Thursday, 25 July 2024




LAKE COUNTY – A 19-year-old Clearlake man has been sentenced to four years in prison for the death of a man he stabbed in a confrontation last year.

Bruce Emerson Wells was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on Sept. 11 for the March 24, 2006 stabbing of Samuel Shull, who died the following day, as Lake County News previously reported.

A party with several teenagers who were drinking alcohol had taken place at Shull's home that night, according to defense and prosecution reports.

Both Wells and Shull were intoxicated, and a confrontation ensued after Shull asked the teen to leave his home. Wells stabbed Shull in the chest with a knife with a 3 and a half inch blade, and was subsequently struck over the head with a walking stick by Shull's stepson, Jacob Rines.

Roy Miller, Wells' defense attorney, told Lake County News said Wells was placed in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital's intensive care unit for four days due to the head injury, which he previously said had caused Wells memory loss.

On Monday, Wells was sentenced to four years in state prison, said Deputy District Attorney David McKillop, who prosecuted the case.

The District Attorney's Office had charged Wells with murder, but after two hours of deliberations the jury instead found for the lesser involuntary manslaughter charge, as Lake County News reported last month.

“The verdict was less than we hoped for,” McKillop said. “The actual sentence was what we expected.”

The maximum sentence Wells could have received was five years, McKillop added.

McKillop said Wells was tried as an adult based on a fitness hearing. The stabbing took place about three months before Wells' 18th birthday.

Miller said Wells was arrested on March 27, 2006, upon being discharged from the hospital, and has remained in the Lake County Jail ever since.

Given the time he's already served, Miller said he believes Wells will only serve another 10 months at San Quentin State Prison.

He said the least sentence Wells could have received was probation, which is a hard sentence to get in Lake County, according to other cases he's looked at.

“I was hoping he would be granted probation but I wasn't counting on it,” he said.

Miller added that Wells is grateful for the involuntary manslaughter verdict, “given all that happened in this case.”

Once Wells is released from prison, he'll have a neurological evaluation to see if he has any lasting damage from the brain injury, and then Miller has urged him to get his GED. “He's going to have to start his life over.”

Miller said Wells has family and friends supporting him, and that he also will be helping Wells transition to the outside world.

“Making the transition depends a lot on a kid's background,” said Miller. “This kid's background was difficult even by Clearlake's standards.”

Miller explained that Wells grew up in troubled home, with his parents battling drug and alcohol issues, his mother spending time in prison, and he and his brother being raised by a neighbor because their home lacked running water and electricity. “It was rough.”

Child Protective Services didn't get involved in the boys' case, said Miller.

“He fell through the cracks,” said Miller, formerly a deputy district attorney in Lake County. “I've seen a lot of kids fall through the cracks up there.”

Lake County News was unable to contact Shull's family for comment for this article.

Shull was a Vietnam veteran, who served in both the Army and Air Force.

His obituary stated that he “loved to smile and had a positive outlook on life,” was a 49ers fan, enjoyed long walks with wife Linda and their dog, Candy, and was also a gardener and fisherman.

Shull left behind a large family that included his wife, brothers and a sister, children and stepchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Narsai David will be the wine auction's master of ceremonies. Courtesy photo.


KELSEYVILLE – The weekend is the eighth annual Lake County Wine Auction, an event that over the years has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for great local causes.

The auction takes place this Saturday, Oct. 20.

Presented by the Lake County Wine Alliance, the gala charity event starts at 5 p.m. on the green under the big tent at Buckingham Golf & Country Club, Kelseyville.

Narsai David, the food and wine editor for KCBS Radio in San Francisco, is this year's master of ceremonies, the Lake County Wine Alliance reported.

David is sought after as the host for innumerable charity fundraising functions. The Wine Alliance is honored to have his assistance this year to create greater awareness of the community groups that have been selected as beneficiaries.

For 16 years Narsai David owned Narsai’s, the internationally renowned restaurant in Kensington, with a wine list described by the New York Times as “one of the ten finest in the world.”

A former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, David also was the host of the nationally syndicated PBS television series Over Easy and co-host of Cook Off America.

In 2000 Narsai added “winemaker” to his resume with the release of his Narsai Cabernet Sauvignon from the Narsai and Venus David Vineyards in St. Helena. He continues to make celebrity chef appearances throughout the world.

Narsai David is president of the board of the Berkeley Community Fund, foundation board member and past president of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, president of the Assyrian Aid Society of America, and founding member of the San Francisco Hunger Awareness Project.

David’s past community and professional service includes serving as chairman of the Awards Committee for the Berkeley Community Fund, president of the board of the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, host of the annual “Narsai Toast to the Arts,” host of the Alameda County Meals on Wheels Dinner, and honorary chair of the VNA Hospices Annual Wine Tasting Dinner.

McLaren serves as event auctioneer

This year’s Wine Auction will feature Archie McLaren as auctioneer. McLaren is the founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic, the prestigious and comprehensive food and wine event now in its twenty-third year in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. With revenues exceeding $1 million dollars, this Classic is one of America’s most successful charity wine auctions.

McLaren is no stranger to the world of fine cuisine and rare wine. He is the founding Bailli of the Central Coast Chapter of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, a member of the Wine & Food Society of San Francisco, the San Francisco Chapter of Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, and the Marin County Chapter of the International Wine & Food Society. He is the former cellarmaster of the Avila Bay Wine Society and the former president of the Central Coast Wine Society.

Active in his local community, Archie has been chairman/executive director of both the San Luis Obispo Vintners & Growers Association and the Paso Robles Westside Grand Crew. He is one of only two Americans inducted into the Austrian Wine Brotherhood. Archie recently joined the Wine Committee of COPIA in Napa.

On San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Public Radio KCBX, Archie has hosted a fine wine program for twenty-three years, and has been a writer on fine wine for Adventures in Dining, the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, and Santa Barbara Magazine.

McLaren has received the annual Tourism Award from the San Luis Obispo Visitors & Convention Bureau. His civic activities include president of the board of the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival and a member of the board of the San Luis Obispo Arts Council.

Archie McLaren’s auctioneering skills and wine knowledge is expected to bring high bids from guests at the Wine Auction.

Beneficiaries for this year's event

Five nonprofit organizations, five high schools and five senior centers have been selected as beneficiaries to receive proceeds from this year’s gala.

Recipients include Sponsoring Survivorship, the Adult Day Care/Respite Day Care Centers, Habitat for Humanity of Lake County, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Lake County, Lake County Community Radio/KPFZ, the fine arts programs at the five Lake County high schools, and the Meals on Wheels on programs at five senior centers.

Funds in excess of $530,000 have been contributed to community groups in Lake County from the proceeds of the first six auctions. The auction chair is Marie Beery, assisted by Linda Byrd, co-chair, both of Kelseyville. They are assisted by a large committee of volunteers who work throughout the year to create a successful charity event.

Congressman Mike Thompson will present a special Congressional resolution honoring Gerald Ployez, the first president of the Lake County Wine Alliance. Thompson is a founder and co-chair of the Congressional wine caucus and a strong supporter of the wine industry in Lake County.

Organizers and sponsors

Members of the Lake County Alliance board are Margaret Walker, president; Marie Beery, vice president; Pamela Shine-Duncan, secretary; Rob Roumiguiere, treasurer; Judy Luchsinger, Jim Fetzer, and Wilda Shock.

Premier sponsors this year include Lockheed Martin, Neasham Financial & Estate Planning, Kelseyville Lumber, Conser Land Surveying, Shannon Ridge Vineyards & Winery, Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, Bob Bartley Pumps, Kathy Fowler Dealerships, and Saw Shop Gallery Bistro.

Participating wineries include Big Valley Wines, Brassfield Estate Winery, Ceago Vinegarden, Cougar’s Leap Winery, Dusinberre Cellars, EdenCrest Vineyards & Winery, Gregory Graham Wines,

High Valley Vineyards, Langtry Estate & Vineyards, Moore Family Winery, Noggle Vineyards, Ployez Winery, Rosa d’Oro Vineyards, Roumiguiere Vineyards, Shannon Ridge Vineyards & Winery, Six Sigma Winery, Sol Rouge, Steele Wines, Tulip Hill Winery, Wildhurst Vineyards and Zoom Wines.

Participating restaurants and food purveyors are Angelina’s Bakery, Lakeport; Aromas, Culinary Arts Program, Yuba College, Clearlake; Blue Wing Saloon & Café, Upper Lake; Bruno’s Shop Smart, Lakeport; Carlos & Vinny’s, Lakeport; Foods Etc., Clearlake; Hardester’s Market, Middletown;

Ku-hu-gui Café, Konocti Vista Casino, Lakeport; Lindy’s Quality Catering, Lakeview Market & Deli, Lucerne; Marcie’s Brick Grill, Kelseyville; Park Place Restaurant, Lakeport; Ray’s Foods, Clearlake;

Riviera Hills Restaurant & Lounge, Kelseyville; Robinson Rancheria Grille, Nice; Rob Roy Golf Club, Cobb; Safeway Market, Lakeport; Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, Kelseyville; Sentry Market, Nice; Studebaker’s Deli & Coffee House, Kelseyville; WaterColor Restaurant, Soda Bay; Yerba Santa Goat Dairy, Scotts Valley; and Zino’s Ristorante & Inn, Soda Bay;

Auction information and how to get tickets

With 30 lots in the live auction, and more than 70 lots in the silent auction, the charity event is all about bidding often and bidding high. A feature every year is the original watercolor-on-silk painting created by local artist John R. Clarke. “Wine Colored Days” is another evocative piece of artwork that is certain to excite arts patrons.

Included in the live auction are numerous wine and travel packages, including destinations such as a Mexican Riviera cruise, a week in a Puerto Vallarta penthouse, a trout fishing expedition in Montana, a Lake Tahoe cabin, and a springtime visit to Atlanta. Closer to home, Ceago Vinegarden, the Tallman Hotel, Brassfield Estate Winery, and Wildhurst Vineyards are offering special activities which include their wines and food.

New this year, and of definite interest to true wine lovers, is a package from the Central Coast Wine Classic that includes tickets for the 2008 event and an unforgettable black-tie dinner at Hearst Castle, an event only available to sponsors and Wine Classic dignitaries.

Tickets to the black-tie optional event are $100 each. A limited quantity is available by calling the Wine Alliance, 866-279-WINE. The evening includes wine selections from 21 Lake County wineries, participation by 22 food purveyors, live and silent auctions, and music by Jim Williams & Friends.


Drugs, guns and other materials seized Oct. 10 from Thomas McGann's Lakeport home. Photo courtesy of Lake County Narcotic Task Force.


LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man was arrested last week after the Lake County Narcotic Task Force served a search warrant on his home and seized marijuana and methamphetamines.

A report from Task Force Commander Richard Russell said on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 10, agents from the Lake County Narcotic Task Force with assistance from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Probation Department, Mendocino Major Crimes Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation served a search warrant at 2603 Hartley Road, Lakeport.

Agents contacted Thomas J. McGann, age 43, and Nicole M. Rosales, age 32, at the residence.

Task force agents had been investigating McGann’s illegal marijuana grow operation for approximately one month, according to Russell's report.

McGann was growing approximately 40 marijuana plants in his yard, which is less than 1,000 feet from Clear Lake High School, Russell reported. As there were no outward signs of the marijuana grow operation being for medical purposes a search warrant was authored and signed by a Lake County Superior Court Judge.

During the service of the search warrant agents located another 122 marijuana plants growing indoors in a portion of the garage which had been converted for the sole purpose of clandestine marijuana cultivation and processing, according to Russell.

More than 120 pounds of processed marijuana was seized from the location along with 28 various types of firearms, including a loaded .44 magnum revolver that McGann maintained on the headboard of his bed, and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition, Russell's report stated.

Agents located approximately 10 grams of methamphetamine along with items which tend to prove sales of the drug in McGann’s bedroom, according to Russell. All of the marijuana gardens and the property were maintained under electronic audio and visual surveillance from within the residence.

Russell also reported that Lake County Animal Control was requested to remove the two large dogs McGann had roaming the property to protect his “cash crop.”

McGann claimed the marijuana was for medical purposes but was unable to produce any valid marijuana recommendations but his own, according to Russell. Numerous other Proposition 215 marijuana recommendations were located but were beyond the legal expiration date of one year.

Agents seized all of the above listed items of evidence except for six mature marijuana plants and 8 ounces of processed marijuana, according to the report. These are the amounts allowed by law under Senate Bill 420 and 11362.77. of the California Health and Safety Code.

McGann was arrested for cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana, committing a felony while in possession of a firearm, possession for sale of methamphetamine, cultivating marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of a dangerous weapon, being armed with a firearm while under the influence of a controlled substance and other related offenses, Russell's report explained. He was booked at the Lake County jail prior to being released on bail.

Nicole Rosales, who does not reside at the suspect's residence, was released without charges.

“It has become common practice within Lake County and the surrounding areas for individuals to grow large amounts of marijuana for sale attempting to use the legal protection of the medical marijuana initiatives,” Russell stated in the report. “This has created a major problem for law enforcement and our local communities who now have to deal with the threat of violence and associated crimes involved with the overwhelming marijuana cultivation and sales industry.”

Russell added, “Without legislative changes regarding the growing and sale of marijuana this issue will continue. Violence associated with this illegal activity will rise and our already strained law enforcement resources will be further depleted.”



LAKE COUNTY – On Thursday the House of Representatives didn't manage to gather enough votes to override President George W. Bush's veto of a health care program for needy children.

The House fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to save the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), HR 976, from the president's veto, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.

Bush vetoed the bill Oct. 3, saying that the bill raised spending by as much as $50 million, that it would cover children in households with incomes of as much as $83,000 annually and would raise taxes, according to a White House statement.

In his Oct. 6 radio address, Bush called the bill “deeply flawed,” and said it was an “incremental step” toward Congress' goal of government-run health care.

Thompson reacted Thursday by saying that “Members of Congress who chose to walk lock-step with the president rather than represent their constituents have kept millions of children from getting the health care they desperately need.”

The bipartisan bill, said Thompson, was to provide coverage to more than 10 million children from families that can’t afford private insurance.

“In addition to being supported by the vast majority of Americans, this bill is supported by 43 governors and hundreds of health-related organizations, including the health insurance companies. And, it’s completely paid for,” he said. “Those Members of Congress who voted against this bill and then call themselves compassionate conservatives should take a long, hard look in the mirror.”

Thompson's office reported that SCHIP would continue coverage for 6.6 million children, including more than 1,600 kids in Lake County.

In addition, HR 974 would extend coverage to 4 million children who qualify, but are not currently enrolled, Thompson's office reported. California has already identified 200,000 uninsured children who could benefit from this program if the current bill became law.

SCHIP was the product of months of compromise between Democrats and Republicans, said Thompson, “so when opponents say they’re waiting for a compromise bill, they’re blowing a lot of hot air.”

He added, “Claims that this bill provides coverage to adults and illegal immigrants or raises the income eligibility are equally false. This bill does not change the eligibility for SCHIP at all. It simply increases the resources available for SCHIP so kids who aren’t currently enrolled but qualify can get the coverage they need.”

State Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka) also issued a statement on the vote's failure to override the veto, which she said was deeply disappointing, although not entirely surprising.

“It is a sad day for California’s children and children across this nation,” she said. “The veto override places California’s children in jeopardy. Our kids are our future, and they certainly deserve better than this.”

Berg's office reported that, without federal funding, California’s children are at-risk of losing health insurance. State programs cover about 800,000 children with family incomes at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

Said Thompson, “We’re going to continue to fight for this bill until we prevail. Reauthorizing SCHIP in order to expand health care for our children is a fight we cannot afford to lose.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Sgt. Jim Samples found 127 pounds of marijuana buds in black plastic bags, a 9 mm handgun and 9 mm cartridges during the search. Courtesy photo.


LAKE COUNTY – On Tuesday Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested eight men on a variety of drug-related charges, with two of the men facing additional counts relating to a concealed firearm.

Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Wednesday that Sgt. Jim Samples and Deputy Carla Hockett arrested the men after Samples spotted attempted a traffic stop on one of the two vehicles in which the men were riding.

Brown's report explained that at 10:35 p.m. Tuesday Samples was patrolling in a marked sheriff's car along Highway 20 when he saw a brown GMC pick up following a white GMC Suburban at an unsafe distance.

Samples followed the two vehicles, Brown reported, and as he did so the pickup increased its following distance. The Suburban then slowed to 40 miles per hour and began driving erratically.

Brown said Samples attempted to place his patrol car between the pickup and the Suburban so that he could make a traffic stop of the Suburban. As a result the pickup decreased its following distance and wouldn't allow Samples to get between the two vehicles. When Samples used emergency lights and his turn indicator the pickup moved out of his way.

Samples asked Lake County Central Dispatch to check license plate numbers of both vehicles, Brown said. Central Dispatch told Samples that both vehicles were registered to the same person.

Brown reported that Samples stopped the Suburban on Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks, while the pickup continued west. Samples asked Deputy Carla Hockett to attempt to locate and stop the pickup.

After he had stopped the Suburban Samples contacted Carlos Eduardo Morales, 21, of Boonville and Israel Aburto Araiza, 21, of Boonville, the vehicle's two occupants, according to Brown's report.

Samples could smell a strong odor of marijuana inside the Suburban and the driver, Morales, was unlicensed, reported Brown.

As a result Samples detained the two men and searched the Suburban, and found 127 pounds of marijuana buds in black plastic bags, a 9 mm handgun and loose 9 mm cartridges, Brown reported.

Araiza later said that he unloaded the handgun as Samples spoke to Morales, said Brown. Samples also found a handheld radio.

Meanwhile, Deputy Hockett located and stopped the pickup on Highway 20 in Lucerne. She contacted Jose Fernandez Rodriguez, 24, of Santa Rosa; Felix Chaves Ramirez, 19, of Rancho Cordova; Jose De Mendoza, 36, of Rancho Cordova; Diego Cervantez Zavala, 28, of Rancho Cordova; Moises Farias Chavez, 30, of Rancho Cordova; and Arnulfo Chavez Ramirez, 28, of Rancho Cordova inside the pickup.

Hockett found additional handheld radios, which were tuned to the same frequency as the radio in the Suburban. She also found additional black plastic bags.


All eight men were arrested for possession of marijuana and conspiracy to commit a crime. 


Morales and Araiza also were charged with possession of a concealable firearm in a vehicle and possession of a firearm while committing a felony.

Except for Jose Rodriguez, all of the men remain in jail on immigration holds, according to jail records.




The handgun and loose rounds found by Sgt. Samples. Courtesy photo.


Ronald Craig was sentenced to four years, eight months in prison Monday. Lake County Jail photo.


LAKE COUNTY – A Kelseyville man has been sentenced to state prison for the molestation of two young girls.

Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine reported that on Monday Judge Arthur Mann sentenced Ronald Kenneth Craig, 66, to the upper term of four years and eight months in prison for sex crimes against the two girls, ages 6 and 14.

Mann imposed the maximum prison sentence after denying the defendant’s motion for probation, according to DeChaine.

DeChaine prosecuted the case, which was investigated by Detective Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Craig had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of child molestation on April 27, DeChaine reported.

With regard to the 6-year-old girl, DeChaine said Craig pleaded guilty to attempting to commit a lewd or lascivious act with a minor under the age of 14 years in violation of penal code sections 664/288(a).

Attempting to commit a lewd act with a child under the age of 14 – in this case, with a 6 year old – is categorized as a serious strike in California, DeChaine reported. As such, any future felony conviction can result in the doubling of the new sentence.

With regard to Craig’s 14 year old victim, Craig also had pleaded guilty to committing a lewd act with a 14 or 15 year old in violation of penal code section 288(c), according to DeChaine.

DeChaine said when a defendant is accused of certain sex crimes in different counties, Penal code section 784.7 permits the prosecution of those crimes in a single jurisdiction.

The crime involving the 14-year-old victim was committed in Sacramento County, DeChaine reported. However, the Lake County District Attorney’s Office successfully obtained approval from Sacramento to prosecute Craig in Lake County for the crime involving his 14-year-old victim.

Craig was arrested on Aug. 4, 2006, and was booked into the county jail, DeChaine said. Throughout the year-long prosecution of the case, Craig has been held in custody with bail set in the amount of $250,000.00.

Craig also had been charged with annoying or molesting a third victim, an 8-year-old boy, according to DeChaine. The charge involving the boy was a misdemeanor charge in violation of penal code section 647.6(a) and was dismissed as part of the negotiated plea.

Though dismissed, DeChaine said it was dismissed in a manner that permitted Judge Mann to consider the allegation involving the boy in determining the appropriate prison term.

All three children alleged that Craig offered or gave them small amounts of money in conjunction with of each offense, DeChaine said.

Family members of each of the victims provided emotional victim impact statements at the time of Craig's sentencing, according to DeChaine. Crystal Martin of the Victim Witness Division of the District Attorney’s Office works closely with victims of sexual assault and provided needed emotional support in the courtroom.

After hearing arguments from the attorneys, Judge Mann imposed the maximum sentence despite the fact that Craig had no prior criminal record, said DeChaine.

The court found that despite Craig having no prior record, he took advantage of a position of trust, and also found that the 6-year-old victim was particularly vulnerable, warranting the upper term sentence, DeChaine reported.

When Ronald Craig is released from prison, DeChaine said he will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.


Ginny Craven receives a flag and a certificate from Staff Sergeant Josh Bryant during a care package packing party last month. Photo by Ron Quick.


LAKE COUNTY – A local organization formed to help support US troops overseas has been nominated for a national award.

Kelseyville resident Ginny Craven, founder of Operation Tango Mike, was notified Tuesday that the group has been nominated for the Above and Beyond Effort Award Award in the Microsoft/USO Salute to the Troops Program.

Operation Tango Mike translates to “Thanks much” in military lingo. Craven formed the group to send troops much-needed support – both emotional and practical. On a monthly basis the group of dedicated volunteers packs dozens of care packages to send overseas.

It's the kind of effort that the Microsoft Above & Beyond Program was created to spotlight.

Microsoft and the United Service Organizations (USO) announced Sept. 18 that they were introducing the awards, meant to recognize “contributions of the military community of friends, family and other individuals who support U.S. troops and/or their families in 2007.”

Adriana Marino, Microsoft Above & Beyond Program coordinator, notified Craven Tuesday of the nomination, the day after the nomination period ended.

“Your extraordinary dedication in supporting our Armed forces is evident through your exemplification of its core values of courage, comfort, and selflessness,” Marino wrote in an e-mail message.

Marino told Craven that if Operation Tango Mike is selected as a finalist, the group's story will be shared with the public and included in an online vote to decide the award winner.


The chosen winners will be invited, with airfare expenses paid, for the Above and Beyond Awards Gala at New York City's famed Rainbow Room on Nov. 12, according to Marino. The event will be held as a part of Microsoft and USO’s inaugural “Salute to Our Troops,” a private, complimentary performance of the 75th Celebration of the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

Craven said Thursday that she doesn't know who submitted the nomination, which was both surprising and flattering.

“The nomination is a superb testament to the Lake County community,” she said. “Though I started Operation Tango Mike, it has grown into something very special and is sustained through donations and the good work of volunteers. Kudos to Lake County. Supporting our troops is the right thing to do and is a labor of love.”

She told Operation Tango Mike supporters in an e-mail message this week that the nomination “speaks volumes about what we can do when we put our minds to it.”

A panel of judges will narrow the nominations to finalists in each category, from which the awardees will be chosen through an online public vote at the Above and Beyond Web site, according to Microsoft.

The final nominees will be announced Oct. 22, at which time the public can visit the Above and Beyond Awards Web site and vote for the winners.

On Oct. 22, visit the Above and Beyond Web site at to see if Operation Tango Mike has made the finals and, if they have, to cast your vote in support of the group.

For more information about Operation Tango Mike, visit the group's Web site at

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Evan Dills and one of his beloved vintage tractors. Photo by Greg Dills.

LAKEPORT – A new family event is coming to Lake County, and it’s a 17-year-old's enthusiasm for vintage tractors that has made it happen.

Evan Dills, a life-long resident of rural Scotts Valley, approached neighbors Mike and Stephanie Sutton with his idea for a vintage tractor show a few months ago. The Suttons welcomed the new endeavor, and thought it was a great addition to the activities that The Sutton Family Farm has introduced in recent years.

It’s no surprise that the family that brought Lake County’s first corn maze to the area would welcome the tractor show, to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20.

Evan, and his dad, Greg, are real aficionados when it comes to antique farm equipment. The team has lovingly restored tractors, gas engines and several farm implements, with more projects in the works.

Anyone accompanying the pair on a ride down any country road, will soon hear, “Hey, Dad, did you see that tractor?” Evan, however, will rattle off the make and year like he was around when it was new. When it comes to vintage farm equipment, this young man knows what he’s talking about, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

If you own vintage tractors, antique farm implements, or old gas engines that you’d like to display, call Evan or Greg Dills at 263-1966 to participate. Help shine a spotlight on our agricultural heritage, and be part of this inaugural event.

This year, The Sutton Family Farm opened its corn maze to young and old alike on Oct. 1, and will continue until Oct. 31. Every Friday and Saturday night is “flash-light night,” which has become another popular feature of the corn maze.

Last weekend saw the first cart rides around the farm, in a cart pulled by a beautiful Dutch draft mare. More horse-drawn tours will be available on Oct. 27 and 28, from noon to 5 p.m.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar. On Oct. 20, along with the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off starting at 10 a.m., Lake County will welcome the Vintage Tractor Show. Bring the family to see the display of these farming treasures, and witness some of these wonderful machines in action. While you’re at it, pick out a pumpkin, go for a cart ride, visit the gift shop, and see it you can find your way out of the corn maze.

The Sutton Family Farm, located at 2405 Scotts Valley Road, just outside Lakeport, is the perfect spot to take your family for a memorable outing. It’s the place where new traditions will soon become old family favorites.


Samples of Safeway's exterior improvements on display at the Lakeport Community Development Department. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – Businesses in Lakeport’s Willow Tree Shopping Center on 11th Street have a new landlord – Safeway has purchased the property.

“We closed escrow and we are now the proud owners,” said Safeway spokesperson Espe Greenwood.

Lake County News obtained a copy of a certified letter Safeway sent to businesses dated Aug. 23 notifying them that as of Aug. 22 Safeway had taken ownership of the shopping center.

Safeway purchased the shopping center from Seagulls Unlimited, a Santa Cruz-based company which, according to Lake County Assessor’s Records, purchased the property in November of 2000.

Greenwood said negotiations took place all the way up to the last minute.

Safeway has been in that location since 1981, said Greenwood. The store employs 100 people.

The shopping center is divided into two parcels – 979 11th Street, an 8.4-acre parcel, and 1071 11th Street, which is 3.9 acres, according to Lake County Assessor Records. The transfer amounts for both properties totaled $16 million in 2000.

Terms of Lakeport’s Safeway purchase were not disclosed.

Safeway’s 2006 annual report noted that the corporation had 1,761 stores across California, the Western United States, the Chicago metropolitan area and the Mid-Atlantic region, along with Canada.

Of those 1,761 stores, the company owns 40 percent of them, the report states.

With the purchase of the Lakeport store, Safeway now owns both of its Lake County stores. The Clearlake Safeway store, located at 14922 Olympic Drive sits on a four-acre parcel that the company purchased in 1990, according to Lake County Assessor’s Records, with a transfer amount of $3,161,500.

The corporation’s decisions to buy real estate depends on a lot of factors, said Greenwood. She added that buying stores it leases isn’t necessarily a trend for Safeway.

In the case of Lakeport’s store, Greenwood said the company chose to buy for a lot of reasons, which she didn’t specify. “It’s very hard to say that any one thing stands out from the rest.”


Greenwood said Lakeport’s Safeway is slated for a remodel which will convert it to the company’s new “Lifestyle” store format.

The Lifestyle store will have “the bells and whistles,” said Greenwood, including an expanded wine section featuring local wines, a larger floral department which will feature bouquets and arrangements for special occasions, and an expanded bakery with a hearth oven.

The remodeled store also will include more energy efficient refrigerators and new lighting, with the company changing from fluorescent lights, said Greenwood.

All of those changes are meant to reduce the company’s environmental footprint, reduce costs and make Safeway more competitive, Greenwood added.

The remodel also will increase the size of the store from 40,342 to 46,982, according to plans submitted to the Lakeport Community Development Department. Greenwood added that most Safeway stores are in the 40,000 to 55,000 square foot range.

Greenwood said the company plans to invest more in its properties. Safeway conducted 276 Lifestyle remodels in 2006, according to its annual report.

The remodel plans include removing the parking along the front of the store and moving handicapped parking out into the first rows of the main parking area.

The front façade and the sides of the Safeway building will undergo significant changes, according to the plans submitted to the city, which were drawn up by Nadel Retail Architects of Sacramento.

The building's front overhang will be removed, and decorative touches including planters and a wooden trellis will be added. The two main entrances will remain in their current locations. An area also will be added for a pharmacy.

The plans are being reviewed right now, said Community Development Director Richard Knoll.

He said he believes the remodel will go to the Lakeport Planning Commission for approval in November or December.

“If everything went in a quick order they’ll probably be ready for a building permit in spring,” said Knoll.


John Peterson, chief operating officer of Mendo-Lake Credit Union, told Lake County News that his company was notified of Safeway’s plans to purchase the complex during the first week of July.

The plans Safeway has submitted to the city’s Community Development Department include moving a portion of the shops between Safeway and Longs Drugs. Specifically, the shops that would be removed are leased by orthopedic hand surgeon Rebecca Jensen, Willow Tree Dental, Advance America and Bandbox Music.

Ron Benkelman, owner of Bandbox Music, said he has been in his location near Safeway since February of 1999. “This is the best location I’ve had in the county,” said Benkelman.

Bandbox Music has been in business in Lake County for 51 years altogether, said Benkelman, who purchased the business in 1990. During that time the business has had six locations. “This is by far the nicest.”

He said his business benefits from the foot traffic in that part of the shopping center.

Safeway is offering Benkelman the chance to move to another area of the shopping center, he said.

So far, Benkelman said he has been offered a spot near Longs, but nothing has been finalized. He also doesn’t know when Safeway will expect businesses to move under the new leases, and said merchants like him want to know that date.

Greenwood said Safeway will definitely be relocating some of its tenants. “It will be happening next year.”

Benkelman said the last owners treated the property badly and didn’t make an effort at upkeep, a statement with which Lynn Fegan, owner of Catfish Books, agreed.

The experience with Safeway as a landlord has so far been positive said Fegan, who added that she made out her first rent check to Safeway for the month of September.

Fegan, who has owned the store for 14 years, said Catfish Books has been in the same location for 27 years, since the shopping center was built.

She said last year her business was up 35 percent. However, with the change in ownership and the plans for demolishing one part of the shops, Fegan said she’s unsure of what the future will hold for her business.

The big question, she said, is will she be required to move or will Safeway choose to not renew her lease, causing her to close?

The other major change tenants expect is a raise in rent.

Benkelman said he is prevented by the terms of his lease from discussing his current rental rate, but said he expects it to rise to $15 per square foot per year, which for his 1,200 square foot shop would equal $1,500 a month, a price he said is much more in line with Pleasanton’s rates than Lake County’s.

“All change is for the good. All change is uncomfortable,” said Benkelman.

Greenwood said Safeway is committed to improve the shopping center. “We’ll definitely invest a lot of money in this property to make it nice.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Some of the materials found by agents inside the Lower Lake residence. Courtesy photo.

LOWER LAKE – Local law enforcement officials, aided by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seized thousands of dollars of marijuana at a Lower Lake residence on Tuesday and arrested a man wanted on a federal warrant in Texas.

A report from Commander Richard Russell of the Lake County Narcotic Task Force said that the task force, DEA, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, Lake County Sheriff's deputies and Lake County Probation officers went to the residence, located at 18331 Ponderosa Trail Road, at 9 a.m. Tuesday to attempt an open-field marijuana crop eradication.

As the agents approached the property they observed two vehicles leaving a residence on that property, Russell reported.

Agents contacted and detained four subjects. Two of them – Jack Stamper, 61, and Richard Bonnet, 50 – were determined to reside on the property and were in the process of cultivating and harvesting 927 marijuana plants, according to Russell.

Stamper and Bonnet were arrested for cultivation, possession for sale and transportation of marijuana, said Russell. Further investigation revealed that Jack Stamper was actually Larry Monk who was wanted on a federal warrant by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for weapons violations in Texas. Bonnet was found to be wanted on a no-bail warrant in Napa County for domestic violence.

Russell said agents obtained a search warrant for the residence, where they found approximately 40 pounds of processed marijuana bud in a safe along with $2,000 cash. Also seized inside the residence was a small amount of concentrated cannabis – “hash” – and $1,109 in cash.

Agents then searched the barn on the property, Russell reported, which revealed approximately 20 more pounds of processed marijuana.

CAMP officers subsequently eradicated 927 marijuana plants from the property, said Russell.

Additionally, agents found in the vehicle that Monk was driving approximately 3.5 pounds of marijuana that was heat-sealed and packaged for shipment via US mail.

Monk and Bonnet were transported to the Lake County Jail where they remain in custody pending local charges as well as the preexisting arrest warrant charges from other jurisdictions.

“It is becoming more prevalent every year for criminals from other areas of the state and country to move to Lake County to grow marijuana,” said Russell. “As this practice spreads, Lake County will see more violence associated with criminals using the state marijuana initiatives to commercially grow and sell large amounts of marijuana.”



Officers eradicated 927 marijuana plants. Courtesy photo.




Thousands of dollars in cash also were seized. Courtesy photo.




A view of the property, located on Ponderosa Trail Road. Courtesy photo.





LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake office has announced it will conduct a sobriety checkpoint this Saturday, Oct. 20.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia reported that sobriety checkpoints will be staffed by CHP and allied agency officers who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers.

Drug recognition experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use, Garcia explaiend. The officers also will be equipped with state of the art handheld breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.

“Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist by targeting roads where there is a high frequency of drunk driving,” said CHP Commander Lt. Dane Hayward.

Hayward explained that a sobriety checkpoint is an effective tool for achieving this goal and is designed to augment existing patrol operations. By publicizing the checkpoint, he added, CHP believes it can deter motorists from drinking and driving.

“Traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can be expected to be arrested,” said Hayward. “Our objective is to send a clear message to those deciding to drive while impaired.”


LUCERNE County officials have located an area near an old mercury mine along Highway 20 with elevated mercury levels, and are now conducting monitoring to watch the spot.

Tom Smythe of the county’s Water Resources Division said the area is immediately adjacent to the old Utopia Mine along the road shoulder outside of Lucerne.

The Utopia Mine was open for two years about the start of the 20th century, Smythe explained.

“We have a grant to do hot spot monitoring around the county for mercury to determine if there’s any mercury hot spots in the Clear Lake Watershed,” said Smythe.

That’s what led to the discovery of the higher mercury levels, he said.

One sample showed the presence of mercury at 17 parts per million in sediment, said Smythe, as compared to a normal mercury found in the lake’s upper arm, which measures about 1 part per million.

Smythe said the county is doing additional monitoring to try to determine how extensive the mercury is at that spot, and what it might be adding to the lake’s sediments.

“That testing is still ongoing,” said Smythe, and is located on the shoulder in the road cut.

The mine had two adits – or horizontal shafts – that came out on the shoreline, Smythe explained, and are located in Caltrans' right-of-way.

Smythe said it’s believed Caltrans plugged those shafts with concrete in the 1960s, although the agency hasn’t found the records to prove its involvement.

“We're pretty sure it was Caltrans,” said Smythe.

There is a total maximum daily load (TMDL) stakeholder group of which Caltrans is a member, said Smythe. The group looks at issues surrounding minerals affecting the lake's health. “We have been keeping this group apprised of what we've got.”

The ball may be in Caltrans’ court as far as mitigating the site, said Smythe.

On Sept. 10 the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board sent a letter to Caltrans saying that Caltrans needed to submit a plan within 90 days of the letter's date to explain what they will do to address the mercury levels.

Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie Jr. confirmed that Caltrans received the regional water board's letter.

“We are in the process right now of performing our own soil and water testing in that area,” said Frisbie.

As soon as Caltrans has samples back, it will formally respond to the regional water board, Frisbie said – hopefully within the 90-day window.

If the tests confirm the regional water board's findings, Caltrans will have to put measures in place in order to keep the mercury from going into the lake, said Frisbie.

Frisbie said he found information online that said the mine shut down in 1908.


Smythe said Water Resources is still investigating the area, which he said is not an immediate health concern.

The area's mercury levels are minor when compared to those found at the Sulphur Bank Mine, said Smythe.

“Overall I think it's a small source of mercury,” he said.

The Utopia Mine, one of numerous mercury mines that operated around Lake County at one point, may not even be the source of the mercury, said Smythe.

It could be that it's just another area that's naturally rich in mercury and cinnabar, Smythe suggested. Because of that, they took cinnabar samples for analysis.

The area that's giving off the mercury is “pretty small,” said Smythe. The outcropping he saw was less than one square foot in size. But mercury is toxic even in small amounts, he added.

Smythe said no similar sites with such elevated levels have been found.

Mercury is naturally occurring in Lake County. Smythe said other areas, like the east end of High Valley, also have high levels of mercury, which comes up in the region's volcanic soils.

In the Coast Range, said Smythe, mercury tends to be deposited in mineral springs and associated with geothermal fluids.

Some springs still actively deposit mercury; as examples, Smythe pointed to one near the Turkey Run Mine along Highway 20 and one near Wilbur Springs in Colusa County.

Along with mercury, geothermal springs along the border of Lake, Napa and Yolo counties also deposited gold, said Smythe.

“Geologically, that's what happens,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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