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Suspect in custody for hit-and-run deaths of three family members

A 28-year-old Turlock man has been taken into custody for the deaths of three family members, including a 4-year-old boy, who were killed when a driver plowed into them as they walked in a Turlock neighborhood.

Luis Miguel Cruz will be booked on charges of of felony hit and run, felony driving while under the influence of an alcoholic beverages and three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, according to Turlock police.

Witnesses described a horrifying scene with bodies tossed into the air during the crash near Rockwood Avenue and Boxwood Way. Family members tell the Modesto Bee 20-year-old Julia Flores had gone for a walk Saturday with her 4-year-old son, Brian, and her mother-in-law, 47-year-old Elena Flores. The three were close to home when they were struck by a speeding vehicle.

All three died. Julia Flores' 2-year-old daughter, Emily, was along for the stroll, but was not hurt.

Modesto Pastor to Serve as Guest Chaplain in U.S. House of Representatives

Modesto Pastor to Serve as Guest Chaplain in U.S. House of Representatives

With the sponsorship of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), Pastor Glen Berteau of The House Modesto will serve tomorrow as the guest chaplain in the United States House of Representatives. Pastor Berteau will offer the opening prayer of the legislative session on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 12 p.m. ET.

“Pastor Berteau has been a great leader in our community,” said Rep. Denham. “I’m honored to share the floor of the House with him and to bring his talents as a speaker and evangelist to my colleagues.”

Rim Fire suspect formally charged

A 32-year-old deer hunter charged with sparking the massive Rim Fire in August 2013 appeared in federal court Tuesday.

Keith Matthew Emerald of Columbia was arraigned on setting timber on fire and lying to a government agent -- both felonies -- and in violation of a fire restriction order and leaving a fire unattended and un-extinguished -- both misdemeanors.

The Rim Fire blackened some 400 square miles west of and in Yosemite National Park. It took two months to extinguish. The cost was pegged by the U.S. Forest Service at $127 million.

Emerald pleaded not guilty.

The court set the following the conditions for Emerald: do not light any campfires, surrender his passport, surrender all firearms, travel permitted only in California unless prior approval is given, give a DNA sample and have a third party custodian.

Emerald was expected to post $60,000 bail.

Man charged with starting Rim Fire surrenders

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The Northern California man charged with starting the largest wildfire in recorded history to sweep through the Sierra Nevada mountains has turned himself in to authorities.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento said Tuesday that Keith Matthew Emerald surrendered to U.S Marshals Service in Fresno. The 32-year-old is scheduled to appear in the afternoon in federal court for arraignment on a four-count indictment.

The 2013 fire burned 400 square miles in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

Prosecutors say Emerald was hunting deer with a bow the day the fire started in August and started an illegal campfire that got out of control. He had to be rescued from the flames.

His attorney has declined to comment.

Son in family found dead in Turlock had stabbed parents said police.

TURLOCK, Calif. (AP) - Police in Central California say one of two adult sons in a family of four found dead inside a home fatally stabbed his parents before he and the other son died in an arson fire there.

Turlock police say 39-year-old Rodney Bowman killed his father, 78-year-old Sarkis Babakhan, and mother, 70-year-old Rozmary Babakhan. Bowman and the other son, 42-year-old Robert Babakhan, then died of exposure to smoke and toxic chemicals from the fire.

Cause of death release for Turlock family of 4

Turlock investigators released how a family of four died in their Red Oak Court home six weeks ago.

Turlock police making a welfare check at the request of relatives on June 26 found parents Sarkis Babakhan, 78, and Rozmary Babakhan, 70, and their sons, Rodney Bowman, 39, and Robert Babakhan, 42, dead.

Turlock fire investigators determined a fire had been deliberately set in the home, said police officer Mayra Lewis. The parents had been stabbed to death, and it was the younger son, Bowman, who had killed them, deputy coroners and a forensic pathologist with the Stanislaus County Coroner's Office concluded.

Bowman died from inhalation of smoke and toxic chemicals produced by the fire.

Robert Babakhan was disabled. He succumbed to smoke and toxic chemical inhalation after the fire burned itself out, the coroners reported.

Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from giant sequoias

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) - Fire crews are working to keep a blaze in Yosemite National Park away from a grove of treasured giant sequoia trees.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said Wednesday there was no imminent threat to Merced Grove.

The fire was about 10 miles away, and crews were reinforcing old containment lines to prevent it from getting to the trees.

Merced Grove is among three stands of giant sequoias in the park. The towering trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on earth.

Gediman said about 50 homes remained under evacuation orders. The fire, which began on Saturday, has burned through more than 5 square miles. It was 34 percent contained.