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KGET: Local News

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- City crews were busy Tuesday taking down fencing material and knocking down a wall at the so-called "tent city" in south Bakersfield.

    The city building department started wall removal last friday.

    The vacant lot where officials say nearly 50 people lived is now under the authority of the city, for the next year.

    City officials say there is no schedule for the second phase.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Tuesday was the first day of closing arguments in the case of the alleged masked rapist, Billy Ray Johnson. He is accused in a series of sexual assaults that terrorized east Bakersfield in the summer of 2013. The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney, Cynthia Zimmer, gave her closing argument, rehashing every aspect of the case.

    Zimmer started off with the 911 calls from each victim, then preceded to explain in detail why Billy Ray Johnson had 24 charges and several enhancements. After teaching all of the legal terminology to the jurors, Zimmer revisited every rape and assault in jarring detail. During the descriptions of the rape accounts, some family members of two of the victims began to cry, re-living everything their loved ones went through. prosecutors say DNA evidence connects Johnson to the crimes.

    Johnson, who now has two facial tattoos of tear drops, was sitting looking through his court documents and anytime he did not like something Zimmer said, he would smirk, silently laugh, or dramatically roll his eyes. Zimmer asked the jury to consider Johnson's past, the DNA evidence, and victim accounts when deciding a verdict. Johnson's attorney Paul Cadman says his client is wrongfully accused, and his arrest was one of convenience.

    Cadman will begin his closing arguments Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. and says they expect to continue with closing arguments for at least two more days.

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  • 04/15/15--10:47: Free shredding for Tax day
  • BAKERSFIELD, CA- A Bakersfield company is offering free shredding for people to mark tax day.

    Metro Record Storage & Shredding will shred up to two file boxes of confidential documents for free.

    The offer is good April 15th only and Metro will be open until 5 p.m.
     
    Metro Record Storage & Shredding
    2929 16th St Bakersfield CA 93301
    661-322-2929


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- Bakersfield Fire says 6 people were displaced after a fire at an east Bakersfield triplex.

    The fire at 824 Kentucky was reported just after Midnight Wednesday.

    Crews found heavy smoke coming from the attic.

    Everyone in the complex was able to get out safely

    The fire was confined to the apartment of origin with no extension to nearby buildings. BFD Arson Investigators were dispatched to the scene in order to determine origin and cause of the fire. The fire is incendiary in nature, started in a vacant apartment and is currently under investigation.

    Damage is estimated at $105,000.00 No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.

    Six occupants were displaced and referred to the Red Cross.

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    LEBEC, CA-

    UPDATED 1:45 p.m.

    The FAA says the plane that crashed was a Pitts Biplane. The Mountain Enterprise newspaper reports the crash site is about 5 miles east of I-5. A ranch maintenance worker discovered the wreckage on Wednesday and reported it to his supervisor, who then reported it to authorities.

    ____________________________________________________________

    The Kern county Sheriff's Office is reporting a small plane crash near Lebec.

    The wreckage is in an area east of El Tejon School on Tejon Ranch, according to KCSO.

    Kern County Fire is also responding to the scene. They say there was a report of a small plane that had been missing for several days. 

    KCSO says the wreckage is spread over a wide area and it appears the pilot is dead.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- A man was convicted Tuesday of second degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter for his role in a fatal high speed crash in southwest Bakerfield.

    The crash happened in November of 2013. Investigators say Duarte was doing between 93 and 108 miles an hour when he lost control on Harris Road. Duarte's passenger Iman Amin, 17, died at the scene.

    The District Attorney's Office says Duarte's blood alcohol level was .17; more than twice the legal limit.

    Duarte's sentencing is set for June 10, 2015. He could face up to 15 years to life.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- The final phase of the Westside Parkway officially opens Wednesday afternoon.

    The new stretch of road will open the freeway from Allen road to Stockdale Highway.

    This part of the freeway will feature two lanes both east and west.

    TRIP officials say this is a departure from three lanes at other parts of the freeway because they expect less traffic.

    However officials still believe the final phase will be greatly used by commuters and the completed parkway will help relieve congestion along Rosedale Highway, Stockdale Highway and Truxtun Extension.

    There are still plans in the works to connect the Westside Parkway with Highway 58, also known as the Centennial Corridor.

    TRIP officials say despite some opposition from residents, they are moving forward with project designs.

    "We will connect 58 to the Westside parkway close to the river bridges and that project as you probably know we're waiting for the final environmental approval and then after that we'll start final design so we can go out to construct. We're expecting that by the end of this year we'll get that approval," said Luis Topete, project manager.

    TRIP officials say future plans include a regional connection from Bakersfield to Interstate 5.

    But they say that road will not necessarily include the Westside Parkway.

    Plans for that expansion project are still another two decades away.

    The Westside Parkway will be ready for drivers after an opening ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- Students at the Bakersfield City School District are celebrating healthy eating choices.

    The district held a salad bar appreciation day at Compton Junior High school to thank nine local growers for providing fresh fruits and vegetables.

    This allows them to have an open salad and fruit bar everyday at each one of the 43 schools.

    The whole idea came to life after a local grower combined his love for farming and biking to take part in the first "Tour de Fresh" last year to raise funds for local school cafeterias.

    "It was a perfect opportunity for us to take all of our passions we enjoy doing in our life and put it together as one, and raise awareness for nutrition and kids for their future, in our own local communities," said Ed Purves of the Paramount Export Company

    "The children are now having a choice. therefore i believe that they are eating more of the product," said Brenda Robinson with the district's Nutrition Services Department.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- UFW co-founder Delores Huerta will be honored before Wednesday night's L.A. Dodgers game.

    Its part of Major League Baseball's ninth annual Civil Rights Game coinciding with Jackie Robinson Day for the first time.

    Robinson's widow, Rachel, will play a central role in the first pitch ceremony before the Los Angeles Dodgers-Seattle Mariners interleague game.

    Huerta will receive the 2015 MLB Beacon Award, which recognize individuals whose lives and actions have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- The man accused of molesting a 14-year-old Taft girl was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to four years and four months in prison and he must register as a sex offender for life.

    In March, Efrain Velasco-Palacios pleaded no contest to two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and one count of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.

    Five felony counts in another molestation case against Velasco-Palacios were dismissed in July 2013 involving another girl.

    That's because deputy district attorney Robert Murray admitted to altering the transcript.

    Murray has since been reassigned in the D.A.'s office.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- Brighthouse is having problems with its phone service in the Bakersfield area as of Wednesday afternoon. Some customers are unable to make outgoing calls.

    Brighthouse says problem is widespread but its hard to say how many customers are affected because the problem is very spotty.

    They say they have crews working on it but are not sure when it will be fixed

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Closing arguments for the defense began Wednesday morning in the trial of accused masked rapist, Billy Ray Johnson. Johnson is accused of raping multiple women in east Bakersfield in the summer of 2013. His defense team, Deputy Public Defenders, T.J. Brewer and Paul Cadman, worked to disprove those allegations by breaking down the evidence and the victim's accounts.

    Defense closing argument started off with Power Point presentation by Deputy Public Defender, T.J. Brewer. Despite prosecutors saying DNA evidence connects Johnson to the crimes, Brewer says the DNA evidence and the shoe prints found at the various crime scenes is inconclusive which isn't good enough to decide a guilty verdict. Throughout Brewer's argument he asked the jury to put emotions aside, caused by hearing about the horrific rapes, to get in the way of the facts the defense is presenting.

    Brewer admitted Johnson has slept with multiple women, cheated on his girlfriend, but says he never committed a sex crime. Brewer also says Johnson is guilty of all gun charges beyond a reasonable doubt but says the rapes lack evidence.

    Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman started his arguments right after targeting the many mistakes he says the detectives and the DA's office made, like not checking finger prints or hair left at the crime scenes, and neglecting to show the victims photos of Johnson until the trial. Cadman says there are multiple rapists and Johnson is not one of them. Cadman says Johnson does not meet the description of any of the victim's accounts but is simply an arrest of convenience to put the public at ease and the real rapist or rapists have not been arrested.

    While Tuesday at times Johnson appeared uninterested, even rolling his eyes at statements made by the prosecutor, on Wednesday, he listened intently to everything his attorneys said. Closing arguments continue Thursday.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A Kern Valley State Prison inmate who died over the weekend was reportedly strangled, according to the coroner's office.

    According to the coroner's report, 37-year-old Damion Soward was found unresponsive in his cell on Saturday at 12:46 a.m.
         
    Soward was transported to Delano Regional Medical Center where he died Sunday.

    Prison officials said the suspect in the case is Soward's cellmate, 39-year-old Lawrence Phillips.
         
    Phillips is a former NFL player who is serving 31 years in prison for a pair of incidents, one involving assaulting his then girlfriend and the other for driving a car into a group of teenagers.
         
    Phillips has been incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison since Oct. 18, 2008.
         
    Soward was serving 81 years to life for first-degree murder.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A public workshop is set for Thursday evening, detailing the sustainable groundwater management act.

    Rosedale Rio Bravo Water Storage district general manager Eric Averett will discuss local sustainability efforts and how those efforts affect our county.
         
    About 30 million Californians rely on groundwater for a portion of their drinking water. 
         
    Groundwater provides about 40 percent of the state's total annual water supply, depending on wet or dry years, and serves as a critical buffer against drought.

    The workshop starts at 6 p.m. at the county government office on 19th Street.


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  • 04/16/15--13:12: HSR meeting tonight in Wasco
  • WASCO. CA - A right of way meeting for the High Speed Rail will be held on Thursday in Wasco.

    The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Wasco Veterans Hall, located at 1202 Poplar St.
      
    Bilingual representatives will be available to speak with property owners.

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  • 04/16/15--13:21: Aera CEO set to step down
  • BAKERSFIELD, CA - The president and chief executive officer of Aera Energy is stepping down.

    The company announced Thursday morning that Gaurdie E. Banister Jr's resignation will be effective in mid July.
         
    Banister joined Aera in December 2007, following a stint as vice president - technical for Shell International's Asia Pacific region based in Singapore with responsibilities for drilling and development activities in southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. 
        
    The company said Christina Sistrunk, vice president at Arctic Capability - Upstream Americas, Shell will replace Banister at Aera.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying and locating two suspects wanted for attempted robbery.

    The incident happened on March 8, around 1:25 a.m. at the Fastrip store located at 1801 White Ln. 

    According to BPD, the suspects reportedly left the store with two 18-count packs of beer without paying.

    The store clerk reportedly made contact with one of the suspects and a physical fight ensued. 

    Both suspects eventually escaped.

    The first suspect is described as a male around age 19, with light complexion, wearing a
    black baseball cap, black and grey hooded jacket, dark pants and white tennis shoes.

    The second suspect is described as a male, also around 19 years old, with medium complexion, wearing a black baseball cap, black sweatshirt, dark pants and black shoes.

    Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to call Detective Todd Dickson at 661-326-3501 or the Bakersfield Police Department at 661-327-7111.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield Police Department is continuing its series of community meetings, designed to let people know about changes in how they patrol.

    According to BPD officials, they have geographically redrawn patrol areas into six zones instead of the 25 beats it had before.
         
    This is part of an on-going effort to make the department more efficient and to reduce response times to calls for police assistance.

    The next meeting for the Southwest Zone is Thursday night at West High School from 6 to 8 p.m.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - It's time to put your best foot forward to help local homeless in need.
         
    The 23rd annual "Shoes for the Homeless Drive" will kicked off on Thursday.

    Guarantee shoe center in downtown Bakersfield is partnering up with the Bakersfield Homeless Center for the effort.
         
    Everyone is encouraged to donate a pair of new or gently used shoes.
         
    For every pair you give, you get $10 off a new pair of shoes valued at $60 or more.
         
    Louis Gill, CEO of the Bakersfield Homeless Center said without this annual drive they wouldn't be able to supply shoes to the less fortunate.

    "It is getting bigger and bigger every year. Of course the need is getting bigger every year. The community just opens up hearts, cleans out closets and we get great donations," said Gill.

    The drive runs through April 30.
         
    You can drop off your donation at the store on 21st Street and Chester Avenue, or at the Homeless Center on Truxtun Avenue.

    We will also accept donations at our KGET studios, located at 21st and L Streets.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and California Highway Patrol officials are issuing hundreds of citations to drivers who aren't paying attention behind the wheel.

    For the entire month, the CHP is showing no mercy on drivers who are caught texting or using hand held cell phones while driving
         
    But it's not just cell phone use.
         
    According to CHP, if drivers get distracted, for things like eating or putting on makeup, they're violating a traffic law and will be cited.
         
    CHP officer Robert Rodriguez said officers are issuing about 60 citations a day, which brings the total to about 900 citations, so far.
         
    Rodriguez said he's not surprised by the number.

    "Unfortunately I'm not surprised by it. We have a huge problem in Bakersfield. People are not getting the message. It's not worth it to send that message; something that could distract them one or two seconds and get their eyes off the road and get involved in a serious collision," said Rodriguez.

    April's distracted driving campaign has been designated "Silence the Distraction."


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