Friday, 02 December 2022

News

WITTER SPRINGS – The Lake County Department of Public Works has issued an advisory announcing the partial closure of Witter Springs Road due to issues with a bridge structure.


The report – issued just after noon on Thursday – noted that, effective immediately, Witter Springs Road will be closed to all traffic two miles north of Highway 20 at the bridge due to bridge deck failure.


Traffic will be detoured on East Road to Bachelor Valley Road and back to Witter Springs Road in order to avoid the bridge area, according to the report. Signs are in place to alert drivers.


Public Works' report said the closure will remain in effect until further notice.


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MIDDLETOWN – A motorcyclist sustained minor injuries in a Wednesday afternoon collision with a pickup, escaping serious injury thanks an evasive maneuver that took the rider and bike under the truck.


The accident occurred at about 2:44 p.m. according to the California Highway Patrol's incident logs.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said late Wednesday that the crash took place on Highway 29 in Middletown near the junction with Highway 175.


Garcia said a preliminary investigation indicated that the collision occurred whn a 2002 Ford Ranger traveling southbound on Highway 29 began to make a left turn directly in front of a 2007 Honda motorcycle, which the pickup's driver failed to notice approaching.


The motorcycle rider took evasive action, Garcia said, and laid the motorcycle down onto its side and slid under the Ford.


Garcia said the motorcycle rider was transported to Redbud Hospital by ambulance with minor injuries.


He said the names of the drivers involded were not available Wednesday afternoon.


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CLEAR LAKE – After more than two days of searching dive teams have not been able to find a young Windsor man who went missing in the water of Clear Lake Saturday afternoon.


Matthew Zanoni, 22, was riding on a pontoon boat with friends in the area of Shag Rock off Buckingham Saturday shortly before 3 p.m. when officials say he either jumped or fell into the water and didn't surface. Shag Rock is a rocky outcropping that rises out of the lake; it is located east of Clear Lake State Park and close to the Narrows.


Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said the North Shore Dive Team and Lake County Search and Rescue Dive Team continued their search throughout the day on Monday.


“They didn't do a recovery today,” Brown said.


Brown said the search effort also used sidescan sonar, a technology similar to that rescuers used to locate the body of Vacaville resident John Stockton, who went missing in the lake in May.


The sonar system, which Brown said can scan in all directions, was brought in by a private contractor.


Brown said divers held a debriefing Monday on the day's search, with plans to continue Tuesday. He said rescuers have been communicating with Zanoni's family as the search has continued.


Divers are very limited in how long they can stay in the water because of various factors, particularly the water conditions, Brown explained.


Brown said on Monday evening the dive teams were discussing how to proceed in Tuesday's search effort. He did not have information available on what outside agencies may be assisting the search.


Zanoni was in Lake County visiting BoardStock, according to a family friend who contacted Lake County News.


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CLEAR LAKE – On Wednesday the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that they were “scaling back” the search for a Windsor man who fell into Clear Lake Saturday and is presumed drowned, a move which angered the man's family.


Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed at 11 a.m. that the search for 22-year-old Matthew Richard Zanoni was being called off, based on the determination of search leader, Lt. Gary Basor.


An official statement written by Basor that was released later in the day said that, as of Wednesday morning, the search was “scaled down significantly,” but would continue with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Teams, as well as with the continued efforts of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Service Patrol.


Zanoni is described as a white Caucasian male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 145 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes, according to Basor. He was last seen wearing board shorts and white socks. Zanoni was not wearing as shirt.


Zanoni was a passenger on an 18-foot Tracker pontoon boat when he went into the water, Basor reported. The boat was stopped about 100 to 150 feet offshore from Shag Rock, located just west of Buckingham peninsula, and some of its passengers had gone swimming.


Witnesses told authorities that Zanoni had been drinking alcoholic prior to the accident and that he wasn't wearing a life vest when he went into the lake, according to Basor's report.


The Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol first responded to the Rattlesnake Island area, based on the initial reports, Basor reported. When they arrived and couldn't find the boat they made a followup call and found that the incident occurred near Shag Rock.


Basor said when the deputies arrived, witnesses reported that several attempts were made by those on the pontoon boat to locate Zanoni.


Minutes after arriving, deputies requested that the North Shore Dive Team assist the sheriff’s department in the rescue efforts, said Basor. Members of the North Shore Dive Team made several dives that afternoon.


Beginning Sunday and lasting through Tuesday at 5 p.m., members of the North Shore Dive Team, the Lake County Search and Rescue Dive Team, as well as divers from Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties continued searching for Zanoni, Basor reported.


Basor said Thomas Tessier of Santa Rosa-based Aqua-Tech Inc. also volunteered to help, bringing his highly sophisticated drop sonar equipment for the search effort. Tessier helped search for a drowning victim on the lake in May.


The team – which Basor said was composed of highly trained professionals – assisted in more than 100 drop search positions in the given search area, which covered over one million square feet within the waters of Clear Lake.


Each location identified as a potential location for Zanoni was checked and searched, said Basor, but recovery efforts were temporarily slowed when civilian vessels also searching for Zanoni entered the search area causing concern for the diver’s safety. The boats were directed to leave the immediate area.


Family taking its own measures


Jennifer and Laura Zanoni, Matt Zanoni's sisters, were angry that the search was called off.


They said officials told them that they needed to “let nature take its course,” with Matt Zanoni's body expected to surface in about two weeks due to decomposition.


The sisters also were concerned because they said witnesses on the boat reported there were fishermen in the area who saw Matt Zanoni go into the water, yet the fishermen left quickly after the accident and didn't stay around to give a statement to sheriff's deputies.


They insisted that alcohol couldn't have been a major factor, as they were told by witnesses that he only had a few beers before he disappeared over the boat's side.


Jennifer Zanoni said she began making calls at 8 a.m. Wednesday, asking various agencies around the state for help.


Basor's report, however, said he had been in contact, and had been contacted, by some of those other agencies, including the US Coast Guard, and all agreed that every immediate effort to recover Zanoni has been tried.


“There's only so much we can do,” Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriffs' Office told Lake County News.


He said the sonar equipment volunteered by Aqua-Tec was better than that used by Sonoma County.


Perdock also asserted that the Zanonis had told the other agencies that it was a rescue operation, not a recovery, which it had technically been since Sunday.


The Zanoni family plans to hire their own divers, who are scheduled to begin searching for Matt Zanoni on Saturday.


“Right now we're just trying to focus on finding that body so we can have some closure,” said Laura Zanoni.


Jennifer Zanoni asked for anyone who saw the incident to call her at 480-4254.


Basor reported that the investigation into the incident's cause is continuing.


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10 CLEAR LAKE – Another long day of searching yielded no sign of a Windsor man who was last seen Saturday as he went into the waters of Clear Lake.


Matthew Zanoni, 22, was on a pontoon boat with friends when he fell of jumped into Clear Lake at about 3 p.m. Saturday, as Lake County News previously reported.


Sgt. Dennis Ostini of the Lake County Sheriff’s Boat Patrol said divers resumed searching at 9 a.m. Tuesday.


Jennifer Zanoni, 28, Matthew Zanoni’s older sister, said she was out on the water near the diving operations, which ceased for the day at about 5 p.m.


Ostini said the 360-degree sonar scanning equipment, provided by Aqua-Tec Inc. of Santa Rosa, picked up a form Tuesday that divers thought might be Zanoni. However, it turned out to be a log with a branch sticking out.


Eight divers were in the water Monday, said Ostini, with a few less divers at work Tuesday.


Jennifer Zanoni, whose family is in the county for the search, said she was unhappy with the county’s efforts to find her brother.


“They’re not doing all they can do,” she said.


Zanoni said she and Ostini met Tuesday morning, and that they disagreed over how the search should be handled.


“I was very respectful and very calm,” said Zanoni. “I didn’t go in to harass them.”


Zanoni accused the sheriff’s department of turning down help from outside agencies she has contacted, including San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.


Ostini said the sheriff’s department is not turning down help in the search, and said they may have San Mateo come in on the search.


They have, however, decided not to call in more resources at this time, a decision Ostini said was made by Lt. Gary Basor, who is in charge of the search effort.


That's largely because the search area is a relatively small one, Ostini said, with water depth averaging 28 to 29 feet deep, with a 6-foot layer of mud at the bottom. Putting more people in the water won't necessarily help, he added.


Piecing together what happened


Zanoni said she’s still not clear what happened on the pontoon boat her brother was riding on before he went into the lake.


She said her brother left their mother's home in Windsor at about noon on Saturday to attend BoardStock. He hadn't felt up to going, but went anyway, meeting up with a group that included friend Brian McKinney, a former Windsor resident now living in Sacramento, who brought his pontoon boat over for the weekend.


Zanoni said Brian McKinney, McKinney's brother and another young man named Nate were the only people he knew on the boat, which had six or seven passengers.


She said she carefully questioned McKinney Tuesday about what occurred when her brother disappeared.


The group was in the Shag Rock area, near Buckingham and the Narrows, east of Lakeport, when they stopped the boat and turned off the motor, about 100 to 150 yards offshore, Zanoni said.


A few of the young women went swimming off the boat, while Matt Zanoni stood at the front of the boat, with the boat's railing shut, Jennifer Zanoni said.


She said Brian McKinney told her that everything seemed OK and then suddenly Matt Zanoni was over the rail and head first into the water. “He didn't jump off,” his sister said.


Several of the boat's passengers went into the water to look for him while calls were placed to 911, Zanoni said. McKinney claimed to have made five 911 calls before help was sent out.


She reported that officials have told her they are “certain there is no foul play.”


Zanoni, however, questions how her brother ended up in the lake. “Something is just not right.”


Rescue divers again held a planning session Tuesday night to discuss operations Wednesday, Ostini said.


Zanoni, however, said Basor informed her Tuesday evening that there were no plans to continue the search.


Lake County News could not contact officials Tuesday night to confirm a change in search plans.


Zanoni said her father was appreciative of the sheriff's office effort, but Zanoni herself remained highly critical, calling them “uncooperative.”


She said she wants to bring her brother home. “We're here 'til we find him. My dad's not leaving.”


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CLEARLAKE – Police believe they're zeroing in on the person responsible for last month's shooting of a Clearlake man that may have left the victim partially paralyzed.


On Sept. 13, 25-year-old Daniel Williamson was shot multiple times in an incident that occurred near the Mormon Church on Bay Street, as Lake County News previously reported.


Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said Monday that police have identified individuals who they believe were responsible for the assault on Williamson.


“It appears that he was accidentally shot,” said Hermann. “The shooting was intentional but we don't believe he was the initial target.”


Hermann said the incident may have been drug-related, not gang-related. That question arose because of Williamson's previous gang ties.


Hermann confirmed that Williamson was the target of an Aug. 28 countywide enforcement operation in which paroles with gang contacts were the targets of parole searches.


Williamson is still in the hospital, Hermann reported, recovering from the gunshot wounds he received.


“He was hit in the right side of his chest and also the right side of his head,” said Hermann.


The shot to Williamson's head, added Hermann, didn't penetrate his skull.


The chest wound appears to have damaged Williamson's spine, said Hermann. The result is that Williamson may be paralyzed from the waist down.


Hermann said the main suspect in the case is in custody on a parole violation.


He did not say if that suspect was John Franklin Smith, 20, a man who police contacted early in the investigation and arrested on a parole violation Sept. 14. Smith no longer is in custody in the Lake County Jail, although parole violation arrests often result in suspects being transported out of county.


Det. Martin Snyder is leading the investigation. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Snyder or Officer Michael Ray at 994-8251.


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LOWER LAKE – A Lake County environmental leader will be among the honorees at an event to honor the achievements of North Coast women.


State Sen. Patricia Wiggins' eighth annual Women in the Wine Country dinner and fundraiser will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, a the Kendall Jackson Wine Center in Fulton.


Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group since January 2005, will receive the event's environmental award.


“Personal recognition from such an extraordinarily dedicated and able legislator as Pat Wiggins is immensely gratifying, but the honor actually belongs to the Sierra Club Lake Group, and to the other local conservationists committed to making our community the greenest place in California,” Brandon said.


Brandon's duties with the Sierra Club keep her busy around the county, from monitoring development to writing letters to politicians on environmental policy matters.


She worked to garner support for the Congressman Mike Thompson's Wilderness Bill and supported the Cache Creek Wild & Scenic campaign.


A Lake County resident since 1981, she also is a board member of Tuleyome, a volunteer advocacy-oriented nonprofit organization founded in 2002 that is dedicated to protecting the Putah-Cache bioregion, which includes Lake County.


Brandon's other activities include participating in the Cache Creek Watershed Forum, secretary of the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch, membership in the Coalition for Responsible Agriculture and editor of the Lake County Peace Action newsletter.


Other honorees include: Arts – Hanya Popova Parker, Sonoma County artist; Health Care – Carol Mordhorst, Mendocino County Public Health director; Business – Jeannie Hamann, owner, Hamann Real Estate; Wine – Phyllis Zouzounis, owner and winemaker, Deux Amis Winery; Special Achievement – Elaine Honig, Creative Director, Honig Vineyard and Winery.


For more information about the event visit www.wiggins4senate.com/events.html.


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UKIAH – A Lakeport woman received minor injuries in a wreck that took place along Highway 101 on Tuesday.


The California Highway Patrol's Ukiah office reported that Brittany Zastrow, 18, received minor injuries in a collision that happened just after noon.


Zastrow was driving her 1980 Honda Prelude 70 miles per hour southbound in lane No. 1 of Highway 101 when she drifted into the median, possibly because she fell asleep, according to the CHP.


She lost control of her vehicle and entered the northbound lane, where the front of her Honda struck the side of a 1994 Chevy Astro van driven by Robbie Ruddock, 41, of Ukiah, the CHP reported.


Zastrow's car continued down a dirt embankment, the CHP report explained, while Ruddock's vehicle came to rest on the right shoulder.


Both Zastrow and Ruddock were treated for minor injuries at Ukiah Valley Medical Center, according to the CHP.


The CHP reported that both Zastrow and Ruddock were wearing their seat belts when the accident took place.


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A former Interior Department official's political interference with scientific decisions continues to have ramifications, as environmental groups announced last week their intent to sue the federal government over listing decisions for 55 species in 28 states.


The Center for Biological Diversity on Aug. 28 filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior over the species. A statement from the center said the notice “initiates the largest substantive legal action in the 34-year history of the Endangered Species Act.”


The suit comes in the wake of a scandal involving former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald, who resigned this spring after an Inspector General investigation found she had interfered with science and violated the Endangered Species Acts.


But while MacDonald has been the one Interior Department official drawing most of the blame, the Center for Biological Diversity said she's not alone.


The suit notice alleges that, while MacDonald engineered many of the illegal decision, some decisions also were ordered by her boss, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson, his special assistant Randal Bowman and Ruth Solomon in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Lower-level bureaucrats also reportedly were involved in some decisions.


Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the lawsuit “puts the Bush administration on trial at every level for systematically squelching government scientists and installing a cadre of political hatchet men in positions of power.”


Suckling added, “The Bush administration has tried to keep a lid on its growing endangered species scandal by scapegoating Julie MacDonald, but the corruption goes much deeper than one disgraced bureaucrat. It reaches into the White House itself through the Office of Management and Budget.”


The species at the heart of the suit include 24 in California, among them, the California red-legged frog, which is believed to have habitat in Lake County, as Lake County News reported during coverage of the MacDonald case earlier this summer.


Other species listed include the arroyo toad, California least tern, marbled murrelet and snowy plover.


The Center for Biological Diversity reported that the heart of the suit is the illegal removal of one animal from the endangered species list, the refusal to place three animals on the list and proposals to remove or downgrade protection for seven animals.


The group also alleges that 8.7 million acres of critical habitat across 28 states has been stripped from protection because of those Interior Department decisions.


Suckling said government and university scientists carefully documented the editing of scientific documents, overruling of scientific experts and falsification of economic analyses in many of the disputed decisions.


“By attacking the problem systematically through this national lawsuit, we will expose just how thoroughly the disdain for science and for wildlife pervades the Bush administration’s endangered species program,” Suckling said.


Valerie Fellows, a spokesperson for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, told Lake County News that the agency had announced at the end of July that they were going to review endangered decisions due to MacDonald's involvement in those decision making processes.


Some of those decisions went back to 2001, said Fellows, and involved MacDonald changing science “which ultimately changed the outcome.”


The agency's California-Nevada Operations office decided to review eight decisions, said Fellows, including the California red-legged frog, which already is under way.


California, noted Fellows, has many endangered species petitions currently in litigation.


Fellows said the agency had no formal response to the lawsuit.


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LAKEPORT – On Tuesday a jury convicted a Clearlake man who, along with another man, was accused of the robbery last year of an elderly couple.


A report from Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said a jury on Tuesday found Craig Alvin Lemke, 45, guilty of the home invasion robbery, which took place in February 2006.


Hinchcliff prosecuted Lemke, whose trial began Sept. 12 in Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom's Department 4 courtroom.


Lemke was defended by attorney Jason Webster. Webster did not return a call placed to his office Wednesday.


According to Hinchcliff's report, at just after 8 p.m. Feb. 12, 2006, Lemke and Joe Moncivaiz Jr. went to the home of the elderly couple, who Lemke had previously known and with whom he had work-related contacts.

 

The men parked their vehicle three-tenths of a mile down the road from the victim’s residence, which Hinchcliff said was located on Highway 29 just south of Lower Lake.


According to testimony at trial, Lemke and Moncivaiz checked the location of the couple inside the residence through uncovered windows after dark, then approached the front door, knocked on it, and told the male victim they had run out of gas. The male victim was 89 years old and the female victim 70 years old, Hinchcliff reported.


When the male victim opened the door, Lemke pushed him onto the floor and bound his hands and feet with electrical tape, according to Hinchcliff's report. When the female victim came out of her bedroom to investigate the noise, she was tied up with zip ties and electrical tape. Both Lemke and Moncivaiz were wearing coverings on their faces and gloves to avoid identification and leaving fingerprints. Lemke was wearing a Halloween skeleton mask.


After ransacking the residence for about 15 minutes, the men fled with several guns, a large amount of ammunition, $2,100 in cash and other items, Hinchcliff reported.


Once they reached Highway 29 in front of the residence, they realized they could not carry the stolen property down Highway 29 to their car for fear of being seen by passing cars, and stashed the stolen items, Hinchcliff said.


While they were making their way back to the car, the male victim freed himself and called 911. Hinchcliff explained that before Lemke and Moncivaiz could return to retrieve the stolen property they had stashed, they realized their car would not start and heard approaching sirens of Lake County Sheriff’s deputies.


They fled into the surrounding hills until deputies left the area two hours later, then called a friend for a ride and returned home, said Hinchcliff. Meanwhile, the stolen property was found by sheriff’s deputies and returned to the victims.


The jury deliberated for two hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all charges, including two counts of first degree robbery, first degree burglary, elder theft, two counts of false imprisonment of an elderly person and grand theft of firearms, Hinchcliff reported.

 

In addition, several special allegations charged were submitted to Judge Hedstrom for a court trial after the jury convicted Lemke of the crimes charged, said Hinchcliff. Special allegations including two prior “strikes,” three prior prison terms, committing a felony while released on own recognizance and crimes against elders were found to be true.


Lemke had prior felony convictions and prison sentences between 1986 and 1995 for possession of a sawed off shotgun, transportation of methamphetamine, robbery, burglary and threatening a witness, said Hinchcliff.


When he is sentenced on Oct. 25, Lemke could face a maximum of 76 years to life in prison, according to Hinchcliff.


Hinchcliff added that Lemke's accomplice, Moncivaiz, previously admitted his participation and pleaded guilty to first degree burglary.

 

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New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Congressman Mike Thompson at the Sierra Club's annual dinner on Sept. 29. Both men were honored with awards at the event. Courtesy photo.

 


WASHINGTON – Last weekend, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) was presented with the Sierra Club’s Edgar Wayburn Award for passing legislation that permanently protects 273,000 acres of wilderness in Northern California.


The award is given annually in recognition of service to the environment by a person in government.


Thompson was joined by other Sierra Club award winners, including former Vice President Al Gore and author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.


“Northern California’s commitment to protecting our rich natural resources should be an example for the entire country,” said Thompson. “I am pleased to receive this award, and I hope it helps further our efforts to protect our country’s wild spaces and threatened and endangered species.”


“Congressman Thompson’s environmental record has been exemplary throughout his career in public life, and that consistently high standard was raised to a new level in 2006, when the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act became law,” said Sierra Club President Robbie Cox.


The award was presented to Thompson on Sept. 29 during the Sierra Club’s annual dinner in San Francisco.


During the ceremony, Gore was presented with the John Muir Award for his work to raise awareness of climate change and Friedman was presented with the David R. Brower Award for his stories pertaining to the environment.


Thompson’s award recognized his successful passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act (H.R. 233) in the 109th Congress, designating 273,000 acres of federal lands in Lake, Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Napa counties as wilderness in perpetuity.


The bill also designates 21 miles of Scenic River and approximately 51,000 acres as a Recreation Management Area for off-highway vehicles and mountain bikes. It was signed into law in October 2006.


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LAKE COUNTY – Rescuers continue to search for a young Windsor man who fell into Clear Lake Saturday afternoon.


A report issued Sunday night by Lt. Gary Basor of the Lake County Sheriff's Department explained that the agency received a call at 2:57 p.m. Saturday of a man missing in the lake.


Matthew Zanoni, 22, was riding on a pontoon boat with a group of friends when he either jumped or fell off the boat and into the lake, said Basor.


When Zanoni went into the water the boat was doing an arc around an area called Shag Rock near Buckingham, according to Basor.


Witnesses on the boat said Zanoni did not surface after the fall into the water, Basor reported.


Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol personnel responded to the area to try to find Zanoni, according to Basor.


Within minutes of arriving at the location where Zanoni was last seen and being unable to find him Basor said Marine Patrol officials called in the North Shore Dive Team.


Dive team members made several dives Saturday and were unable to locate Zanoni, said Basor.


On Sunday, the Lake County Search and Rescue Dive Team joined the North Shore Dive Team in searching for Zanoni, according to Basor's report.


The divers made several more dives in the area where the boat's passengers described last seeing Zanoni, but Basor said they still were not able to find him.


Basor said the sheriff's office has requested help from surrounding agencies in continuing the search for Zanoni.


The search effort will continue Monday, Basor reported.


The Shag Rock area, a small rocky outcropping above the lake's surface that historian Henry K. Mauldin said was called “Sock-eye” by local Pomos, has been a dangerous place for boaters in recent years.


It was the scene of another drowning in December 2004, when fisherman Billy Ray Ingram went missing. His body was discovered months later, trapped in rocks under the surface.


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