Myspace Doesn't End At Death


UC Berkeley junior Christine Dao was the kind of person who would drop everything and, with Oreos and chocolate in hand, drive an hour and a half to cheer up a friend.
It is her thoughtfulness and kind spirit that friends and family will miss most about Dao, 20, who died in a fatal car accident in West Berkeley yesterday morning.

The collision occurred about 2:45 a.m. near the intersection of University and San Pablo avenues, said Berkeley police Officer Shira Warren.

Dao and the other driver, who is currently under observation at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, were the only people involved in the accident, Warren said.

She could not provide further details about the circumstances of the collision.

Dao, a Richmond native, graduated from El Cerrito Senior High School in 2003, where she was senior class president and a member of the volleyball team. She was pursuing a psychology degree, had recently pledged Asian sorority Sigma Phi Omega, and planned to go to New York after graduation to study criminal law, said Anna Phan, Dao's mother.

Dao's friends gathered at the site of the crash last night to honor her memory with a candlelight vigil, which drew more than 150 people.

"She was just one of the good ones that shouldn't have been taken so soon," said junior Jimmy Finkes. "She's the kind of person that I really admire."

Finkes said he first met Dao at Costco in Richmond, where the two were co-workers, and then grew closer to her after taking two classes together. He said before he knew it, they were talking on the phone every other day.

Others at the memorial said this tendency to touch people was characteristic of Dao, who always knew how to make people laugh.

"She was so full of life, she just couldn't be normal," said Dao's best friend, Mariana Cavallin, a UC Davis junior. "She was an amazing person."

The memorial drew a number of people from the UC Davis campus, where several of Dao's close friends from high school are students.

"She was the most reliable friend," said Christy Saysompeth, a UC Davis sophomore. "If you were feeling sad, she would drive up to Davis like that with chocolate and Oreos to cheer you up."

At the service, Dao's friends recalled various aspects of her personality, from her loyal support of the San Francisco Giants to her love of the poem "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and her dimples, which instantly endeared her to many people, Cavallin said.

Those at the service said Dao had left a legacy throughout her life.

"She was such a light. We were very proud of her," said George Austin, a teacher at El Cerrito. "A shiver went through the school when news of her death reached us. I saw so many teachers in tears."

Dao's mother, who came to the service from her home in Richmond, said she had spoken with her daughter Wednesday evening and was nervous about her driving home to Richmond after studying for a midterm next week. She echoed similar concerns for students present at the memorial.

"Everybody here must be careful when they drive," she said. "I knew my daughter would never do anything wrong, but that something bad could happen."


A 21-year-old Davis High School graduate died in Mexico after a taxi he was riding in struck a horse on a highway.

Patrick Riner, who moved from Modesto to San Diego in September, was headed to the Mexican beach town of Rosarito on Saturday for a night out with four friends visiting from Modesto and his girlfriend, Tam-ara Mena-Perez, a 2003 Davis High graduate.

Mena-Perez was injured in the accident and is at UC San Diego Medical Center, where a nurse listed her in fair condition. The other four escaped serious injury.

The accident occurred around 9:30 p.m. after the six friends drove from San Diego to the Mexican border and then walked into Tijuana, where they paid $30 to take a 15-mile taxi ride from Tijuana to Rosarito, said April Valdez, a passenger in the car.

"We heard the clubs and bars down there were fun," said Valdez. "We were trying to be responsible and take a taxi so no one drove."

The taxi was going down a dark, two-lane highway at about 80 mph, Valdez said, while Spanish house music played on the radio. The driver switched on the high beams because the regular headlights weren't working, she said.

It was so dark that nobody saw a horse standing in the middle of the road until it was too late. The horse hit the windshield on the driver's side of the taxi then flipped onto the top of the car, crushing the roof and spinning the car around, Valdez said.

Riner and the taxi driver both died at the scene, she said. Mena-Perez, who was sitting next to Riner in the back seat behind the driver, suffered a broken back, cracked cranium, broken sternum and a broken arm, Valdez said.

Police in Rosarito confirmed that the accident took place and referred questions to an information officer, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Valdez said she was incredibly frustrated at the slow response of the ambulance and lack of cooperation from the Mexican police.

She said it was 20 minutes before paramedics arrived at the scene, and police gave them the runaround about where they were supposed to go.

They had no cell phone service and were unable to contact family members immediately, she said.

"It is a whole different world down there," Valdez said. "People need to know to be careful."

Valdez, Juan Saenz, 20, Nick Holmes, 21, and Steve Manyen, 21, were not injured but said the incident left them shocked and in disbelief.


A child's small hands danced smoothly across the black and white piano keys, stringing together a harmony of rich musical notes that wafted from the foyer throughout his family's Northern Virginia home.

The hands, fingers curved, belonged to Michael Joseph Greenway, who took up the piano in the early 1990s. Back then he was a pint-size kindergartner who amazed his family and friends with an exceptional gift for music.

"The thing is -- Michael loved music," said his father, Wes Greenway, as he rubbed his chin and paced back and forth across a hardwood floor in the living room of his McLean home. "Chopin was his favorite. He was big into opera. Music was his passion."

With instruction from private tutors and support from his parents, the child prodigy with large brown eyes grew into a promising virtuoso. His talents took him to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he was an honors student in the prestigious college of fine arts.

Michael, who was a junior at the school, returned often to Washington to spend the weekend with family and friends.

He loved the pace of the District's urban life, visiting museums, having lunch downtown, hanging out with friends and going to clubs.

During one such visit home Oct. 14, before leaving for an evening out with friends, Michael sat at a baby grand piano in the corner of the family music room and played Bach's Fugue VIII. The songbook remains open to that page.

The next morning, about 8 o'clock, two police officers and a chaplain arrived at the Greenway home with news that Michael, 20, had died in a car accident a few hours earlier.

The car he had been driving crashed into a creek after failing to negotiate a curve on Kirby Road, north of Claiborne Drive, in McLean. A police investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

"There had always been music in the house," said his mother, Linda Greenway. "I don't think I can ever accept that he's gone."

Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, he performed in dozens of recitals, often accompanied by his slightly older sister, Catherine, on the violin. He also had three older brothers, Chris, George and Wesley.

But Michael and Catherine, a year apart in age, were closest in companionship. In fact, it was Catherine who gave Michael his first piano lessons. She was only 5 years old when she began tutoring Michael on the scales she had learned from her piano instructor.

His musical ability soon overtook hers. She switched to different instruments, but Michael, as younger siblings tend to do, was there shadowing her new interests. That stopped when she took up ballet.

By the time he was a student at Langley High School in McLean, Michael had outpaced his piano instructors in music theory and composition. He enrolled in the Levine School of Music in Washington, which he attended after a full day at Langley. He also found time for an after-school program at Fairfax High School for gifted music students.

He worked, too, earning walk-around money from a part-time job at a real estate firm, greeting patrons at P.F. Chang's restaurant at the Tysons II mall and helping at his father's car dealership, Greenway Alexandria Volkswagen.

At Langley, Michael drew praise as an integral part of the school's productions of the musicals "Grease" and "The Wizard of Oz." He played piano for the shows and put in long hours for rehearsals.

"We've had musicians help in the past, but Michael really became one of the family of the cast and crew," said Phyliss Jaffe, Langley's drama teacher.

"When he played the piano, he would sound more like a whole orchestra. He added so much to the final productions," Jaffe said.

He wowed parents of his classmates when he performed Debussy's "Claire de Lune" at Langley's 2003 graduation at DAR Constitution Hall.

In addition to playing the piano, Michael showed a natural talent for composition. It took him less than a week to write "Concerto Under Fire," which won first place in the Virginia State Reflections Competition for Music Composition in 2003.

The theme of the competition was courage, in light of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Michael generated his musical ideas without the intervention of his teachers," said Sergey Schepkin, Michael's piano instructor at Carnegie Mellon. "He would be very well suited for a professional career in music."

"He was extremely charming, sometimes mischievous, slightly irreverent," Schepkin said. "He had a very good heart, always interested in others and putting them in a good mood."


VALPARAISO | A 17-year-old resident of the Hanson House -- an emergency shelter for troubled teens based here -- was found dead inside her room Monday morning.

The girl, Chesterton resident Marisa Hudson, didn't appear to have any injuries that suggest she was the victim of foul play, authorities said. But Valparaiso police and Porter County coroner's office officials didn't immediately know what caused her death.

Coroner Roger Kleist said late Monday afternoon that an autopsy conducted earlier that day in South Bend did not reveal any anatomical cause of death. Toxicology results will not be available for six weeks.

"I don't know what to expect in this case," Kleist said. "We don't really have any indication of what it is at this time ... We're starting from nothing and seeing what we can find out."

Valparaiso Police Department spokesman Cpl. Michael Grennes said police responded to a call at the center shortly after 5 a.m. Monday and were conducting a "death investigation." He said it wasn't immediately apparent whether the death involved natural causes, a suicide or something else.

Kleist said it didn't appear Hudson was dead for too long when found.

The Niequist Center and the Hanson House at the Juvenile Services Center, located south of U.S. 30 on Ind. 2, are operated by the nonprofit Family and Youth Services Bureau. The centers house emotionally disturbed children, those who have had minor run-ins with the law or those who have nowhere to stay.

The death is first in the center's 32-year history, bureau Executive Director Dennis Morgan said.

Morgan said facility staff were providing counseling to the other teens, and clergy also visited on Monday.

"We're doing the best we can to deal with the kids first of all and the staff secondly," he said.


BRISTOL TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- A tragic accident Sunday night killed a Bucks County teenager and seriously injured four of his friends.

Police said that the driver, John Farber, 17, was speeding and lost control on Bristol Pike in Bristol Township.

Two carloads of teenagers were driving southbound on Route 13 just before 11 p.m. Sunday when Farber, who was driving a Mustang, lost control.

Police said that nobody in the Mustang was wearing a seat belt. All five teenagers were injured and Mickey Teranto died of his injuries.

"Mickey was one of the nicest kids I've ever met in my life. Best friends with my youngest son. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was a happy-go-lucky kid," said David Wolfinger, the father of one of Teranto's friends.

"We always called him our third son because he was with us all the time. He would come over, he would sleep over, he'd eat over, he went on vacations with us," said Marlene Wolfinger.

Taranto and 16-year-old Tara Walp were thrown from the vehicle when the driver lost control, hit the guardrail and slammed into a ditch.

Bristol Township police said Farber swerved to miss a cardboard box in the roadway and lost control of the vehicle.

Police said that another carload of friends was following the Mustang and witnessed the accident.

"They were going faster than the speed limit. We don't have an exact speed at this time," said a police officer.

Rescue crews had to cut free three other victims trapped inside the car. Christopher Cullen, 16, Anthony Duponte, 16, are in serious condition.

Farber was transported to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, Pa., in critical condition.



Richmond Police Chief Rodney Monroe this afternoon confirmed that the human remains discovered yesterday in rural Mathews County are those of Taylor Marie Behl, the 17-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student who had been missing since Sept. 5.

Monroe said identification of the badly decomposed remains was made through dental records provided to police by Behl's family.

The chief said further forensic tests will be needed before the medical examiner can determine the cause of Behl's death. He said he expects to file charges in the case, "but in the next three or four days, that's not going to happen."

"The scope of this investigation has narrowed significantly," said Monroe, speaking at a news conference held at the Mathews Sheriff's Office about 70 miles east of Richmond.

"Now it's a very targeted, focused investigation."

Responding to questions about Richmond amateur photographer Benjamin Fawley, Monroe for the first time said it was "not incorrect" to consider Fawley a suspect in Behl's death.

Fawley is currently in jail in Richmond on unrelated child pornography charges.

The chief also said that Jesse Schultz, a 22-year-old Richmonder arrested on drug possession charges after a police bloodhound allegedly detected his scent on Behl's abandoned car, is not considered a suspect at this time. Schultz has denied knowing Behl or having ever been in her car.

This afternoon, Schultz's lawyer, W. Joseph Owen III, said his client "has no idea why he was targeted. He is innocent of having anything at all to do with Taylor Behl's disappearance."

Owen also said Schultz "does not know Mr. Fawley. He has no relationship to Mr. Fawley."

Monroe confirmed that VCU detectives who located Behl's body were led to a farm in Mathews by Fawley's ex-girlfriend, whose family owns property adjacent to where the body was found.

The chief said that the girlfriend, whom he did not name, "has been someone we have spoken to for weeks." He said he did not know if the former girlfriend knew Behl.

Earlier in the day, Behl's mother told reporters from her home in Vienna that she believed the remains belonged to her daughter.

"I'm sure you can imagine the shock and horror I feel knowing that the body found is most likely my baby's," Janet Pelasara told reporters during a brief statement.

"My mind still cannot absorb the fact that someone could do something this cruel and heinous to my 17-year-old child," said Pelasara, appearing subdued and exhausted. "I am positive the authorities will bring these subhumans to justice, and I pray they receive the death penalty."

Behl's remains were found in a shallow grave in woods behind a barn on a private farm near the bayfront crossroads community of Diggs, about 70 miles from Richmond.

Behl, a graduate of James Madison High School in Vienna, had started her freshman year at VCU in late August. She was last seen leaving her dorm room around 10:20 the night of Sept. 5.

Wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and jeans, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound brunette left her dorm room with car keys, student ID, cell phone and less than $40 cash, telling her roommate she was going out skateboarding with friends and would return in several hours.

On Wednesday, VCU detectives drove to Mathews after an ex-girlfriend of Fawley's identified a picture shown to her as being taken near her family's property in the rural coastal county.

After a search of the land, the detectives discovered human remains along a ravine in woods behind a barn on an adjacent property. Sources said clothing found at the scene matched clothing Behl was believed to be wearing the night she disappeared.

Fawley, 38, who met Behl through his ex-roommate back in February, has admitted to having a sexual relationship with her and said he last saw her at 9:30 the night she vanished.

The following day, Fawley filed a report with police claiming that he was robbed and abducted in Richmond by unknown assailants just eight hours later, driven to a remote location and dumped on a dirt road.

Investigators are reviewing his statement for inconsistencies in comparison to a description of the incident posted by Fawley on one of his Web logs.

In that posting, he attributed his alleged attack to friends of his ex-girlfriend -- the same woman police said identified the Fawley photo that led police to Mathews County.

"We certainly believe that the strongest suspect is the person they have in custody," said Pelasara's attorney, George Peterson, referring to Fawley. He said the family would begin to make funeral arrangements.

Fawley's attorney, Chris Collins, last night declined comment.

During her brief prepared statement, Pelasara expressed gratitude to all who had helped and supported her over the past month of searching for her daughter.

" . . . Whether it was time spent or money contributed, or most comforting, your prayers, thank you from the bottom of my sad and broken heart," she said.

VCU President Eugene P. Trani said, "Our overwhelming sympathy goes to Taylor's parents, Janet Pelasara and Matt Behl, and to Taylor's entire family and her friends. We share in their grief.

"Taylor was not with us very long, a few short weeks, as a freshman at VCU," Trani said in a statement. "Regardless, she was part of our university family and we feel her loss."


Michelle Combs, a lifelong Pleasanton resident until moving to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona, was killed in a motorcycle accident Saturday at the age of 20.

Combs, a 2003 graduate of Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, had also attended Walnut Grove elementary and Harvest Park middle schools in town. She was in her second year at the University of Arizona, majoring in retail business.

After leaving work at a restaurant Saturday night, Combs had accepted a ride on the back of a friend's motorcycle. Tucson police said the crash occurred at 10:40 p.m. when an SUV made a turn and broadsided the motorcycle.

"It was a horrendous accident," said Tucson police detective Richard Gilbert. Combs died at the scene and the motorcycle's driver remained in critical condition Tuesday with head injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet.

The SUV's driver was arrested on suspicion of driving on a suspended license, and was cited for failure to yield in a left-hand turn, Gilbert said.

Combs' mother Jocelyn reflected on her daughter's life in a written statement.

"She loved soccer, mostly the running, and track -- especially the hurdles, in which she lettered; candy; baby-sitting lots of children but specializing in twins; driving her Jeep too fast; listening to all kinds of music; traveling and road trips; lip gloss and nail polish," it says.

Combs also liked hiking and snowboarding, shopping and negotiating for good deals, juggling, astronomy and weather, and her fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi.

One of her favorite quotations was, "Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today," her mother said.

Jocelyn Combs is a past member of the East Bay Regional Park District board and currently serves on the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission.


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