Wednesday, 12 June 2024

News

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Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 President Dean Gotham (left) works to arrange decorative plants for The Moving Wall display on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


 


LAKEPORT – Final preparations are under way for the opening this week of “The Moving Wall” Vietnam memorial.


The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.


The monument was set to arrive in Lakeport on Wednesday, according to Dean Gotham, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 (VVA).


VVA is bringing the wall to the county for its only Northern California stop for the rest of this year.


On Wednesday Gotham and about 15 volunteers continued their preparations at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Earlier this week, a supporting platform and the Avenue of Flags were put in place.


On Thursday at 8 a.m., the truck and trailer transporting the wall will be escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group through downtown Lakeport to the fairgrounds on Martin Street.


There, it will be assembled – beginning at around 9 a.m. – in preparation for the opening ceremony, scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Gotham said.


The assembly is estimated to take close to four hours. Afterward, the public will be able to view the wall.


After Friday's opening ceremony, The Moving Wall will be accessible 24 hours day until the closing ceremony on June 15.


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

 

 

 

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Divisional flags, representing some of the divisions that Lake County veterans were attached to during the Vietnam War. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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Local sculptor Rolf Kriken's statue honoring injured warriors. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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The Avenue of Flags includes 50 American flags, each representing one of the nation's 50 states. Each flag covered the casket of a veteran before being folded and presented to the veteran's. Each flag has the name and number identifying fallen soldier; families donate the flags for use in the avenue. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

LAKE COUNTY – Local social services programs could be hard hit if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's current budget proposals become reality.


On Tuesday, Lake Family Resource Center (LFRC) reported that Schwarzenegger's proposals include elimination of programs that would result in almost a $1 million loss to LFRC services.


Proposed cuts include eight of LFRC’s safety net programs, according to Executive Director Gloria Flaherty.


Those cuts include one of the agency’s revenue streams for Freedom House, its domestic violence shelter, funding for two teen parenting programs, the pregnancy prevention program, Healthy Families, and CalWORKS domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health programs, Flaherty said.


In past years, these “safety net” programs were mostly exempted from severe budget cuts or complete program elimination, said Flaherty.


But this year, that is most definitely not the case, with the state considering complete elimination of several of the agency's programs. In past years, when the state budget was late, Flaherty said LFRC had confidence that the programs would continue, even with some reduction. Last year the reduction was between 10 and 15 percent.


If the state follows through with eliminating the agency’s funding this year, more than 3,400 individuals – equal to 5 percent of the county's overall population – will go without services from LFRC annually, Flaherty reported.


“The programs being contemplated for elimination weave a safety net for some of the most vulnerable members of our Lake County community, and children, especially, will be at high risk,” said Christina Roth, chair of LFRC's Board of Directors.


Roth said if the state cuts Healthy Families – the children’s health insurance program that assists low-income, working families – more than 1,700 children in Lake County would lose their coverage, jeopardizing preventive care and other medical services.


That will result in a loss of more than $2 million per year to the local economy, LFCR reported.


The agency's highly effective teen parenting program provides services to more than 140 teens and their children every year, providing access to medical care, parenting development, prevention of second pregnancies and assistance in staying in school.


Limited domestic violence services, including the shelter, would survive due to other funding streams, but program staff would be cut by two-thirds, which would result in far more restricted services to survivors of domestic violence and their children.


Lake County’s teen pregnancy rate is falling due in part to the excellent work being done through the adolescent pregnancy prevention Community Challenge Program, according to LFRC. Several hundred young teens receive information about abstinence, results of early sexual activity, healthy relationships, and positive life choices through that program every year.


Flaherty said LFRC has taken the unprecedented action of advising its staff members of potential layoffs due to state budget impacts.


She said the agency has notified 12 people that if the state does not adopt a budget by July 1, they will be furloughed until adoption of the budget.


Depending on the state’s final actions, up to 25 of LFRC’s 57 staff may be permanently laid off.


In previous years, the agency had confidence that its programs would survive the budget process, even when the budget was late; that is not the case in the current year.


“I don’t think anyone can have confidence in the state’s processes this year – it just seems highly volatile and unpredictable,” said Flaherty. “We cannot accept the potential financial liability for the agency should we to continue to incur costs that would not be reimbursed.”


If the state budget is adopted after July 1 and programmatic cuts are made by the state retroactively, it is very unlikely that LFRC will receive any reimbursement for costs it incurs after June 30.


“The individuals who are at risk of being furloughed July 1, and others who may later be at risk, depending on legislative actions, are dedicated, well-trained, professional staff members; we are hopeful of continuing their employment, but if we cannot, other employers should seek them out,” Flaherty said. “These individuals would be an asset to any business or organization.”


LFRC will continue to provide a continuum of countywide family services including domestic violence response and counseling, the Freedom House shelter, mental health services, child abuse treatment, child abuse prevention, rape crisis center, Early Head Start, parenting, anger management and other kinds of classes and workshops, and teen lifeline.

 

“We urge Lake County residents to let Gov. Schwarzenegger and our local representatives, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro and Senator Pat Wiggins, know the impact of the loss of these services to our community,” said Flaherty. “Lake County does not have a ‘deep bench’ of community services – there is little to no duplication of the services being contemplated for elimination.”


The governor’s office can be reached by calling 916-445-2841, or faxing 916-558-3160; Wiggins’ contact numbers are 916-651-4002 (phone) and 916-323-6958 (fax); and Chesbro can be reached at 916-319-2001 (phone) and 916-319-2101 (fax).


Community members who would like to provide financial assistance to LFRC may make tax-deductible donations to the agency at 896 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport, CA 95453.


Some of the agency’s programs that will continue can always use volunteers with experience and skills related to that program. LFRC also provides specialized training for volunteers in its domestic violence and sexual assault programs. Those who are interested in volunteering should call Michele Meek at 707-262-1611.

LOWER LAKE – The Lake County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a new scam that reportedly took $30,000 from a local woman.


Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman said Monday that an elderly Lower Lake woman reported on May 29 that she had been scammed out of $30,000 by a man posing to be her grandson on the telephone.


This is the third report of scams or attempted scams this year in which elderly victims have been called by someone posing to be a grandson who alleges to have gotten into trouble in another country and asks for large amounts of money, Bauman said.


Seventy-two-year-old Marie Newsom reported getting a phone call on the morning of May 28 in which the male caller told her he was her grandson, Joshua Hazzard, according to Bauman.


Bauman said the caller told Newsom that he and several of his friends had been arrested in Hong Kong for soliciting prostitutes and they needed $30,000 transferred to a Hong Kong bank to bail out of jail.


Immediately after getting the call, Newsom arranged for the transfer of funds to the Hong Kong bank, Bauman said.


The same man called Newsom back later in the day to see if she had transferred the funds and she told him she had, according to Bauman's report.


The following day, Newsom became concerned that she had been scammed and called her grandson’s other grandmother in Las Vegas where Hazzard apparently resides. She then learned Hazzard was in Las Vegas and had not been to China at all, said Bauman.


An elderly Clearlake Oaks couple fell victim to a similar crime in February of this year when they got a call from a man posing as their grandson who told them he was in jail in Canada and needed $3,000 to bail out, as Lake County News has reported.


Another elderly man from Clearlake Oaks got a similar call in January of this year in which the “grandson” asked him to wire $6,000 to Canada to get him out of trouble. Fortunately in that case, the would-be victim called his daughter and the mother of his grandson in Los Angeles before sending any money and learned his grandson was not in Canada, Bauman said.


Bauman said the sheriff’s office is again reminding all members of the public that there isn’t nearly as much advice on avoiding being the victim of such scams as there are ways to be defrauded.


However, aside from always protecting your personal information, members of the public are encouraged to always verify unsolicited transactions of any kind before acting on them, Bauman said.

LAKEPORT – As a Friday hearing approaches to determine whether or not a Carmichael man's trial for vehicular manslaughter will move forward later this month, the defense has filed motions that, among other things, seek to have the District Attorney's Office recused from the case.


Sailboat enthusiasts are reportedly preparing to show up on the courthouse steps on N. Forbes in Lakeport at 8 a.m. Friday, an hour and a half before a hearing in Bismarck Dinius' case is set to start in Lake County Superior Court. They're also planning to circulate petitions calling for the ouster of District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


Dinius, 41, is accused of vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence for an April 29, 2006, sailboat crash on Clear Lake.


The sailboat he was steering was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. The crash mortally injured Willows resident Lynn Thornton, who died a few days later.


According to the case against him, Dinius is charged with vehicular manslaughter for allegedly being under way without running lights. Perdock's power boat has been estimated to have been traveling 45 miles per hour or more at the time of impact, and going up and over the sailboat. No charges were filed against him in the case.


Defense attorney Victor Haltom has submitted two new motions in the case, one seeking an evidentiary hearing regarding having the District Attorney's Office recused from prosecuting Dinius' case and a second to enforce stipulations the defense and prosecution entered into regarding independent forensic testing of Perdock's blood.


Haltom previously was unsuccessful in having the District Attorney's Office removed from the case.


At the same time, it's unclear who will be representing the prosecution on Friday.


Haltom told Lake County News that Deputy District Attorney John Langan, who was assigned Dinius' case early last year, e-mailed him last week to say that Hopkins would be taking over the prosecution himself.


On Wednesday, Hopkins was guarded in responding to a Lake County News inquiry on the matter.


“I'm not going to comment on what's going in,” he said, adding that it was best to wait until Friday to see what happened.


During a May 19 hearing, Langan told visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne that his investigators might not be able to complete the review of new information in the case.


That new information includes witness statements that placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa before the crash and which supported former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland's statements that he had been ordered not to give Perdock a breathalyzer test at the scene.


Langan told the court at the time that if he couldn't complete the investigation in time for a June 30 trial date, he was considering dropping the charges. He also asked for the June 12 hearing in order to be able to make an announcement regarding whether or not he would be moving forward.


If the District Attorney's Office did drop the case with the intention of refiling following an investigation, it would have two years to refile under the statute of limitations, Hopkins said in an interview late last week.


The case against Dinius was filed in May of 2007, more than a year after the crash. While the statute of limitations on the manslaughter charge runs out after three years, Hopkins said the clock stops running once the case is filed and begins working its way through the courts.


Hopkins wouldn't state a planned course of action on the case – whether or not it would be dropped, investigated and refiled, or whether the trial would begin on June 30 as scheduled.


“Everything is always possible,” he said.


It appears that the case isn't being dropped at this point; a motion to dismiss would have had to be filed last week, and the court clerk's office had no record of such a motion on file.


Defense cites relationships in seeking recusal


Haltom is asking that at the Friday hearing a date to consider the recusal motion be set. His witness list for the recusal motion hearing includes Sheriff Rod Mitchell, Hopkins, Langan, Perdock, District Attorney's Office Investigator John Flynn, Beland, several other sheriff's officials and independent witnesses.


In his 33-page motion, Haltom's cites as justification for the recusal several factors – a relationship between Flynn and Perdock, both members of the Clear Lake Callayomi Masonic Lodge; Hopkins' “prejudgment of the prosecution's newly-directed investigation”; and “repeated and ongoing suppression of exculpatory and third-party culpability evidence” by the district attorney and sheriff's offices, who he also accuses of suppressing information about relationships amongst members of the “prosecution team.”


In the second, 18-page motion, Haltom said the District Attorney's Office has failed to comply with the terms of an agreement in which a sample of Perdock's blood taken at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake the night of the crash is to be sent for independent testing.


In April, Perdock had submitted two DNA swabs as part of an agreement reached between the prosecution and defense, according to court documents.


In an e-mail sent to Langan May 5, Haltom explained that the independent lab, Forensic Analytical, didn't receive enough of a blood sample to test for the presence of alcohol or opiates.


The results of Perdock's original blood test showed no alcohol but did show a presumptive positive for the presence of opiates, according to investigation records. A second test came back clear, as did a third test.


That first test may have been explained by something as simple as eating food with poppy seeds in it, Haltom said in a previous interview, although he said he questioned Perdock on that point in court and Perdock denied eating any such foods.


In a May 6 e-mail response to Haltom, Langan explained that the Department of Justice Lab only has 2 milliliters – or about .06 of a fluid ounce – of Perdock's blood left, and that's the amount needed by the forensic lab.


“It had been my understanding that the blood would be split for testing at DOJ, but apparently now that cannot happen,” Langan wrote. “I will now try to see what I can do, in order that you may carry out the retesting.”


On June 3, Haltom sent Langan another e-mail, saying no vial of blood for Perdock had been submitted, and that the District Attorney's Office also had failed to provide him with discoverable materials – including Perdock's relationship with Flynn.


He then asked if there were any discoverable relationships, past or present, between Perdock and members of the District Attorney's Office. Court documents don't contain a response from Langan on that question.


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

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Local law enforcement officials are cracking down on trespassing on private lands near Hidden Valley Lake.


Past complaints of vehicular trespass in the Putah Creek area of Hidden Valley Lake have prompted assertive enforcement measures to stop the random misuse and frequent destruction of privately owned, unoccupied lands, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Bauman said deputies have been focusing patrols on private lands to the east of Highway 29 on both sides of Hartmann Road near Putah Creek for the past two months.


Thus far, only verbal warnings have been issued to off-highway vehicle (OHV) operators and pedestrian trespassers, Bauman said.


Those contacted during the two-month “grace period” have respectfully complied with requests to leave the properties, he added.


However, beginning this month, Bauman said those found trespassing will now be subject to arrest, citation or criminal complaint.


Bauman said the sheriff's office and the state Department of Fish and Game will work together with absentee land owners to abate the Hartmann Road and Putah Creek areas in the coming months.


He said the sheriff's office further advises all off-road motor sports enthusiasts to enjoy their recreation without violating the law by using designated OHV use areas such as the Cow Mountain Recreational area, designated areas of the Mendocino National Forest, and the newly opened Oasis Motocross track in Clearlake Oaks.


OHV enthusiasts must otherwise comply with the provisions set forth by state law and county ordinance when enjoying their sport on private property, Bauman said.

NICE – A vehicle crash late Sunday morning closed Highway 20 for more than an hour and a half.


The California Highway Patrol reported that the collision took place shortly before 11:30 a.m. near Robinson Rancheria in Nice.


A white pickup rolled over and hit two other vehicles, blocking the roadway.


CHP, Lake County Sheriff's deputies, Caltrans and Northshore Fire medics responded to the scene.


Three subjects, whose names were not immediately available, were reported injured, and two air ambulances came to the scene to transport them to the hospital.


The CHP reported the roadway was closed, with vehicles being diverted at the Reclamation Road cutoff.


Caltrans road signs were activated at the intersections of Highway 20 and Highway 53 and Highway 20 and Highway 29 to alert drivers to the closure.


The roadway reopened at 1:10 p.m., the CHP reported.


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

THE GEYSERS – A 3.1-magnitude earthquake hit The Geysers area early Wednesday morning.


The quake was recorded at 2:59 a.m. at a depth of 1.7 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.


Its epicenter was located two miles north of The Geysers, four miles west of Cobb and seven miles northwest of Anderson Springs, the US Geological Survey reported.


The most recent earthquake measuring 3.0 or above was recorded early on the morning of May 18, when The Geysers area experienced a 3.4-magnitude temblor, as Lake County News has reported.


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

LAKEPORT – A teenager convicted of stabbing to death a classmate last summer received a seven-year state prison sentence on Monday.


Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 19, a former Carlé Continuation High School student, pleaded guilty on April 27 to voluntary manslaughter and the use of a knife in killing 17-year-old Heather Valdez following an argument on June 5, 2008.


Judge Arthur Mann, decided Varney – who has no previous record – is not likely to be a repeat offender or a danger to others, and sentenced her to the middle term of six years in state prison and one year for the use of the knife.


She will receive 369 days of credit for time served and 55 days for good conduct credit, Mann said. As a result, Varney likely will serve just over five years in state prison. She also was ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution.


Varney's 80-minute sentencing resembled a miniature trial. There were victim impact statements and, in an unusual touch, Varney herself was called to the stand to discuss the case.


Victim-Witness advocates escorted into the courtroom many members of Valdez's family, who sat on the left side of the courtroom. Many of them wore black t-shirts with pictures of the victim. One young man's shirt read, “RIP Heather Valdez.”


Tammy Davis, Valdez's aunt, read her own victim impact statement as well as those of several family members.


The stories the statements told were of a devastated family, stricken by fear, economic hardship, foreclosures, job loss and despair.


“On June 5, 2008, the lives of an entire family changed forever,” when Heather Valdez's life was “brutally” taken by Varney, said Davis.


Davis called Varney, sitting at the defense table with Stephen Carter, a “cold-blooded murderer.”


The main question of why Varney killed Valdez, remains unanswered, said Davis. “We only know your side. We will never know Heather's side.”


Valdez would have turned 18 on April 7, and this Friday would have graduated from high school, said Davis. “You have taken something very special from us.”


Davis told Varney, “I have never hated a person more than I hate you,” and said she wished Varney would die in the gas chamber, a comment which caused one of Varney's family members to break down in tears.


Cheryl Valdez, Heather Valdez's mother, said “You think this sort of thing isn't going to happen to you.”


She said the lives of the family members have been destroyed. “I can't even convey to you the pain and loss in my life,” she said, explaining that she can look out her window every day and see the spot in the street where her daughter died.


Valdez said her daughter was not a violent person or a bully, and asked the judge for the full 12-year sentence for Varney.


Tammy Davis also read statements from several other family members, including Judith Davis, Heather Valdez's grandmother; the girl's father, Tom Valdez; uncles Jim and Jeff Davis; aunt, Donna Davis; and sister, Jennifer Valdez.


Judith Davis, who helped raise Valdez, recalled spending time with the girl, whose death she has lived over and over each day.


Her statement noted that she saw Varney laughing in court one day. “I hate you with every inch of my being,” she wrote, recalling how Varney had visited her house and had dinner with her family when the girls were still friends.


Tom Valdez wrote in his statement that his days are filled with sadness and fear. He's been unable to work and afraid to leave his home.


He added, “I feel let down by the justice system.”


Jim Davis was business partners with Tom Valdez. But Valdez's inability to work resulted in the failure of their business, and the loss of two houses and three cars, leaving Davis homeless.


He criticized both the District Attorney's Office and the Clearlake Police Department for their handling of the case, and said he plans to leave Lake County and take his business with him.


Jennifer Valdez wrote to the court that she had attended college in Sacramento where she was studying fashion design. When Heather Valdez graduated from high school, she was supposed to move in with her sister.


Her sister's death caused Jennifer Valdez to suffer an emotional breakdown and return home to her parents. She wrote that she's watched her young brother lash out at friends, her mother get thinner with grief and her father – who she'd never seen cry before – weep for her dead sister.


“My sister was a good person,” she wrote. “She was not the person she was made out to be.”


Heather Valdez had a hard life, and also had been bullied, but she never decided to handle problems with a knife, Jennifer Valdez wrote.


Varney tells her story on the stand


Following the statements, Carter called Varney to the stand.


Wearing a black and white jail jumpsuit, with her wrists shacked at her waist, Varney answered questions in a soft voice.


“This case has hurt me emotionally, too, and I know a lot of people aren't going to believe that,” she said.


Varney said the fatal incident haunts her every day. “I am so sorry for what happened,” she said, adding that she would trade her life for Valdez's.


She stabbed Valdez because she was scared of getting hurt, and she couldn't fight but knew Valdez could.


Varney said Valdez pushed her as they were getting off the bus. While on the bus she had taken a knife out of her purse and put it in her back pocket. After being pushed, she took out the knife and said to herself, “You think you're funny?”


Valdez didn't hear the comment and came toward her. Varney said she had the knife out and hoped Valdez would see it. But after Varney had the folding knife open she said Valdez punched her in the face several times, causing her to bleed.


Varney said Valdez pinned her left arm behind her and was pulling her hair. At that point Varney – who had no experience fighting with a knife – said she began to throw the knife wildly in the air but didn't think she had made contact.


But, according to statements in court, she did make contact – striking Valdez in the neck, chest and abdomen.


Carter asked Varney what she wanted to say to Valdez's family. “Where do I begin? There is so much I wanted to tell you,” she said.


Varney added, “I wish that I could take this back more than anything in this world.”


Prosecutor John DeChaine questioned Varney about how long the disagreement between she and Valdez had been taking place. Varney estimated about six months, with the issue initially arising over a cigarette. Under questioning, she admitted that Valdez hadn't previously assaulted her but she had tried.


About three months previous to the stabbing Varney started carrying the knife, she stated.


DeChaine asked Varney is she had ever asked adults for help in dealing with the tension with Valdez. She said she told then-Carlé High Principal William MacDougall and teachers. She conceded she wasn't assaulted afterward but Valdez would say “very, very mean things to me.”


The prosecutor questioned Varney about a written statement by a fellow student who witnessed a conflict between Varney and Valdez. Afterward Varney had allegedly said, “I swear I'm going to kill that bitch.” Varney said she didn't recall saying it.


The final deadly conflict between the two teenagers had reportedly been over a mutual friend, who Valdez had asked to choose between them. Varney told a probation officer that she was upset about the issue, but on Monday she said she hadn't been upset enough to hurt Valdez.


As DeChaine's questioning continued, Varney said she hadn't mean to stab Valdez, only to scare her. DeChaine asked her if it was happenstance that she just happened to hit Valdez in vital areas with the knife. Yes, Varney replied.


Carter said the Valdez family's story was compelling, and he was sorry for their loss.


“I must come here to give the other side of this story, and there is another side to this story,” he said.


Varney, whose school nickname was “Mouse,” is a bright but troubled teenager who was described by witnesses as someone who had been making “leaps and bounds forward” before the stabbing, he said.


No one can blame Valdez's family for their anger and pain, said Carter. “But Gabrielle Varney is not a monster. She, too, is a human being, and she acted that day out of fear.”


She's not a murderer, he said; she's been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and from the beginning had admitted her guilt and didn't try to hide it or run away. “She just didn't know what to do in the aftermath of what had happened.”


He said she has an excellent chance of moving forward with her life once she's out of prison, and wants to move to New York to live with her father. “She does care. She is insightful. She is intelligent, and she wants to succeed,” he said, adding she's “extremely remorseful.


A report Carter had submitted to the court said a doctor who has been treating Varney in jail found that she “does not pose a significant risk of future offenses.”


Recalling the victim, Carter said, “Heather didn't deserve what Heather got. You'll never hear me argue that she did.”


Mann turned down the option of giving Varney probation rather than a prison sentence, saying she wasn't overly provoked. But neither did the crime demonstrate planning, he said. He said it was a “tough call” about whether or not she would be a danger to herself or others; he found that danger to be moderate.


DeChaine argued for the 12-year prison term because of the great violence and bodily harm of the crime. He accused Varney of goading the conflict, and said if she truly had been scared of Valdez she wouldn't have made some of the comments that fueled the argument.


Replied Carter, “The only thing my client planned was to not get beat up.”


Carter – who argued for the lower, four-year term – called the stabbing “a violent act” that arose out of “genuine teenager fear.”


DeChaine responded by attacking the presumption that the final fight resulted from bullying, once again drawing attention to Varney's statements about being upset with Valdez over the disagreement regarding a mutual friend.


Mann found that there was “great violence” in the death of Valdez, who was stabbed three times. However, he didn't find it was planned, and considered it a one-time occurrence.


He also gave her credit for pleading to the voluntary manslaughter charge. “From day one she was admitting her guilt.”


Mann then passed sentence on Varney. As the filled gallery emptied out of the courtroom, Varney was placed in the jury box, where she sat alone, sobbing.


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

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CyberSoulMan Thurman Watts (right) with Koko Taylor. Courtesy photo.

 

 


I ain’t in no hurry

but I ain’t got no time to lose ...

Chicago Blues Queen Koko Taylor, June 5, 2007


These are difficult times for your CyberSoulMan. Some of you may know that my mother recently left this earth for the next level and I’m dealing with all the accompanying emotion that accompanies a loss of that magnitude.


Koko Taylor, who passed June 3, was an artist dear to my mom’s heart, as well as my own.


My mom helped shape my blues sensibilities. I’ve written before that my mom introduced me to the music of Sugar Pie DeSanto. By way of mother inserting Koko Taylor’s classic song “Wang Dang Doodle” on the hi-fi, I became a Koko convert as well.


I actually met Koko face to face several times – on two occasions at the Russian River Blues Festival. At the 2007 Russian River I hung with her one on one for about 20 minutes until Little Richard’s limo pulled up and he requested her queenly presence. I also spoke with her briefly at the Chicago Blues Festival last year


I was very proud of returning from the 2007 Russian River Blues Festival with a picture I’d taken with Koko Taylor to present my mother. She, in turn, proudly displayed the picture on her refrigerator.


Prior to the event on the Russian River, I interviewed Koko Taylor on June 5, 2007, by phone for my Internet radio show. When I told her that my mom introduced me to her music she remarked that she would like to meet mom when she came to California. I thought that a very kind thing to say and when I repeated it to mom she received it kindly as well.


When Koko agreed to do a radio promo for me she graciously insisted on doing multiple takes until it was perfect. She was so willing to please and thoroughly enjoyed her work.


During my travel to the Chicago Blues Festival of 2008, I was able to witness Queen of the Chicago Blues Koko Taylor meet and greet Queen of the West Coast Blues Sugar Pie DeSanto.


Here is how I reported it for www.soul-patrol.com .


Fast forward to June 6, 2008. Before leaving the Essex Hotel for sound check, Queen of the West Coast Blues Sugar Pie DeSanto is summoned by the hospitality coordinator to the parking garage because Chicago Blues Queen Koko Taylor wants to greet Sugar Pie. They meet and greet each other like the long-lost sisters in the blues that they are. They hug and charm each other with statements like, "What you gon' do girl?"


"Honey, I'm gon' kill 'em." Koko does her dance. Sugar Pie does hers. It's a Soul Patrol moment.


That was exactly a year ago Saturday. I listened to the audio of the interview I did with Koko on Saturday and will be posting it on my Web site in the near future. Then you can hear Koko explain how she and her husband came to Chicago in the early 1950s from Bartlett, Tennessee. They came by bus and when they arrived all they had was a box of Ritz crackers and 35 cents between them.


Her story entails her humble beginnings scrubbing floors for $5 per week, meeting the legendary Willie Dixon at Sylvio’s in Chicago, auditioning for Leonard Chess and catapulting to the top of the Blues world and staying there her whole career.


She performed her last gig on May 7, where she received her 29th award for Traditional Blues Artist of the Year. Koko Taylor, The Blues Wailer, rest in peace.


Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


*****


Upcoming cool local events:


Lake Blues All-Stars w/Neon, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 8, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .


Open mike night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 11. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, www.bluewingsaloon.com .


Chris Botti in concert, 8:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at www.konoctiharbor.com .


Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at www.konoctiharbor.com .


The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online at www.cachecreek.com .

 

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

 

 

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The incomparable Joan Holman. Photo by Bert Hutt.




LAKE COUNTY – One of the stalwarts of the Lake County Arts community has passed away.


Joan Holman – a native of England, a survivor of the London Blitz during World War II, a world traveler and grand dame of local theater – died June 5. She was 93.


Holman is remembered for her many contributions to the arts, including service as an officer or board member to Clear Lake Performing Arts and the Lake County Arts Council.


She also was active in little theater here, starring most recently with fellow actor Bert Hutt in “The Gin Game,” which she performed convincingly at the Big Valley Grange Hall in celebration of her 90th birthday.


Among her other accomplishments was fine photography, which she pursued during the travels that took her to many parts of the world. Her photos won awards in numerous art competitions, including those of the Lake County Fair where they earned recognition year after year.


Her colorful history helped her to achieve most of the goals she had set for herself during her long and eventful life.


Born in the town of Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England, in the middle of World War 1, she was raised by a single working "mum" when her father died shortly after her birth, and was passed around among various relatives until the age of 8, when she was entered into boarding school. There she excelled in music and writing, winning a scholarship to a prestigious girl's school in Salisbury where she attended concerts and recitals in that city's famed Salisbury Cathedral.


In 1937 she began her career in journalism, soon rising to women's editor of the Home Counties Newspapers in nearby Luten. In 1939 she learned to fly as a licensed member of the Civil Air Guard.


Then in 1940 she moved to London as a magazine writer, just in time to endure the Blitz bombings which she called “terrifying, but in some ways stimulating.”


By the following year she was in South Africa simultaneously training pilots while also serving as editor of the Pretoria News. She later worked as a reporter for the Johannesburg Star, the country's biggest newspaper.


After a stint with England's British Broadcasting Co. she moved to Washington D.C. Where she found work as a "lonely hearts" columnist as well as doing on-air work at a local good music radio station. At the same time, she was aggressively pursuing her interests in theater.


In 1951 she was hired as a reporter by the San Francisco Chronicle and was also married, but was widowed seven years later.


Then in 1961 she met and married Lee Holman and also moved across the bay to the Oakland Tribune where she worked for 14 years before retiring and moving to Lake County. Her second husband died in 1991.


Holman said that involvement in community activities and maintenance of close relationships with her neighbors and the many members of the Lake County arts community, served to keep her going.


And keep going she did, remaining active as, among other things, the announcer at CLPA concerts, almost until her final days.


John Ross, a board member of the Lake County Arts Council, acknowledged the many contributions Holman had made to his organization, including her championship of the Soper-Reese Community Theater.


Clear Lake Performing Arts President Paul Brewer also noted the support she had given their organization over the years including a stint as president.


“She was definitely one of a kind, and she will be greatly missed,” he said.


Family members said there would be a remembrance service to be held in July. Details will be provided soon.

LAKEPORT – “The Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will arrive this week in Lakeport, its only Northern California stop on this year’s tour.


The Moving Wall has visited more than 1,000 communities in the past 20 years and will be on display in Lakeport from Thursday, June 11 through Monday, June 15.


The Lake County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is bringing The Moving Wall to Lake County as a community event that will provide an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience the memorial. It will be on display at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., Lakeport.


On Monday, in preparation for the wall's Wednesday arrival, VVA and its volunteers began building the wall's platform and installed the Avenue of Flags, said VVA President Dean Gotham.


Gotham reported that they also completed set up for the opening ceremony, which is set for 9 a.m. Friday, June 12.


Following the opening, The Moving Wall will be accessible 24 hours per day until the closing ceremony on June 15. An information booth with a directory of names and refreshments will be available.


“ ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,’ President John F. Kennedy said. The opportunity for Lake County to reveal itself will occur when The Moving Wall opens on June 11,” said Gotham.


The goal of The Moving Wall, which was built in 1983-1984 by the Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd., was to share the feelings and experiences of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. as many veterans and the general public do not have the opportunity to see the memorial in person.


Spanning over 250 feet in length, The Moving Wall, will provide visitors the opportunity to learn, demonstrate honor and respect, and provide some closure to Vietnam veterans.


For more information or to volunteer assistance, materials, or tax-deductible donations, call Gotham at 707-350-1159 or visit www.vva951.org .

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Lucerne resident Jim Harris was aboard the destroyer USS McCook at the D-Day invasion in June of 1944. He recounted that day at a 65th anniversary commemoration held June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

 

 


LAKEPORT – Several dozen people gathering at the lakeside Saturday morning to remember the day, 65 years before, when 155,000 Allied soldiers took part in history's largest amphibious invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France.


D-Day – June 6, 1944 – was the day when thousands of troops and ships arrived and began the historic landing at Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno and Gold beaches.


The actual operations ran from June 4 through 14, 1944, as part of Operation Overlord, an audacious and seemingly improbable plan that ultimately pierced Adolf Hitler's hold on Europe and led to the Allied victory in World War II.


The local ceremony, led by Ronnie Bogner, was held at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park. The Lakeport Sea Scouts – teenagers not many years different in age from the young men who would have arrived on Normandy's beaches decades ago – raised the American flag on the mast.


Rev. Mike Suski, a chaplain with the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Lakeport Police Department, offered an opening invocation.


Suski, born in Poland, said D-Day had special significance for him; his father, at age 16, was taken from his home by the Nazis and forced into slave labor in the salt mines on the border of Germany and France. The Allied advance freed the elder Suski and millions of others, and turned the fortunes of the war. Suski said his fathered died March 13.


He remembered those who gave their lives for freedom, peace and democracy, and prayed for those now serving in the country's leadership.


Businessman John Tompkins led the group in singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”


Bob Bartley, a Kelseyville resident who is a member of a World War II reenactment group, wore an authentic wool uniform like that worn by the soldiers landing at Normandy. Bartley had attended last year's D-Day ceremony in full uniform, including the pack carried by the men, which can weigh as much as 70 pounds. He skipped that part this year, noting that it left his back out for days the last time.


Those heavy packs proved fatal for many soldiers in the landing. In some cases, the soldiers were let off of the amphibious carriers in deep water and had to try to swim to shore with the weight. It was noted during the ceremony that many men drowned under the packs' weight.


Other historic military touches included a 1968 Kaiser relay truck used by the Marines during Vietnam which Carl Thompson, a California Highway Patrol officer, is restoring.


One of the featured speakers was Lucerne resident Jim Harris, who was at both the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 and at D-Day, where he served aboard the destroyer USS McCook (DD 496).


He recalled the practice run for D-Day at Slapton Sands, near Dover, England. “This rehearsal was what you might call chaos,” he said, noting that German submarines showed up and sank three troop ships. Slapton Sands was kept so quiet that the men who died there were counted as casualties at D-Day he said.


The stormy weather in June of 1944 caused a delay in the invasion, he said. Many ships already had been under way and had to be rounded up after the cancellation order was given.


Eventually, though, on the morning of June 6, 1944, 5,000 vessels were under way toward the French coast. “We were so very fortunate that the fog held,” Harris said.


But there were problems with the landing, from men landing too far out and struggling under heavy packs to the soldiers scrambling up onto the beach to find they had only 8 feet of beach up against a cliff to find safety, while fierce fire came from the cliffs above at Pointe du Hoc.


Harris said the USS McCook's captain saw Germans firing from the cliffs above onto the Allied forces on the beaches. The admiral gave the command to go after them, so the 345-foot McCook was steered into the breakers, trying to avoid mines while attempting to get close enough to shoot at the cliffs above. With each wave, the ship had to be thrust into reverse to avoid the mines or running aground.


In his book “The Americans at D-Day,” author John C. McManus writes that the McCook shot 1,000 rounds that day.


Harris, a helmsman on the McCook, said she and another destroyer, the USS Carmick, wiped out the German fire power in the cliffs in about 20 minutes, including German “tiger” tanks.


“That was the longest day I ever lived,” he said.


Another World War II veterans, 89-year-old Bob Tucker, spoke at the ceremony.


Tucker wasn't at D-Day, but he took part in the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942 under Gen. George Patton, “the greatest soldier that walked this earth.”


He shared D-Day statistics: there were 5,303 ships, 13,000 US paratroopers, 325 heavy bomber planes and 2,500 dead. Omaha Beach was an important landing spot because of the cliffs and reefs that prevented landing elsewhere along the coast.


Recalling his own trip to Europe for the war, Tucker said as he sailed out of New York City, he looked at the Statue of Liberty and said, “Oh, girl, I may never see you again.”


Punctuating the end of the ceremony was a rifle salvo by the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team and the playing of “Taps.”


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

 

 

 

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The Lakeport Sea Scouts posted the colors at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park at the beginning of 65th anniversary commemoration held June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

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Bob Tucker, a World War II veteran, discussed the war and D-Day on June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

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The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team offers a salute as the bugler plays

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13Jun
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