diagnosed with one of the cancers added by the Health Program today will be eligible for compensation from the VCF provided the cancer is determined to be a result of the September 11th attacks under the standards to be developed by the Health Program and provided they meet the VCF’s other eligibility criteria.  These criteria include proving physical presence at one of the crash sites between September 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, a specific medical condition that is a direct result of the terrorist-related crashes or the debris removal at the crash sites, and a physical injury treated by a medical professional within a reasonable time from the date the injury was discovered.”


For more information about the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions, please visit:

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