Tuesday, 16 July 2024


Pieces of glass and pottery were unearthed as part of the cultural resource investigation at Rabbit Hill in Middletown. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Land Trust.

MIDDLETOWN – A recent cultural resource investigation, as part of a land management plan at Rabbit Hill in Middletown, identified one historic archaeological site and several isolated historic features.

Conducted by Dr. John and Cheyanne Parker of Archeological Research in Lucerne, the findings help Lake County Land Trust directors preserve the site and determine best public activities at the park.

The study concludes that, as a Land Trust property, Rabbit Hill teaches us about the natural world, but it also contains important information about the history of Middletown.

As part of the study, Dr. Parker, a registered professional archaeologist, and Cheyanne, with 12 years archaeological field and lab experience, conducted a field inspection of Rabbit Hill.

“Historic records provide information about major events and prominent citizens in Middletown’s past, but no record of daily life for Middletown residents exists during the time a stage came through town once a week,” John Parker said.

Items found in the historic archaeological site suggest general household refuse from the late 1800s, including pieces of ceramic ware, glass bottles, a soldered milk can, and a brass kerosene lamp reservoir.

A concrete cistern reinforced with scrap pieces of farm equipment, suggesting late 1800 or early 1900 construction, was most likely the remains of a water tank that would have allowed gravity flow of water down slope to a residence.

Corrugated roofing material, perhaps remains of a kid’s fort, and a sheep shear stamped with “Keiser Made in the USA” were also found.

Though no structure remains of Huke and Skee Hamann’s residence, the area is marked by concrete on rocks and embedded telephone pole sections. One rock had a concrete base where a commemorative plaque was placed. Local lore says that three embedded rail pieces once supported a lighted cross atop Rabbit Hill.

Remains of a stone lavatory, constructed in 1950s, is slightly downhill from where the Hamanns lived.




A stone bathroom on the Rabbit Hill property. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Land Trust.



Little remains of their residence that is of historic or scientific value; however, Rabbit Hill itself is significant due to the association with the Hamanns.

The Hamanns lived on Rabbit Hill between the 1950s and 1970s. They used their land’s magnetic attraction as a way to introduce Middletown’s youth to the natural world and the concept of living with, not on, the earth.

The couple left Rabbit Hill to Sonoma County’s Madrone Audubon Society, which later deeded the property to Lake County’s Land Trust for protection.

The Lake County Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of Lake County’s unique natural habitats and open spaces.

In addition to Rabbit Hill, the group owns and operates the Rodman Slough Preserve at 6350 Westlake Road, Upper Lake.

For more information about Lake County Land Trust, go to www.lakecountylandtrust.org . Follow the land trust on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lclandtrust and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lower-Lake-CA/Lake-County-Land-Trust/137282176534?ref=ts .

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LAKEPORT – About 30 members of the Scotts Valley Pomo plan to hold an event in downtown Lakeport on Friday in an effort to rally support for a proposal to bring a planned casino for the tribe to Lake County.

Les Miller, a tribal member and former Scotts Valley chairman, said the group will gather at the Courthouse Museum on Main Street from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Their goal is to gather backing for a proposal to purchase Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa – which closed last November – and open a casino there, said Miller.

The resort was reported to be under a sales contract late last year, but resort officials have not returned repeated calls seeking an update on the situation.

For several years the Scotts Valley tribe – which has no trust land – has been working to get approval for its Sugar Bowl Casino plan in north Richmond, where tribal officials say they have ancestral ties.

The plan calls for a 225,000-square-foot facility with 2,000 gaming machines and 50 gaming tables, which the tribe's Web site said will create thousands of jobs.

But some tribal members, like Miller, would rather see the casino here, in the tribe's home area.

They're also hoping to see jobs created in Lake County, where Miller said the community is hurting. He said so far they're receiving broad-based support from community and business leaders who have heard about their plans.

“This is not just a tribal issue anymore, it's a community issue,” Miller said.

However, the current tribal government isn't supporting the plan.

“We're not going to be able to respond immediately,” said Bennett Wright, tribal administrator for the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians, adding that the tribal government would issue a full response next week.

Wright said that certain members of the tribe like Miller have opposed the tribal government before, and that there is nothing factual about their statements.

In turn, Miller said he and other tribal members who have disagreed with the tribal leadership have been intimidated and threatened with disenrollment, and that internal disagreements have deepened over the last 10 years, as the casino plans have been under way.

Miller and his family also have attempted in recent years to vote out Tribal Chair Don Arnold from office and have disputed the results of recent elections.

At the rally Miller said community members will be able to sign a letter asking US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to take action to limit off-reservation casinos. Miller said it would “open up the floodgates” if Scotts Valley's goal for a Richmond casino were allowed to move forward.

However, those plans appear to have hit some significant obstacles.

Last September, the National Indian Gaming Commission issued a decision disapproving a gaming management contract between the tribe and Richmond Gaming Ltd. – which is the group of investors backing the project and the entity which also owns the land for the proposed casino facility.

The reasons for the decision included the commission's finding that Richmond Gaming provided false information about the partners and their financial interests.

“The actions of Richmond are quite serious,” stated then-National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Philip N. Hogen in a September letter, a copy of which was obtained by Lake County News.

Hogen explained that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act – or IGRA – “specifically identifies protecting tribes from organized crime and corrupting influences and ensuring that tribes are the primary beneficiary of the gaming as the objectives of IGRA.”

Hogen also faulted Richmond for not answering his questions. He had requested a list of all persons and entities with a financial interest in, or management responsibility for, the contract, which Richmond failed to provide. Many of those names are redacted in the letter available through public records sources.

Miller alleged that the tribal council “were just basically selling the farm to these investors,” and that the plan unraveled.

Richmond Gaming later appealed, and in December the National Indian Gaming Commission and Richmond Gaming – represented by Florida investor Alan H. Ginsburg, a real estate mogul who a San Francisco Weekly article from 2004 identified as also being involved in the Lower Lake Rancheria-Koi Nation's plans for a Bay Area casino – signed a settlement agreement.

In that agreement, Richmond Gaming agreed that it wasn't in compliance with National Indian Gaming Commission regulations regarding submission of management agreements, and as part of the settlement Richmond Gaming withdrew its appeal and the commission withdrew its letter disapproving the management agreement.

Richmond must form a new entity to take over its responsibilities. That company must then resubmit the previous management agreement or submit a new one by the end of May.

If Richmond fails to follow the terms of the settlement, Scotts Valley will have the chance to purchase from the company the casino land at the appraised value, the agreement states. If the company fails to sell the land in that circumstance, Hogen's previous letter voiding the contract will become the agency's final action.

Miller said members of the tribe who want a casino in Lake County know that they're in for a battle.

He said Lake County is where he was raised, and that's where the tribe's efforts should be focused.

“I'm not going to sell my history,” Miller said.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – A Southern California man has been arrested for allegedly shooting a north Lakeport man earlier this year.

Raymundo Catalan, 31, a painter from North Hollywood, was arrested Feb. 9 for attempted murder, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Catalan was booked into the Lake County Jail on Tuesday, according to jail records. His bail is set at $750,000.

He was arrested for the Jan. 4 shooting of 35-year-old Marshall Wisterman, Bauman said.

Deputies found Wisterman – who had been shot in the abdomen – lying in the hallway of his home in the Lakeside Village Estates mobile home park in north Lakeport, as Lake County News has reported.

Bauman said witness statements and evidence at the scene revealed at the time that an unidentified man had come to Wisterman’s home to talk to him. When an argument ensued between the men outside of the home, the man shot Wisterman at close range before fleeing the scene.

Wisterman was flown by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of the gunshot wound and later released, Bauman said.

The reason for the argument that apparently led to Jan. 4 shooting is still under investigation, Bauman said.

However, he added that detectives have determined that a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was used in the attempted murder of Wisterman.

He said the weapon is still outstanding but a slug was recovered from the scene.

The Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit, which led the investigation into the shooter's identity and the motive for the apparent attempt on Wisterman’s life, focused in on Catalan as the suspect not long after the incident, Bauman said.

Within days of the incident Lake County Superior Court Judge Richard Martin signed a $750,000 warrant for Catalan's arrest. Although he's from North Hollywood, Catalan was determined to have ties in Lake, Sonoma and Marin counties, according to Bauman.

For the past month, sheriff’s detectives have coordinated with the California Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshal’s Service in determining Catalan’s whereabouts, Bauman said.

On Feb. 9 Catalan was located at a restaurant in North Hollywood by a team of U.S. Marshals. Bauman said he was arrested without incident.

When the U.S. Marshal's Service apprehended Catalan, he allegedly had a large quantity of methamphetamine in his vehicle, Bauman said.

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In recent columns I've compared wines to celebrities, and when it comes to describing Malbec Wallace Shawn best embodies the wine.

What, you’re surprised? You didn’t think all grapes are supermodels and square-jawed leading men,

did you? Inconceivable! Sometimes a grape isn’t sexy!

Most people would recognize Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, the egotistical but somehow loveable criminal “mastermind” from the movie “The Princess Bride” who says the overused but unforgettable catch phrase, “INCONCEIVABLE!” But besides being an actor, he’s a comic, playwright and political activist.

The Malbec grape is tannic, thin-skinned, very susceptible to diseases and frost, and has a tendency to “shatter” (without going into huge detail, it means to not produce well for numerous reasons).

Malbec vines are the proverbial 98 pound weakling of the vineyard, which is kind of amusing since it produces a grape with 300 pound flavor. It’s similar in this regard to Wallace Shawn, who in real life is only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, yet he produces characters that are larger than life.

The fact is, Malbec just isn’t a statuesque, buff, sexy grape. Some winemakers may disagree, just like some women might consider Wallace Shawn a hunk of beefcake, but he was once described as “one of the worst and unsightliest actors in this city.”

In 1956 a hard frost killed off 75 percent of all of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux France, Malbec’s homeland. As if to say “You’re more trouble than you are worth,” most of the acreage wasn’t replanted with Malbec but with the more hearty and currently marketable Merlot vines.

Malbec is considered to be one of Bordeaux’s “noble grapes” yet, due to its finicky nature, it has lost favor with winegrowers and is dying a slow death in France. It’s not as if they ever really loved the

grape to begin with, since “Mal Bec” means “bad beak” or “bad mouth” in French.

An annoyingly talkative person is also called “mal bec.” Wallace Shawn, with his whiny kind of voice, could be called a “mal bec.”

The true origin of the name for the vine isn’t known. Usually this wine is inexpensive or used for blending. Argentina, however, has developed a love for Malbec and is planting it and producing it

with a passion. It has become so popular in Argentina that 70 percent of the world’s Malbecs are now produced in Argentina. Because Argentina is flooding the market with their Malbec you can usually find them for between $7 and $14 in your local mega-market.

Wallace Shawn won’t become the next Dirty Harry or John McClain, but put him in an ensemble cast and he’ll steal the show. So much so that all you have to do is say “Inconceivable!” and everyone instantly knows who you are speaking of. There is even a Grand Negas Zek impersonation on YouTube for all of the Star Trek fans.

Wallace Shawn, like Malbec, commands attention. I’m a big Wallace Shawn fan, but if you were to tell me he would be replacing Stallone in the next Rambo movie I’d call you crazy.

Same thing if you told me that Brassfield Estate’s Malbec was voted to be the winner of the 2009 People’s Choice “Best Red Wine of High Valley”… It was?! OK, I’ll admit at times I may be incorrect … so maybe Wallace Shawn as Rambo could work. I guess I’ll have to suffer a little schadenfreude from the Malbec winemakers.

Wallace Shawn is fantastically talented and adds depth, humor and personality to everything that he is a part of. Malbec is the same way. There are good 100-percent Malbec wines, but it does its best work in a blend.

A straight Malbec wine isn’t a leisurely, sit-around-and-drink-on-the-back-deck kind of wine, it needs to be paired with food, and is especially good with rare red meat. Malbec is an “in your face” red wine that slaps your tongue around to make sure it gets its point across.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like heavy tannins in wine, and I don’t like the whininess in Wallace Shawn’s voice. But those tannins and that voice are both the claims to fame for each of them. It is what makes them unique and marketable, just as they are.

Flavor descriptors you can find in Malbec are anise (black licorice), blackberries, black cherry, cassis (currants), citrus, coffee, damson (a tart variety of plum grown for making jams and jellies, the term is

mainly used by wine snobs trying to sound condescending), figs, flowers, lavender, mint, mocha, oak, pepper, plum, roses, sage, yogurt and, my favorite – that I have never heard to describe any other wine

before – fleshiness. Someone needs to explain that one to me.

If you want to start sounding like a pretentious wine snob you can start by embellishing on descriptors, so instead of saying, “It tastes like figs and coffee,” say, “Reminiscent of grilled figs and espresso.”

Try compounding flavors like “blackberry jam,” or bring up obscure references that give no information that the general public can use, such as “Flavor of damson,” or “the taste of purple after it rains.” While researching Malbec I found many of these snobbish descriptors. Again … “fleshiness”?

Malbec’s color is often described as dense, so dense that Malbec is even called the “Black wine.” Many of Wallace Shawn’s plays and characters can be described as dense, dark, and deep. I can’t think of

any of them that can be described as shallow or flighty; well maybe Rex the tyrannosaurus in “Toy Story.”

Malbec can be intense, so intense that often when winemakers consider putting 2 percent Malbec into a Cabernet Sauvignon they end up just adding 1.5 percent instead. Wallace Shawn can also be considered to be intense, being very politically opinionated in his personal and professional life.

This intensity is what makes Malbec such a great blender. Alone it can be an acquired taste but still an outstanding wine, especially if served with a meal. Blended it can add depth and complexity to an

ensemble cast. Either way the idea that you won’t like Malbec in some form is inconceivable!

Lake County Malbec

Blackstone Winery (Lake County Grapes, Sonoma winery)

Brassfield Estate Winery (Best Red Wine of High Valley AVA, Peoples Choice Awards)

Dusinberre’s 100 percent (new branding)

Ceago Vinegarden

Steele Wines Writers Block (10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Cabernet Franc, 5 percent Merlot)

Ledson Winery and Vineyard (Lake County Grapes, Sonoma winery)

McDermaid Family Vineyards (8 percent Petite Verdot)

Moore Family Winery (SOLD OUT)

Zina Hyde Cunningham (Lake County Grapes, Boonville winery)

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

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LAKEPORT – Local job seekers and businesses are invited to upcoming sessions on opportunities for subsidized employment and training programs.

Lake One-Stop Inc., Lake County Department of Social Services and Arbor Education will present information on the programs during two separate sessions – one designed for employers and another specifically for job seekers.

The employers' session will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Lake One-Stop's Lakeport office, located at 55 First St.

Employers will learn what services are available and understand their liabilities for unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation when utilizing Department of Social Services and Lake One-Stop’s work experience programs.

The workshop for job seekers will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, also at the One-Stop's Lakeport office.

Prospective employees can learn about services such as resume writing workshops, computer literacy labs, paid work experience and on-the-job-training.

Space is limited. To serve a seat, call 707-262-3400.

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WITTER SPRINGS – A Lakeport man died in a Tuesday night head-on collision that occurred when another driver – who may have been under the influence – attempted to pass a big rig on a blind curve.

Robert G. Roe, 58, died at the scene of the crash, which took place just before 8 p.m. Tuesday on Highway 20 west of Witter Springs Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Roe was hit head-on by Tracy resident Daren K. Norman, 44, as Norman was attempting to pass a big rig, the CHP reported.

CHP officers later arrested Norman for driving under the influence.

Norman was driving a 2005 Nissan Altima westbound on Highway 20 just west of Witter Springs Road, while Roe was traveling eastbound in a 1990 Honda Civic hatchback, the report explained.

Rodney J. Lucero, 59, of Red Bluff was driving a 2005 International truck westbound ahead of Norman, who the CHP investigation concluded crossed over double yellow lines and attempted to pass Lucero on a blind curve at a high rate of speed.

Norman hit Roe's Honda head-on and sideswiped Lucero's truck, killing Roe and resulting in major injuries for Norman, CHP officials said. Lucero was uninjured.

REACH air ambulance landed a mile and a half to the east of the crash at the Half Diamond Ranch, and Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown transported medical personnel to the scene, as Lake County News has reported.

Later, a Northshore Fire ambulance transported Norman back to the ranch, where he was picked up by REACH and taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment. At that time he also was placed under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence, the CHP reported.

The CHP said all of the drivers were using their safety belts.

CHP Officer Kory Reynolds is leading the investigation.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – A small gathering held Friday in downtown Lakeport sought to rally community members' support for bringing new jobs to Lake County through a new Indian casino.

Nearly two dozen people, some of them members of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo, along with members from other Pomo tribes around the lake, gathered in front of Courthouse Museum on Main Street.

They collected signatures to send to US Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Congressman Mike Thompson, requesting there be a stop to off-reservation casinos.

Les Miller, one of the organizers, said they want to see a casino not in Richmond, where the tribe has been proposing to build a large facility, but here in Lake County.

They've proposed that their tribe look at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. Tribal officials haven't formally responded to the idea.

“We are not from Richmond,” Miller said Friday. “We will not move to Richmond.”

Miller and other tribal members spoke over a loud speaker and coaxed people to come over and support their plan.

“The situation is drastic out here in California, you feel me?” said Joe Thomas, a young Pomo. He later carried a sign along the perimeter of the park, which some drivers honked at as they drove by.

The rally drew support from other local natives, including Gary Thomas, whose wife is a Scotts Valley tribal member.

The Thomases had been living in Hayward but decided to come back to Lake County, where Gary Thomas and 24 of his family members were disenrolled from the Elem Colony in 2006. Now, he said his wife's tribe is facing turmoil over the casino question.

“No one wants to hear us,” he said about the concerns over disenrollment and injustices by tribal governments.

Raeven Shepherd, who has many family members who belong to Robinson Rancheria, told Lake County News stories of violent confrontations between her family and that tribe's leadership.

“I support positive outcomes and nothing good is happening because the people sitting in office are messing a lot of things up,” she said of tribal leadership.

As the rally took place during the lunch hour, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and Public Services Director Kim Clymire stopped to listen to the speakers, and they met and chatted with Miller.

Miller, who later continued speaking on the microphone, called the Richmond casino plan a “scam,” and said the tribes can't continue to keep secrets about their plans.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

NICE – An investigation into the burglary last November of the US Forest Service's Upper Lake Ranger Station resulted in the recovery of a large amount of federal property and several arrests at a Nice residence on Thursday.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said the burglary investigation by the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit and the U.S. Forest Service recovered $47,000 in Forest Service property taken during the Nov. 27 burglary at the ranger station compound, located on Elk Mountain Road.

On Thursday, authorities served a search warrant at the Manzanita Drive home of 50-year-old Thomas Glenn Meyer, according to Bauman's report.

Bauman said investigators allegedly discovered several items of government property believed to have been stolen from the ranger station.

The Mendocino National Forest reported in December that the items stolen included several laptop computers, a desktop computer, an assortment of electronic equipment, and wildland firefighting equipment and gear, as Lake County News has reported.

Some of the ranger station's buildings also were ransacked and damaged, according to forest officials.

Also allegedly found at Meyer's home was a large amount of narcotics paraphernalia, which Bauman said deputies seized during the search.

Meyer and two other people at the home were all suspected to be under the influence of a controlled substance at the time of the warrant service and all three were arrested for various charges, Bauman said.

Meyer was booked for felony charges of possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance. Bauman said Meyer also was charged with misdemeanor being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is held on $10,000 bail.

The other two subjects arrested at the scene were 43-year-old Cathi Larae Larson and 33-year-old Angel Dusty Spring, both of Lakeport.

Larson was booked on misdemeanor charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of narcotics paraphernalia with a $3,500 bail. Spring was booked for misdemeanor being under the influence of a controlled substance with a $3,000 bail, Bauman reported.

Bauman said the investigation into the November burglary continues and other arrests are anticipated.

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Gary Basor and wife Christina, along with their Chihuahua, Harley, are glad to be back home together after he spent two weeks on a recovery mission in Haiti. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – Gary Basor is glad to be home.

Basor returned to his Lakeport home late Friday after spending two weeks in Haiti, assisting with the recovery of victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, a 7.0-magnitude shaker that devastated the country.

The veteran member of the Lake County Sheriff's Office took two weeks of vacation time to make the trip to Haiti, where humidity, mosquitoes, an early rainy season and general resource challenges made the job of recovery even more difficult.

The trip, he said, gave him an even greater appreciation of home.

“When you see people who are surviving with nothing, it definitely humbles you with what we have here,” he said, sitting with wife, Christina, and their faithful Chihuahua, Harley, at their Lakeport home on Saturday.

Basor was with a team from Kenyon International conducting recovery excavations at the Hotel Montana, a major hotel in the city where people from around the world were believed to have been staying when the earthquake hit.

Kenyon International arrived in Haiti shortly after the earthquake, and reported that it has so far recovered 46 bodies, 13 of which have been transferred to US custody, with others transferred to the French, Canadian and Dutch governments. Twenty bodies so far are unidentified.

Mario Gomez, Kenyon's spokesman, said they were surprised by the magnitude of the destruction in Haiti. “It's a very challenging environment.”

A nongovernmental organization hired Kenyon to work at the Hotel Montana, Gomez said. Because of privacy issues, he could not identify the client, who had several people believed to be at that location.

The search for Americans and for people of nations from around the world is continuing.

Last Friday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said during a press briefing that 15,000 Americans have been evacuated from Haiti, and the State Department has opened cases on about 2,200 Americans who haven't yet been located.

Crowley said 97 Americans are confirmed dead due to the Jan. 12 earthquake, including four US officials – among them a member of the military and a Foreign Service officer – and 93 civilians.

Basor, 55, has been master diver since 1973 and began with Lake County Search and Rescue in 1982, long before he joined the Lake County Sheriff's Office in corrections in 1995. He later became a deputy and in 2006 was promoted to sergeant.

Today, he's a patrol sergeant whose duties cross over into work with the sheriff's Office of Emergency Services. He has been on the scene at critical incidents all over the county, including 2008's Walker Fire near Clearlake Oaks.

Last year, Basor went to a search and rescue conference where he happened to hear Robert Jensen, president of Houston-based Kenyon International, speak about the company.

Kenyon International is a century-old company originally founded in the United Kingdom, according to Gomez.

A company history said Kenyon began in 1906, when the London and South Western Railway boat train jumped its tracks and crashed in Salisbury, England. Nearly all of the casualties in that disaster were American, and they were returned to their families through the efforts of brothers Herbert and Harold Kenyon of JH Kenyon Limited, who deployed from London to work with the coroner and chief constable to prepare and repatriate the deceased.

Later the company began to expand into dealing with other incidents, such as airplane crashes and natural disasters, Gomez said. More recently, the company has been involved in recovery and identification efforts for Sept. 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Asian tsunami in 2004.

Basor was so impressed he decided to join the company, which hired him as an independent contractor. Gomez estimated there are about 1,200 Kenyon team members like Basor around the world, with a variety of skills – from search and rescue to scientific skills involving DNA analysis.

In a disaster, team members from the closest countries are called up, and in Haiti's case many of those responders are coming from the United States, Gomez said.

Getting the call

Shortly after 5 p.m. Jan. 29, just as he was getting off shift at the sheriff's offie, Basor got the call that he was needed in Haiti, and he was packed, ready and on his way to the Sacramento Airport with just a few hours of sleep the next morning. He said Sheriff Rod Mitchell gave him the go ahead to take the leave time for the humanitarian mission.

Christina, 57, a raw foods chef, made sure he had plenty of healthy foods, including lots of dried fruits and nuts, to take with him. Basor, who always travels with all kinds of gear needed in emergency situations, said he took a lot of his own equipment with him.

The trip to Haiti was a long one, about 24 hours of traveling, he estimated. After several layovers including stops in Houston and Miami, Basor arrived in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republican, Haiti's neighboring country. The Dominican Republic didn't suffer the same impacts as Haiti, he noted.

From Santo Domingo, it was a six hour drive to Port-au-Prince over a rough road with drivers following few if any traffic rules. Basor described it as “Mr. Toad's Wild Ride”; he said he watched people ignore stoplights, fuel trucks pass passenger cars over double-yellow lines with cars simply having to go off the road to avoid collisions. The main road along the way also frequently floods and has to be rebuilt.

Watching the driving from a peace officer perspective, Basor noted, “I could have emptied a ticket book in 30 seconds.”

Once in Port-Au-Prince, Basor met up with other Kenyon staffers, who were housed in a fully-contained camp near the airport, with tents, outdoor showers and restrooms, packaged meals ready to eat and plenty of water, a critical need in Haiti, where the water isn't safe to drink in the earthquake's aftermath.

“It was pretty sparse and we knew that,” he said. “I had taken enough equipment to be pretty self-sufficient.”

He arrived at about 2 p.m. Jan. 31 and spent the rest of the day getting an orientation before being deployed to the recovery scene the next day.

By the time he arrived, live rescues were past. He didn't see bodies stacked in the streets, although one day on the way to the excavation site, they saw a body alongside of the road that had been pulled from rubble and set aflame.

Moving out through the city that first day, Basor recalled, “That was an incredible, eye-opening experience, to see the conditions the people were living in, to see housing and buildings just in total collapse. That first day I didn't see anybody trying to clean up or do anything.”

People were walking shoulder to shoulder through what streets had been cleared, and many of them were begging for food and water. “You could see despair on their faces,” he said.

Many areas still appeared to have not been cleared, and people with using whatever water sources they could find for laundry, drinking and sanitation, he said.

Electricity was online in some areas but appeared to be scattered. Basor said red tape needed to be cleared because the “boots on the ground” people trying to do things like build water purification systems were running into difficulties offering assistance

Basor said he also saw looters – both armed and unarmed – roaming the streets. Those who were armed carried rifles and shotguns.

He also saw signs that world relief organizations were handing out supplies and makeshift tents were being replaced with hundreds of white dome tents. United Nations vehicles also were spotted around the country.

He said he and his team members had little interaction with the people. They were advised not to, and he said they really didn't have the time because of the long days.

After a few hours of sleep at night, Basor and his teammates usually were awakened at around 5 a.m. with C-17 and C-130 planes flying overhead, along with some private aircraft.

On the average day, they were leaving base camp by 6 a.m., and Basor said they often didn't return until as late as 8 p.m. They worked seven days a week.

One day as they headed to the excavation site, they saw people dressed up and headed to church. Basor said it was good to see a sign of some sense of civilization in the midst of so much destruction.

It took about 45 minutes to work through the crowded city, where even police and public safety officers with sirens on found themselves stuck in traffic, Basor said.

Multinational team worked at the scene

Kenyon's team in Haiti included forensic anthropologists, fingerprint specialists, mortuary funeral directors and mortuary services technicians, Basor said.

“The recovery process was difficult at times, especially because of the heat, the humidity and the location of remains,” said Basor.

Excavators from the Dominican Republic were working on scene with recovery teams, which included spotters and structural specialists. Basor said no dogs were part of their operation.

The excavators, Basor said, were trained to remove rubble as carefully as possible.

He said the structure had ceiling to floor collapse, and they were searching for void areas where bodies might exist.

When remains were spotted, the machines would stop and the entire site of about 170 people shut down while the body was removed, he said. The bodies, he said, were treated “with the utmost respect.”

The remains were then sent to a temporary morgue where they were identified in order to return them to their families. Basor said they also attempted to find personal affects to help with identifications.

Basor was working with people from around the world, including a forensic anthropologist who came from Scotland.

Their work was grueling; days were hot – about 90 degrees – with humidity at about 90 percent. He and his team of four went through two cases of water a day, and they were urged to take frequent rest breaks.

The more humid it got, the more the mosquitoes came out, and Basor said even after he returned home he was continuing a round of oral malaria prevention medications.

All of Kenyon's supplies had to either be flown in or come through the “itty, bitty road” from the Dominican Republic. Basor said there was little or no refrigeration, and even though Kenyon was bringing in supplies of fresh fruit, one afternoon an entire shipment spoiled because of the climate.

Christina Basor, who is used to her husband having to drop everything and leave on a rescue mission, said she received some special comfort thanks to the fact that a computer with e-mail capability was at the Kenyon base camp. That meant she got e-mail updates from her husband, which let her know he was OK.

Then the computer went down for a few days. Although she's trained herself not to worry, she got worried anyway. And then someone handed her husband a phone with free minutes from AT&T, and on Feb. 5 she got an unexpected call from him.

Her husband isn't one to complain about hardships, she said, and when she called she could hear in his voice “that he was really satisfied with what he was doing because he felt like he was helping people and making a difference.”

She added, “I just stopped worrying about him after that. This is Gary's calling.”

More work ahead

People were camped near the excavation scene in Haiti, including family members of missing people, Gary Basor said. Some of those people also offered to help.

A few days before the end of his deployment, a woman came to the scene and provided information about her daughter, who she believed had been at the site.

“Through our process and our efforts, the day before I left we were able to return her daughter's remains to her,” Basor said. “It really, for me, gave me that satisfaction through all of the hardship that we were going through, the hard work of our team, made it all worthwhile.”

More problems could be ahead for Haiti. Basor said the rainy season appears to be starting about a month early, and the day after he left there was a huge rainstorm that damaged some of Kenyon's temporary setups.

Basor is used to finding bodies through his work with Search and Rescue and as a deputy coroner. Still, he's never encountered such a large disaster situation, and he and other team members were put through an exit interview to make sure they were OK before they left.

He said he's dealing with his experience in a positive way. “For me it's always been bringing closure to the family.”

On rescue scenes he's encountered family members who tell him, “Don't leave my loved one there.”

Basor added, “For me, that's what drives me to do this.”

That kind of closure allows families to start the healing process, he said.

He also felt there is a greater duty for people like him.

“Those of us in the world that have the ability to respond and help them, I think we have an obligation,” he said.

Recalling what he saw in Haiti, he noted, “No people should have to live that way,” and there's no reason why other nations can't share what they have to make sure Haitians don't stay in those circumstances.

Gomez said Kenyon can't estimate how long they'll be on scene, but based on his experience, Basor estimated that the recovery and identification process could go on for years.

Gomez noted, “It's not a quick process.”

In any kind of mass disaster situation, Gomez said the recovery and response can take months and even years to do, with part of the complexity coming from the paperwork and steps needed to meet the requirements of different countries.

Basor was looking forward to resting up, eating some good food and getting back to work at the sheriff's office on Wednesday.

He's already been asked if he would be willing to return to Haiti in three weeks. He and his wife said they were grateful to Mitchell for letting him go on the deployment, which he realized takes a toll on the small department.

Meanwhile, Basor – reaching out to take his wife's hand – said he came back to Lake County with an added appreciation for family and home.

Christina Basor, whose family has a law enforcement background, is extremely proud of her husband, and she and Harley were glad to have him home safe and sound.

“His life has been dedicated to helping other people,” she said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

SONOMA COUNTY – This week, Sonoma State University came under new scrutiny when federal and Sonoma County officials served a search warrant at the university's administrative offices.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said that on Thursday investigators from U. S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of the Inspector General, Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation served the search warrant in conjunction with a joint investigation into allegations of the misuse of federal grant monies.

“We are working closely with local state and federal authorities to determine whether there was misappropriation of federal funds,” Passalacqua said in a written statement.

Passalacqua reported that the case was initiated based on a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resulting from an internal Sonoma State University audit of California Institute on Human Services (CIHS).

CIHS, created in 1979, was a department at Sonoma State University and was in charge of obtaining federal and state grants at Sonoma State University.

The case remains under investigation by a joint federal and state task force of investigators as they continue to analyze the voluminous amounts of documents associated with the alleged misappropriation of as many as 20 separate state and federal grant funding sources administered by Sonoma State.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE – Local veterans are encouraged to attend a special outreach event planned for this coming Sunday, Feb. 21.

Staff from the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center will host the veterans outreach event from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Elks Lodge, located at 6039 Crawford Ave. in Clearlake.

Veterans will have the opportunity to learn about and enroll for VA health care benefits, and learn about the new Clearlake community-based outpatient clinic that is scheduled to open this fall at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, as Lake County News has reported.

In late 2008 the VA announced that it would open the Clearlake clinic, which was the focus of more than a decade of lobbying by local and federal officials. It is one of 31 such clinics set to be open in 16 states.

The San Francisco VA Medical Center will manage and staff the Clearlake facility, officials previously reported. It will offer general health care and some other procedures for which local veterans previously were required to travel out-of-county.

On Sunday representatives also will be on hand to talk about VA volunteer opportunities.

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour VA’s new Mobile Veterans Center, a mobile counseling center that travels the state providing PTSD counseling and other outreach services to rural veterans.

In addition to the veterans outreach, a barbecue will be provided by DAV Chapter 83 Clearlake.

For more information about the outreach event, contact Jim McDermott, voluntary service specialist, 415-221-4810, Extension 2144.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

A California Highway Patrol officer investigates a fatal crash that occurred on Highway 20 between Saratoga Springs and Witter Springs roads west of Upper Lake, Calif., on Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

UPPER LAKE – A driver who attempted to pass on a curve on Highway 20 Tuesday night set off a three-vehicle collision that resulted in a fatality.

The collision occurred at around 8 p.m. on a curve on Highway 20 between Saratoga Springs and Witter Springs roads.

California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Domby said a passenger vehicle traveling westbound behind a big rig attempted to pass the truck and collided head-on with a car traveling eastbound.

The driver in the eastbound vehicle died at the scene, while the driver believed to be the cause of the crash had to be extricated, Domby said. The big rig driver was badly shaken but otherwise unhurt.

The highway was shut down and traffic diverted onto Scotts Valley Road or turned back as numerous CHP, Lake County Sheriff's deputies and fire officials worked on scene.

An air ambulance landed at the Half Diamond Ranch a mile and a half to the east of the crash site, and Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown transported medical personnel from the helicopter to the scene.

A Northshore Fire ambulance later transported the surviving vehicle driver back to the ranch and the helicopter landing zone.

Domby said the particulars of the incident were still being investigated. Names of those involved were not immediately released.

The inquiry continued late into the night, as CHP officers diagrammed and photographed the scene.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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