Tuesday, 25 June 2024


LUCERNE – A grand opening celebration of the new Harbor Village Artists center will be held on Friday, Oct. 10, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with an official ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m.

Harbor Village Artists is located at 6197 East Highway 20, adjacent to Lucerne Harbor Park, in Lucerne. The event is open to the public.

The four studios/galleries will be open and many of the artists will be on hand to welcome the public to explore the new artist center, view the array of local artwork, enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres, and perhaps even purchase a piece of artwork or two.

The first of its kind in Lake County, the new Harbor Village Artists center is a cluster of four charming Alpine-style artist cottages tucked into a park-like setting on the shore of Clear Lake. Each cottage houses a retail art gallery and working art studio featuring works for sale by local and regional artists. Artist works for sale include original oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings, Pomo baskets, sculpture, jewelry, original gourd art, gifts, and hand-painted tiles. Gallery shops include The Gourd Gallery, Konocti Art Gallery/Studio, Lakeside Art, and Pomo Fine Arts Gallery.


The concept for Harbor Village Artists began when the Lake County Redevelopment Agency purchased four small units adjacent to Lucerne Harbor Park. Major renovations were done by the County’s Public

Services Department, and the finished cottages now evoke a charming Alpine village, consistent with the design theme of the town of Lucerne.

This spring, in an effort to stimulate commerce and tourism and to foster the arts, the Redevelopment Agency reviewed numerous applications by local artists and artist groups, each interested in operating a studio/gallery in one of the cottages. The result: four local artist groups each have created their own retail galleries and working studios to present an incredible array of local works for sale to the public.

“We are excited to see the level of support, enthusiasm, and amazing artistic talent that has really made this project come together,” said Kelly Cox, County Administrative Officer and Director of the Lake County Redevelopment Agency. “It really showcases what private-public partnership is all about.”

Over the months of renovations, the project garnered community interest and support, including that of the North Shore Business Association, whose president, Kenny Parlet – owner of Lakeview Supermarket in Lucerne – rallied volunteers in September to help roll out the sod for the beautiful grassy area at the entrance to the complex.

District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing expressed gratitude to the community for their support. “The energy created during the development of this artist village has the potential to spark change and a renewed vitality in this community,” Rushing said. “Art has the power to transform individuals and communities, and we’re hopeful these efforts will further that transformation.”

Rushing, along with Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely, will be at the grand opening celebration. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony, performed by the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, will begin promptly at 5 p.m.


The Harbor Village Artists center is home to the following galleries/studios:

The Gourd Gallery

The Gourd Gallery specializes in decorative gourds of all sizes and shapes. Gourd artists Marilyn Crayton, Linda Kelly, and Sandie Coelho-Davis individually design and paint each gourd using various techniques including woodburning, carving, dyeing, and even sewing. Guest artists will be featured and demonstrations and classes offered. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about The Gourd Gallery, contact Marilyn Crayton, 274-2346.

Konocti Art Gallery/Studio

The Konocti Art Gallery/Studio features works by four experienced painters: Ray Farrow, local landscapes in alkyds, oils, and acrylics; Meredith Gambrel, scenic watercolors; Joan Facca, oils and pastels; and Richard Seisser, sketching, pen-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic, and pastels. Fine art demonstrations and lessons offered. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Konocti Art, contact Ray Farrow, 278-0323.

Lakeside Art

Lakeside Art features fine arts and crafts by eight artists and artisans: Barbara LeVasseur, oils, gouache, and hand-painted ceramic tiles; Lynn Hughes, custom beaded jewelry; Diana Liebe, watercolors and hand-painted clothing; Patricia Oates, oils; Carolyn Hawley, oils; Jackie Smythe, oils, watercolors, ink drawings, and photography; Carolyn Morris, oils; and Ruth Morgan, watercolors. Art openings, music, and limited studio workshops offered. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about Lakeside Art, contact Barbara LeVasseur, 274-1393.

Pomo Fine Arts Gallery

Pomo Fine Arts Gallery features traditional, authentic, and contemporary art works by several Pomo artists. This native-owned gallery, managed by Luwana Quitiquit, features a range of works by tribal artists including beautiful Pomo baskets, paintings, gourds, dolls, and jewelry. Demonstrations, art exhibits, and events are offered. Open Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, contact Luwana Quitiquit, 349-9588.

For information about the grand opening event or the Harbor Village Artists, call (707) 274-2346.


SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – Another campaign financial report for District 1 supervisorial candidates, released Monday, shows almost a tripling in the amount of money the two contenders have pulled into their coffers since July.

District 1 supervisor candidates James Comstock of Middletown and Susanne La Faver of Hidden Valley Lake raised approximately $38,859.08 from July 1 through Sept. 30, according to a report due Monday to the Registrar of Voters Office. That amount is almost twice their combined resources reported from the start of the year through June 30.

While the fundraising for the District 1 race continues to climb, the total amount raised for the two candidates so far this year – $60,882.53 – is still at least $50,000 less that the combined war chests of Gary Lewis and Denise Rushing in the record-breaking 2006 race for the District 3 supervisorial seat.

Comstock raised the most from July through September, bringing in $21,125.98, up from $2,229 for the May 18 through June 30 reporting period and well above the $9,727.19 he raised from March 18 through May 17. His year-to-date total is $34,875.17.

La Faver, who topped Comstock by 11 votes in the June primary, raised $17,733.10 during the latest reporting period. From May 18 through June 30, she brought in $2,047, with $3,704 accumulated in the May 18 through May 17 timeframe. La Faver has raised $26,007.36 this year.

In matters of spending, Comstock paid out $15,965.46 from July through September, and has spent $23,949.22 in his campaign this year. La Faver spent $10,049.67 during the reporting period; her year-to-date expenditures total $17,315.99.

Another financial report is due from the candidates on Oct. 23, the Registrar of Voters Office reported.

The breakdown of donations and expenses for the two candidates follows.


Total raised this reporting period: $21,125.98

Expenditures this reporting period: $15,965.46

Total raised calendar year-to-date: $34,875.17 (including $700 in loans from candidate)

Expenditures for calendar year-to-date: $23,949.22

Payments made:

Lakeshore Lions, parade entry, $10

Lake County Registrar of Voters, candidate statement fees, $224

Chris Jones, consulting, $2,000

Lake County Farm Bureau, dinner meeting, $25

Sternberg Bookkeeping, Internet Web page, $155.10

NTLC Newsletter, newsletter, $250

Save Prop 13, newsletter, $250

Republican Women Voter Guide, newsletter, $250

Democratic Voter Guide, newsletter, $100

Citizens for Good Government, newsletter, $80

Barb Thornton, buttons and balloons, $844.95

Chris Jones, consulting, $1000

Voter Information Guide, newsletter, $265

Lake County Fair, dinner meeting, $60

Umpqua Bank, 4H/FFA Donation, $763.75

AMIA, dinner meeting, $50

AMIA, event donation, $20

Econoline Signs, signs, $600

Tony Siciliani, brochures, $3,773.78

Clover Communications, brochure artwork, $1,000

Chris Jones, consulting, $1,000

Bud's Custom Meats, processing, $238

US Post Office, stamps, $21

Econoline Signs, signs, $561

Econoline Signs, sign stakes, $32.40

Tony Siciliani, mailings, $2,391.48

Contributions received:

Betty and John Muller, retired, $150

Lake Elephants, political action committee, $999

Luchetti Ranch, rancher, $5,000 ($10,000 year-to-date)

Mike Browning, rancher, $1,000 ($1,500 year-to-date)

Jim Jonas, business owner, $200

Don Emerson, retired, $200 ($450 year-to-date)

John Warren, accountant, $1,000

Carl Richman, school administrator, $100

Robert and Becky Parker, business owner, $200

Ernie Sanders, retired, $100

Matt Woodard, business owner, $200

Larry and Martha Menzio, business owner, $200

Bill and Irene Throop, power plant tech, $100 ($300 year-to-date)

Duane and Carol Sanders, business owner, $200

Wayne Jackson, business owner, $1,000

Middletown Indian Rancheria, $1,000

Fletcher and Barbara Thornton, judo instructor, $300 ($550 year-to-date)

Rich Devita, retired, $200

Mark and Robert Borghesani, business owners, $200

Rudy and Faith Smith, grape grower, $1,000

Denise Sutton, optometrist assistant, $100

Erik Rupee, attorney, $200

N. Gary Merkel, business owner, $100

Bonnie Yount, Realtor, $100

Milton and Elen Hath, retired, $200

Jack and Karen Lair, business owner, $200

John and Angie Roderick, retired, $200

Dick Frye, business owner, $100

Sharon and Carl Morgensen, school administrator, $100

Ron Minudri and Terry Schweitzer, business owner, $400 ($500 year-to-date)

Hank and Karen Lescher, business owner, $200

Jim and Connie Indrebo, business owners, $300

Caroline and Ernie Emery, retired, $200 ($300 year-to-date)


Total raised this reporting period: $17,733.10

Expenditures this reporting period: $10,049.67

Total raised calendar year-to-date: $26,007.36

Expenditures for calendar year-to-date: $17,315.99

Payments made:

Lake County Registrar of Voters, CD of registered voters, $96.93

Lake County Registrar of Voters, reimbursement to county for election expense,$224

US Postal Service, stamps and mailing costs, $304.60

Copy Shack, DS offset on WB, copies, flyers, $392.46

Larson New Media, campaign ad design/run, $170

HP Home and Home Office Store, printer ink, $10.16

Office Depot, office supplies and equipment, $126.33

Perfect T's and Screening, signs, $134.69

Lake County Publishing, newspaper ads, $2,165.14

Voter Guide Slate Mail, $200

Bicoastal Media, LLC, broadcast ads, $2,772

AD-Vantage Marketing, campaign mailings, $2,813.52

Contributions received:

Nonmonetary contributions

Beth Rudiger, jazzercise instructor, $105

Monetary contributions

Susan J. Cameron, retired, $100

Robert L. Fisher, engineer, $100

Christopher Layton, owner of Pine Grove Resort and Spa, $250 ($750 year-to-date)

Beatrice Moulton, retired, $50 ($100 year-to-date)

PG&E Corp., gas and electric company, $250 ($350 year-to-date)

Jane M. Renner, director, Orchard Gardens Senior Home, $100

Robert Riggs, attorney at law, Katzoff and Riggs, $150 ($7,133 year-to-date)

Linda K. Sereni, retired, $198

Craig Waters, technician, Genentech, $100

Jon M. Webb, principal, Albion Surveys Inc., $500

Robert Barton, retired, $50 ($100 year-to-date) *

Lynn J. Bettencourt, retired safety engineer, $100 *

R. Joy Birum, retired, $100 *

Victoria Brandon, retired, $500 *

Joan K. Clay, retired, $150 ($200 year-to-date) *

Marilyn G. Davin, retired freelance writer, $100 ($200 year-to-date) *

R.S. Devoto, owner, DeVoto Vineyards, $2,000 ($2,500 year-to-date) *

Ron Green, attorney at law, $100 *

Charlotte Griswold-Tergis, retired, $500 *

Lilo Hansen, Hardester's Market, Middletown, $25 ($125 year-to-date) *

Hollis A. Harris, Internet sales, self-employed, $500 *

Gloria Hovde, retired, $100 *

Lake County Democratic Central Committee, $100 ($300 year-to-date) *

Lake County Democrats Club, $300 *

Laura Lamar, photographer, $200 *

Mona M. Locke, retired, $25 ($125 year-to-date) *

Joseph P. Luiz, sales manager, Shannon Ridge Winery, $100 *

Paul Marchand, physician, $1,000 *

Robert Marelli, retired, $200 *

Tom McFarling, owner, McFarling Insurance, $100 ($200 year-to-date) *

Merial L. Medrano, Rev.Trust, retired, $99 ($198 year-to-date) *

Constance T. Miller, retired, $100 *

Beatrice A. Moulton, retired, $50 ($100 year-to-date) *

Philip Murphy, farmer, self-employed $200 *

Richard M. Norton, retired, $100 ($200 year-to-date) *

Kathernie A. Regalado, retired, $100 *

Ed Robey, supervisor, Lake County, $250 *

Robert R. Riggs, attorney at law, Katzoff and Riggs, $5,983 ($7,133 year-to-date) *

Denise Rushing, supervisor, Lake County, $200 *

Debra S. Sally, veterinarian, Clearlake Vet Hospital, $50 ($100 year-to-date) *

James R. Serventi, retired, $100 ($175 year-to-date) *

Angela Siegel, teacher, $100 * *

Janice M. Stewart, director, $99 ($198 year-to-date) *

Joan F. Stoneberg, retired, $150 ($200 year-to-date) *

Helen P. Whitney, co-owner, Whitney Plumbing, $100 *

Joan Worster, retired, $50 ($100 year-to-date) *

Yoxagoi Orchards, farmer/owner, $500 *

* = Denotes those that had "Intermediary: Lake County Citizens Coalition" below their entry. The Lake County Citizens Coalition matched those donations dollar for dollar at a Sept. 20 event; at that event, $14,766 was raised, $7,383 from the public and $7,383 from the coalition, plus an unmatched amount of $380. Those funds are included in her reporting period total.


LAKE COUNTY – A pot holder too close to a lit burner or a space heater left on overnight could be all it takes to start a home fire. In fact, cooking and heating are among the leading causes of home fires in California and that is why Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is asking for homeowner’s help in preventing home fires.

CAL FIRE responds to more than 300,000 emergencies and calls for service each year. More than 5,000 of these emergencies are fires inside homes and other buildings.

“In the past three years hundreds of people have died in home fires in California,” said Cal Fire Director Chief Ruben Grijalva. “What is so tragic is that many of these fires are easily preventable when residents take simple steps.”

It is because of these startling figures that this year’s theme of Fire Prevention Week 2008 is “Prevent Home Fires!” From Oct. 5 through11, Cal Fire and fire departments across the country will be encouraging their communities to check their homes for fire hazards. With a little extra caution, preventing the leading causes of home fires – cooking, heating, electrical and smoking – is within their power.

Here are some simple steps to help prevent home fires:

  • Cooking: Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period time, turn off the stove.

  • Heating: Keep all things that can burn, such as paper, bedding or furniture, at least 3 feet away from heating equipment.

  • Electrical: Replace cracked and damaged electrical cords; use extension cords for temporary wiring only. Consider having additional circuits or receptacles added by a qualified electrician.

  • Smoking: If you smoke, smoke outside; wherever you smoke, use deep, sturdy ashtrays.

Each year, the week surrounding the date of Oct. 9 is celebrated as National Fire Prevention Week.

Why Oct. 9? The date commemorates the infamous “Great Chicago Fire” of 1871 that killed 250 people and destroyed over 17,000 homes.

Fire Prevention Week is organized each year by the National Fire Protection Association.

For more fire safety tips visit the CAL FIRE Web site at www.fire.ca.gov.


SPRING VALLEY – Law enforcement officials were looking for a subject Wednesday night who reportedly fled the scene of a vehicle collision.

The crash happened shortly after 7 p.m. on Spring Valley Road one and a half miles north of the community's store.

Officials at the scene reported they believed up to three people had been involved but one was missing.

The car involved, the make of which was not stated in initial reports, was seen speeding shortly before the collision, and the driver may have been under the influence, according to the California Highway Patrol's incident logs.

Although the CHP initially indicated there were no injuries, a lot of blood was reported at the scene. Fire officials reported some subjects related to the crash were walking down the road.

Clearlake Police was contacted and asked to look for a subject involved in the crash at a Clearlake address.

No further information on the driver of the passengers was available late Wednesday.

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


LAKE COUNTY – This week fire officials are reminding area residents about the important steps they can take to protect their homes from fire.

The National Fire Protection Association's theme for Fire Prevention Week 2008 – which is Oct. 5 through 11 – is “Prevent home fires.”

The importance of this effort is made clear in the numbers – home fires killed an average of seven people every day in 2006, the association reported.

You can protect yourself and your home from the major causes of home fires by taking some basic precautions.

Cal Fire Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit Chief Ernie Loveless is asking everyone to check each room in their home for these common hazards and learn to spot situations that may cause a fire risk.


  • Are portable heaters placed at least 3 ft. from anything that can burn?

  • Are matches and lighters kept in a locked cabinet where children cannot reach them?

  • Has your wiring been inspected to make sure that it meets code requirements?

  • Are electrical cords in good condition, not frayed or cracked?

  • Do you have a smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home?

  • Are smoke alarms interconnected so that when one sounds that all sound?

  • Do you test your smoke alarms once a month?

  • Does your family practice your home fire escape plan twice a year?

  • Does your home have an automatic sprinkler system, which will contain a fire?

  • Does your home have carbon monoxide alarms?


  • Is your stove top clean and free of clutter?

  • Do you stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food?


  • Do you have a sturdy metal fireplace screen?

  • Do you have your chimney cleaned and inspected at the beginning of each heating season?

  • Do you encourage smokers to smoke outside the home?


  • Do you have arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)?

  • Do you burn candles in your bedroom? National Fire Protection Association discourages the use of candles in the bedroom – the largest number of candle fires occur in bedrooms.


  • Do you have heating equipment cleaned and inspected by a professional each year?

“Fire Prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” said Loveless.

He encourages everyone to talk with your family members about fire prevention and check areas in their homes for hazards.


From left, Madelene Lyon, Wilda Shock, Congressman Mike Thompson, Ruth Coleman, Rob Brown, Mark Covella, Myron Holdenried, Steve Brookes and Supervising Ranger Ryen Goering break ground on Clear Lake State Park's new education pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

CLEAR LAKE STATE PARK – Sharing the wonders of nature with today's children – who increasingly are in front of a video screen rather than climbing trees and playing in the open air – is a principal goal behind the Clear Lake State Park's new education pavilion, which was celebrated Saturday.

The groundbreaking for the education pavilion was part of “A Wild Affair in Your Park.” Rain earlier on Saturday had organizers of the outdoor event a little concerned, but the weather cooperated to offer a sunny and not-too-cool, picture-perfect fall afternoon.

Construction of the education pavilion, which will be located near the park visitor center, is expected to begin next month, said Madelene Lyon, president of the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association, which has worked for the last four years to make the project a reality.

Saturday's celebration was especially poignant in the aftermath of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal earlier this year to close 48 state parks – among them, Clear Lake State Park and Anderson Marsh State Historic Park – in order to address the state's budget crisis. That proposal was withdrawn in Schwarzenegger's May budget revise.

Federal, state and local officials who took part in Saturday's event credited Lyon for her hard work and tenacity in getting the project off the ground – including raising the $183,000 to build the pavilion.

After the idea originally was proposed four years ago, Congressman Mike Thompson – who took part in the groundbreaking – went to State Parks Director Ruth Coleman, one of his former staffers, and asked her for help.




Madelene Lyon (right) shows State Parks Director Ruth Coleman a model of the education pavilion at A Wild Affair in Your Park on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson. 



At that time, Coleman set aside $60,000 for the project, an amount she managed to protect through a budget crunch and the threat to shut the park made earlier this year.

“This is a very important milestone for this park,” Coleman said Saturday.

Coleman said the pavilion's construction is coming at an important time. Pointing to the project's theme of “No Child Left Inside,” Coleman said it will help bring children back to the outdoors.

She said children today spend 30 minutes a week in unstructured play outside, versus 14 hours in front of a screen. “It's like they are under house arrest.”

That's leading to young people coming to parks with a very different mindset than those shared by previous generations, said Coleman.

Thompson, Coleman and Lyon were joined in the official groundbreaking by Supervisor Rob Brown; Wilda Shock of the Keeling-Barnes Family Foundation; Myron Holdenried, whose grandparents, Fred and Nellie Dorn, donated the property that became the state park 60 years ago, and who himself has donated to the pavilion effort; Steve Brookes, representing the Priest Family Foundation, another major project donor; the park's Supervising Ranger Ryen Goering; and Mark Covella, Bay Area manager of the California Conservation Corps, which will build the pavilion.

In addition to the $60,000 provided by the State Parks Department, the $183,000 raised to build the pavilion came from a variety of other sources, including a $6,000 grant from the California State Park Foundation, $10,000 from the Keeling-Barnes Family Foundation, and funds from the Priest Family Foundation and other local, private contributions.

Still needed, however, is money to outfit the pavilion with scientific and other equipment, said Lyon. In addition to featuring the groundbreaking, A Wild Affair – which Lyon said was a one-time event – also was a fundraiser to raise those additional funds.




Congressman Mike Thompson (center) checks out the Lake County Vector Control booth at A Wild Affair in Your Park on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Fifteen wineries and nine restaurants were featured, sheltered under tents set up within a green outline on the ground that signified the education pavilion's footprint. Visitors also could look at exhibits from the visitor center, included a large stuffed mountain lion. Live music added to the festive fall atmosphere.

As soon as the state signs the contract, the pavilion's construction can begin, said Lyon.

Covella said the California Conservation Corps is aiming to start construction in the middle of November.

A Conservation Corps team of about 12 people from Ukiah, led by two crew supervisors with general contractor experience, will build the facility over a span of about four months, he said.

Some of the work is likely to be held up by rain during the winter season, but if all goes well the building could be completed by spring, said Covella. Lyon added she would love to see the building completed in time for the Heron Festival and Wildflower Breakfast next April.

During his remarks, Thompson said Lyon had been tenacious in her desire to see the pavilion built. “When she knew that was the right thing to do, she didn't let go,” said Thompson.

But, he added, he didn't need much convincing. “She had me at 'hello.'”

Thompson, who reminisced about the importance of the outdoors in his childhood, said he looked forward to coming back when the pavilion was open and children were there to enjoy it.

Brown, who had traveled to Sacramento earlier this year to argue against closing the park, also credited Lyon for her efforts. He added that it's fortunate to be in a community “where we can put something like this together.”

Former state senator and current Assembly candidate Wes Chesbro said a longterm strategy is needed to help preserve the state's parks.

“State parks have been underfunded for years and years and years,” which he said he plans to address if he's elected in November.

A Wild Affair was six months in the making, said Lyon. “We're very, very pleased about how it turned out.”

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





Fifteen wineries and nine restaurants served up special offerings at A Wild Affair in Your Park on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





Barbara LaForge was murdered on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002. Police continue to investigate the case in order to bring her killer to justice.


LAKEPORT – Six years later, there are people in Lakeport who believe a murderer is walking among them. {sidebar id=101}

That murderer is the same person who, six years ago on this date, walked into a frame shop on Main Street, shot 43-year-old Barbara LaForge four times in the chest – once through the heart – and then walked back out into the broad daylight of a Tuesday morning.

“I would say that we believe the suspect is out there,” said Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department.

No one reported seeing LaForge's murderer, and to this day no arrests have been made, making it one of the county's longest-running unsolved murder cases, and Lakeport's only unsolved homicide.

In the last year, the attempt to solve LaForge's murder has been hampered by forces beyond Lakeport Police's control – namely in the form of a budget crisis that caused the department to pull its only full-time investigator from the case and put him on patrol, said Police Chief Kevin Burke.

But Burke said he hopes soon to give resources back to the investigation, which he calls “an unfinished chapter” in Lakeport Police's history.

“We still care about this case,” he said. “It kind of hangs over us.”

For those who knew LaForge – and even for those who didn't – the mysterious story of her death continues to raise questions and leave behind it a sense of frustration that no one has yet been brought to justice.

“I don't know why they haven't solved her murder yet,” said businesswoman Sandi Ciardelli, who had a store just down the street from LaForge's frame shop.

And because there has been no arrest and no conclusion to the story, LaForge's murder continues to be a source of speculation, concern and even fear for some.

Old fears, continuing questions

When the murder first took place in October 2002, it cast a pall over the town and especially the downtown business district where it took place.

“When it originally happened people were very, very apprehensive,” said Melissa Fulton, chief executive officer of the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Ciardelli, who described LaForge as a “lovely person,” remembers the day LaForge was fatally shot, with the back door of her frame shop left ajar after the murderer left the building.

“It was frightful,” she said.

Ciardelli said she can't believe nobody saw or heard anything, and yet to this day no one has come forward to say they witnessed anything out of the ordinary.

The day the murder happened, a Tuesday, roofing work was going on around LaForge's frame shop, which may have accounted for no one hearing the shots. There also have been theories that a silencer may have been used on the .22-caliber murder weapon.

For Ciardelli, the murder of LaForge struck an uncomfortable connection with the murder several years earlier of another artistic woman who was executive director of the Lake County Arts Council. The assailant in that case later committed suicide.

Ciardelli said she thinks many people have put the murder to rest, but she said she thinks about it a lot.

“They gotta catch this guy,” she said. “I think he's wandering around here somewhere.”

For artist Gail Salituri, whose gallery shared space on Main Street with LaForge's Wild Wood Frame Shop, the memory of her friend is never far away.

Today Salituri and her daughter run the frame shop, which she bought from LaForge's family after her death.

The tables and framing equipment are arranged only slightly differently from how they were the day LaForge was found slumped on the floor at the back of the shop, facing the back door where she had entered a short time before.

LaForge's daily routine included coming into the shop at around 9 a.m., turning on the lights, closing the door and setting down her things before taking her dog, Carmen, off the leash. But when LaForge was found by a local businessman late on the morning of Oct. 8, 2002, her trembling dog was found huddled in a front window, her leash trailing from her collar.

LaForge was declared dead at Sutter Lakeside Hospital later that day.

People who know about the murder still ask Salituri about it. “For the most part, many have moved on and forgotten there is a murderer walking free,” she said.

Remaining silent on the matter is LaForge's husband, Dan Hamblin. He did not return a call from Lake County News seeking comment on the case, and has never agreed to an interview on the subject.

He's also not talking to police, said Rasmussen.

Police take new approaches

Burke said his department has continued to work the case when possible, but the city's budget and a hiring freeze – which is preventing him from filling open officer positions – has taken its toll on the resources available to current and ongoing cases alike.

“The budget issue has delayed things for a while,” he said.

The department also is under additional pressure because Burke – a chief who has frequently worked patrol alongside the rest of his officers – was tapped this summer to act as interim city manager while City Manager Jerry Gillham serves a year with the Army National Guard in Iraq.

Last year, Lakeport Police sent the LaForge case – which includes thousands of pages of reports, evidence and interviews – to an investigator with Inside the Tape, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based firm that trains law enforcement officers in homicide and crime scene management.

Also last year, around the murder's fifth anniversary, Lakeport Police, District Attorney's Office investigators, and Carl Stein, a veteran Clearlake Police investigator, formed a special task force to examine the highly complex case, which has included more than 100 interviews.

Having a lot of people look at a case can be an advantage, said Rasmussen, because one of them might see something the others missed.

Rasmussen said the group last met at the beginning of summer to discuss the case.

He said Lakeport Police's detective, Norm Taylor, is going back to investigations full-time this month after working patrol through the summer. Burke said the department had an injured officer who is now coming back to work, which will help free up Taylor.

Taylor will work on the LaForge case exclusively, following up on leads the task force identified at its last meeting. Rasmussen said Taylor also will look at some information Inside the Tape provided in its case review.

“There are some leads that we have that we hope will assist in bringing this case to a conclusion,” said Rasmussen.

While the passage of time can sometimes hamper a case, at the same time it can aid technology.

That's true with development in DNA evidence.

Although the Department of Justice was called in to examine the murder scene the same day that LaForge died, investigators found no conclusive evidence such as fingerprints, Tom Engstrom, the department's retired chief, told Lake County News in a previous interview.

But with new DNA technologies now available, Rasmussen said the department has submitted some pieces of evidence for testing and examination to the Department of Justice.

Some of those items police already had and some were things identified over the past year, said Rasmussen.

However, that testing process won't necessarily be a quick one. Rasmussen said the Department of Justice currently has a backlog of evidence that requires testing.

Over the last year police have received some calls from members of the public regarding LaForge's murder, but Rasmussen didn't think those calls resulted in any new leads.

“They caused us to take a second look at some of the stuff that we already had,” he said.

Interest in the case increases each year around the anniversary, but Rasmussen said they've continued to receive calls throughout the year.

Police have never named a suspect. “We're just not at the point where we're ready to name somebody,” Rasmussen said, who added that they would want to have a criminal case ready to file before identifying the person responsible.

The Governor's Office continues to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for LaForge's murder.

Not too late to solve the murder

District Attorney Jon Hopkins, who has been involved with the murder investigation from its beginning, said there has been no arrest yet because the evidence isn't there to support a conviction.

“There have continued to be avenues that we can explore,” he said. “That's our goal, to keep exploring every avenue until every one ends in a dead end or produces evidence.”

Hopkins said it isn't uncommon for a complex homicide investigation to take years to make its way to an eventual prosecution and conviction.

He pointed to the case of Nathan Davison, who was convicted in October 2005 of murdering his wife's stepfather, Tracy Lyons, in 1998. Davison was convicted despite Lyons' body never being recovered.

That case's first trial ended in a hung jury before his conviction in the second trial. A state appeals court upheld Davison's conviction in August, as Lake County News has reported.

“The opportunity to prosecute him came up earlier and I said no, because the evidence wasn't adequate,” said Hopkins.

It can be a very tedious process, said Hopkins, made more difficult by the day-to-day challenges of keeping up with current cases that need to be prosecuted right away.

“It's not an easy task,” said Hopkins, who added that his office also is short-handed these days.

Remembering LaForge with positive action

Earlier this year, Salituri decided to remember her friend with a special gesture.

She began the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund, and raises funds for it through raffles and silent auctions of donated and original artwork, including her own original oils.

So far, she has raised $1,800, which will go toward the Lake Family Resource Center's domestic violence shelter project.

Tommy Gilliam, LaForge's stepbrother, has donated money to the cause from a trust fund from his late father, Tom Gilliam Sr., who married LaForge's mother and had a close and loving relationship with LaForge. Tommy Gilliam said his father would have approved of the effort.

He's also offered to donate some prints to the fundraiser that were in LaForge's gallery at the time of her death.

For Gilliam, the LaForge Memorial is more about looking forward than back at the past.

“We may never know who did this,” he said. However, he said Salituri's event can be used as a lever to help battered women in the community.

One family member not supporting the effort is LaForge's husband.

“Sadly, Dan has not,” Salituri responded when asked if Hamblin had shown any interest in it or made any contribution. “I had hoped he would.”

Gilliam didn't offer any theories on who he thinks is responsible for murdering his stepsister. “I think maybe the Lakeport Police know who it is.”

Rasmussen said he believes the case is solvable.

Salituri also is staying positive.

“I will never lose hope that this case will be solved,” she said. “Everything happens in it's own time.”

She added, “If for some reason it is not solved, there is always the Karma factor which I am a strong believer in.”

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


Several cancer survivors, including Jan Kendal of Marysville, Calif., released white homing pigeons at the closing ceremony for Sponsoring Survivorship on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Several dozen Lake County residents gathered in downtown Lakeport Saturday morning under cool gray clouds, ready to run or walk for a good cause.

An estimated 150 friends, family and event personnel were on hand to cheer them on during the 13th annual Sponsoring Survivorship walk/run fundraising event anchored at the Bank of America parking lot on Main Street.

The proceeds benefit Lake County women with financial assistance during their battles with cancer.

Participants were offered three challenges: a two-kilometer walk, a five-kilometer walk or run, and a 10-kilometer walk or run route. The majority of those choose the 5k walk. Event coordinators reported there were 200 participants.

More than three dozen businesses provided funding, goods and services, as well as raffle prizes which were awarded at the conclusion of the event Saturday morning.

Event organizers could not specify the precise number, but indicated that they appreciate the many individual volunteers and service groups that contributed their time and expertise to plan and execute the complex event.

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



Runners and walkers get ready to go at 9:12 a.m. in Lakeport on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Jill Shaul crosses the finish line 40 minutes later after the start. Becky Pledger (left) distributed medals to those participating. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKE COUNTY – On Saturday, the day after he voted along with the majority of the House of Representatives to pass a massive bailout bill, Congressman Mike Thompson was back in his district, fielding questions about his decision to change his vote and what the bailout itself will possibly offer America.

Last Monday, Thompson cast a no vote, along with 227 other House members, to defeat the first version of the proposed bailout bill, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, HR 3997. The vote was 228 to 205.

The House followed that with a Friday vote for a different version of the bill that the Senate had passed two days earlier. Thompson voted yes on that bill.

“This wasn't just about Wall Street, it was about Main Street,” Thompson said during a Saturday interview with Lake County News.

The first version of the bill, which Thompson called “the Bush bill,” would have given Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $700 billion “with no questions asked,” he explained.

It was a bill, he added, that nobody really liked.

The push for that bailout bill came days earlier, said Thompson.

He and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were flying home to California from Washington. First, however, Pelosi had a meeting with Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

On the trip home, Pelosi told Thompson about the meeting, during which Bernanke and Paulson had reportedly warned that the economy would “implode” without the intervention of Congress.

Before the Monday vote, Thompson said he received hundreds of phone calls from constituents, most of which were overwhelmingly against the bailout. He estimated he received eight calls urging him to vote for the bill and about 1,200 asking him to vote no.

After the first version of the bill went down to defeat, work began on another version.

Thompson said he believed everyone in Congress came together to try to work through what was, for many, a new issue.

Members of Congress also met with academics and economists to try to find out the best course to take, he said.

Thompson said he talked to everybody that had insight into the economic issue that he could. He said they needed as many eyes on the plan as they could get.

Hundreds of pages added to legislation

The text of the bill that the Senate, and later the House, finally passed on Oct. 3 is – at about 450 pages – roughly three times as long as the original bill that failed on Sept. 29.

A key addition is an increase in deposit insurance coverage offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. at FDIC-insured banks. Previously, deposits up to $100,000 were insured; that now rises to $250,000 per account owner. The increase became effective Oct. 3 and runs through Dec. 31, 2009.

Many of the additional provisions are related to energy production incentives, including credits for renewable and clean energy sources, such as solar, biodiesel and geothermal; energy conservation and efficiency provisions; extension of energy credits for refined coal facilities; carbon capture requirements for certain fuels; and financial incentives for refining tar sands and oil shale.

There also are tax extenders and alternative minimum tax relief, with extensions for both individuals and businesses; temporary suspension of limitations on the contributions of food to charitable organizations made by farmers and ranchers; temporary tax relief for areas of the Midwest hit earlier this year by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding; and temporary tax-relief bond financing and low-income housing tax relief for areas hit by Hurricane Ike, among many other measures.

One notable addition to the final version of the bill is a four-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, which supplies funds to rural communities for roads and schools based on historic timber receipts.

Since the bill ran out at the end of 2006, it has run into repeated roadblocks as proponents attempted to get it extended. In recent years Lake County has received about $1 million a year, which has been split between the county road department and local schools, most notably those in Upper Lake, where much of the county's timber was harvested.

A seven-year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facilities that was added, which Thompson reportedly wrote, has earned him criticism for what many consider is just one example of the pork added to the new bill.

The need to free up credit hits business, government

As work on the new bill continued, Thompson said he was still hearing a large portion of his constituents urging for a no vote, but with the economy a “ticking time bomb” and credit being withheld from small and large businesses alike, something had to be done to get the credit markets working again.

Lines of credit, necessary for operating business, needed to be freed up, said Thompson, who pointed to 159,000 jobs lost last month and California's 7.6-percent unemployment rate, the highest in 12 years.

He also heard from constituents facing the loss of jobs and contracts because of the credit crisis.

Credit concerns were an issue for the state of California as well. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to Paulson last Thursday, pointing to the effect the nation's financial crisis was having on California, a sentiment he also shared with California's Congressional delegation, including Thompson.

Schwarzenegger, who stated his belief that the bill wasn't a Wall Street bailout but rather “a lifeboat” for millions of Americans whose life savings, livelihoods and retirements were on the line, wrote that California's economy is “uniquely sensitive to national and international economic conditions and fluctuations in the financial markets.”

The immediate impact on state government, said Schwarzenegger, was a lack of liquidity in credit markets, with many state and local governments unable to secure financing for bond offerings and the routine cash flow used to make critical payments to schools, local governments and law enforcement.

In California, Schwarzenegger was anticipating issuing $7 billion in Revenue Anticipation Notes for short-term cash flow purposes and seeking help from the Federal Treasury if the situation didn't improve quickly.

As he decided on the bill, Thompson said he received written commitments from both Pelosi and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank,who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, that regulatory reform legislation to protect taxpayers and establish a safe financial system will be at the top of their agenda in moving forward.

Then on Thursday, Thompson got a call from presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

“I wanted him to assure me this (market reform) would be a priority,” said Thompson.

Obama gave him that assurance, telling Thompson it will be a priority in his administration if he's elected president next month.

By Friday, Thompson was prepared to vote yes on the revised version of the bill passed on Wednesday by the Senate. That bill succeeded in a 263-171 vote.

But that bill also, said Thompson, was far from perfect.

“I don't think there was a light-hearted vote cast,” said Thompson.

President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 on Friday, within hours of its passage.

In the end, Thompson concluded the bill was the only – albeit imperfect – option Congress had, and it was better to vote for a flawed rescue package and start trying to work through the crisis than take no action at all.

“My vote on Monday, I think, was the right vote,” said Thompson. “My vote on Friday was the right vote.”

Hearings on the causes of the financial crisis are scheduled to start next week, said Thompson.

The hope is that the information that comes from those hearings can lead to new legislation on market reform in the coming year, with Congress hitting the ground running with a plan in January, he said.

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


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Federal officials are stepping up their efforts to address illegal marijuana growing in the Mendocino National Forest, with additional help from personnel from other areas and a local law enforcement staff that has been quadrupled in size.

US Forest Service Special Agent Toby Barton came from Missouri last year to join the Upper Lake Ranger District staff. He is tasked with investigating crimes in the forest, extending from Upper Lake all the way to the Six Rivers National Forest in Humboldt County.

Barton is part of a significantly enhanced law enforcement team for the Upper Lake Ranger District. Previously, there was just one law enforcement officer for the district. But last year that number was raised to four.

Currently there is Barton and another officer on the ground, and two others completing their training.

That increase is based on the significant presence in the forest of criminal activity, especially that linked with illegal drugs.

In recent years the Mendocino National Forest has had more seizures of illegal marijuana than any other National Forest in California. Likewise, Lake County as a whole has led all of the state's 58 counties for the amount of marijuana eradicated.

Last week, Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that marijuana seizures across the county this year were getting close to last year's record.

In the National Forest, at least, this year already has surpassed 2007.

Barton said so far this year they've seized 500 pounds of processed marijuana and made seven arrests in the National Forest. That 500 pounds is “a substantial amount” of marijuana, said Barton, and more than twice last year's take.

Of those arrested, six were in the Upper Lake Ranger District and one in Covelo, said Barton.

Barton said most of the individuals who have been arrested for drug activity in the forest have been Hispanic males who are in the country illegally.

In looking at who is ultimately responsible for the illegal grows in the Mendocino National Forest, Barton suggests, “I believe most of it is going to be part of the drug trafficking organizations from Mexico.”

That viewpoint is consistent with statements made by local and state law enforcement officials, who identify those drug rings as using marijuana growing on public lands to fund and support other drug trafficking – including methamphetamine – in California and beyond.

Barton noted that California's marijuana growing activity is much larger than other places he's worked.

He said he's been working on saturation patrol in certain parts of the forest as part of the eradication effort, but he wouldn't specify the location in order to protect his investigations.

When it comes to tracking the marijuana trade, this is the busiest time of year, said Barton.

Because of the size of its marijuana issue, the Mendocino National Forest is getting additional help right now, thanks to a special detail of Forest Service law enforcement officers from throughout the state and national.

Barton, who usually starts tracking the illegal growers as early as March, said he expects the growing to stop for the winter by the end of November or whenever the first snow falls.

Forest officials told Lake County News last year that to restore and clean up an acre of wildland subjected to illegal marijuana growing costs around $11,000.

Barton said restoration work in the affected areas hasn't started. “That'll come after everything has been eradicated.”

It also will depend on how much money is available for the cleanup effort, he said.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's fire districts were called on Sunday night to respond to a bus crash near Williams that claimed several lives and injured dozens of people.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said the emergency resulted in what was by far the biggest movement of local emergency equipment for a mass casualty incident.

Cal Fire officials reported that the crash was reported to them at approximately 6:26 p.m. Sunday. It took place on Lone Star Road and Abel Road, east of Interstate 5 between Williams and Colusa.

Brown said a bus that came from Colusa Casino had overturned along the stretch of rural road. There were 52 patients, 40 of them critical and five dead at the scene. Late Sunday news reports placed the number of dead at 10.

Nine ambulances from fire districts around the lake could be seen racing along Highway 20 toward the valley between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Northshore Fire – which has a mutual agreement with Williams – sent three ambulances, said Brown, along with two from Lake County Fire Protection, one from South County Fire, two from Lakeport Fire and one from Kelseyville Fire.

Cal Fire said it sent four engines from Middletown, Clearlake Oaks, Wilbur Springs and Brooks.

Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta was the strike team leader for the Lake County resources, said Brown. Lake County News was unable to reach Sapeta late Sunday night.

Brown said there were ambulances and fire trucks from all over the valley, including Woodland, West Sacramento and Yolo County. “There was a lot of equipment there,” he said.

Helicopters transported crash victims to hospitals around the North State. Brown said some patients also were taken to Santa Rosa.

At around 8:30 p.m. all of the local ambulances and trucks were released, said Brown, who himself got back home at around 9:30 p.m.

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


SACRAMENTO – After several failed attempts to get a bill approved to address the rights of dying patients, last week Assemblywoman Patty Berg earned the governor’s signature on a bill that requires doctors to tell terminally ill patients about their options at end of life.

“I’m so pleased that we were finally able to do something to address the rights of dying people,” said the third-term Democrat from Eureka.

Assembly Bill 2747 succeeded where Berg’s other, more ambitious, attempts had failed. While conservative religious groups called the measure a stealth bill designed to sneak euthanasia into California, Berg maintained it actually only dealt with information and the right to be informed.

The bill says that a patient who learns they are dying of a terminal disease has the right to ask and be told about all the end-of-life options available to them – from pain management to hospice care.

A recent nationwide study by cancer doctors found that only one in three terminally ill patients were told about their treatment and pain-management options by their doctors, even when their doctors knew the patients were dying.

Those patients who did receive frank information were less likely to die in intensive care, more likely to receive hospice; and their families were better prepared for their loss than were the families of patients who were uninformed.

Berg is serving the sixth and final year she is allowed in the Assembly under the state’s term-limits law. Rather than risk yet another defeat on her efforts to enact Oregon-style “death with dignity,” Berg opted for the relatively modest approach of simply requiring that people be informed.

Berg’s end-of-life information bill, as it was known in the Capitol, became a lightning rod for conservative religious groups and others who were still inflamed over her previous attempts to give dying Californians the same rights available in Oregon, where terminally ill people have the right to end their own lives with prescription medication.

“I think he understands and appreciates the simple message of human dignity in this bill,” said Berg, adding that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did the right thing “and real people will benefit from this.”

Among supporters of the bill: The California Medical Association; the California Psychological Association; California Nurses Association; California Commission on Aging; AIDS Project Los Angeles; Conference of California Seniors.


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