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— Despite a recent spate of high-profile drug busts here, methamphetamine usage is still soaring in San Diego County. Latest indicator: nearly 60 percent of white arrestees are testing positive for the drug, according to a study just released by the National Institute of Justice. Forty-two percent of all adult female arrestees and 39 percent of their adult male counterparts also tested positive, the highest rate in the 23-city study. By comparison, less than one-half of 1 percent of Washington, D.C., jail inmates had the drug in their systems ... Thirteen years ago, Ken Kimes and his wife Sante made national headlines when they were busted for running a slave ring out of their posh La Jolla mansion. They were convicted of luring unsuspecting Mexican maids into a life of involuntary servitude and torture at their motel properties in Nevada, California, and Hawaii. Kimes paid a big fine and got off with a suspended sentence. Sante served five years in federal lock-up. Her husband subsequently died. Now New York police say Sante and her 26-year-old son, Ken, Jr., are the chief suspects in the disappearance of an elderly Manhattan millionaire socialite believed to be the victim of foul play. Mother and son were busted in New York last week with the missing woman's passport, bank books, insurance cards, sheets of blank checks and old pay stubs, plus $10,000 in cash. Police in L.A. and the Bahamas also want to talk to the Kimes pair in connection with murders and disappearances in their respective jurisdictions ... Doug Crawford, that self-proclaimed amateur detective from Pacific Beach who led police to the submerged car of missing Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore, is appealing the rejection of his suit against Cal Western Law School and the American Bar Association for $500,000. Crawford claims the school gave him a flawed legal education.

Musical houses

The saga of the Padres vs. San Diego City Hall may be in its early innings, but to judge by the dual homes he keeps, Padre co-honcho Larry Lucchino is already hedging his bets. In addition to his luxurious La Jolla manse, public records show that the lawyer from Baltimore still owns a $1.8 million "owner-occupied" house on exclusive Highland Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which he purchased back in 1992. Calls to the phone at the house are answered by a woman who starts by saying "Larry Lucchino's office," takes messages, and then explains he is in San Diego. If talks with the city council break down, word is that the Padres might just pick up and move to a new ballpark being contemplated in northern Virginia, not far from Chevy Chase ...The San Diego Supercomputing Center just picked up an $8.4 million federal contract to help solve the "critical need to develop better ways to preserve historically valuable electronic records of the federal government." It seems the feds are cranking out "tens of millions" of computer files every year, and nobody knows what to do with them.

Serial death

A troubled 47-year-old woman who grew up in San Diego County and left Oceanside last year to start a new life with a friend in Washington state is believed to have become the latest victim of a serial killer in Spokane, Washington. Michelyn Derning's body was found last Tuesday by a transient in a seedy part of town. The daughter of retired Marine Corps colonel Ed Derning of Oceanside, Michelyn graduated from high school in Virginia, moved to Oceanside, and briefly attended Palomar College. She later married and divorced here and went through a series of abusive relationships and failed drug rehabs. Gregory Landis, the friend who invited her to Spokane, told the Spokane Spokesman-Review that he had met Derning in 1972 when both worked for a San Diego engineering firm. In April of last year, fleeing from her latest bout with domestic violence and drug use, Derning joined Landis in Spokane. But according to the newspaper, she soon fell back into a life of drug use and prostitution, which police believe put her directly in the sights of the serial killer. Derning's brother, Patrick, a sergeant with the San Diego Police Department, had to break the news of his sister's death to their father, the paper reported.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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