Monday, 15 July 2024


WILLITS – Authorities are investigating a crash that took the lives of two people on the Willits Grade earlier this week.

Just before midnight Tuesday the California Highway Patrol and Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were called to the scene of a traffic collision on the Willits Grade, according to Lt. Rusty Noe.

On arrival it was confirmed that two people had been killed in the single vehicle rollover. Noe said the victims were identified at the scene as 47-year-old Alfred Dean Ligon and 48-year-old Rhonda Lee Taylor, both of Willits.

The CHP is investigating the cause of the crash. Noe said there were no witnesses to the accident and the CHP has not been able to determine who was driving at the time.

Autopsies were conducted on Wednesday and the cause of death is pending, he said.

The CHP is asking anyone with information that could help with the accident investigation to call 707-467-4040.

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Dr. Lorraine Prisbrey, a dentist at Lakeside Health Center, explains the course of treatment to Autum Martinez. Courtesy photo.



LAKEPORT – As the failing economy increases the number of families that cannot afford adequate dental services for their children, so does the importance of community caring.

On Feb. 6, in honor of National Give Kids a Smile Day, dentists Lorraine Prisbrey and John Jenkins from Lakeside Health Center, along with dental assisting staff, provided care to 21 children.

Dental services included exams, x-rays, cleanings, oral hygiene instruction, fluoride varnish treatments, sealants, fillings and extractions.

The effort was undertaken in partnership with Lake County Office of Education's Healthy Start Program and Marta Fuller of Lake County Public Health and First 5 Lake Oral Health Project.

As part of Healthy Start’s ongoing mission to promote the health of Lake County’s children, staffer Missy Hill identified Lake County kids with significant oral health needs and who do not have dental coverage.

Often, these are children from working families whose income makes them ineligible for public insurance programs.

Marcie and Anthony Martinez were among the many families who brought in their children for treatment: Autum (12) and Damion (8) received exams, x-rays cleanings and sealants. Autum got two fillings.

According to their dad, “I am a skilled construction worker, and I’ve always been able to provide for my family. But when I lost my work, I lost my health insurance. Even though my kids qualify for Healthy Families insurance, most local dentists aren’t willing to accept it. They tell me that the program doesn’t cover the actual costs of the care. I very grateful that Lakeside Health Center was willing to help out my kids.”

Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to assuring all children have the opportunity to achieve their full potential, estimates that over 1.7 million California children do not have dental insurance.

A one-day event like Give Kids A Smile Day isn’t a cure-all for such a large-scale problem, but it is a wake-up call about the need of local children for basic oral care.

However, a meaningful volunteer service like that offered by Lakeside Health Center does not create a meaningful health care system that helps children get the dental care they so desperately need. Without the commitment and knowledge of Healthy Start staff, the voluntary contribution of Dr. Prisbrey and Jenkins and their staff, such an effort would not have been possible.

Established in 1999, Lakeside Health Center is one of three nonprofit health facilities operated by Mendocino Community Health Clinic Inc. As a federally qualified health center, it is governed by its community.

If you are interested in participating through its Board of Directors, please contact Kathy MacDougall at 707-462-4511.

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Pieces of glass and pottery were unearthed as part of the cultural resource investigation at Rabbit Hill in Middletown. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Land Trust.

MIDDLETOWN – A recent cultural resource investigation, as part of a land management plan at Rabbit Hill in Middletown, identified one historic archaeological site and several isolated historic features.

Conducted by Dr. John and Cheyanne Parker of Archeological Research in Lucerne, the findings help Lake County Land Trust directors preserve the site and determine best public activities at the park.

The study concludes that, as a Land Trust property, Rabbit Hill teaches us about the natural world, but it also contains important information about the history of Middletown.

As part of the study, Dr. Parker, a registered professional archaeologist, and Cheyanne, with 12 years archaeological field and lab experience, conducted a field inspection of Rabbit Hill.

“Historic records provide information about major events and prominent citizens in Middletown’s past, but no record of daily life for Middletown residents exists during the time a stage came through town once a week,” John Parker said.

Items found in the historic archaeological site suggest general household refuse from the late 1800s, including pieces of ceramic ware, glass bottles, a soldered milk can, and a brass kerosene lamp reservoir.

A concrete cistern reinforced with scrap pieces of farm equipment, suggesting late 1800 or early 1900 construction, was most likely the remains of a water tank that would have allowed gravity flow of water down slope to a residence.

Corrugated roofing material, perhaps remains of a kid’s fort, and a sheep shear stamped with “Keiser Made in the USA” were also found.

Though no structure remains of Huke and Skee Hamann’s residence, the area is marked by concrete on rocks and embedded telephone pole sections. One rock had a concrete base where a commemorative plaque was placed. Local lore says that three embedded rail pieces once supported a lighted cross atop Rabbit Hill.

Remains of a stone lavatory, constructed in 1950s, is slightly downhill from where the Hamanns lived.




A stone bathroom on the Rabbit Hill property. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Land Trust.



Little remains of their residence that is of historic or scientific value; however, Rabbit Hill itself is significant due to the association with the Hamanns.

The Hamanns lived on Rabbit Hill between the 1950s and 1970s. They used their land’s magnetic attraction as a way to introduce Middletown’s youth to the natural world and the concept of living with, not on, the earth.

The couple left Rabbit Hill to Sonoma County’s Madrone Audubon Society, which later deeded the property to Lake County’s Land Trust for protection.

The Lake County Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Lake County’s unique natural habitats and open spaces.

In addition to Rabbit Hill, the group owns and operates the Rodman Slough Preserve at 6350 Westlake Road, Upper Lake.

For more information about Lake County Land Trust, go to . Follow the land trust on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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Northshore Fire Protection District firefighters come up the hillside from Clear Lake, where Northshore Dive Team members placed booms in the water to capture about 10 gallons of gas spilled into the lake from a single crash about one mile east of Glenhaven on Highway 20 on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




GLENHAVEN – Fire and county Environmental Health officials responded to a single car collision Tuesday afternoon, which resulted in a small gas spill into Clear Lake.

The crash, reported just before 4 p.m. by the California Highway Patrol, took place on Highway 20 about a mile east of Glenhaven.

CHP, Northshore Fire Protection District firefighters and Lake County Environmental Health responded to the scene, located near a blind curve in the highway.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said the vehicle, a small blue sedan, was heading westbound in the rainy conditions when the woman driving the vehicle lost control and went off the highway.

The vehicle landed on some rocks on the lakeshore but didn't go into the lake. The top of the vehicle appeared to be partially crushed. Brown said the driver was “very lucky.”

About 10 gallons of gasoline went into the lake, so Northshore Dive Team members were called to the scene, and they placed booms in the water to pick up the gasoline. Brown said the booms will be left in place overnight.

The highway, which had been blocked, had both lanes reopened just after 5:30 p.m., the CHP reported.

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 .



A small sedan with a single occupant went off Highway 20 and landed on rocks on the lakeshore on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




The booms, which are used to absorb hazardous materials, will be left overnight to pick up the 10 gallons of gasoline spilled into the lake by the crash. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



In recent columns I've compared wines to celebrities, and when it comes to describing Malbec Wallace Shawn best embodies the wine.

What, you’re surprised? You didn’t think all grapes are supermodels and square-jawed leading men,

did you? Inconceivable! Sometimes a grape isn’t sexy!

Most people would recognize Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, the egotistical but somehow loveable criminal “mastermind” from the movie “The Princess Bride” who says the overused but unforgettable catch phrase, “INCONCEIVABLE!” But besides being an actor, he’s a comic, playwright and political activist.

The Malbec grape is tannic, thin-skinned, very susceptible to diseases and frost, and has a tendency to “shatter” (without going into huge detail, it means to not produce well for numerous reasons).

Malbec vines are the proverbial 98 pound weakling of the vineyard, which is kind of amusing since it produces a grape with 300 pound flavor. It’s similar in this regard to Wallace Shawn, who in real life is only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, yet he produces characters that are larger than life.

The fact is, Malbec just isn’t a statuesque, buff, sexy grape. Some winemakers may disagree, just like some women might consider Wallace Shawn a hunk of beefcake, but he was once described as “one of the worst and unsightliest actors in this city.”

In 1956 a hard frost killed off 75 percent of all of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux France, Malbec’s homeland. As if to say “You’re more trouble than you are worth,” most of the acreage wasn’t replanted with Malbec but with the more hearty and currently marketable Merlot vines.

Malbec is considered to be one of Bordeaux’s “noble grapes” yet, due to its finicky nature, it has lost favor with winegrowers and is dying a slow death in France. It’s not as if they ever really loved the

grape to begin with, since “Mal Bec” means “bad beak” or “bad mouth” in French.

An annoyingly talkative person is also called “mal bec.” Wallace Shawn, with his whiny kind of voice, could be called a “mal bec.”

The true origin of the name for the vine isn’t known. Usually this wine is inexpensive or used for blending. Argentina, however, has developed a love for Malbec and is planting it and producing it

with a passion. It has become so popular in Argentina that 70 percent of the world’s Malbecs are now produced in Argentina. Because Argentina is flooding the market with their Malbec you can usually find them for between $7 and $14 in your local mega-market.

Wallace Shawn won’t become the next Dirty Harry or John McClain, but put him in an ensemble cast and he’ll steal the show. So much so that all you have to do is say “Inconceivable!” and everyone instantly knows who you are speaking of. There is even a Grand Negas Zek impersonation on YouTube for all of the Star Trek fans.

Wallace Shawn, like Malbec, commands attention. I’m a big Wallace Shawn fan, but if you were to tell me he would be replacing Stallone in the next Rambo movie I’d call you crazy.

Same thing if you told me that Brassfield Estate’s Malbec was voted to be the winner of the 2009 People’s Choice “Best Red Wine of High Valley”… It was?! OK, I’ll admit at times I may be incorrect … so maybe Wallace Shawn as Rambo could work. I guess I’ll have to suffer a little schadenfreude from the Malbec winemakers.

Wallace Shawn is fantastically talented and adds depth, humor and personality to everything that he is a part of. Malbec is the same way. There are good 100-percent Malbec wines, but it does its best work in a blend.

A straight Malbec wine isn’t a leisurely, sit-around-and-drink-on-the-back-deck kind of wine, it needs to be paired with food, and is especially good with rare red meat. Malbec is an “in your face” red wine that slaps your tongue around to make sure it gets its point across.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like heavy tannins in wine, and I don’t like the whininess in Wallace Shawn’s voice. But those tannins and that voice are both the claims to fame for each of them. It is what makes them unique and marketable, just as they are.

Flavor descriptors you can find in Malbec are anise (black licorice), blackberries, black cherry, cassis (currants), citrus, coffee, damson (a tart variety of plum grown for making jams and jellies, the term is

mainly used by wine snobs trying to sound condescending), figs, flowers, lavender, mint, mocha, oak, pepper, plum, roses, sage, yogurt and, my favorite – that I have never heard to describe any other wine

before – fleshiness. Someone needs to explain that one to me.

If you want to start sounding like a pretentious wine snob you can start by embellishing on descriptors, so instead of saying, “It tastes like figs and coffee,” say, “Reminiscent of grilled figs and espresso.”

Try compounding flavors like “blackberry jam,” or bring up obscure references that give no information that the general public can use, such as “Flavor of damson,” or “the taste of purple after it rains.” While researching Malbec I found many of these snobbish descriptors. Again … “fleshiness”?

Malbec’s color is often described as dense, so dense that Malbec is even called the “Black wine.” Many of Wallace Shawn’s plays and characters can be described as dense, dark, and deep. I can’t think of

any of them that can be described as shallow or flighty; well maybe Rex the tyrannosaurus in “Toy Story.”

Malbec can be intense, so intense that often when winemakers consider putting 2 percent Malbec into a Cabernet Sauvignon they end up just adding 1.5 percent instead. Wallace Shawn can also be considered to be intense, being very politically opinionated in his personal and professional life.

This intensity is what makes Malbec such a great blender. Alone it can be an acquired taste but still an outstanding wine, especially if served with a meal. Blended it can add depth and complexity to an

ensemble cast. Either way the idea that you won’t like Malbec in some form is inconceivable!

Lake County Malbec

Blackstone Winery (Lake County Grapes, Sonoma winery)

Brassfield Estate Winery (Best Red Wine of High Valley AVA, Peoples Choice Awards)

Dusinberre’s 100 percent (new branding)

Ceago Vinegarden

Steele Wines Writers Block (10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Cabernet Franc, 5 percent Merlot)

Ledson Winery and Vineyard (Lake County Grapes, Sonoma winery)

McDermaid Family Vineyards (8 percent Petite Verdot)

Moore Family Winery (SOLD OUT)

Zina Hyde Cunningham (Lake County Grapes, Boonville winery)

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

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LAKEPORT – New information about a previous conviction against one of the two men charged with a September murder in Clearlake led to a trial delay on Tuesday and a defense attorney's statement that he plans to seek a mistrial.

Defense attorney Stephen Carter told the court Tuesday morning that he will file a mistrial motion on behalf of his client, Melvin Dale Norton, because the discovery of new information about another felony conviction makes Norton a three strikes candidate.

Judge Arthur Mann said he would hear the motion and arguments when court resumes Wednesday morning. At that time Mann also will hear a motion by prosecutor Art Grothe, who is seeking to amend the charges against Norton to include a second strike enhancement.

Norton, 38, and his codefendant, Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, are on trial for the Sept. 22 death of Shelby Uehling, 25, who had moved to Lake County from Montana earlier in 2009.

Both Edmonds and Norton are each facing a murder charge; Edmonds also is charged with murder with a special allegation of using a knife, and Norton is charged with a special allegation that he used a billy club, assault with a deadly weapon, being an accessory and a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, and is charged with having a previous strike.

The trial – which had been scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday – didn't reconvene until an hour later, after the attorneys went into Mann's chambers and a brief recess was called.

When court was called back into session at 10 a.m. Carter told the court – out of the jury's presence – that he was not prepared to proceed with trial.

The reason, he said, was that Grothe had just advised him that he had found another previous felony conviction which constituted a strike against Norton that hadn't shown up on the rap sheet provided by the Department of Justice.

An abstract of judgment document from a 2001 robbery conviction against Norton revealed that additional felony conviction for battery with serious bodily injury, Grothe told Lake County News later on Tuesday.

“He whacked a guy with a baseball bat and took his bicycle,” Grothe said.

While the robbery conviction showed up, the battery charge didn't, Grothe said, which is unusual because such records are carefully checked and usually “spot on correct.” He attributed it to a clerical error.

He said he spotted the conviction at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday when he was preparing for court and his cross-examination of Norton, who had been set to take the stand that day.

The extra strike enhancement would significantly change the prison time Norton would face if convicted, said Grothe.

As just one example, if Norton were convicted of the charge of being an accessory, it would go from a maximum of six year to 25 years to life, Grothe said.

Judge Mann has the option at sentencing of striking the strike through a “Romero motion,” but Grothe added, “That's nothing that you would want to bet the rest of your life on.”

Defense attorneys say discovery information is critical

In court, Carter said he requested the court clerk pull the original files on Norton's 2001 conviction from storage, which the court clerk indicated they would have for him Tuesday afternoon.

“I need to examine that first of all,” he said.

Second, Carter said he needed to file the mistrial motion.

“This comes very late in the case. The people have rested already,” he said, referring to Grothe's case, which wrapped up on Feb. 18.

“My inclination has become that I need to move for a mistrial,” Carter added. He said he would lay out the reasons for that decision in his motion, and asked for a trial delay until Wednesday.

Mann asked Grothe if he planned to amend the complaint to add the newly discovered felony conviction. Grothe said he was awaiting the court's permission to file it, to which Carter responded that he also wanted a chance to reply to that motion.

Grothe had already submitted a copy of his motion to amend the case against Norton, a copy of which Mann had in hand. The judge took a few moments to read over the document.

“What I would request the court to do is allow the motion to be filed at this point and let us proceed with at least what we can today and put off ruling on that motion until tomorrow,” said Grothe, adding that he understood that Carter needed time.

Mann asked attorney Doug Rhoades, Edmonds' attorney, for his opinion on the matter.

Rhoades said both he and Carter had met at length with their clients on Monday to discuss whether the two defendants would testify, which they decided they would. He said the plan was for Norton to testify first, with Edmonds to follow.

“To put Mr. Edmonds on first now would disrupt what we had laid out,” he said, adding that he understood Carter's dilemma.

When defense attorneys look at discovery materials such as a criminal history, “we rely on that,” said Rhoades, calling that information “absolutely vital.”

The information on the felony changes changes Norton's position dramatically, and increases the penalties, Rhoades pointed out.

“We are obligated to rely on the information that is provided in discovery,” said Rhoades, adding they have no way of getting information but through discovery, and they have to assume it's accurate.

“It certainly is a dramatic alteration of the events that bring us here,” he said.

With the trial now in its seventh week, Rhoades said the new information is somewhat of a bombshell, and he was not opposed to whatever relief is appropriate.

Carter said he would have done many things differently in structuring Norton's defense had he known the prosecution would be alleging two strikes in the case.

He said he hesitated to go into too much detail about how his defense might be altered in front of the prosecution, but he would discuss it with the judge in chambers. Carter said he also would address it in his mistrial motion.

Mann said the law allows criminal complaints to be amended up until sentencing, and the amendments can even be made orally.

He ordered the motion to amend the complaint be filed, and “out of abundance of caution” said he would give Carter the extra time he requested.

Grothe also asked to have Sgt. Tom Clements, the lead investigator on the case who has been beside Grothe at the prosecution table throughout the proceedings, released as a witness, because he had a personal family issue. The defense offered no objection.

Mann had the jury brought in and told them that legal issues had arisen. “Those issues are going to take a little bit longer to solve,” he said, telling them to report Wednesday at around 10 a.m.

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 .

LAKEPORT – A small gathering held Friday in downtown Lakeport sought to rally community members' support for bringing new jobs to Lake County through a new Indian casino.

Nearly two dozen people, some of them members of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo, along with members from other Pomo tribes around the lake, gathered in front of Courthouse Museum on Main Street.

They collected signatures to send to US Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Mike Thompson, requesting there be a stop to off-reservation casinos.

Les Miller, one of the organizers, said they want to see a casino not in Richmond, where the tribe has been proposing to build a large facility, but here in Lake County.

They've proposed that their tribe look at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. Tribal officials haven't formally responded to the idea.

“We are not from Richmond,” Miller said Friday. “We will not move to Richmond.”

Miller and other tribal members spoke over a loud speaker and coaxed people to come over and support their plan.

“The situation is drastic out here in California, you feel me?” said Joe Thomas, a young Pomo. He later carried a sign along the perimeter of the park, which some drivers honked at as they drove by.

The rally drew support from other local natives, including Gary Thomas, whose wife is a Scotts Valley tribal member.

The Thomases had been living in Hayward but decided to come back to Lake County, where Gary Thomas and 24 of his family members were disenrolled from the Elem Colony in 2006. Now, he said his wife's tribe is facing turmoil over the casino question.

“No one wants to hear us,” he said about the concerns over disenrollment and injustices by tribal governments.

Raeven Shepherd, who has many family members who belong to Robinson Rancheria, told Lake County News stories of violent confrontations between her family and that tribe's leadership.

“I support positive outcomes and nothing good is happening because the people sitting in office are messing a lot of things up,” she said of tribal leadership.

As the rally took place during the lunch hour, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and Public Services Director Kim Clymire stopped to listen to the speakers, and they met and chatted with Miller.

Miller, who later continued speaking on the microphone, called the Richmond casino plan a “scam,” and said the tribes can't continue to keep secrets about their plans.

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 .

SPRING VALLEY – Residents in parts of the Spring Valley community are being directed to boil their water temporarily due to a water main break.

Lake County Special Districts issued the order on Friday.

The order explained that due to a recent water main break near the Wolf Creek bridge, the California Department of Health Services is advising residents of Meadow Creek Road and Chalk Mountain Way to use boiled tap water or bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes as a safety precaution.

This only affects properties that could not be valved off from the water main break area, Special Districts reported.

Failure to follow the boil water advisory could result in stomach and intestinal illness, the agency cautioned.

All tap water used for drinking or cooking should be boiled rapidly for at least one minute, which Special Districts said is the preferred method to assure that the water is safe to drink.

An alternative method of purification for residents that do not have gas or electricity available is to use fresh liquid household bleach (Clorox, Purex, etc.). To do so, add eight drops (or 1/4 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of clear water or 16 drops (1/2 teaspoon) per gallon of cloudy water, mix thoroughly, and allow to stand 30 minutes before using.

A chlorine-like taste and odor will result from this purification procedure and is an indication that adequate disinfection has taken place.

Water purification tablets may also be used by following the manufacturers’ instructions.

Emergency water treatment and testing are being conducted by Special Districts staff and an independent laboratory to resolve this water quality emergency.

Special Districts will notify residents as soon as the water is safe to drink.

For more information call Lake County Special Districts, 707-263-0119.

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SONOMA COUNTY – This week, Sonoma State University came under new scrutiny when federal and Sonoma County officials served a search warrant at the university's administrative offices.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said that on Thursday investigators from U. S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of the Inspector General, Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation served the search warrant in conjunction with a joint investigation into allegations of the misuse of federal grant monies.

“We are working closely with local state and federal authorities to determine whether there was misappropriation of federal funds,” Passalacqua said in a written statement.

Passalacqua reported that the case was initiated based on a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resulting from an internal Sonoma State University audit of California Institute on Human Services (CIHS).

CIHS, created in 1979, was a department at Sonoma State University and was in charge of obtaining federal and state grants at Sonoma State University.

The case remains under investigation by a joint federal and state task force of investigators as they continue to analyze the voluminous amounts of documents associated with the alleged misappropriation of as many as 20 separate state and federal grant funding sources administered by Sonoma State.

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