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Some leads in Ostman death, but no suspects

San Luis Obispo police have no suspects yet in the murder of Sharon Ostman, but they say they are pulling out all the stops to find the killer.

"Basically where we're at is where we've been. We have 10 investigators working on the case full time and we have workable leads," said Captain Ian Parkinson.

Ostman, considered homeless but a well-known character downtown, was discovered dead in the city's creek near the Mission early Monday morning on July 11. Police still aren't saying when or how she died.

"We're not releasing information because we don't want to show our cards to whoever did it. If it was a stabbing with a knife and the suspect still had a knife he might get rid of it," said Parkinson. "Some of the other details like time elements won't be released because it really deals with alibis of suspects we are interviewing."

Asked if this appears to be a killing among homeless, Parkinson said, "We don't want this to happen to anybody," and added that while there is a homeless issue involved considering her lifestyle, police aren't looking at it any differently.

Not much is known about Ostman other than that she was 59 and has been here for some time. Parkinson is aware of the public's concern.

"People need to understand it's not TV and you can only do so much without physical evidence or witnesses, so you're only as good as what you can turn up. It's not a matter of manpower or unlimited overtime."

Parkinson said they have no suspects.

"The investigation is pretty wide open at this time. We don't want to get too narrowly focused. We are hopeful something soon will break."

And he hopes the tip line may provide an answer: 783-7800.

-King Harris

 

Janitor pleads not guilty to molesting 4-year-old

County prosecutors have filed six felony charges against Shane Ferguson, a 34-year-old Santa Margarita Elementary School janitor arrested last week after allegedly sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl over the course of a year.

At a court hearing on Tuesday morning, Ferguson entered a not guilty plea to all charges: two counts of distributing pornography to children, two counts of child abuse, one count of continuous sexual abuse, and one count of child molestation.

He also pleaded not guilty to possessing and manufacturing child pornography - both of which are misdemeanor charges.

According to school staff, Ferguson - who has no prior record - cleared his background, fingerprint, and seven reference checks before he was hired last January. Atascadero police detectives say none of the alleged molestations occurred at the school or with any students in the district.

Instead, prosecutors say Ferguson knew the victim's family. And between June 2004 and July 2005 he allegedly showed the girl child pornography with the "intent to arouse," court documents read.

Ferguson remains in county jail on $100,000 bail. He will appear in court again on Aug. 16 for another hearing.

-A.H.

 

 

CHP recommends charges in infant death

The CHP is recommending that the mother of an infant who died in a car accident over the Fourth of July weekend be charged in the incident. Priscilla Vargas removed her three-month-old baby from its car seat right before the driver of the vehicle, John Gonzales, who is a friend of Vargas', lost control of the vehicle and struck numerous trees on Highway 101 near Los Osos Valley Road.

The CHP has requested that the district attorney charge both Vargas and Gonzales with misdemeanor manslaughter with an additional felony child endangerment charge against Vargas.

"It's a tragic event that occurred, but nonetheless we have to hold the parent responsible," said Joe Vega, CHP officer.

Vargas was riding in the rear of the vehicle when Gonzales' son, who was in the passenger seat, dropped a football near the driver-side floorboard. Gonzales lost control of the vehicle while trying to retrieve the ball.

"Yes, it's the parents' responsibilities under all circumstances to keep the child safe," said Vega. "The children depend on the parents' good judgment to be kept safe under all circumstances."

Vega said that Vargas, Gonzales, and Gonzales' son suffered minor injuries in the accident and there was only minor damage to the car.

-J.P.

 

 

Diamond ordered to close; legal fight continues

A judge has ordered Steve Diamond to close his Grover Beach store, several weeks after a Southern California federal court ruled the store violated the city's zoning ordinances.

In his short, two-page judgment, J. Cormac Carney, a Gray Davis appointee, ordered Diamond to close his Grand Avenue store by Aug. 11.

Since that ruling, Diamond's lawyer, Roger Jon Diamond (no relation), has filed motions asking the judge for a new trial or an altered judgment.

Arguments will be heard on those motions on Aug. 8, three days before the deadline.

Diamond and his lawyer have long argued that the city's zoning ordinance - which went into effect after Diamond purchased his property at 984 W. Grand - violates the First Amendment because it doesn't allow him reasonable alternatives to his current location.

But Judge Cormac disagreed. In a 22-page ruling one month ago, the judge wrote that the zoning ordinance was a legitimate way for the city to "protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens."

Of the 51 locations the city was suggesting for Diamond to move to, the judge only approved of 15 as reasonable alternative locations: "Not only do the 15 sites provide Mr. Diamond with a sufficient number to choose among, but they also represent a respectable number of sites for a relatively small city," Cormac wrote.

If Cormac upholds his ruling after the Aug. 8 hearing, Diamond and his lawyer have both said they plan on appealing in a higher court.

"If we didn't have grounds to appeal, I wouldn't do it," Steve Diamond said. "[I wouldn't] waste another $100,000.

"If I would have won, [the city] would have appealed. So they know where I'm going with it. And the 9th Circuit will make the decision. Hopefully we'll get the three right judges."

-A.H.

 

SLO Blues denies financial problems

Tim Golden, general manager of the San Luis Obispo Blues, is definitely no George Steinbrenner. He drives a beat-up Toyota pickup and says he might have to stay at a KOA campground on an upcoming road trip. Hardly the glamour of a major-league ballplayer.

The Tribune recently uncovered money problems with the summer collegiate baseball club, and Golden is upset about what he calls unfair coverage. Sure, the club bounced a couple checks, but now it's square with the city, he said.

"We're in the best financial shape we've even been in," said Golden, whose team is heading to the College World Series in Wichita this summer.

Golden said every year teams drop out of the league because of money problems. Most recently it was the Porterville Buccaneers that folded July 14 right before a scheduled game with the Blues.

That the Blues are in their 13th season is a testament to the community's love for the team, said Golden. For another example of the team's success, said Golden, look at the roster for he 2005 Major League All Star Game. Brian Fuentes, Left-handed pitcher for the Colorado Rockies and former SLO Blue, got to suit up.

"What hurt most about this is that the kids playing ball, they think I'm going bankrupt," said Golden. "We still need your support. Come out to the game and watch your players."

-J.P.

 

Los Osos puts the sue in sewer

With a magnitude of success on par with its ambitious downtown sewer project, the Los Osos CSD has been filing lawsuits against its own citizens - Budd Sanford, Joey Racano, and Richard Margetson - asking that they refrain from participating in the never-ending, always-exciting public debate over wastewater treatment. By no small coincidence, all three defendants are vehemently opposed to the Tri-W sewer project that ceremoniously broke ground July 7.

Jon Seitz, legal counsel for the CSD, asked Sanford to discontinue all communications with potential sewer contractors, on the grounds that he was interfering with official community business.

"In other words," said Sanford, "they wanted me to give up my First Amendment rights."

A letter from Sietz's office, according to CSD minority member Julie Tacker, gave Sanford until June 31 to respond to their demands, threatening to file a lawsuit on July 1. Of course, June 31 never came to pass, and to Sanford's chagrin, the suit was never filed.

"Please file the lawsuit," Sanford said in defiance. "I need the money!"

Meanwhile, the CSD directors Richard LeGros and Stan Gustafson had also sought a restraining order against Margetson, a Cayucos resident and Los Osos businessman.

Margetson had threatened to protest the board's activity if it accepted the surprisingly high bids on sewer construction at an April 21 CSD meeting. The two board directors claimed that Margetson was threatening their lives, and their lawsuit asked that he no longer attend the CSD's public meetings. Margetson maintained that this was a violation of his freedom of speech.

LeGros and Gustafson dropped their case against the outspoken activist on July 19.

Finally, Racano was arrested at the recent groundbreaking ceremony and charged by the CSD with trespassing. At an event plagued by political passion and vitriolic animosity, Racano climbed a nearby eucalyptus tree - adjacent to the proposed sewer site - and from 100 feet overhead, shouted his objections to the contentious project.

"You don't invite 500 people to an event and then arrest one of them for trespassing," director Tacker said.

As of press time, CSD General Manager Bruce Buel could not be reached for comment.

-J.H.

 

This week's news was compiled and reported on by staff writers Abraham Hyatt, John Peabody, and Jeff Hornaday, and Managing Editor King Harris.

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