Bay Area Briefs

Friday March 15, 2002

Stanford doctor pleads innocent to charges 


SAN JOSE — A Stanford Medical Center physician charged with embezzlement and elder abuse in connection with her grandmother’s death last year has pleaded innocent. 

Dr. Cheryl Walker, 43, an associate professor of gynecology, was ordered released on a $1 million bond Wednesday. Her mother, Janice, 72, also charged with manipulating the $500,000 estate of Mary Lee Koleber, 95, entered an innocent plea. Janice Walker remains behind bars in lieu of a $2.5 million bond. 

Cheryl Walker and her mother were jailed last month after being indicted on charges they looted Koleber’s estate before killing her by administering an overdose of painkillers. 

Stanford attorney Debra Zumwalt said Walker remains on administrative leave until the end of the month. 

Koleber was found dead May 10 inside the Walkers’ San Jose home, where they had brought her several weeks earlier from Florida. Both women told police Koleber had not been taking any medication. 

Cheryl Walker reported the cause of death as pneumonia. But just before Koleber was to be cremated, alarmed relatives called authorities alleging she had been secretly hustled out of South Florida. An autopsy revealed that Koleber had actually died after ingesting a deadly cocktail of prescription drugs, including morphine. 



Ikea moves in to East Palo Alto  


SAN MATEO — Furniture maker Ikea won last week’s ballot measure battle in East Palo Alto. 

A final total count showed that 1,562 residents in East Palo Alto had voted in favor of Measure C, while 1,419 voted against it, Elections Manager David Tom said Wednesday. 

The final tally took place with the presence of supporters and opponents who had demanded to observe the daylong process at the San Mateo County election office. 

Ikea opponents had hoped the remaining ballots might give them the advantage. 

Though disappointed, they said they have not given up. Opponents have complained to county election officials about alleged electioneering and other improprieties by Ikea supporters. The matter has been referred to the San Mateo County District Attorney. 

“These have to be checked out, and until they’ve been resolved there’s a cloud over this election,” said Peter Bagatelos, an attorney representing Ikea opponents. 

Bagatelos said opponents will decide whether to call for a recount.  

They could also contest the election and ask for a court hearing on the matter, he said. 

Measure C asked voters to approve zoning and other changes that would allow Ikea to construct a store in East Palo Alto. 


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ended it’s national search for a new director, appointing Neal Benezra, deputy director and curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

“We’ve hired a person who is solid, bright, respected by all his peers, has Bay area roots, possesses great integrity and can boast of the managerial skills we need,” said SFMOMA board chairwoman Elaine McKeon. 

Benezra, 48, was a strong candidate since the beginning of the national search launched shortly after the abrupt departure of former director David Ross in August. Ross served for just three years, and the terms of his departure from SFMOMA were never made clear. 

Benezra was born in Oakland and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree from UC Davis and master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. 

Benezra said he tried and failed to get an internship at SFMOMA while in school. The museum’s search ended Wednesday with his return 20 years later. Benezra stressed SFMOMA’s ambition and history as attractions for him. 

Benezra, noted for his wide take on contemporary art and his inclusive taste, will assume his position Aug. 1.