Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKEPORT – On Tuesday, the prosecution and defense will present arguments over whether or not to delay a Carmichael man's trial for a fatal 2006 sailboat crash, and at the heart of those arguments are new witness statements that could prove crucial to the case's outcome.

The District Attorney's Office is seeking to delay the trial date for 40-year-old Bismarck Dinius, who is being tried for vehicular manslaughter with a boat and boating under the influence.

At issue Tuesday will be new witness statements about the activities of an off-duty sheriff's deputy in the hours before the crash. Also, a sheriff's deputy has come forward to corroborate the statements of a former sheriff's sergeant who said he was ordered not to give a breathalyzer test at the scene

Dinius was at the tiller of the Beats Workin' II – owned by Willows resident Mark Weber – on April 29, 2006, when the boat was hit by a power boat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Weber's fiancée, Lynn Thornton, 51, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later.

Perdock was not charged in the case after a blood test showed no alcohol was in his system; Dinius, who had a blood alcohol level of .12, was charged with boating under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, with the latter charge arising largely because he is accused of piloting the sailboat without lights.

However, new witness statements have placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, where he was seen drinking and walking around some of the resort's bars.

Dinius' trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning, but visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne has scheduled a hearing on Deputy District Attorney John Langan's request to reschedule the trial.

Langan stated in court documents released last week that he needed additional time to investigate new information that he received during the last week in April. Some of that new information related to Perdock's whereabouts in the hours before the crash.

The discovery statements by witnesses were released in a notice of objection to the continuance Langan is seeking. That objection was filed by Victor Haltom, Dinius' defense attorney, who said he's ready to proceed to trial.

In his argument to the court, Haltom said the evidence “seriously damages the prosecution's case,” adding that “Perdock's recklessness was the proximate cause of Lynn Thornton's death, and his colleagues in local law enforcement have actively shielded his culpability.”

He added, “Evidence that Mr. Perdock was drinking alcohol shortly before the accident and that law enforcement officials did not subject him to prompt blood-alcohol level test (or breath-alcohol level test) serves only to bolster the defense position.”

While Haltom says that the new evidence justifies exploring prosecution of Perdock and his “enablers” for charges including perjury and obstruction of justice, he said it doesn't justify delaying the trial itself, because he said the prosecution has had more than enough time to examine the case, which began three years ago last month.

He then includes 27 pages of district attorney's investigation reports, submitted to the defense through discovery, that include new interviews with Perdock and several witnesses, some of whom place him at Konocti Harbor in the hours before the crash.

Witness statements give different picture

Perdock told Lake County News last Friday that he denied all of that new information, and insisted he was not on the Konocti Harbor grounds the day of the crash.

He made similar statements to district attorney's investigators on May 7. During that interview, he provided a detailed time line of his activities on April 29, 2006, which he created as a way of venting his frustration over the case, which he said Sheriff Rod Mitchell won't let him talk to anyone about.

When asked if he knew some of the people who claimed to have seen him at Konocti Harbor – including John Yashiki-Jansen, who stated he saw Perdock at Konocti Harbor's outside bar with a drink in his hand – Perdock denied knowing them and said they were lying about him.

In his statements to district attorney's investigators, Yashiki-Jansen said he knows Perdock through friends, and that the men raced their boats out on the lake between about 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. that night, at the time Perdock said he was still at home. Yashiki-Jansen also successfully pointed out Perdock in a photo lineup.

Richard Jones, a security supervisor at the resort, claimed to have seen Perdock that night, but did not see him drinking. He also stated that he could not be positive that he had seen Perdock there the same night as the crash, and that it may have been the night before. When presented with the photo lineup, Jones did not pick Perdock's picture.

Other witnesses investigators interviewed included Dennis Olson, currently in the Lake County Jail, who was arrested last July after he allegedly hit a young child with his pickup and fled the scene, as Lake County News has reported.

Olson, who was working as a security guard at the resort at the time of the crash, picked Perdock successfully in the photo lineup. He stated to investigators that he told two sheriff's deputies on the night of the crash that he saw Perdock at the resort that night sometime after 6 p.m. but before the collision, and that he saw him leave around 9 p.m.

That night, Olson – who said he has known Perdock for about five years – stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking.

Joseph Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's director of security, also told investigators he saw Perdock at the resort, although he was not 100 percent sure that it was the night of the crash. Gliebe further stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking, and he picked him out of the photo lineup.

Myra Martinelli, who worked at Konocti Harbor at the time of the crash as a part-time security officer, said she heard Olson and Gliebe talking the night of the crash, and that one of the men said they hoped Perdock wasn't drunk or hadn't drank too much prior to the crash.

New evidence supports former sheriff's sergeant

Langan also has made a Pitchess motion – a specific motion used to acquire peace officer records – to secure personnel records of former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, which will be argued Tuesday.

Beland has come forward to state that he was ordered not to administer a breathalyzer test to Perdock at the scene, which contradicts testimony he gave last year at Dinius' preliminary hearing.

Haltom's objection filing includes an investigative report district attorney's investigators completed following an interview with another former sheriff's sergeant, Deputy Mike Morshed, who stated that he ordered Beland not to give the test breathalyzer test to Perdock.

Morshed told investigators that he didn't observe or smell alcohol on Perdock. He stated that he didn't want the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – or breathalyzer – used on Perdock because it “had not been calibrated for more than a year and would not be admissable in court and he felt blood would be much more accurate.”

Beland had said in an internal affairs investigation interview that Sgt. Dennis Ostini had told him not to administer the test, as Lake County News has reported.

In the interview with investigators, Morshed said he helped Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells tow the damaged sailboat later on the night of the crash. He said the area had a lot of light on the water.

“Deputy Morshed said he thought it strange because Russell Perdock had said it was so dark. Deputy Morshed said he thought it may have more light near the shore than out further in the water,” the report states.

Morshed also faxed investigators a letter identifying people who claimed to have seen Perdock drinking prior to the boat crash.

Tuesday's hearing begins at 9 a.m. in Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport.

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


UPPER LAKE – A local man known for his medical marijuana activism has been sentenced to a 10-year federal prison sentence.

Charles “Eddy” Lepp, 56, was sentenced Monday morning by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to two 10-year sentences, which will run concurrently, according to spokesman Jack Gillund of the US Attorney's Office. Patel said the sentences were the mandatory minimum required by law.

“It's tragic,” said Lepp's attorney, Michael Hinckley.

Last September a federal jury convicted Lepp of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and cultivation of more than 1,000 marijuana plants, as Lake County News has reported.

The jury found that Lepp had grown 24,784 marijuana plants on his 20-acre property in Upper Lake, which is adjacent to Highway 20. He was indicted in 2004 in the case, which resulted from an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the sheriff's offices of Lake and Sonoma counties.

During his hour-long hearing, Lepp also was sentenced to five years of supervised release once his sentence ends.

Hinckley said that as she imposed the sentence, Patel herself stated that she believed the minimum sentence was “excessive.”

“It's way, way, way too much time,” Hinckley said.

Lepp was sentenced on the same day as the US Supreme Court declined to hear San Diego County v. San Diego NORML et al., according to California NORML. By not hearing the case, an appeals court ruling that holds that California law trumps federal law over medical marijuana will remain in place.

Patel commented during sentencing that Lepp seemed proud of what he was doing. Hinckley said Lepp did testify in the trial about being proud of the fields where the marijuana was grown, and he encouraged people to take advantage of the opportunity to grow there.

“I've never seen a man work harder to get time in prison than Mr. Lepp,” federal prosecutor David Hall is reported to have remarked during the sentencing.

Lepp must surrender himself to federal authorities on July 6.

He told Lake County News in a weekend interview, “At my time in life if all I get sentenced to is a 10-year minimum, that's a friggin' life sentence.”

Lepp was the first person in California to be acquitted in a Proposition 215 prosecution in 1996, as Lake County News has reported.

On Monday, Lepp pointed to other medical marijuana growers who have gotten deals with the government for far lesser prison terms. “I got 10 years and everybody else is getting virtually nothing.”

Hinckley said he's filing an appeal of both the sentence and the original conviction.

He said they had hoped to get underneath the mandatory minimum 10-year sentence through a “safety valve” provision, which has five elements that must be met.

Hinckley said the government argued that Lepp didn't meet two of the requirements. Those include being the leader or organizer of a criminal activity. “Our position was, that Eddy is the leader of the church,” said Hinckley. “The 'criminal activity' that they're talking about is the growing of the marijuana in the fields.”

The other requirement the government alleged Lepp didn't qualify for was that he didn't meet with the government and truthfully speak about the offense for which he's been convicted.

Hall had alleged that Lepp lied on the stand when he maintained he had not been active in running the marijuana garden, which was part of his Rastafarian religious ministry.

“He would need to admit he lied at trial,” said Hinckley.

Lepp said he met with Hall several weeks ago and was told he would need to say he lied on the stand in order to qualify for the government to drop the minimum sentence. “I went ballistic,” Lepp said.

He maintained that he had 200 volunteers that ran the garden. “I never had anything to do with it,” he said, noting that Hall accused him of being a criminal mastermind.

Lepp had been looking at a maximum sentence of life in prison on both counts, plus a $4 million fine.

“We asked that no fine be ordered because of his ability to pay,” said Hinckley.

The fine was waived, but a forfeiture action against the fields where the marijuana was being grown is still working its way through the courts, Lepp said.

An investigation conducted by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office last week resulted in Lepp's home being raided by officials, who detained him and four other people, while they searched the house and took hundreds of pictures. Lepp said no search warrant was issued and no one was arrested after being handcuffed and held.

Lepp alleges that the sheriff's deputies came to his home by mistake, but there were concerns that there was going to be an attempt to tie that case to his current situation.

Rachel Cohen, Lepp's personal assistant said the courtroom was filled for the hour-long sentencing, with people spilling out into the hallway.

She said people were carrying signs and picketing at the courthouse, with many people showing support for Lepp. Cohen said they also were passing out “Free Eddy Lepp” buttons.

Lepp said now that he has been sentenced, he has many friends and supporters who are working to get him a topnotch appellate lawyer.

While he prepares to enter prison, Lepp said he's concerned about his daughter, who has had benign polyps found on her thyroid. It's especially worrying because her mother and Lepp's late wife, Linda Senti, died from thyroid cancer that began with polyps being discovered in the same area.

“I'm just scared to death, she's barely in her 30s,” said Lepp.

He has remarried since Senti's death. His new wife, Linda, will remain on the Upper Lake property, where no medical marijuana garden has been grown since 2004, said Lepp.

As to his ability to use medical marijuana in prison for his own health issues, Lepp said Patel told him in court that she doesn't know if he'll be able to have access to the drug.

He said it's hard to know what will happen in the next six weeks, noting there have been rumors of pardons being possible.

Hinckley said there seems to be a move in the country toward greater acceptance of medical marijuana, something he suggests Lepp may have helped facilitate.

“As of today, it's not happening soon enough to help him,” Hinckley said.

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

LAKEPORT – Held in locations throughout the world, the powerful workshop, “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream,” is coming to Lakeport on Saturday, May 30, and reservations, which are still being accepted, are recommended.

Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream explores new ways of seeing the big sustainability, spiritual, and social justice challenges and opportunities of our time, according to the Pachamama Alliance.

“What’s different about this workshop is that we dig down to the real, interconnected roots of these challenges, both on a personal and cultural basis,” notes workshop host Sue Stiles in a recent statement.

“Then, we encourage everyone to shift to a whole new frame of reference – to see new solutions – from clean tech and eco-arts to local food and green collar jobs. It’s a transformative process that provides a lot of hope,” added workshop facilitator Alain Desouches.

The Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Workshop (ATD) is an initiative of The Pachamama Alliance (, a San Francisco-based nonprofit whose mission is to preserve the Earth’s tropical rain forests and contribute to a new global vision of sustainability and equity for all.

Via dynamic, inspirational video, participants hear from far-sighted community leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Julia Butterfly Hill, Van Jones, Paul Hawken and more, on everything from the planet’s dwindling biodiversity to growing socio-economic gaps. The event also includes lively breakout groups and practical tools, according to the Pachamama Alliance.

The Pachamama Alliance was formed in the mid-1990s, when a group of North Americans visited a remote and intact group of indigenous people – the Achuar – located deep in the Amazonian region of Ecuador.

Through this chance meeting, a relationship was formed between the two groups and The Pachamama Alliance, initiated by the indigenous elders and shamans of the Achuar, was begun.

Because of the elders’ and shamans’ deep concern for the growing threat to their ancient way of life, coupled with their recognition that the roots of this threat lay far beyond their rain forest home, they actively sought the partnership of committed individuals living in the modern world the Pachamama Alliance states.

One purpose of the symposium is to “change the dream of the North,” since it is the desires and appetites of the North - “their dream" - which is driving the destruction of the rain forests around the world, according to the Pachamama Allicance.

Another purpose is to, "to bring forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, socially just human presence on this planet," according to an introductory video on the symposium.

The workshop is open to all on Saturday, May 30, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., at the Lakeport Senior Center, 527 Konocti Ave., Lakeport 95453. Call 707-263-9400 or visit for details and to register.

For a video introduction to the symposium, visit:

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

Lucerne Elementary student Arthur Wilkie, 11, at the California State Elementary Spelling Championship on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Wilkie finished fifth in the competition. Courtesy photo.




LUCERNE – An 11-year-old Lucerne student finished fifth in the California State Elementary Spelling Championship.

Lucerne Elementary sixth grader Arthur Wilkie was among 60 of the state's top spellers from 34 counties who showed off their spelling skills at the spelling bee, held Saturday at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

Wilkie lasted through seven of the 20 rounds in the annual event, going out on the word “soiree.” He won a trophy and a $100 US savings bond.

Quinn Hensley, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Washington Elementary School in Santa Barbara County, was the top speller this year.

Hensley won the top prize by correctly spelling “ichthyologist,” then “sacrosanct.” For his efforts he received a trophy and a $1,000 U.S Savings Bond, and his school will receive a wall clock commemorating his achievement.

“He got some really hard words,” Wilkie said of Hensley.

Other top finishers and their prizes included second place winner, Savitri Asokan, 10, a fifth grader from Excelsior School in Placer County, trophy and a $500 U.S. savings bond; third place winner, Carina Kan, 11, a sixth grader from Los Angeles County’s Palos Verdes Intermediate School, trophy and a $250 U.S. savings bond; fourth place winner, Elijah Armstrong, 11, a fifth grader from Marin County’s Manor Elementary School, trophy and a $100 U.S. savings bond; and in sixth place, Ameet Braganza, 12, a sixth-grader from Santa Barbara County’s Monte Vista Elementary School, trophy and a $100 U.S. savings bond.

Wilkie said the spelling bee lasted close to three hours, but was “really fun.”

His fifth-place finish was a substantial improvement over his performance at the state elementary spelling bee last year, when he placed 36th.

He prepared for this year's event by practicing with a teacher and a another student, and he also had support from his class.

Wilkie said he uses Webster's Third International Unabridged Dictionary; a few years ago he spent the summer selling candy to raise the $100 necessary to buy the book.

This will be his last year in the elementary spelling bee. Next year, he'll be aiming for the junior high event, which allows students to write their answers but limits them to 15 seconds. Wilkie said the elementary spelling bee allows students a reasonable amount of time to come up with their answer, which they must spell out loud.




Mark Rasmussen, Napa area captain of the California Highway Patrol, presents 11-year-old Arthur Wilkie of Lucerne with his fifth place award at the California State Elementary Spelling Championship on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Courtesy photo.



The rest of the field of spellers and their placement is listed below.

7. Miranda Velarde, 11, sixth grade, Jackson Street Elementary School, Siskiyou County

8. Emily Quinn, 12, sixth grade, Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Santa Cruz County

9. Quinn Camara, 12, fifth grade, Pioneer Middle School, Kings County

10. Jessica Brown, 11, sixth grade, San Jose Middle School, Marin County

11. Roopkiran Minhas, 11, sixth grade, Vacaville Christian School, Solano County

12. Leandra Evans, 11, sixth grade, Claudia Landeen School, San Joaquin County

13. Samantha Riviere, 9, sixth grade, Sutter Creek Elementary School, Amador County

14. Glenna Wardlaw, 11, fifth grade, Mammoth Elementary School, Mono County

15. Keo Jude Sarno, 11, sixth grade, Rolling Hills Elementary School, Solano County

16. Zachary Mah, 12, sixth grade, Richmond Elementary School, Lassen County

17. Katie Fisher, 11, sixth grade, Scotia School, Humboldt County

18. Matthew Spinetta, 11, sixth grade, Plymouth Elementary School, Amador County

19. Katie Doonan, 11, fifth grade, Pine Street School, Inyo County

20. Zane Harper, 10, fourth grade, C.O.R.E. Butte Charter, Butte County

21. Ashley Cain, 11, sixth grade, McCloud Elementary School, Siskiyou County

22. Karl Keck, 11, fifth grade, Anthony Chabot Elementary School, Alameda County

23. Danielle Zuppan, 10, fifth grade, Capay Elementary School, Glenn County

24. Nadia Tomaszewski, 11, sixth grade, Live Oak Charter School, Sonoma County

25. Yori Mai-Isa Hook, 11, sixth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Trinity County

26. Martin Thompson, 11, fifth grade, Lee Vining Elementary School, Mono County

27. Jessica Burgess, 11, fifth grade, Clear Creek Elementary School, Nevada County

28. Andrew Miller, 11, fifth grade, Ocean Grove Charter School, Santa Cruz County

29. Jillian Strom, 11, sixth grade, Berrendos Middle School, Tehama County

30. Jade Holder, 11, sixth grade, Hooker Oak Elementary School, Butte County

31. Catherine Velardez, 12, sixth grade, Will Rogers Middle School, Los Angeles County

32. Gobind Puniani, 10, fifth grade, Valley Oak Elementary School, Fresno County

33. Hannah Cutter, 10, fourth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Colusa County

34. Gage Osborne, 11, fifth grade, Sonoma Charter School, Sonoma County

35. Alexander Chew, 11, sixth grade, Ridgeview School, Placer County

36. Lilyana DeArte, 10, fifth grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Sutter County

37. Ava Gruener, 10, fifth grade, Murwood Elementary School, Contra Costa County

38. Mashal Chhotani, 11, sixth grade, George Kelly Elementary School, San Joaquin County

39. Darius Rucker-McCarron, 10, fifth grade, Mary Covillaud Elementary School, Yuba County

40. Marsha Noeline, 11, sixth grade, Westside Elementary School, Merced County

41. Sarah Marsh, 10, fifth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Colusa County

42. Kathryn Moore, 12, sixth grade, Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Fresno County

43. Zhang Vang, 10, fifth grade, Linda Elementary School, Yuba County

44. Zoe Tacderas, 11, sixth grade, Holy Rosary School, Contra Costa County

45. Kayleen Kemp, 12, sixth grade, Toddy Thomas Elementary School, Humboldt County

46. Jessica Khalili, 11, sixth grade, Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Riverside County

47. Joe Williams, 10, fifth grade, Millville Elementary School, Shasta County

48. Brawley Parker, 10, fourth grade, Oak Manor Elementary School, Mendocino County

49. Christian Kontaxis, 9, fourth grade, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Riverside County

50. Glenn Duncan, 11, sixth grade, Pine Grove Elementary School, Del Norte County

51. Xiao Jin Jackson, 11, fifth grade, Mendocino K-8 School, Mendocino County

52. Simran Dulai, 11, fifth grade, Mark Twain Elementary School, Kings County

53. Hennessy McKenna, 12, sixth grade, Pacheco Elementary School, Shasta County

54. Emalee Kourani, 11, sixth grade, Lassen View School, Tehama County

55. Mahima Krishnamoorthi, 10, fifth grade, Lakewood Elementary School, Stanislaus County

56. Benjamin Harper, 11, fifth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Trinity County

57. Noah Parham, 11, sixth grade, Willows Intermediate School, Glenn County

58. Bowoo Lee, 9, fourth grade, Fremont Open Plan School, Stanislaus County

59. Andrew Pearson, 9, fourth grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy at Calaveras, San Benito County

60. T.J. Bangle, 10, fifth grade, Charleston Elementary School, Merced County.

Students who did not attend were Emma Lauterbach, 10, fifth grade, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Nevada County; and Emily Deluna, 12, sixth grade, Alliance Academy, Alameda County.

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

Stephen Cassel of Oroville was all smiles on Sunday, May 17, 2009, as he showed off his winning 28.10-pound catfish, which made him the adult winner of the 26th annual Catfish Derby. The catfish later was released back into Clear Lake. Courtesy photo.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Clearlake Oaks' annual Catfish Derby marked 2009 with the best turnout in its history, with great weather and plenty of big fish.

The Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Business Association sponsors the event – billed as the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi. It began on noon on Friday and ran through noon on Sunday.


Derby volunteers and participants agreed this year was the best derby ever, said Dennis Locke, one of the group of hardy derby volunteers.

There were 510 adult entries and 119 kids entries, which are both derby records by a “substantial” margin, Locke said.

Fifty-nine percent of this year's 629 entries came from outside of Lake County – including Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Hawaii.

The derby weighed 143 fish – 113 caught by adults, 30 caught by children – totaling more than 1,700 pounds this year, said Gail Jonas, who leads the event, which raises money each year for Clearlake Oaks' annual July 4 fireworks display.

“It's becoming more of a family event,” said Jonas, noting that whole families come and enter in the derby, which began Friday and ended Sunday.

Stephen Cassel of Oroville was this year's adult derby winner. He caught a 28.10-pound catfish just after 8 a.m. Sunday to capture the title and take home a new boat, motor and trailer.

Eight-year-old Dylan Armstrong of Nice was the winner of the kids' derby, catching an 18.40-pound catfish at 8:45 p.m. Friday and winning a new quad all-terrain vehicle.




Eight-year-old Dylan Armstrong of Nice caught an 18.40-pound catfish on Friday, May 15, 2009, and won the kids' derby. His prize was a new quad all-terrain vehicle. Courtesy photo.



The catfish that Cassel and Armstrong caught to win their respective divisions were released back into Clear Lake, according to organizers.

Locke said more than $3,000 cash was awarded to other adult participants and $75 to kids. In addition, community members donated many raffle prizes for those entering the derby, including several fish rods and reels a derby participant donated.

Donations also were made for the awards for the youngest child participating – 4 years old – and for the child catching the smallest fish, which was 3.24 pounds.

Locke said more than 75 volunteers worked four straight days, some as long as 16 hours each day, to make the derby a success. This year's event also featured the inaugural Catfish Derby Cook-Off.

The full derby results are published below.

2009 Catfish Derby adult rankings

1. Stephen Cassel, Oroville, 28.10 pounds, caught 8:04 a.m. Sunday

2. Edward Rainey, Clearlake Oaks, 27.13 pounds, caught 9:43 a.m. Sunday

3. Tom Wheeler, Sutter, 21.11 pounds, caught 8:02 a.m. Saturday

4. Kevin Heins, Grants Pass, Ore., 21.07 pounds, caught 7:18 a.m. Saturday

5. David Fernandes, Clearlake, 19.59 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

6. Colleen Adair, Clearlake, 19.13 pounds, 7:02 a.m. Sunday

7. Troy Morgan, Loch Lomond, 19.13 pounds, caught 8:03 a.m Sunday

8. Matthew Ross, Clearlake, 19.07 pounds, caught 9:59 a.m. Sunday

9. C. Ferguson, Riverside, 19.01 pounds, caught 9:09 a.m. Saturday

10. Jeff Griffith, Woodland, 18.78 pounds, caught 11:31 a.m. Sunday

11. Steve Johnson, Oceanside, 18.70 pounds, caught 6:12 p.m. Saturday

12. Gary Simpson Sr., Yuba City, 18.63 pounds, caught 10:36 a.m. Sunday

13. Jorge Curiel, Vallejo, 18.35 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

14. Jason Costello, Lower Lake, 18.24 pounds, caught 11:01 p.m. Friday

15. Zach Medeiros, Yuba City, 18.10 pounds, caught 7:08 p.m. Friday

16. Lee Sayasombath, Santa Rosa, 18.10 pounds, caught 7:18 a.m. Saturday

17. John Handcock, Roseville, 18.06 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

18. Wade Stafford, Clearlake, 17.69 pounds, caught 10:37 a.m. Sunday

19. Omar Mandujano Jr., Healdsburg, 17.68 pounds, caught 12:01 p.m. Saturday

20. Jonathan Ganey, Garberville, 17.53 pounds, caught 9:39 a.m. Sunday

21. Joshua Lane, Hood River, Ore., 17.31 pounds, caught 10:39 p.m. Friday

2009 Catfish Derby children's rankings

1. Dylan Armstrong, Nice, 18.40 pounds, caught 8:45 p.m. Friday

2. Renato Mandujano, Healdsburg, 17.29 pounds, caught 1:37 p.m. Friday

3. Mical Wood, Clearlake, 16.53 pounds, caught 11:01 a.m. Sunday

4. Jerry Nelson, Clearlake, 16.24 pounds, caught 7:25 a.m. Sunday

5. Dakota McWethy, Lucerne, 15.02 pounds, caught 9:54 a.m. Saturday

6. TJ McDonnell, Kelseyville, 13.09 pounds, caught 7:12 a.m. Sunday

7. Robert Costello, Lower Lake, 12.58 pounds, caught 5:23 p.m. Friday

8. Guy Boyd Jr., Clearlake, 12.51 pounds, caught 8:24 a.m. Saturday

9. Georgia Schmit, Upper Lake, 12.13 pounds, caught 8:27 a.m. Sunday

10. Kasey Brown, Lower Lake, 11.50 pounds, caught 4:11 p.m. Saturday

Fish statistics

Total fish caught (143): Friday, 29; Saturday, 77; Sunday, 37

Total fish released (109): Friday, 25; Saturday, 48; Sunday, 36

Total fish kept (34): Friday, 4; Saturday, 29; Sunday, 1

Total weight: Friday, 335.55 pounds; Saturday, 908.09 pounds; Sunday, 518.58 pounds

Total fish poundage for the derby: 1,762.22

Largest fish for each day of the derby: Friday, 18.40 pounds (caught by Dylan Armstrong, Nice, winner of children's division); Saturday, 21.11 pounds (caught by Tom Wheeler of Sutter, No. 3 in adult division); Sunday, 28.10 pounds (caught by Stephen Cassel of Oroville, adult derby winner).

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





Gail Jonas presents Oroville resident Stephen Cassel with his new boat, motor and trailer. Cassel won the adult division in the 26th annual Catfish Derby in Clearlake Oaks. Courtesy photo.




Kids' division winner Dylan Armstrong of Nice shows off his 18.40 pound catfish. Courtesy photo.




Rob Roy Golf Club and Creekside Grill & Lounge: 16451 Golf Road, Cobb, telephone 928-0121. Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Thursday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Champagne brunch, Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations suggested for dinner and brunch.

I’m pretty stingy. I like to save money and consolidate every chance I get, so when my wife’s birthday came around and I wanted to take her out to dinner somewhere nice I thought to myself, “And if I can take her someplace we haven’t been before and do a review of the restaurant at the same time, that’s being frugal!”

When I was looking to purchase some property years ago I looked at some places on Cobb Mountain, and the one thing that kept going through my mind was, “This looks like Bigfoot country. If I lived here I’d be chasing Sasquatches off my deck every night.”

So I’ll admit that Cobb Mountain has been pretty intimidating to me and that’s one of the main reasons that I haven’t been to Rob Roy sooner. I know, sounds a little screwy but we all have quirks. If you do plan on eating there definitely have your route preplanned before you leave, the roads of Cobb are not accommodating for a seat-of-your-pants kind of navigator.

Reservations are recommended at Rob Roy’s so I made them under a fake name just in case someone would recognize mine. We were shown to our table with a view of trees and dense underbrush ... I could sense that Bigfoot was out there watching me right then.

The décor of the restaurant is nice if a bit spartan. You don’t feel like they are trying to impress you with their paintings or sculptures. It has the look of a typical golf clubhouse. There is a bar overlooking the golf course and a television above the bar. We were seated in the back and couldn’t see any of that from our table which added a more elegant feel to our setting.

The wine list was almost exclusively filled with Lake County wines which I was happy to see. We ordered a bottle of the Six Sigma Cabernet Sauvignon. After all, it’s cheaper than buying it by the glass.

For appetizers, I ordered the crab cakes and my wife went for the bruschetta, and for our entrees we ordered prime rib (available Fridays and Saturdays) and wild mushroom ravioli, respectively.

Our waitress Robyn was fantastic; much more professional than your average Lake County wait staff. She asked how I would like my prime rib and I said “Raw.” She confirmed that I would like it as rare as possible and then was off. She was very intuitive on our needs. It was as if she was present every time we needed her yet nowhere in sight when we didn’t. She was earning a very considerable tip, and if I weren’t such a cheapskate she would have gotten one.

The appetizers arrived faster than I expected, but as we did arrive early in the dinner service, there were very few other diners, however as the evening went on the dining room did fill up but the service was still exceptional.

The crab cakes were – and I’m being completely honest here – the best I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve eaten crab cakes all over the world and have always been disappointed until now.

The plate had four crab cakes drizzled with an aioli set on a mesclun greens salad that was dressed with an almost ethereal dressing. My wife (who’s not a seafood fan) tried the crab cake and said that they were better than ones that she’s had on Chesapeake Bay (where the crab cake is a signature dish).

The exterior of the crab cake was crispy, the interior soft but not doughy. You could taste the crab and red pepper, and the celery was cooked but not soft. I tried, I actually really tried to find fault with them but I couldn’t find any. They were fantastic!

My wife’s bruschetta was grilled and topped with tomatoes, red onion and basil in perfect proportions, nothing overwhelmed the other. There were six to the plate and they were all of good size so she wasn’t able to eat all of them; luckily I finished them for her so nothing went to waste. The only detraction from the appetizer was that tomatoes aren’t in season and so they were very bland. During the summer this would be a stellar item.

The main courses also arrived quite quickly and I was pleased to see that my prime rib was perfectly cooked. Like a balance of just warm and pink yet not quite a health code concern. It was accompanied on the plate with crispy fried cheese polenta and green beans with a roasted red pepper puree, and served with au jus and horseradish sauce on the side. I love horseradish sauce with prime rib because no matter how bad the meat is you can always cover it with horseradish.

I am thrilled to say I didn’t even taste the horseradish sauce for the sole reason that the au jus was – and I said this at the table to my wife – “The best jus I have ever tasted in my life.” I told her that I just wanted to drink the jus like a cup of coffee.

Honestly I felt like I was in sensory overload. The beans were perfectly cooked and the red pepper puree was unique and well matched. The crispy fried cheese polenta was excellent. Normally I expect fried polenta to be a bit oily but this wasn’t at all, and the flavor was perfectly balanced so that you could experience the cheese and the corn without losing one to the other. The exterior had a slight crispness to it without trying to intimidate you with a loud crunch.

Oh yeah and my wife was here also ...

Her plate of wild mushroom ravioli was large enough that as it was set on the table I commented to Robyn, “She’ll need a doggie bag for that.” The ravioli was covered in a tomato cream sauce, which was a nice change from the usual marinara. The pasta had a nice al dente texture, and the wild mushrooms were nicely seasoned, not too woody or wild tasting and still had good body to their texture.

Her ravioli started out as being very good and with a balanced flavor in which no one thing overpowered the rest in the dish, but as she got further into the meal she said it was all a little too balanced and it was becoming a little boring. I still insisted she take the leftover portion home. Waste not, want not!

Once her pasta was boxed up and my plate of food reduced to scraps of fat we looked at having dessert. As always I went for a glass of port, since I’m not a big fan of sweets. The Grahams Six Grapes port was great, a definite must have. My wife was hoping for some sort of flan or crème caramel but that evidently was served the day before. She went for the tiramisu but they were out of that also so she just dropped the idea of dessert altogether. Besides, we still had plenty of the Six Sigma left for her to drink while I had the port.

The prices for everything were high if compared to most Lake County restaurants but were quite fair for the meal and service delivered.

To give the meal a summary, I had the best meal I’ve had in over a decade, and my wife had a very good meal with charming company to pay for it. Israel Gonzales is the chef at Rob Roy and it was difficult for me to not ask to meet him and thank him for the amazing meal. But I will look at attending any events that he cooks for. After all I don’t think I’ve ever used the phrase “best I’ve ever had” twice in one meal EVER before.

So we happily went back to our car in the parking lot, on our way home and – what was that in the trees? It looked like a man, but big and hairy ....

(Note from Ross’ wife: Don’t let him fool you. Ross is a very generous tipper. Robyn was tipped about 30 percent. Ross loves the quote from the movie “My Blue Heaven”: “Actually it’s not tipping I believe in ... It’s over tipping.”)

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.

LUCERNE – A Clearlake man is recovering after a Sunday vehicle crash sent him to the hospital.

Milton Grinstead, 65, of Clearlake suffered head trauma in the single-vehicle rollover crash, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said the crash occurred at 2:22 p.m. Sunday.

He said that Grinstead was driving his 1991 Ford Explorer eastbound on Highway 20 west of Bruner Drive when, for an unknown reason, he lost control of the vehicle.

The Explorer went off the roadway, where the front of the vehicle hit a boulder and subsequently rolled over, Tanguay said.

REACH Air Ambulance, which landed at Lucerne Elementary School, transported Grinstead to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with head trauma, according to Tanguay.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital spokesperson Katy Hillenmeyer said Monday that Grinstead was in “good” condition.

Hillenmeyer said Grinstead remained in the hospital Monday afternoon.

Tanguay said CHP Officer Brendan Bach is investigating the collision.

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

The Lake Sands Resort's demolition is being delayed because of nesting barn swallows. Lake County News file photo.


LUCERNE – The effort to remove another blighted building on Lucerne's lakeshore has hit a snag.

On April 28, Robert Affinito removed the Lucerne Motel which was located at 6339 E. Highway 20 on the lakeshore, which sits next door to the Lake Sands Resort, both owned by his family.

The aging Lake Sands resort building, now boarded up, also was slated for removal, but the county's Community Development Department reports that the building's demolition can't go forward due to nesting barn swallows.

The barn swallow, Hirundo rustica, is not an endangered or threatened species; it is, however, protected by the federal Migratory Birds Act, Community Development Director Rick Coel explained.

None of the birds had been found in the Lucerne Motel, but within the last week they've begun building nests on the stucco exterior of the Lake Sands Resort, said Coel. One of his staffers discovered the situation and brought it to his attention.

That caused Community Development to halt the next demolition, because Coel said Affinito could get into serious trouble with US Fish & Wildlife, which the department didn't want to see happen.

US Fish & Wildlife spokesman Steve Martarano told Lake County News that barn swallows have always been included in the Migratory Bird Act, first established in 1918.

“It's the most widespread species of swallow in the world,” said Martarano.

Fish & Wildlife reports that the original 1918 statute implemented a 1916 convention between the US and Great Britain, on behalf of Canada, to protect migratory birds, with later amendments adding in treaties with the US and Mexico, Japan and the Soviet Union/Russia.

The birds pass through Lake County on a seasonal basis, said Coel, who admitted his department doesn't often run into these kinds of issues.

Martarano said the birds have an incubation period of three weeks and two broods. “They should start hatching any time.”

US Fish & Wildlife estimates it will be August before the second brood is gone. The nests will need to be watched to make sure the birds are totally gone before anything can be done with the buildings, Martarano said.

From Lake County, the birds will head south around September, said Martarano.

“It's not all bad in terms of timing,” Coel said of the situation.

He said while they're waiting for the swallows to move on, Affinito can proceed with the prep work, gutting the interior and doing the asbestos study that's necessary on the older building.

Coel said older structures often have asbestos in their insulation and tiles. “That was an issue in the other building.”

“We think these birds out to be out of there sometime in August and we can pick up the pace again,” said Coel.

Affinito said the issue “kind of took me by surprise.”

However, he said he still has plans to draw for a new hotel property he wants to build there. “So it doesn't really affect me in any way.”

Affinito said that, with county permission, he may put up some cyclone fencing and banners to let people know what's going on.

Meanwhile, while it's been an issue for the town's human residents, the old building is a nice place for birds, with plenty of bugs to eat and a nice view of the lake. Coel joked that it's the “original mixed use” structure.

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

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.


Longevity has its place…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 3, 1968

Many of the “Old Masters” in popular music have infused their career by the inclusion of younger players in their ensembles.

In Jazz, Art Blakey and Betty Carter always had a rotating cast of younger players in their respective bands. In the Funk realm, The Ohio Players, led by Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner and James “Diamond” Williams similarly keep their funky edge by adding new players who weren’t even born when the original music was recorded. Those are just a few examples of a widespread practice in the music biz. There is no shame in it.

The amazing vocal group the Spinners performed here at Robinson Rancheria Saturday night, May 16. Original member and lead singer on the classic hit “That’s What Girls Are Made For,” Bobbie Smith quipped on stage that they have their own stimulus package. Then the group went to work proving that point to the people.

Along with co-original member Henry Fambough, Smith has added young lions Charleton Washington, Spike Delong and Jessie Peck. The Spinners continue to present a dazzling show that features great choreography and great voices rivaling the diverseness of the legendary Temptations.

The backing band, The Spinners Ensemble kicked off the show at 8:10 p.m with a 10-minute instrumental medley of Spinners hits. The vocal ensemble hit the stage at 8:20 p.m. and launched immediately into “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love.” From the outset it was obvious the group still has great polish.

Working their way through many of there hits including “It’s A Shame,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Working My Way Back To You,” “Sadie” and “Mighty Love.”

Many of you connoisseurs of Spinners music know that several of the aforementioned tunes were recorded with the late, great Phillipe Wynne singing lead. I’m here to tell you that young lion Charlton Washington channeled every nuance of Wynne’s delivery. The crowd didn’t mind at all. In fact, they went wild when Washington came off the stage and into the crowd to dance with two different fans.

Founding member Bobbie Lewis was given a standing ovation after performing one of his signature songs.

Spike Delong did a great Sam Cooke medley and the group left the stage to thunderous applause. When they came back for an encore they had been on the stage well over an hour.

They concluded with the great hit “Rubber Band Man” and used giant rubber bands as props in conjunction with special effect lighting to dazzle the senses of the crowd. They finally left the stage again to another thunderous ovation after having been on the stage well over an hour.

Your CyberSoulman was able to secure a great interview with the group after the show – about the history of the Spinners including their stints with Motown and Atlantic Records – which will appear in next Sunday’s column. See you right here next week. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning coffee with me.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

THE GEYSERS – The Geysers area experienced a minor earthquake early Monday morning.

The US Geological Survey reported that the quake, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, occurred at 4:40 a.m.

The quake was centered two miles north northwest of The Geysers, five miles west southwest of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs. The US Geological Survey showed that it occurred at a depth of 1.3 miles.

Residents from as far away as Hayward, Murphys and Redding reported feeling the quake.

The last quake of note was a 3.7-magnitude temblor that occurred in The Geysers area on April 17, as Lake County News has reported.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Several large projects will be under way on area highways this summer.

Caltrans reports that three safety projects – near Walker Ridge east of Clearlake Oaks, east of Robinson Rancheria in Nice and at the intersection of Highway 29 and Spruce Grove Road near Lower Lake – will be continuing in the months ahead.

The Walker Ridge Safety Rehabilitation project is located about 10 miles east of Clearlake Oaks on Highway 20 and is expected to be completed in July.

It's the largest summer highway project in Lake County, said Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie.

The project was awarded in September of 2006 to Argonaut Constructors of Santa Rosa, Frisbie said.

Frisbie said the project is realigning curves, and installing drainage and wider shoulders in that area, which has seen several major vehicle collisions – some of them fatal – over the last two years, as Lake County News has reported.

The high number of collisions in the area triggered an investigation, and the safety project resulted, said Frisbie.

“The main emphasis of that was to increase the site distance and make those curves not quite as severe so we could improve the safety,” said Frisbie.

Frisbie said Caltrans recently completed pavement testing in the area, using a towed trailer skid tester that is pulled behind a vehicle. He said the test involves wetting the pavement and applying brakes to the trailer to check friction on the roadway surface.

“It did not reveal any deficiency in the pavement,” he said.

Week before last, transverse rumble strips were installed across the eastbound lane of Highway 20 near speed advisory signs in the Walker Ridge area, said Frisbie.

He said the goal is that the rumble strips will draw drivers' attention to the 35-mile-per-hour speed advisory signs and slow down as they go through the area. The California Highway Patrol has determined that speed on wet roadways was the cause of many of the crashes in the area.

Frisbie said a passing lane terminates in that area, and Caltrans believes that speed may be an issue there because people are attempting to pass before the lane ends.

“Possibly that is causing them to approach that downhill at a higher speed that they should,” he said.

So sometime in the next few weeks, as soon as striping crews are available, Caltrans will restripe the passing lanes, reducing the number of lanes to one at the crest of the hill.

“We're still going to be continue to evaluate other things that can be done to improve the safety,” he said.

In other road projects, Caltrans reported that the Robinson Rancheria Safety project, located between the communities of Upper Lake and Nice on Highway 20, is on schedule.

Frisbie said the existing highway had very narrow to no shoulders. Contractor Argonaut Constructors of Santa Rosa is widening the highway and providing eight-foot shoulders. Caltrans expects the project to be completed this fall.

The final project is the Spruce Grove Road Safety Project between C Street and Clayton Creek Road outside of Lower Lake, said Frisbie. The contract will be awarded in June, with completion anticipated in the summer of 2010.

Frisbie said the Spruce Grove Road project will add left turn lanes and lighting to the intersection to

improve its safety.

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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks Catfish Derby hosted the inaugural Catfish Cook-Off Competition on Saturday as part of this year's Catfish Derby festivities.

The competition began at noon with entrants cooking their dishes at the Live Oak Senior Center then transporting them over to the derby headquarters at the Clearlake Oaks Firehouse for judging.

The judges included Dustin Brassfield, owner of High Valley Wines, chef instructor Robert Cabreros from Yuba College and Foodie Freak food columnist Ross A. Christensen.

The first place grand prize, which included a trophy, a $250 cash prize and a wine prize package consisting of several cases of Lake County wines generously donated by local wineries, was won by Glen Marks of Middletown. His dish was a Cajun-style catfish etouffee.

Second place was awarded to Joseph Capilla of Clearlake who made southern catfish with mango salsa. The second place prize consisted of a trophy, a $150 cash prize and a gift basket of wine provided by Lake County Winegrape Commission.

The third place prize was awarded to Rich Adams of Hidden Valley Lake, who made Asian catfish with slaw. His prize was a trophy, a $100 cash prize, and a bottle of Lake County pear champagne, donated by Mt. Konocti Growers.

Trophies also were presented to Rich Adams for most unique dish and to Glen Marks for traveler from the furthest distance.

Upcoming Calendar

07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.