Depleted uranium found at murder suspect's home

September 3, 2010 12:13:55 AM PDT
In the East Bay, police are still sorting through the grisly details of a killing spree.

The suspect, Efron Valdemoro, was shot to death in Richmond by the CHP Tuesday night, after a high speed chase. The body of his girlfriend was found in his car. Police were after him for the murder of a Hercules man, Ricardo Sales. His son, Frederick Sales, is still missing and was last seen a week ago. He was last seen a week ago and authorities are losing hope that he is still alive.

The decomposing bodies of two other women were found at a Vallejo home where the suspect had stayed.

In a sign of how complicated this case is police are still trying to piece together the timeline of events in this case. Police say what may have triggered this killing spree was a fight that took place on Aug. 22 between Valderomo and his girlfriend's two housemates. He claimed they attacked him.

More on the fight here: Search to continue for fifth victim

At Devyn's Salon, news of Cindy Tran's death is still sinking in, and the flowers are piling up. She was one of four victims in a killing spree that stretched across the East Bay, possibly all linked to her boyfriend's jealous rage.

Police say he believed Tran was having a romantic relationship with one of two men who rented rooms in her Hercules home.

"He was in there and he just cowered over her as she worked," said one of Tran's customers, Elizabeth Moscardon. "They told me that they didn't like him and I said I could see why he's just... it's unbelievable."

Authorities believe Valdemoro abducted Tran in Vallejo where she worked and strangled her Tuesday as he drove an Acura through the East Bay, leading the CHP on a 100-mile an hour chase. The pursuit finally came to an end inside the Ranch 99 Market in Richmond. When Valdemoro refused to drop a meat cleaver, police shot him to death.

Authorities also believe he killed one of the two men, 73-year-old Ricardo Sales, on Saturday. Neighbors heard loud music coming from Tran's house that day and police found Sales bludgeoned to death in his bedroom.

Now the search continues for Sales' 35-year-old son.

"Our first priority is locating him alive because he could be valuable to the investigation," said Lt. Abel Tenorio with the Vallejo Police Department.

The confusing case became even more complicated when authorities discovered two other Valdemoro acquaintances, Segundina Allen and Marcaria Smart, dead in Smart's Vallejo home where Valdemoro lived off and on.

Autopsies were expected to be performed on both of the women's bodies Thursday. The conclusions on how they died are not expected to be released for a few weeks. Police said one woman was found inside the home, another in the backyard, and both were badly decomposed.

Allen's husband, chemist Charles Rittenhouse, is now in jail facing charges of possessing a collection of highly explosive materials authorities confiscated from the home. Police say Rittenhouse was living in the home with the women's dead bodies, but what his role may be in the murders remains a mystery.

For the past 16 years, Rittenhouse worked as a chemical engineer at Goodrich in Fairfield, a company that specializes in making propulsion mechanisms for all types of aircraft.

A Goodrich spokesperson ABC7, "As a chemist, part of his [Ritthenhouse's] job was mixing chemicals to be able to function in the propulsion systems."

Police still will not specify what chemicals were found at Rittenhouse's home and storage unit, but the materials also included the military explosive C4, dynamite, and what appeared to be depleted uranium.

"The ATF located a container that was labeled 'depleted uranium.' They are not sure what the items are until it's analyzed," said Lt. Abel Tenorio with the Vallejo Police Department.

"Some of the chemicals and powders that it seem to be confiscated can be used in the making of fireworks and other commercial applications, but there's a fine line between making fireworks and making explosives," said JD Nelson with the Alameda County Bomb Squad.

Depleted uranium is the waste from uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons. It is very dense, and as such, is often used to encapsulate radioactive materials. It is also used in weapons, but not for its nuclear properties.

According to UC Berkeley physicist Robert Muller, depleted uranium is a common containment material used by the Taliban in its improvised explosives.

A spokesperson for Bio-Rad Laboratories, where Valderomo once worked, also claims the chemicals did not originate there.

"The ones that I know of in the house, and I know it mostly from the news, we having nothing to do with," said Ron Hutton of Bio-Rad Laboratories.

Police will not speculate on what Rittenhouse planned to do with the explosives, but neighbors told ABC7 the large man who had some difficulty walking was busy recently.

"Charlie had been moving for the last two weeks, moving boxes. Boxes from his garage into his car and I don't know where he took it," said neighbor Benita Ionin.


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