Wednesday, 17 July 2024


NORTHSHORE – A Northshore woman convicted of embezzling funds from the Northshore Fire Protection District has been sentenced to jail time and must make full restitution.

Fifty-nine-year-old Laurel Ann Bell – also known as Lori Ann Bell – of Nice will spend 240 days in jail, must serve five years of formal probation and 100 hours of community service, and be required to pay nearly $4,900 in restitution to the fire district, where she was an employee.

“We're glad that justice was done and now she's going to have to pay for it,” said Northshore Fire Protection District Chief Jim Robbins.

Judge Arthur Mann passed sentence on Bell on Jan. 19 for one charge of embezzlement by a public officer. That same day that she pleaded no contest to the charge.

She also had faced 19 other charges that included embezzlement, grand theft and forging or filing false documents, for which she was not tried or sentenced.

Prosecutor Rachel Abelson and Bell's defense attorney, Komnith Moth, did not respond to requests for comment.

Bell had worked for the Nice Community Services District and, after the fire districts in Upper Lake, Nice, Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks consolidated into the Northshore Fire Protection District, she was brought over to work as an office assistant at the Lucerne fire station, said Robbins.

Bell, whose profession was listed as accountant, previously had worked for the Lake County Auditor's Office for 14 years, according to court documents.

The prosecution alleged that she took funds from Northshore Fire between Feb. 22 and June 7, 2007.

Investigative documents said that the funds she took included $500 from 25 burn permits, as well as funds from the sale of an older ambulance.

District officials realized something was wrong when, on June 11, 2007, a $300 deposit wasn't made, according to investigative records.

When the district began investigating, they found that Bell had started making deposits, which she wasn't supposed to do, said Robbins.

After they discovered the questionable activity, Robbins and his staff went through their records to make sure they weren't wrong about their concerns. They discovered other irregularities, including $2,000 the district received from the sale of an older ambulance that also wasn't deposited, Robbins said.

“In 37 years I can't even tell you a dime that was missing out of this place, so that made me just sick,” said Robbins.

He added that Bell wasn't working at the Lucerne fire station for very long before they discovered what was going on.

Court records stated that she was terminated a short time after the missing funds were discovered.

During an interview with a District Attorney's Office investigator, Bell said she liked to gamble at Robinson Rancheria. By that time, she was unemployed; her husband also was on disability.

The District Attorney's Office filed the case against Bell on Nov. 21, 2007, and she was arrested the next day, according to court records. Her preliminary hearing was held in February 2009.

Mann ordered Bell to surrender herself at the Lake County Jail at 9 a.m. Feb. 10, when she is due to start serving her jail sentence.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

SONOMA COUNTY – The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office is searching for clues about the death of a woman who was found unconscious in Cazadero Creek on Tuesday.

A Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy dispatched to the 18000 block of Fort Ross Road shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday found Erica Shane, 34, of Glen Ellen, lying in the creek and was unable to revive her.

She later was pronounced dead, according to a report from Lt. Chris Spallino.

Spallino reported that the deputy had responded to the area on the report of an unoccupied Silver Subaru Forester parked in the roadway.

The deputy learned that the car had been parked at the location for several hours, so he began searching the area for the driver of the vehicle. Spallino said the deputy followed a path that led up a steep hillside next to a rapid creek.

Approximately 200 yards up the creek, the deputy found Shane submerged in the water. Spallino said the deputy pulled Shane from the creek and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Fort Ross Fire Department personnel who arrived on scene pronounced Shane dead.

An autopsy was scheduled to take place Wednesday, Spallino said. Shane's death is being investigated by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office Violent Crimes Unit and the Sonoma County Coroner's Unit.

Detectives are asking anyone who may have had contact with the victim on Jan. 26, or who may have seen anything suspicious in the area of the 18000 block of Fort Ross Road, Cazadero, to contact Detective James Naugle at 707-565-2185.

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Bill Stone took this picture of Bartlett Springs Road above Lucerne on Sunday, January 24, 2010. Lake County Public Works reported that the road was closed due to high snow on Monday, January 25, 2010.


LAKE COUNTY – Another heavy day of rain on Monday continued pushing the level of Clear Lake up but also led to more rough highway conditions around the county.

Western Weather Group reported that on Monday more then 2 inches of rain fell near Kelseyville, more than 3 inches was reported in Scotts Valley, nearly 2.5 inches in Morgan Valley near Lower Lake and just over 4 inches were recorded in the Middletown area.

Early Tuesday morning, Clear Lake was at 3.76 feet Rumsey, according to the US Geological Survey (see their lake gauge here – ). The lake is full at 7.56 feet Rumsey.

US Geological Survey stream gauges around the rest of the county showed that area creeks got another big injection of water from the recent storms.

Those storms led to more downed trees. The California Highway Patrol reported that a fallen tree blocked Soda Bay Road near the Edgewater Resort and Highway 175 near Red Hills Road Monday morning, and also blocked a lane of Butts Canyon Road near Langtry Estate & Vineyard Monday evening.

More boulders also made their way onto area highways, including parts of Highway 175 that were affected throughout the day, according to the CHP. Lake County Public Works reported that a mudslide closed a portion of Big Canyon Road in Middletown, where crews were working late Monday afternoon to remove the debris.

Rock and mudslides also were reported on Highway 29 at the Coyote Grade and on Highway 20 Monday night, according to the CHP.

Public Works reported that Beryl Way in Clearlake Oaks, from Highway 20 to Lakeview Drive, remained closed to through traffic due to a retaining wall that collapsed last week.

On Monday, Scotts Valley Road from Laurel Dell Road to Highway 20 was closed due to flooding, as was Eickhoff Road in the Lakeport Area, Public Works reported.

The low water crossing at Bell Hill Road at Adobe Creek remains closed until further notice due to high water levels, as does the Dry Creek Cutoff near Middletown, the agency reported.

The storms brought more snow to the county's higher elevations. Public Works said Bartlett Springs Road was closed to all through traffic from mile post marker 5 to mile post marker 15 due to heavy snow.

Elk Mountain Road also is closed due to heavy snow, according to Public Works. The closure is between mile post markers 12 and 28.

Work to reopen Bartlett Springs Road and Elk Mountain Road is scheduled to continue Tuesday, Public Works said.

The latest road condition reports are available by going to the home page of the county of Lake's Web site, and clicking on the “road conditions” link. Lake County Public Works also can be reached for road updates at 707-263-2341.

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HOPLAND – An Oregon man found himself in the Mendocino County Jail on Wednesday after he allegedly swiped a Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy's gear bag and attempted to escape with it.

James Anderson, 42, of Brookings, Ore., was arrested for grand theft and possession of stolen property, according to a report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

On Wednesday at approximately 2:40 p.m. deputies were investigating a domestic disturbance behind the Hopland Farms market, located at 13501 S. Highway 101, Smallcomb said.

While the deputies were investigating the alleged domestic incident, Anderson allegedly entered a sheriff's patrol vehicle and stole a deputy's gear bag, according to the report.

Smallcomb said a witness at the location contacted the deputies and informed them of the theft and said that Anderson had fled in a vehicle heading east on Highway 175.

Deputies caught up to Anderson and conducted an investigation stop. Smallcomb said the stolen gear bag was in the passenger seat with Anderson, and he was arrested for grand theft and possession of stolen property.

It was later discovered that Anderson is a convicted felon and forbidden by law to posses ammunition, Smallcomb said. The gear bag he stole contained ammunition and he was also charged with a felon in possession of ammunition.

Anderson was incarcerated at the Mendocino County Jail on the listed charges with bail set at $50,000.

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LAKE COUNTY – Many young people are eager to get a driver's license in order to get on the road.

But getting behind the wheel proves deadly for many young drivers.

The leading cause of death for US residents between the ages of 15 to 20 is motor vehicle collisions. That's just one of the sad statistics reported by the California Highway Patrol.

Lake County’s CHP office in Kelseyville is dedicated to reducing the amount of teen deaths and injuries that occur as a result of traffic collisions, said Officer Steven Tanguay.

As part of that mission, the CHP office on Live Oak Drive at Highway 29 in Kelseyville is hosting a free, two-hour driving safety class at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.

Tanguay reported that in Lake County in 2008 there were 111 collisions involving drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. Out of those 111 incidents, young drivers were at fault in 88 of them.

With those statistics in mind, Tanguay and Officer Adam Garcia, both public affairs officers for the CHP's Kelseyville office, decided to see if Lake County’s parents with teenage children might be interested in taking advantage of the Start Smart program.

Start Smart was started by CHP Monterey in 2002, he said. The program is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Tanguay also said that between 2005 and 2007 there were 1093 start Smart Classes in California, reaching 13,594 teenagers and 9,279 parents.

“It is designed to reduce the number of teenage deaths," said Tanguay. “This class is a test to see if we should do monthly classes.”

Tanguay recommended that participants in the Start Smart class be parents with one or more teenage children since the program is designed to work with them both.

So far, four adults are bringing five teenagers. One woman already enrolled in the upcoming class is bringing her daughter along with her daughter’s boyfriend, he said.

“This program is for 15- to 19-year-olds,” he said. “We have not yet had any programs specifically for teenage drivers that I know of. The class will cover parental responsibilities, defensive driving and collision avoidance techniques, like appropriate space cushions.”

Tanguay added that if this first class is a success, another one would be offered as soon as two weeks later.

Nationally, about 5,000 teens will die in automobile crashes, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, or SWITRS, database. About 10 percent of those deaths are in California alone.

Lake County has seen a number of fatal crashes involving teenagers in recent years.

A crash in the Mendocino National Forest last August saw a 17-year-old Santa Rosa girl die, with a 16-year-old girl injured. A 20-year-old Sunnyvale resident, Nathan Winter, was driving, as Lake County News has reported.

In February 2006, local resident Nicole Ogulin lost control of her ATV on Bartlett Springs Road and crashed, rolling down an embankment. The crash ejected her and her teenage female passenger, who did not survive.

Officer Kevin Domby, who is working on the Ogulin case, said that a jury found her guilty of DUI late last year. Ogulin will be sentenced next month.

Tanguay has spoken with Lake County Probation about the possibility of using this class to educate teenage violators stopped for some sort of moving violation, like speeding.

As part of his duties to educate young people, Tanguay visits county schools to talk with students about drinking and driving.

He said he was just over at Lower Lake Elementary School talking to preteens about the dangers of drinking and driving along with Team DUI, another organization dedicated to educating kids about alcohol abuse.

“We want to get to them young,” said Tanguay. “We want kids to think about their choices and the consequences those choices might have.”

To find out more about the Start Smart program, call Tanguay at 707-279-0103.

E-mail Tera deVroede at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Fremont couple Viola Liu and Ryan Barrett at the location on Elk Mountain were they were found by family, a hired pilot and Folsom resident Ryan O'Keven on Saturday, January 23, 2010. Photo by Ryan O'Keven.



UPPER LAKE – For a Fremont couple stranded in winter weather on Elk Mountain last week, the concern and persistence of a stranger helped bring them safely home.

Ryan Barrett and Viola Liu, both 31, were discovered on Forest Road M-10 near Elk Mountain Road on Saturday, as Lake County News has reported.

On Monday, Lake County News was able to catch up with a former Lake County resident who is credited with helping find them.

Ryan O'Keven grew up in Kelseyville, but left in 1999. Since then, the young man has lived in Folsom, where he works as a mortgage broker.

He was visiting his mother, who lives in Kelseyville, last weekend when he saw a Bay Area news broadcast Friday evening about Liu and Barrett having gone missing after leaving Jan. 16 on a camping trip.

O'Keven said he and his wife go backpacking in the Snow Mountain Wilderness area all the time, and he believed that Barrett and Liu may have been headed that way after gassing up in Upper Lake.

He also had driven that road numerous times, and said it's not a road to travel in winter.

O'Keven tried calling the Fremont Police Department Friday evening after the news broadcast, but he said the message on the tip line said they were only open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and would return the call the next business day – which was Monday. Although he left a message, he never heard back.

So using an Internet phone book, he tracked down Patricia Jenkins, Ryan Barrett's aunt. Jenkins' husband, Richard, was traveling to Lake County the following day to post flyers.

He said the family “didn't sound like they were getting help from anywhere,” so O'Keven shared with them his knowledge of the Upper Lake area.




Viola Liu and pilot Dave Everson on the way back to Lampson Field in Lakeport, Calif., on Saturday, January 23, 2010. Photo by Ryan O'Keven.



The next day, he and his mother were running errands and decided to drive to Upper Lake to see the conditions. When they passed the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger Station, he spotted Richard Jenkins' car and gave him a call.

Jenkins then asked O'Keven to come along and help guide him and pilot Dave Everson of Redding-based Air Shasta Rotor & Wing, who Barrett's family had hired to help with the search, because search and rescue wasn't deployed. O'Kevin agreed and joined them and a cousin of Barrett's the four-person helicopter, which left Lampson Airport outside of Lakeport at around 3 p.m. Saturday.

Helping guide the group using a forest map, O'Keven said he believed the couple might have made it to the Summit Springs trailhead. If they hadn't gotten that far, they might have hiked down the hill to Bear Creek.

He suggested they fly to the Bear Creek Campground and follow Forest Road M-10 toward the ridge. As they flew over, he spotted a pile of firewood on a picnic table. Later, the couple would tell their rescuers that they had built the pile and put a note inside with information about their movements.

The searchers looked for signs of the couple's red Toyota Tacoma pickup, but didn't see it, said O'Keven.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, making it hard to follow the road, said O'Keven. Then, after about 15 minutes in the air, he spotted the couple's footprints and those of their three dogs.

He estimated they followed the footprints about four to five miles before they spotted the couple, who had started hiking back toward Upper Lake that day. In all, it took less than a half hour to find them.




Viola Liu looks on as her tired Labrador retriever catches a nap in the helicopter's backseat on Saturday, January 23, 2010. Photo by Ryan O'Keven.



O'Keven said Liu was “ecstatic” when the helicopter arrived to pick them up in the area of Elk Mountain Road and M-10. They left Jenkins, Barrett's cousin, two of the dogs and their backpacks behind while Everson flew the couple, one of their dogs and O'Keven back to the airport.

Although Everson was concerned about the dog, the tired animal fell asleep in the helicopter's backseat on the trip back to Lampson, O'Keven said.

When they arrived at the airport, a female deputy sheriff arrived to ask them some questions and close out the missing persons' file, according to O'Keven.

The couple told their rescuers that they had gotten up on the mountain when it was dark; they had gassed up around 5 p.m. in Upper Lake but weren't aware of the weather conditions in the area.

On the way a ranger had stopped to ask where they were headed, but didn't tell them about road closures. Along the way they crossed two creeks in their two-wheel-drive pickup.

Jenkins said the couple’s car battery died when they were at their initial camping location, which is why they couldn't get off of the mountain when the first storm hit. He said they searched the area for help but couldn’t find anyone. Finally, they removed the battery from the truck and warmed it in their tent. “This worked – they were able to get the truck started but by then the streams had swollen and they couldn’t get across,” Jenkins said.

On Monday, as they were attempting to ford a creek in the pickup, Barrett and Liu said the truck started floating downstream and they had to escape. They told O'Keven and their relatives that they had to break the windows to get out.

The truck floated down and lodged under some thick vegetation against an embankment, which explained why the searchers couldn't see it despite flying over the area several times, O'Keven said.

The couple had camping gear and spent a few days in their tent before they happened across a cabin on Wednesday. O'Keven said the cabin was located near M-10 on the east side of the Bear Creek crossing.

Barrett and Liu were able to keep warm by burning firewood in the cabin's potbellied stove, and they and their canine companions ate tomato sauce and popcorn over the coming several days, O'Keven said.

On that Saturday morning, the couple had left the cabin and started hiking. O'Keven said they related that they had set out camping on a previous occasion and were heading toward Stonyford but turned back.

O'Keven said he believed that if they hadn't been found, Barrett and Liu may have been able to hike out by Sunday, noting that they had experience and some equipment, although they were traveling through deep snow with no snowshoes.

Jenkins credited two Lake County residents – whose names he didn't have – who proactively contacted the family and offered information the Elk Mountain area and the Bear Creek Campground, which he said gave the family the confidence that hiring a helicopter was worthwhile. A Calistoga resident, Jens Vidkjer, also offered information for the search.

An experienced outdoorsman, O'Keven said a critical issue in this case was that the couple hadn't told anyone where they were headed.

“That was their sole issue,” he said. “They would have been found much more quickly if they had told someone where they were going.”


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Pilot Dave Everson of Air Shasta Rotor & Wing of Redding flew the rescue mission on Saturday, January 23, 2010, landing at Lampson Airport in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Ryan O'Keven.

The family of Heather Anderson are still waiting for answers into the young woman's fatal stabbing on Thursday, December 17, 2009. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – More than a month after a former Lake County resident was stabbed to death, investigators are offering few clues about the crime, arrests are yet to be made and a mother says her family is waiting for justice.


Heather Danielle Anderson, 24, formerly of Nice, was fatally stabbed at the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak, Wash., on Dec. 17, as Lake County News has reported.


The one-month anniversary of the young woman's death that just passed was very hard on her family, according to her mother, Diana Anderson of Paradise, who said she misses her daughter more every day.


Heather Anderson, a member of the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo, had gone to Washington late last year to assist a friend with moving to the Colville Indian Reservation, Diana Anderson said.


In the early morning hours of Dec. 17, Heather Anderson was stabbed once in the left clavicle, which severed her jugular vein, her mother said.


Diana Anderson said her daughter's death certificate noted that the young woman would have died quickly from the wound.


Additionally, the autopsy noted no defensive wounds on the young woman. Diana Anderson believes her daughter would have fought if she had been able to do so, and that she may have been held down.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the case from Colville Tribal Police shortly after Anderson was killed.


Last month, FBI Agent Frank Harrill told Lake County News that the investigation into Anderson's death could be “a relatively lengthy process.”


Several calls to the FBI's Spokane office for an update on the case were not returned.


Diana Anderson said she spoke with an FBI agent last week who told her that evidence was still being processed at laboratories in Washington, DC.


When she headed north to Washington in November, Heather Anderson was still recovering from a June auto collision that nearly took her life and left her with serious injuries, both physically and mentally. However, her family said she was working hard to get back to being independent.


Diana Anderson has been searching for clues in her daughter's death, and points to some strange facts in the case.


Although Heather Anderson's autopsy said her death occurred at about 1:30 a.m. Dec. 17. It was nearly three hours later that two male subjects – not the friend with whom she was staying – took her to the hospital. She was pronounced dead at 4:22 a.m.


Heather Anderson's friend at the Colville reservation, “Shannon,” has denied any involvement, although the previous day she was reportedly seen at the home of another woman said to have been involved in the fatal altercation, Diana Anderson said.


When Diana Anderson asked to have her daughter's belongings sent home, she said Shannon told her she burned everything, claiming it was tribal tradition. Diana Anderson, who is American Indian along with the rest of her family, questioned that.


“There's something off the wall right there,” she said, explaining that it was up to her family and tribe to decide what traditions to follow for her daughter, not a person from another tribe like Shannon.


She said her daughter called her two days before she was murdered and said she needed to tell her something, but couldn't discuss it over the phone. Then just before her death, Heather Anderson called to ask for a plane ticket home.


Diana Anderson thinks her daughter saw or heard something that may have made her a target. In the days before she died, some of her possessions also were stolen, and she had just received some money from her mother for travel and purchasing Christmas presents for friends in Washington.


The Anderson family currently is working to get assistance from the FBI's Victim Witness division and looking into other avenues of getting help on the case.


“Will we get the complete story?” Diana Anderson asked. “I don't know.”


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The new Lake County Winery Association's 2010 Board of Directors. From left to right starting with the back row: Adawn Wood, Kaj Ahlmann, Steve Tylicki, Nick Buttitta, Gregory Graham and Mike Noggle; front row, LCWA Executive Director Monica Rosenthal, Bonnie Sears, Valerie Ramirez and Chris Skarada. Photo by Casey Carney.


KELSEYVILLE – Lake County Winery Association (LCWA) members welcomed the group's 2010 slate of directors this month when the association held its first board meeting of the new year.

Members of the LCWA Board of Directors are Kaj Ahlmann of Six Sigma Ranch & Winery, Gregory Graham of Gregory Graham Wines, Steve Tylicki of Steele Wines, Nick Buttitta of Ros d'Oro Vineyards, Adawn Wood of Shed Horn Cellars, Valerie Ramirez of Wildhurst Vineyards, Bonnie Sears of Snows Lake Vineyard, Mike Noggle of Noggle Vineyards and Chris Skarada of Tulip Hill Winery.

The directors were seated at the meeting Jan. 15 at Moore Family Winery, LCWA Executive Director Monica Rosenthal announced.

Rosenthal joined the new board in thanking three members for their service over the last year.

Loretta Byrne of Tulip Hill Winery, Sandy Tucker of Langtry Estate & Vineyards, and Cielo Fox of Brassfield decided not to seek election and extend their terms on the board, Rosenthal reported

However, the three will “continue their commitment to LCWA on various committees,” she said.

Byrne will chair the Wine Adventure Weekend Committee. Tucker is co-chair for the People’s Choice Wine Awards Committee and Fox will continue to serve as a member of the Events Committee.

Following the LCWA Board meeting, association members, community representatives and friends enjoyed a potluck party at the winery.

The event featured a barbecue by the Suenram Family’s Smokin S BBQ Co. along with Lake County wines provided by LCWA wineries and attendees, Rosenthal noted.

Acting LCWA Chair Kaj Ahlmann greeted guests and made a brief presentation about the association’s current projects and upcoming events.

As part of its goal to promote Lake County as a premier wine region, the LCWA is involved in a collaborative project with the Lake County Marketing & Economic Development Department to develop an in-county winery and tasting room directional signage system.

Ahlmann also told attendees to mark their calendars for this year’s Wine Adventure Weekend, scheduled for July 24-25, and the People’s Choice Wine Awards with the expert panel judging of competition entries taking place in August and the “people’s choice” tasting, judging and voting following in September.

Guests attending the gathering included Lake County Supervisor Jeff Smith and his wife Cathleen, Bill and Patti Brunetti, Chuck March of the Lake County Farm Bureau, Lake County News Editor Elizabeth Larson and her husband John Jensen, Lake County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton and her husband John, Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Director Lori Peters and her husband Jim, and Lake County Winegrape Commission Secretary/Treasurer Buz Dereniuk and his wife Terri.

The Lake County Winery Association was founded in 2007 and works closely with the County of Lake, the Lake County Winegrape Commission, and other county businesses and organizations to increase tourism throughout Lake County.

For more information about the association, visit the LCWA website at

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FORT BRAGG – A Fort Bragg man was arrested Saturday after he allegedly stabbed his brother during a fight.

Joseph Christman, 24, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and battery causing traumatic injury for allegedly assaulting his younger brother, Mathew, also of Fort Bragg, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

At 10:15 p.m. Saturday Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the Coast Hospital regarding a stabbing, Smallcomb said.

Deputies arrived at the hospital and learned the victim, Mathew Christman, had received two stab wounds to his lower abdomen, said Smallcomb. Medical personnel advised deputies that further medical attention would be provided to the victim due to his injuries.

Smallcomb said sheriff's deputies then contacted Fort Bragg Police officers who exchanged information regarding what they had been told by possible witnesses. During that exchange it was learned that the suspect in this case was Joseph Christman.

Deputies proceeded to the Christman residence where they contacted suspect Joseph Christman, Smallcomb said.

They learned that a physical altercation took place between the brothers at which time Joseph Christman allegedly stabbed his brother twice, resulting in moderate injuries, according to Smallcomb.

Joseph Christman was arrested and transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked, with bail set at $30,000.

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LAKE COUNTY – The recent sewer spills in Clearlake remind us of the sensitive nature of the sewer collection system during heavy rainfall events.

Sanitary sewers have limited capacities and are not designed to dispose of storm water (i.e., rainwater) from your property. The rapid increases of flow into the sewer system caused excessive “flooding” thus creating spills.

Significant amounts of ratepayer funds were expended to pump sewage from manholes in order to minimize the spills. During the period from Jan. 19 to 25, more than 500,000 gallons were disposed of via pumper trucks.

These efforts were conducted to protect public health and to reduce regulatory fines. However, we will need the help of our customers to succeed in reducing spills.

Spills are caused by clogged pipes and/or too much flow. Everyone needs to keep unwanted items out of sewer pipes such as grease, trash, rainwater and tree roots.

Rainwater referred to as “inflow” enters the system from sources such as yard and patio drains, roof gutter downspouts, uncapped cleanouts, pond or pool overflow drains, footing drains, cross-connections with storm drains.

Although these inflow connections may help alleviate yard flooding and puddles, they have significant impacts to the sewer system, the sewer rates, and public health.

Broken house sewer laterals also cause excessive rainwater to enter the sewer system.

What can you do to prevent and reduce inflow?

– Inspect the rain gutters on your house to see if the downspout connects to a sewer line. Such connections are illegal (a violation of the Lake County Sewer Use Ordinance). If the gutter downspouts are connected to the sewer line, have them disconnected – the large amount of water from the roof can cause a sewage spill. The rainwater needs to be directed onto your lawn and/or to the storm drain system.

– Look for and check your sewer cleanout. The cleanout is usually a small pipe, about 4-inches in diameter, outside your house that is used to access the sewer lateral for cleaning. You will normally find it near the house (where the sewer lateral comes out) and/or near the property line (where the sewer lateral connects to the main sewer line). Make sure the cap to the cleanout pipe is not missing and has not been damaged (such as by a lawn mower). Replace missing caps so that rainwater cannot get into the sewer line.

– Check to see that outdoor patio, deck or yard drains are not connected to the sewer. Also, be sure that pool or pond overflow drains are not connected to the sewer. These connections are not allowed by the Lake County Sewer Use Ordinance. You may want to call your plumber to assist you in checking your connection.

You also can call Lake County Special Districts at 707-263-0119 for assistance.

We urge you to voluntarily take steps to find and correct any potential problems on your property.

Mark Dellinger is administrator for Lake County Special Districts.

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A volunteer from the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch works on a fish ladder. Photo courtesy of Linda Juntunen.








LAKEPORT – The annual Year in Review for the local watershed groups is always a fun, informative evening, and this year’s event will be no exception.

Mark your calendar for Thursday, Jan. 28. The event will be held at the Scotts Valley Women’s Clubhouse, 2298 Hendricks Rd., in Lakeport.

The doors will open at 6 p.m., with the event beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Bring a potluck dish to share with your friends and neighbors, and be prepared to honor the volunteers who work to make your communities and watersheds a better place to live.

Greg Dills, district manager and watershed coordinator for the East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts, will show highlights of the work completed by the watershed groups in the Upper Cache Creek Watershed.

Dills also will present information about the county's resource conservation districts.

Friends and neighbors of volunteers from the Big Valley Watershed Council, Chi Council for the Clearlake Hitch, Lower Lake Watershed Council, Middle Creek CRMP, Nice Watershed Council and Scotts Creek Watershed Council are especially encouraged to attend.




Volunteers from the Nice Watershed Council tend to Triangle Park in Nice. Another example of our watershed groups working in their communities. Photo courtesy of Linda Juntunen.



A Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to an outstanding member from each of these groups.

The West Lake Resource Conservation District also will present their annual “:Partner of the Year Award.”

The evening is one of celebration and congratulations for the work the watershed groups do throughout the year, and is being hosted by the Scotts Creek Watershed Council.

Each year the public is invited to attend the event to learn more about the contributions these ambitious volunteers make to their communities.

There's been a recent focus on illegal dumping activities, and various concerns are being expressed regarding the health of the watersheds in Lake County.

Be a part of what your community can do to help with these issues – join a watershed group. For more information about these organizations, please visit: .

For more information, contact Greg Dills, 707-263-4180, Extension 12, or Linda Juntunen, 707-263-4180, Extension 16.

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Volunteers from the Nice Watershed Council and Middle Creek CRMP show off their big prize. Coca Cola later showed up to haul the machine away. Photo courtesy of Linda Juntunen.




Lower Lake Watershed Council served as host for a homeowner's fire safety tour in Twin Lakes. Thanks to Cal Fire, Lake County Fire Protection District and the Lake County Fire Safe Council, it was a very educational morning. Courtesy photo.

CALPELLA – A Redwood Valley woman was arrested last week after she tried to rob a man who denied her a ride, broke his wiper blades and threw pocket change and a soda at him.

Cheryl Larvie, 22, was arrested Jan. 22 for robbery during the incident that took place shortly before 10:30 p.m. Jan. 21, at the Calpella Express Mart on North State Street, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Smallcomb said sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a possible robbery and contacted the victim, a 21-year-old male from Calpella.

The man told deputies that at 10 p.m. he left the Calpella Express Mart and proceeded to his vehicle, where Larvie allegedly confronted him and asked him for a ride, Smallcomb said.

When the man turned her down, she allegedly grabbed him by his sweat shirt and pulled it off of him, then started going through the contents of the sweatshirt, taking approximately $6 before throwing some pocket change at the victim, said Smallcomb.

Smallcomb said the victim retreated to his vehicle, got inside and started to drive away. At that point, Larvie allegedly grabbed the vehicle's wiper blades and broke them, then threw a soda can at the victim's vehicle, striking the car's passenger side.

After checking with other possible witnesses, deputies identified the suspect as Larvie, Smallcomb said.

Just after 4 a.m. the next day, deputies located and arrested Larvie in the Redwood Valley area, Smallcomb said.

Larvie initially was booked for public intoxication pending further investigation into the robbery. Smallcomb said that later in the day, after deputies concluded the followup investigation efforts, Larvie was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the robbery charge, with bail set at $80,000.

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