Wednesday, 24 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A local man who last September allegedly sped through an intersection and collided head-on with another car, killing its driver and severely injuring the passengers, has been arrested on charges including second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter.

Alejandro Aurelio Arias, 28, of Nice was arrested Wednesday without incident at his mother's home by District Attorney's Office investigators, two days after Deputy District Attorney John Langan filed a criminal case against him in Lake County Superior Court.

Last Sept. 11, Arias – driving a Ford Mustang he had modified for racing – hit and killed 41-year-old Charlane Hill of Laytonville, as Lake County News has reported.

The collision also seriously injured Hill's passengers, Clearlake resident Maria Holt and Hill's young niece, Elizabeth Hill of Ukiah, who both were hospitalized.

In addition to the second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charges, Arias – who has had numerous vehicle-related criminal cases filed against him over the last decade – faces three counts of reckless driving, according to court records. His bail has been set at $500,000.

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Domby, who works for the CHP's Clear Lake office, was at the scene. Recalling the incident on Wednesday, he called it a “very violent, horrific crash.”

Members of Hill's family chose not to comment when contacted Wednesday.

Arias originally was arrested at the scene of the crash in September for driving under the influence and gross vehicular manslaughter and then was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of major injuries to his head, pelvis and legs.

“The fact that he survived it is amazing,” Domby said.

Since the crash, the District Attorney's Office has been investigating the case, which it filed March 29, Langan said.

About 10 minutes prior to the crash, Arias had been pulled over by a sheriff's deputy near Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, Langan said.

The deputy, according to Langan, had reportedly spotted Arias “peeling out” as he left the casino, and stopped him to issue a warning. The deputy would later arrive at the crash scene and report that he had warned Arias.

Just prior to the crash – which occurred at approximately 9:42 p.m. – several witnesses reported seeing Arias driving along Highway 29 at high speeds, said Domby.

One of the witnesses was a Lakeport Police officer who saw Arias go by. Domby said Arias' vehicle was recorded by the Lakeport officer's mobile audio video unit.

“We believe he was doing about 100 miles per hour southbound on Highway 29,” Langan added.

Langan said Arias is then alleged to have run the red light at Highway 29 and Highway 175 outside of Lakeport before crossing the double yellow lines and hitting Hill's Buick Regal head-on south of the intersection.

“It's a miracle he didn't hit anyone in the intersection,” said Domby.

Hill was declared dead at the scene, according to Langan.

Domby said Arias' Mustang had several modifications, including a nitrous oxide system that wasn't hooked up, heavy duty brakes that Arias told officers he had put on the car, a super charger to increase the horse power and a fin on the back of the car.

Arias reportedly had raced the car in Oregon, Domby said. “The car was capable of doing very high speeds.”

Domby said the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), was called in. It conducted lengthy, in-depth analysis of the incident, including examining skid marks and other physical evidence.

That's where the MAIT Team really shines, is doing their calculations on the physical evidence that's left and the metal crush from the vehicles,” said Domby.

In filing the case, Langan said several factors came into play in deciding to charge Arias with second-degree murder.

One of those factors was Arias' driving history, said Langan.

Arias has an extensive past history of criminal cases involving speeding, driving without a license and failure to provide insurance.

Superior court records show 18 previous driving-related cases – going back as far as 2000 – filed against Arias.

He was convicted and sentenced in 10 of those cases:

  • May 20, 2003: Sentenced to fines for failing to display current registration tabs and having no driver's license in his possession;

  • June 20, 2003: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour;

  • Jan. 6, 2005: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour and failing to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of an address change;

  • Jan. 14, 2005: Sentenced to fines for improperly turning over double-yellow lines;

  • June 16, 2006: Sentenced to 10 days in jail and fines for driving on a suspended or revoked license;

  • June 16, 2006: Sentenced to three years probation for failure to provide insurance;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for driving while unlicensed;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for failure to provide insurance;

  • Dec. 18, 2008: Sentenced to fines for exceeding the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour.

In August of 2009, a month before the fatal crash, Arias was sentenced in his 10th case, again receiving fines for speeding, according to court records.

Langan is alleging that Arias personally knew of the dangers inherent in his actions.

“With that history and knowledge, we believe it elevates it from manslaughter to second-degree murder,” he said, adding that Arias displayed “reckless indifference.”

Domby called the murder charge filing “significant,” noting he's not seen such a charge made in Lake County before based on someone's driving history. But, he added, it has been done elsewhere, although it's still relatively rare.

Mostly, he said, he's seen such charges arise from driving under the influence cases.

Still under investigation, said Langan, is whether or not Arias was in fact under the influence of any substance, as was alleged in his original arrest.

California Highway Patrol reported initially that Arias showed “signs and symptoms” of intoxication at the scene.

A blood test was conducted at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital when Arias arrived for treatment, but Domby said the results couldn't be disclosed at this time.

Arias' arrest record indicates he is due in Lake County Superior Court for his first appearance on the charges on Friday.

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

CLEARLAKE – Construction has begun on a new veterans health care clinic in Clearlake, which Congressman Mike Thompson and Veterans Affairs officials will tour next week.

The new community based outpatient clinic (CBOC) in Clearlake will be located at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake. The existing facility is undergoing a completely new design and renovation process.

The new clinic will have approximately 8,600 square feet of clinic space and will offer primary care, mental health services and limited specialty care through tele-health technology, linking the Clinic with specialists at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and Santa Rosa VA Outpatient Clinic.

Congressman Mike Thompson and VA officials will tour the new clinic space on April 6 at 11:30 a.m.

They will be joined by Clearlake Mayor Judy Thein and her colleagues Joyce Overton and Curt Giambruno; Lakeport Mayor Jim Irwin; Lake County Supervisors Anthony Farrington, Denise Rushing, Rob Brown, Jim Comstock and Jeff Smith; Lake County Veteran Administrator Kelly Cox, and Lake County Veterans Service Officer/Health Department Director Jim Brown.

Congressman Thompson has been a passionate advocate and longtime supporter of establishing a VA clinic in Lake County. “Our veterans deserve to be able to access care close to home, rather than being forced to travel to San Francisco or Ukiah to get health care. This is great for our vets and our entire community,” said Thompson.

The Clearlake VA Clinic is scheduled to be operational by the fall of 2010, with management and staffing the responsibility of the San Francisco VAMC. VA estimates about 8,000 veterans living in Lake County, with nearly 3,000 already enrolled with VA, many of which receive care at the Ukiah VA Outpatient Clinic.

Veterans who are interested in receiving care at the Clearlake Clinic may register at the San Francisco VAMC or any of its outpatient clinics. In addition veterans can register at or or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.

This project is under the joint supervision of Capital Partners Development Co. LLC, Vila Construction Company of Petaluma, Carpenter Robbins Commercial Real Estate and the SFVAMC’s Planning and Engineering departments.

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LAKEPORT – Facing a tough economy and foreclosures, on Wednesday Piedmont Lumber took action to close one of its North Coast facilities.

The company has several properties around Northern California, including a store at 2465 S. Main St. in Lakeport.

James Simmons, a spokesman for the company, said Piedmont Lumber closed its Calpella-based truss manufacturing facility – Calpella Lumber & Truss, located at 6301 N. State St. – on Wednesday.

“The word is, unfortunately, it had to be closed immediately,” he said.

Wednesday was the end of the year's first quarter, and the company determined that it was the appropriate time to make the transition, Simmons said.

He did not have information on the number of employees affected, and didn't know if any would be transferred to other Piedmont Lumber properties.

“I know employees were laid off effective today,” he said.

Simmons said the reason for the closure was, simply, the state of the economy.

“It's just a bad economic situation here in the state,” he said. “It just could not sustain operations.”

The economy, coupled with the impacts of the company's loss of its Walnut Creek store to a fire on March 13, made it “too difficult” to keep the Calpella facility open, Simmons said.

“The inventory there at Calpella has been moved to the Lakeport facility, which will remain open,” said Simmons.

Piedmont Lumber also is facing a lawsuit filed earlier this month by its lender, Umpqua Bank, which is seeking judicial foreclosure on several of its properties, including the Lakeport store, as Lake County News has reported.

On March 1, the same day that the bank filed the lawsuit, it also served notices of default against the Lakeport store, a securing property on two loans totaling more than $14.5 million.

In addition, the company is facing a federal lawsuit alleging it has failed to pay benefits to its union-represented workers.

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

Kevin Gomes captured a picture of the black smoke coming from the burning home in the Clear Lake Riviera on the afternoon of Saturday, March 27, 2010. He reported hearing loud explosions that are believed to have come from nearby propane tanks.


CLEAR LAKE RIVIERA – A fire destroyed a home in the Clear Lake Riviera this past Saturday.

The fire occurred at 4664 Kaweah Road at Sequoia Road, according to Kelseyville Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Joe Huggins.

Huggins said the fire was dispatched at 4:47 p.m., with a total of four engines – three from Kelseyville, one from Lakeport Fire – responding.

Initial radio reports indicated that the home was fully involved at the time of dispatch.

“The fire originated in the garage and extended into the house,” Huggins said.

He said that the fire got up into the attack and firefighters had to pull the ceiling down to access the fire.

The 1,250-square foot home was a total loss, with anything that didn't burn being damaged by smoke, Huggins said.

Firefighters cleared the scene by 7:15 p.m., he said.

The cause of the fire is still pending an investigation, but Huggins said it appeared to be related to malfunctioning electrical equipment in the garage.

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

LAKEPORT – A Lakeport teenager at the wheel of a car that flipped over several times Saturday night has been arrested.

Jaime Luis Mitchell, 18, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury at 11:50 p.m. Saturday at the scene of the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Mitchell sustained major injuries, including facial fractures. His passengers also were hurt – Philip Patereau, 18, of Lakeport suffered a head laceration and back pain, and 19-year-old Nathaniel White of Lakeport had back pain and facial lacerations, the report said.

The severity of the crash resulted in a response from numerous agencies, including Lakeport Fire Protection District, Northshore Fire Protection District, Lake County Sheriff, California Highway Patrol, CALSTAR and REACH, as Lake County News has reported.

The CHP collision report said that, just after 11 p.m. Saturday, Mitchell was driving his 1998 Honda Civil northbound on Lakeshore Boulevard at Hill Road at a high rate of speed and he failed to negotiate a right curve in the roadway.

The Honda crossed the southbound lane, went off the road and struck a concrete abutment, which caused the car to roll over four times, hitting several objects including two fences, the CHP said.

None of the three teens were wearing safety belts, and all were ejected from the car as it was rolling. Mitchell was ejected into the intersection of Lakeshore Boulevard and Penelope Court, the CHP reported, while Patereau and White were thrown onto the shoulder of Lakeshore Boulevard.

All three teens were transported by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to the CHP.

An update on the teens' condition was not available Tuesday evening.

CHP Officer Joe Wind said Tuesday the crash is still being investigated.

He said CHP Officer Kory Reynolds is the lead investigator on the crash.

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

LAKE COUNTY – The 2010 Census forms have arrived in mailboxes throughout Northern California.

It should take approximately 10 minutes for each household to complete its form. Each 2010 Census packet includes a postage-paid envelope addressed to one of three U.S. Census Bureau’s Data Capture Centers located in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Phoenix, Arizona or Baltimore, Maryland.

Census forms are delivered directly to each household, either by the U.S. Postal Service or U.S. Census Bureau’s employees. About 90 percent of households in the United States received the census forms in the mail, the remaining 10 percent rural households had their forms hand-delivered.

Each census form contains a unique barcode and the 20-digit identification number for each household. The information embedded in the barcode and the 20-digit identification number allow the Census Bureau to precisely allocate the count to the cities and counties where these households are located.

Opportunists and scammers may want to take advantage of this once-a-decade national effort.

To ensure that the count is safe and confidential, the following information will help residents avoid census fraud and scams:

  • The unique barcode and the 20-digit ID number are on the back of each 2010 Census form.

  • None of the questions on the 2010 Census form asks for Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account or PIN number, immigration or citizenship status.

  • The Census Bureau NEVER asks for donations or money.

  • The Census Bureau NEVER requests for information via e-mail.

  • The Census Bureau does not conduct surveys or censuses on behalf of political parties or organizations.

If you are unsure that the 2010 Census form you received is authentic, please visit a Questionnaire Assistance Center (QAC) near you for help or call the Seattle Regional Census Center at 425-908-3000.

QAC locations can be found on the Internet at ; a list of local centers can be found at .

Toll-free telephone assistance hotlines are available seven days a week, from 8 am to 9 pm, in English and five other languages: English (1-866-872-6868), Spanish (1-866-928-2010), Chinese (1-866-935-2010), Vietnamese (1-866-945-2010), Korean (1-866-955-2010) and Russian (1-866-965-2010). Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons can call the TDD number: 1-866-783-2010.

Beginning in May, census workers will be visiting households that fail to mail back the 2010 Census form to collect information.

To help residents avoid fraud and scams, here are ways how census workers can be identified:

  • The 2010 Census workers will present residents a notice titled “Your Answers Are Confidential,” which explains the U.S. Code, Title 13, which guarantees the safeguarding and confidentiality of information collected by the Census Bureau.

  • Questions asked by 2010 Census workers will be the same questions on the 2010 Census form.

  • The 2010 Census workers will NEVER ask to come into your home.

  • The 2010 Census workers will NEVER ask for money or donations, Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account or PIN number, immigration or citizenship status.

  • The 2010 Census workers wear a white ID badge with blue and red lettering.

  • The 2010 Census workers may carry a black and white canvas bag that bears the Census Bureau’s name and logo.

In the event residents want to verify that the census takers at their doors are legitimate employees of the US Census Bureau, they are encouraged to call the Seattle Regional Census Center at 1-877-471-5432.

Residents also can ask census workers to provide them with a Local Census Office’s telephone number, which they can call to verify employment status. If residents feel threatened, they should call local law enforcement or 911.

Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census takes place every 10 years. Census Day is April 1, 2010. Census data determine boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts.

More than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed annually based on census data to pay for local programs and services, such as schools, highways, vocational training, emergency services, hospitals, unemployment benefits and much more. Learn more about the 2010 Census at .

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LAKEPORT – One of two men who were the subject of a day-long manhunt in Hidden Valley Lake in November of 2008 has been sentenced to prison.

Charles William Burk, 32, a transient, was sentenced by Judge Arthur H. Mann on Monday to 20 years and four months in prison, according to a report from Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who prosecuted the case.

Burke pleaded guilty on Feb. 10 to attempted murder and assault on a deputy sheriff, and admitted a special allegation of personally using a firearm during the commission of a felony, Hinchcliff said.

Thomas Quinn, Burke's defense attorney, said his client “expressed great remorse for this episode which was largely induced by his having been up for four days on methamphetamine.”

Quinn added, “He realizes, however, that that doesn't excuse his conduct, which he took responsibility for, and harbors no animosity towards the victims who are his family.”

According to the investigation by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, on Nov. 13, 2008, Burk and a co-defendant, Malcolm Safa Brown, broke into the home of Burk’s adoptive parents on Noble Ranch Road in the Hidden Valley Lake area at approximately 7 a.m., while they and their 22-year-old son were home sleeping.

Upon entry, Brown began hitting the 22-year-old son in the head. Burk grabbed a .22-caliber rifle he was aware was kept in the residence and pointed it at his father when his father emerged from the bedroom from a few feet away, and pulled the trigger.

There was no bullet in the chamber and the gun did not fire. Burk then attempted to chamber a round in the barrel, but the bullet lodged sideways in the chamber and would not fire.

The victims were able to force Burk and Brown to leave the residence after a violent physical confrontation in which the victims received physical injuries requiring sutures at the hospital, according to the report,

While fleeing the scene down Spruce Grove Road with Burk driving, Burk encountered sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Smith responding to the scene. Burk intentionally swerved his vehicle into Deputy Smith’s patrol vehicle and rammed the patrol vehicle, then continued with his escape.

Burk and Brown then drove through a metal gate and a cyclone fence on private property off of Spruce Grove Road, drove down a driveway, through a chicken coop and crashed their vehicle into a tree near a residence. Burk then left the vehicle with the motor running and attempted to break into a house on the property, but was prevented from gaining entry by the residents inside.

The men then separated, and Burk broke into another residence on Raven Hill Road that did not have anyone home at the time. Inside the residence Burk gathered a bag of food and other items to use in his escape, and found a razor which he used to shave his head and face to disguise himself.

Burk also, for an unknown reason, removed clothing from and cut the hair off of several Barbie dolls belonging to the daughter of the owner of the residence.

An extensive manhunt was conducted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, including assistance from a Sonoma County Sheriff’s helicopter.

Both suspects were located later that day by Lake County deputy sheriffs and California Highway Patrol officers and arrested. An extensive investigation by the Sheriff’s Department followed.

Brown was previously sentenced on May 26, 2009, to 16 years in prison.

At Burk’s sentencing on Monday, Judge Mann sentenced him to the upper term of nine years for attempted murder, 16 months for the assault on Deputy Smith, and an additional 10 years for use of a firearm, for a total of 20 years and 4 months.

In addition, Burk was ordered to pay a restitution fine of $4,200 and restitution to the victims totaling $21,266.01.

Burk will be sent to San Quentin for processing and classification to determine in which prison he will be housed.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing invites the public to attend a Clearlake Oaks Community Town Hall Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday April 7, at the Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge.

The lodge is located at the corner of Highway 53 and Highway 20.

County staff will provide updates on the redevelopment process, local projects and other issues.

The agenda includes an open forum to discuss issues of interest to the community of Clearlake Oaks. Parking at the Moose lodge is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.

Once again, free tables will be set up for local groups, businesses or organizations wishing to distribute informational literature.

For more information contact Supervisor Denise Rushing at 707-263-2368 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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