Saturday, 20 July 2024


From left, National Guard members Staff Sgt. Everette Prescott, Sgt. James Robinson, Sgt. Chris Deshiell, Staff Sgt. John Snowden and Sgt. First Class Chad Holland were honored at a Sunday gathering to celebrate local guardsmen who have served in Iraq. Robinson returned from Iraq in 2005, while the rest of the men returned home from Iraq in May. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – A Sunday celebration at Lake County's National Guard Armory officially welcomed home local guardsmen who returned from serving in Iraq this spring.

Staff Sgt. Everette Prescott, 40, of Kelseyville; Sgt. First Class Chad Holland, 36, of Kelseyville; Sgt. Chris Deshiell, 47, of Willits; Staff Sgt. John Snowden, 37, of Lakeport, and Staff Sgts. Russell Wright and Don McPherson returned in May after serving in Iraq in the 649th Engineering Unit from September 2007 to this past May.

The Lakeport Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015 and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 put on the event, which welcomed all active members of the military and veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans of other wars.

The afternoon event included a dinner, live music, awards and raffle prizes, led by VFW Commander Robert Deppe and his wife, Lisa.

Randy Sutton, whose son is on his fourth tour in Iraq, spoke about the importance of service.

VVA President Dean Gotham, after he was done with barbecue duty, added his note of thanks to the returning soldiers, telling them their service was both valued and appreciated.

"Welcome home," he said. "You're among friends."

The returning soldiers are among many local National Guard members who have served in Iraq in recent years, including Cliff Shores and Norman "Joe" Valdez Jr., both of whom are now retired from the service; Specialist Danny Strawn, Sgt. Jacob Taylor, Denny Salisbury and Travis Benson.

Sgt. Albert Manfredini and Sgt. Jody Helms both served in Egypt in 2004 as multinational forces observers with the United Nations, where they acted as "referees" between Egypt and Israel.

The men who returned from the deployment this spring were responsible for convoy security, working around Baghdad, Sadr City and Balad.

They come from a variety of backgrounds. Prescott works for Lake County Special Districts, Holland is a correctional officer with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Deshiell is employed at Willits Furniture and Snowden is a full-time staffer with the local National Guard armory, where he serves as active guard reservist. Wright and McPherson did not attend the Sunday event.

None of the men had been deployed overseas to Iraq before last year. However, after Sept. 11, 2001, all of them took part in Operation Noble Eagle, said Snowden. Noble Eagle was a domestic security effort that included guarding the Golden Gate Bridge, chemical depots in Utah and other sensitive areas.

This past February, they hit a few improvised explosive devices – IEDs – and came under small arms fire on the east side of Sadr City, where they had just completed building a new combat outpost. Holland, a platoon leader, said they had some minor damage to vehicles but mostly were "ticked off."

Fortunately, none of the men were injured or saw serious fighting in Iraq. All of them, however, report trouble sleeping at night and other issues related to dealing with the stress of being in a combat situation.

Snowden said they ran their missions mostly at night. A strict curfew was in effect, so if they encountered anyone on the roads they had clearance to be aggressive in confronting them.

The men say that the situation in Iraq is not as bad as the media makes it appear. While the emphasis is on fighting and explosions, they said the new bridges and schools being built, along with new roads and water systems, don't get much coverage.

"I think, just generally, it's an unpopular war," Holland said, offering his explanation of its perception.

Although they didn't have the opportunity to meet and talk with civilians on a regular basis, in the encounters they did have they didn't experience hostility from most Iraqi citizens, who they found to be very generous and courteous.

Holland recalled a case where an Iraqi baker came out to speak to the soldiers one day, then returned to give them cake after cake, not asking for any payment, until they had to refuse to accept any more of the cakes he'd piled into their arms.

The men said they made a point of waving to people to try to present a friendly face. They also received a warm reception from school children they met, who they treated with glow-sticks. Some soldiers were known to give the children energy drinks, which the local sheik and the local school teachers didn't welcome.

There is definite hostility from some groups, however, such as the forces of Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose personal army defended Sadr City. US forces often get caught in the crossfire between Shia and Sunni Muslim factions, the guardsmen explained.

There also is the issue of weapons smuggling from nearby Iraq and Syria. Sgt. James Robinson, 37, of Lakeport, a postal worker who served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 in a Petaluma-based unit before joining the local armory, said he was part of a patrol that looked for weapons coming into the country.

Prescott, who works on the county's sewer system, said Iraq's sewer systems and its entire infrastructure is aging and, in many cases, broken down. When Saddam Hussein's government fell, it left a vacuum regarding the management of those systems, as well as the electrical grid.

The men all noted the emphasis being placed on building clean water systems in the country.

Snowden said they saw definite improvements during their time there. For one, as security increased, people began to start cleaning up their neighborhoods, which had been littered with garbage.

He said they also saw people putting their lives back together. When the men first got to Iraq, a road they commonly traveled along was often deserted, with just a few people seen along it due to fears for safety. As they were preparing to leave, they drove down it one day to find it crowded with people and soccer games, with people waving and smiling at the soldiers as they passed.

Prescott said they saw a large community garden being grown along a security barricade wall, in an area where residents hadn't frequented.

Asked about when the US could begin to pull out, none of them can offer a definitive idea of when it can happen.

Holland suggests much of it depends on the Iraqi army and police forces, both of which are under increasing threats and pressure from insurgents. He noted they are stepping up more, and have taken over Anbar Province.

The Iraqi army also was able to take over Sadr City with no shots being fired, which wouldn't have been the case if US forces had gone in, said Snowden, because of al-Sadr's anti-American stance.

Overall security continues to be an issue, with police in some areas turning blind eyes to roadside bombs planted by insurgents, or being bribed to ignore them, said Prescott.

The soldiers are concerned that if the US leaves too soon, Iran and Syria will seek to fill the void in Iraq.

"I think we're going to maintain a presence there for years to come," said Prescott.

Holland said problems with insurgents and terrorist cells aren't new. He pointed to Germany during World War II, where even after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, his forces tried to fight the Allies. However, historians continue to debate just how severe of a problem the Nazi "werewolf" forces were.

One unit member from Fulton may be facing deployment soon, but no other local members are scheduled to go to Iraq currently. All of the men have a 24-month hold before they could go back, either by order or voluntarily, said Snowden.

They approach their service matter-of-factly. "You joined up, you gotta do your fair share," said Snowden.

Robinson said he's encouraged by the increasing community support for guardsmen, such as the event put on for the men on Sunday. He called local support for soldiers "outstanding."

All of the men say they missed their children most while overseas.

Snowden said his 10-year-old daughter asks a lot of poignant questions – such as what happens when you get blown up – about his time overseas. "I don't answer most of them."

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



A cake honoring the recently returned guardsman is served at the Sunday gathering. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




WHISPERING PINES – A motorcycle rider was injured Saturday afternoon when he collided with a vehicle.

The crash was reported shortly after 4 p.m. on Bottle Rock Road in front of Pine Grove Resort, according to the California Highway Patrol.

CHP and Cal Fire responded to the scene, where the male rider was reported to have gone off the roadway.

The rider was reported to be combative, so he had to be sedated in order to be transported via REACH air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, CHP reported.

REACH transported the man shortly after 5 p.m. to the hospital, where CHP ordered a blood draw.

The rider, whose name was not available Saturday night, was reported to have suffered minor injuries.

No information was available on the other vehicle reported to have been involved in the crash.

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


LAKE COUNTY – A man who has been on death row for more than 24 years for a murder he committed in Lake County lost his bid to have a new attorney assigned to his case on Thursday.

The case of Gerald Frank Stanley, 63, was before Butte County Superior Court Judge Steven Howell on Thursday morning.

Stanley was sentenced to death in February of 1984 for the murder of his wife, Cynthia, who he shot while she sat with her father at his resort in Nice in August of 1980.

This past March, a federal judge ruled that a new competency hearing needed to be held to determine whether or not Stanley was mentally fit to stand trial decades ago.

The Stanley case was moved to Butte County for trial due to pretrial publicity, as Lake County News has reported.

On Thursday, District Attorney Jon Hopkins was in Oroville for a hearing in which Hayward attorney Jack Leavitt was seeking to be appointed Stanley's attorney in place of public defender Dennis Hoptowit.

Hopkins said the hearing took quite a while, as Stanley's extensive appellate court history was discussed.

In a phone interview this week, Stanley told Lake County News that he wanted Leavitt – who he has worked with for several years – appointed to take over his case.

Leavitt, who Lake County News also spoke with this week, traveled to Oroville in the hopes of being appointed to represent Stanley.

Both men have stated that they are seeking to shut down the appeals process for Stanley, who said he wishes to have an execution date.

Stanley anticipated being able to speak via conference call at the Thursday hearing.

However, Judge Howell didn't choose to have Stanley phone in, and dismissed Leavitt's attempt to replace Hoptowit, said Hopkins.

That decision, said Hopkins, was based on Stanley's past actions and a perceived lack of credibility. “He seems to change his mind drastically about his lawyers.”

The federal court also stated that it believed Stanley is manipulating and delaying the case, said Hopkins.

The judge found no indication that Stanley really wanted to substitute in another lawyer, said Hopkins.

“Stanley has had too many manipulative bites at the apple,” said Hopkins.

That means that Hoptowit will remain Stanley's attorney.

However Hoptowit is about to begin a murder trial, said Hopkins, so his availability may be limited for some time.

Hopkins said a status conference on the case is scheduled for Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m.

At that time they will discuss whether they can hold a retrospective competency hearing in Stanley's case.

Whether or not the case can be moved back to Lake County – which Hopkins believes is possible after the passage of more than two decades – is still up in the air.

The competency hearing itself may be difficult to hold this year, said Hopkins.

Leavitt could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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


LAKEPORT – South county residents will have the opportunity to hear District 1 Supervisorial candidates James Comstock and Susanne La Faver debate the issues and outline their priorities in two upcoming debates.

The District 1 candidates debates will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Lower Lake High School's gymnasium, 9430 Lake St.; and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at the Calpine Visitor Center in Middletown, 15550 Central Park Road.

The events are sponsored by Lake County News, Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, Lake County Farm Bureau, Lake County Association of Realtors and Calpine.

Lake County News Editor and Publisher Elizabeth Larson will moderate the debates, which will be videotaped for broadcast on TV Channel 8.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Absentee ballots will be mailed to voters signed up to vote by mail on Oct. 6.

Community members are invited to submit questions to Lake County News at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the Lakeport Chamber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., any of the sponsoring groups or in person the night of the event.

Questions received by the audience that are not asked as part of the debate due to time constraints will be presented to the candidates for written response, and will be published on

For more information e-mail Lake County News at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 245-4550.


I failed. My failure was total and easily achieved, although completely unintentional.

My friend Jessica mentioned how she was avoiding artichokes because they were so fattening with all of the mayonnaise that she uses with them. I suggested eating them with melted butter with lemon, the favorite accompaniment in our house.

Then in the back of my mind I thought, “Artichokes are healthy and nutritious; why do we always have to serve them with fatty dipping sauces? I can come up with something healthier.” So I started thinking ...

Many people think of artichokes as “fancy food” and eat them only on special occasions, but artichokes are low in calories (60 per average), full of fiber (12 percent of your daily requirement), vitamin C (10 percent of the daily requirement), they’re higher in antioxidants than 993 out of 1,000 other fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods tested – that’s right SEVENTH highest in antioxidants!

They also have properties that fight cancer, heart disease and harmful cholesterol, and studies are being done that look at how the artichoke may help the liver regenerate. They are a non-starchy vegetable so they are safe for diabetics. Artichokes should be a staple to your diet, not a specialty item.

The origin of artichokes has been lost to history. Some people think they were most likely developed from the cardoon plant by the Romans or the Greeks. There are ancient tile frescoes in Roman ruins that show flowering cardoon plants with small artichoke like flowers. Cardoons and artichokes are closely related, and some people think that cardoon is the artichoke’s forefather, and some vice versa. There is a wild version of artichokes that grows in North Africa. The only thing that we know for sure is that the artichoke originated around the Mediterranean Sea.

The first written mention of artichokes growing comes from Greece and dates to around 300 BCE. When I finally invent my time machine I will definitely go back and find out all of the facts on the artichoke’s origin, and I will correct this article accordingly when I get back.

Queen Catherine de Medici is credited for having brought artichokes to France from her Italian homeland, and her excessive eating of them and feeding them to king Henry II was thought of as scandalous by courtiers. In those days artichokes were considered such a powerful aphrodisiac that only men were allowed to eat them (it’s good to be the king). There are even references that overeating artichokes disturbed the digestion of the Queen Mother after a wedding feast. Wow, talk about interesting historical documents, we don’t know where Jimmy Hoffa is but we know about a member of the royal court in the 1500s having the trots.

Speaking of Jimmy Hoffa (not really, but you’ll get the idea) ... In the 1920s Mafia monopolies and “the artichoke wars” prompted the then-New York Mayor La Guardia to make the artichoke completely illegal in New York City. Only his love for the delicious flower bud caused the law to be rescinded a week later.

California supplies nearly 100 percent of the country’s artichokes. Although the “Green Globe” variety makes up most of the artichokes available on the market both at the supermarket and garden center, there are several different varieties.

The artichoke doesn’t grow well from seeds so most are grown by propagation from existing plants (think of it as God’s cloning). This however is dangerous because it makes most of the artichokes in California so closely related that one good disease could almost eliminate the entire country’s artichoke supply (remember the Irish and the potatoes?).

There are at least 140 different varieties of artichoke but only around 40 are commonly cultivated worldwide. Other varieties include “Anzio” (Italian commercial), “Big Heart”(U.S. commercial), “Campania” (French commercial), “Catanese” (Italian commercial), “Desert Globe”(U.S. commercial), “Fiesole” (French commercial), “Imperial Star”(U.S. commercial), “Purple Italian” (U.S. home garden), “Violetta” (U.S. home garden), “Purple Roscoff”(U.S. home garden) and “Lyon” (French commercial).

I grow my own artichokes, a rare heirloom variety called Romanesco (Italian commercial). If you want to grow your own, you need to know that artichokes like rich soil and cool temperatures. This is why they love Castroville; it has the cool coastal air year-round.

Here in Lake County the summer temperatures are somewhat extreme and will make artichokes wilt to the ground. In order to avoid this sad look in my yard, in the spring I harvest the last of the artichoke flowers and give the plant a few more weeks to grow. But the moment the plants start to whine and shows any sign of distress from the heat, I hack them to the ground with a machete until there is nothing but a stump poking out of the ground. I keep the soil heavily mulched and moist during the summer and the plants survive and completely bounce back when cooler weather returns.

Artichokes contain a natural phytochemical “sweetener” called cynarin, and studies are being done to make it a commercially available product. If you want to do an interesting experiment to test the sweetener in an artichoke do this. Cook an artichoke and pour yourself a glass of wine – any wine will do. Before you taste any of the artichoke, try a sip of the wine and take note of the flavor. Then eat some of the artichoke and immediately sample the wine again. You will notice that the wine has a completely different taste, so much so that you will think that it is a completely different glass of wine. The cynarin left over in your mouth reacts with the sugars in the wine and change the taste. This effect is one of the reasons that restaurants that serve expensive wines don’t serve dishes with artichokes.

The myth of how artichokes came to be tells how Jupiter/Zeus (whether you are reading the Roman or Greek version) came to lust for a beautiful girl named Cynara and took her as a mistress to Mt. Olympus. When she became homesick and snuck off to visit her mother, the god of thunder became enraged and hurled her back to earth as the artichoke plant. The artichoke’s Latin name commemorates this – Cynara scolymus.

So how could I fail while dealing with this fantastic plant? Well, I wanted to make a healthier dipping sauce for artichokes, but all I managed to do is shorten my life by clogging my arteries with cheese. This is now my wife’s new favorite dipping sauce for artichokes. I’ll head back to the drawing board.

Parmesan cheese dipping sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup milk

½ cup sour cream

6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese (as little as 5 ounces will work)

2 tablespoons white wine

White pepper to taste

Put the butter and flour in a pot on medium heat. As the butter melts whisk the flour together so you get a paste. Continue cooking this for about two minutes; the color should change very slightly to a blonde highlight.

Although it’s not necessary, I recommend you microwave the milk for 30 seconds. This will keep the splattering down as you add it to the butter/flour mixture (called a roux).

Add the milk slowly to the roux, whisking constantly to combine. The mixture will start to thicken fairly quickly, so reduce the heat to low at this point. Sprinkle in about one-third of the cheese, whisking constantly. You want the cheese to melt as slowly as possible, because melting quickly will cause the cheese to clump up and make a poor sauce.

Stir the cheese mixture until all the cheese is melted and then add another third in. Whisk until that’s melted and then ... that’s right, add the final third and whisk until melted. Then add the sour cream, wine and pepper. Mix thoroughly and then ladle into dipping cups. Serve with cooked artichokes.

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.


SACRAMENTO – State, federal and local water officials gathered Thursday to discuss California’s ongoing drought and ways to alleviate the effects of ongoing dry conditions.

At the Drought Summit hosted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), Director Lester Snow announced the creation of a 2009 Drought Water Bank, a program designed to facilitate water transfers.

“We are in the midst of a drought right now and California potentially faces another dry year in 2009. It’s clear that we must find solutions to our water crisis,” Snow said. “A water bank provides a valuable tool to help provide water to communities who need it most. This is just one of the many ways the state is working to address the drought.”

Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman, Secretary for Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director Dorothy Rice and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Don Glaser participated in the summit.

Information about the state’s water and reservoir supply, drought modeling and forecasts of future water allocations, financial and programmatic assistance and other efforts to help water contractors, local water agencies, farmers and all state water users cope with the drought.

A significant recent action was the expedited funding of $17 million in Prop 50 Drought Assistance Program grants last week to local water agencies and districts to implement water saving projects.

At the summit, local agencies had the opportunity to share examples of how a lack of water is affecting their communities and made recommendations about how the state can support local water agencies, large and small, as they grapple with the shortages.

On June 4, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-06-08 declaring a statewide drought, which directed state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the dry conditions. He also issued a State of Emergency Proclamation for nine Central Valley counties (Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern) to address that area’s urgent water needs.

For the Northern Sierra, this spring and summer were the driest on record since 1921. In addition, 2007 and 2008 made up the ninth driest two-year period in 88 years of record keeping for the Northern Sierra.

Statewide precipitation for the six-month period February through July 2008 was 45 percent of average – the fourth driest of 114 years on record.

State reservoir capacities are at severe lows, with Folsom at 31 percent, Shasta at 34 percent and San Luis at 13 percent.

By the end of this water year (Sept. 30), Lake Oroville will reach its lowest carryover storage since the drought of 1977.

Clear Lake's levels are just slightly above those at this time last year, according to DWR's California Data Exchange Center.

The water shortage is affecting the state’s economy, slowing down development projects and forcing growers to fallow land. For example, farmers in northern San Diego County are stumping avocado trees and pulling out citrus trees due to water shortages. The Westland Water District reports that one-third of the farmland is being fallowed this year, at a loss of at least 500 jobs. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports the result of the drought is a $260 million loss to the state’s ag industry this year.

Preliminary information shows that the 2009 water year likely will also be severely dry. State water planners are preparing for a protracted drought by instituting a variety of programs intended to conserve water and stretch the state’s resources.

To implement the 2009 Drought Water Bank, DWR will purchase water from willing sellers, primarily from water agencies upstream of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

This water will be transferred using State Water Project (SWP) or Central Valley Project (CVP) facilities to water agencies that are at risk of experiencing water shortages in 2009 due to drought conditions and that require supplemental water supplies to meet anticipated demands. Water acquired by the 2009 program would be available for purchase by public and private water systems in California based on certain needs criteria.

Water supplies from the 2009 Drought Water Bank will be open to all water providers who can obtain water from the Delta either directly or by exchange with other water providers who have access to Delta water supplies from the SWP or CVP.

For additional information about the drought, visit the Department of Water Resource’s drought web page at


Chef John Ash with Lake County chefs Robert Cabreros, Jeremy Zabel and Julie Hoskins. Photo by Margaret Walker-Stimmel.


LAKE COUNTY – This year's Lake County Wine Auction will be the centerpiece of a weekend filled with activities that celebrate great wine and food while raising funds for worthy community causes.

The Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, under the big tent at the Buckingham Golf and Country Club in Kelseyville.

John Ash, internationally recognized wine country chef, educator and author, is a special guest of the Lake County Wine Alliance during the ninth annual Wine Auction.

During a cooking demonstration and luncheon on Friday, Sept. 19, the day preceding the gala Wine Auction charity benefit, Ash will present an ambitious menu that starts with an antipasti plate of wild mushrooms, grilled asparagus with lemon olive oil and Pecorino, and grilled shrimp with Sangrita. His “Fire and Ice” Pear Salad is served with goat cheese, figs and Proscuitto.

The menu moves on to an entrée of fresh halibut in a spicy coconut curry broth and ends with a dessert of lemon polenta cake with fresh raspberries.

Each course of the meal will be paired with a fine Lake County wine, representing several of the vintners participating in the annual Wine Auction.

A limited number of tickets are available for the cooking demonstration and luncheon, which will start at 10 a.m. at the Buckingham Homeowner’s Association Clubhouse, 2850 Eastlake Drive, Kelseyville. Each ticket is $75 per person, after the purchase of a Wine Auction ticket for $100 per person.

Chef Ash will be assisted in the demonstration and in preparing the luncheon by Lake County chefs Jeremy Zabel of the Saw Shop Gallery Bistro in Kelseyville, Robert Cabreros of the Yuba College Culinary Arts Program and Julie Hoskins of Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. Students from Yuba College will serve the meal.

Other special events on the evening of Friday, Sept. 19, include winemaker dinners hosted by six Lake County wineries at special venues. Participating wineries are Ceago Vinegarden, Langtry Estate, Moore Family Winery, Shannon Ridge Winery, Steele Wines and Wildhurst Vineyards. Capacity at each venue is limited. Tickets are $75 per person, after the purchase of a Wine Auction ticket.

The Wine Auction will be held at the Buckingham Golf and Country Club, 2855 Eastlake Drive, Kelseyville on Sept. 20.

U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson, First District of California, is the event chair. Andy Beckstoffer, CEO of Beckstoffer Vineyards, is the master of ceremonies. Auctioneers are Archie McLaren, founder of the Central Coast Wine Classic and a rare and fine wine consultant, and Jed Steele, owner and winemaker of Steele Wines of Lake County.

More than 20 Lake County wineries will pour wines, and 12 restaurants and caterers will present food to accompany the vintners’ selections. The evening includes live and silent auctions of wine lots, wine and travel packages, and fine art. Jim Williams and Friends will provide music for dancing.

Ten community organizations and agencies that work hard to make Lake County a better place have been chosen to receive the proceeds of this year’s Wine Auction. Over the past eight years, the Lake County Wine Alliance has donated more than $621,500 to local programs.

The beneficiaries this year are Kids 4 Broadway, Lake County Special Olympics, Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, Hospice Services of Lake County, Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, the Military Funeral Honors Team, Church Women United, Operation Tango Mike, the Lake Family Resource Center, the County Literacy Coalition and the fine arts programs at five Lake County high schools.

The Buckingham Junior Golf Program receives support through the auction of golf balls to fund activities of the Lake County Junior Golf Council.

Members of the Wine Alliance board include Margaret Walker-Stimmel, president; Marie Beery, vice president; Pamela Shine-Duncan, secretary; Rob Roumiguiere, treasurer; and Jim Fetzer, Judy Luchsinger, Wilda Shock and Janet Thompson. The volunteer board and a large Wine Auction committee of volunteers meet year round to plan the charity event.

For more information and to purchase tickets for any of the events, call 866-279-WINE.


UPPER LAKE – A Friday morning fire destroyed an Upper Lake home.

Chrissy Pittman, a firefighter/paramedic with Northshore Fire Protection District, said firefighters were dispatched at 7:55 a.m. to the fire on First Street, between Main and Government streets.

The single-story home with a large attic was fully engulfed when firefighters from Northshore Fire's Upper Lake, Nice and Lucerne stations responded, along with a ladder truck from Lakeport Fire, said Pittman.

In all about 20 firefighters, including a chief and battalion chief, worked on the fire, she said.

The house's Victorian-type construction was a challenge for firefighters, said Pittman. “It took quite a while to actually get in and knock the fire down.”

Pittman said the fire was contained at just after 10 a.m., with another two and a half hours required for mop up.

There were conflicting reports about whether or not someone was in the house when the fire started, said Pittman. Firefighters had received information that children were in the home, but no one was in the house when firefighters arrived.

The house is a complete loss, said Pittman. Damage estimates are not completed.

She said the fire's cause is under investigation.

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


MIDDLETOWN – Lake County Sheriff's detectives are investigating a homicide believed to have been committed in connection with an illegal marijuana garden in a remote part of the south county.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that detectives found the body of an adult male in a grave in a marijuana grow between the Bear Creek Canyon power plant access road and Socrates Mine Road on Wednesday.

The Santa Rosa Police Department contacted sheriff's detectives on Tuesday with information that a missing person from their area may have been shot and killed in an illegal marijuana grow here in Lake County, Bauman reported.

Later Tuesday morning, detectives – using the information provided by Santa Rosa Police – located a very large-scale marijuana growing operation in the area of Highway 175, south of Socrates Mine Road, he said.

Bauman said that when detectives entered the marijuana grow, they confronted several suspects that were believed to be armed and who immediately fled into the woods.

Due to the size, complexity and terrain of the search area, the Sheriff’s SWAT team was summoned for a specialized search, air support was requested from the California Highway Patrol, and the Sheriff’s Mobile Incident Command Post was deployed to the area, according to Bauman.

The investigation and search for suspects in the immediate area extended into Tuesday night and the SWAT team remained inserted in the grow through the following day, said Bauman. During the night in which there was little to no visibility, SWAT members reported hearing subjects trying to re-enter the illegal grow but attempts to contain those subjects were unsuccessful.

On Wednesday at about 7:30 am, Sheriff’s Incident Command received a report that two male Hispanic subjects had been seen running down Highway 175 from the area and acting suspiciously, Bauman said. A sheriff’s patrol unit in the area responded and both were detained.

He said deputies recovered near the roadway a loaded 9mm handgun which one of the subjects had attempted to discard when deputies contacted him. Both suspects were arrested for suspicion of cultivating marijuana and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

An investigation into the illegal grow continued throughout Wednesday while sheriff’s detectives interviewed the two suspects about the operation and the alleged homicide. Bauman said evidence of long-term occupation by an unknown number of suspects was located in several grow sites in the area and several more firearms were recovered.

Interviews with the two arrestees confirmed not only their connection to the marijuana grow, but also to the homicide and one of them agreed to lead detectives to the area where the homicide victim was located, said Bauman.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, detectives located the grave and found the partially decomposed body of an adult male, and also recovered a sawed-off shotgun.

Investigation of the illegal operation continued through Wednesday, said Bauman. The State Department of Justice CAMP Program provided both personnel and air support to assist the sheriff’s office with the eradication of nearly 20,000 marijuana plants, and the movement of personnel and equipment in and out of the homicide scene.

Eradication of the marijuana operation concluded late Wednesday but the processing of the homicide scene continued into Thursday, said Bauman.

The body of the apparent homicide victim as yet to be positively identified and any connection to the missing person case out of Santa Rosa has yet to be confirmed, he added.

Both the illegal marijuana operation and the suspected homicide were committed by means of trespassing on privately owned lands, with no connection to the property owner he said.

The investigation is ongoing, Bauman said.


CLSPIA President Madelene Lyon signs the contract for the new outdoor education pavilion at Clear Lake State Park. Courtesy photo.


KELSEYVILLE – On Aug. 23, the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association (CLISPIA) signed a contract with the California Conservation Corp to build an outdoor education pavilion.

Led by CLSPIA President Madelene Lyon, the board of directors has been raising funds to build this unique structure for more than three years.

The cooperation of the financially struggling California State Parks with CLSPIA and the local community has finally paid off. The contract has been signed and the groundbreaking ceremony is set.

The outdoor education pavilion has long been a dream of the volunteers and staff at Clear Lake State Park.

This structure will allow the hundreds of children and adults who already explore the Visitor Center museum and trails of Clear Lake State Park to enjoy more outdoor activities in an open-sided, sheltered area. The ability to observe creekbed organisms under microscopes, participate in ancient cultural activities, explore local flora and fauna will become a reality for students and other park visitors.

Groundbreaking will take place on Oct. 4 at the “Wild Affair In Your Park” celebration.

This groundbreaking event will showcase local wines, cuisine, musical talent and the outdoor adventures that the future pavilion will provide.

“In the 22 years that I worked at Clear Lake State Park, I have been dreaming of this type of outdoor education classroom,” said retired Ranger Val Nixon. “I am very excited about expanding the environmental education programs at Clear Lake State Park. I look forward to volunteering with the children's programs and using this facility. ”

For reservations for A Wild Affair in Your Park please call 279-4395.


KELSEYVILLE – The California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake office was among the honorees at a Thursday ceremony where CHP officers and police departments around the state were recognized for excellence in community traffic safety programs.

The awards were presented at the sixth annual California Law Enforcement Challenge conference in Sacramento, which was part of a daylong traffic safety symposium in Sacramento sponsored by the CHP.

CHP offices and police departments throughout the state competed against similar-sized departments for the honors.

“I want to congratulate all of the award winners for their dedication to serving their communities and saving lives on our roadways,” said Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Dale Bonner.

The Clear Lake CHP office was recognized with the Occupant Protection Award, which it received for notable efforts to promote and enforce occupant protection laws.

Lt. Mark Loveless, the Clear Lake office's new commander, along with Sgt. Mike Thomason and Officer Robert Hearn, accepted the award.

Officer Adam Garcia, whose duties at the Clear Lake office include acting as public information officer and media contact, also received a special award for individual achievement for 2007.

The Northern CHP Division selected Garcia for the award from the Office of Traffic Safety and CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow based on his “exceptional traffic safety efforts” and for going “above and beyond the normal call of duty.”

Seven other CHP officers from around the state, along with eight police officers and deputies from other agencies, also were honored with individual awards.

The California Law Enforcement Challenge awards showcase the best and most innovative programs produced by traffic safety organizations throughout the state.

The programs are designed to increase usage of seat belts/child safety seats and curtail impaired driving and speeding, which are the three primary causes of death on California roadways.

“It is programs like these that have contributed to the lowering of California’s Mileage Death Rate (number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven) to a record low of 1.18 this past year,” noted Dr. David Manning, Regional Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The awards presentation followed a busy Labor Day weekend for local CHP and other local law enforcement agencies.

The CHP's Northern Division, which includes Lake County and stretches across Northern California to the Oregon border, had two fatal crashes and two fatal victims this past Labor Day, including a fatal motorcycle collision here in Lake County at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, Garcia reported.

That compares with two fatal collisions and five fatalities in the Northern Division during the 2007 Labor Day weekend, according to Garcia.

In addition, there were 72 driving under the influence arrests this past weekend across the region, compared to 68 in 2007, he said.


LAKE COUNTY – The first cases of West Nile Virus being detected in horses and birds in Lake County have been confirmed, according to state and local officials.

A local horse was found to be carrying the disease this week, though specifics on the animal's location have not been released, said Dr. Jamie Scott, Lake County Vector Control District district manager and research director. Scott confirmed the find to Lake County News on Wednesday.

The state's West Nile Virus Web site reports that the equine case was one of two reported across the state this week, with the other being in Riverside.

The state reported that this week's equine cases brings the total statewide to eight horses in six counties – in addition to Lake and Riverside, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego and Fresno also have reported infected horses.

Also on Wednesday, the first dead bird found in Lake County with the virus was confirmed, Scott said.

The bird in question was an American crow collected in Lakeport on Aug. 21, said Scott.

Approximately 1,658 dead birds infected with West Nile Virus have been found in California this year, according to state officials. That's nearly double the tally at this time last year of 878.

Scott provided Lake County News with a summary of West Nile Virus activity since 2003, which shows the disease's activity is down across all categories this year as compared to last with the exception of equine cases. There were none in 2007.

The first human West Nile case was discovered in the county in 2004, with two others in 2006, and none reported since then.

Statewide, this year human cases total 132, compared to 199 in 2007, according to state officials.

West Nile Virus cases are down this year in horses, according to state statistics. There have been eight equine cases this year, compared with 19 at this time in 2007.

Mosquito samples also are up statewide, totaling 1,244 so far in 2008 compared to 771 at this time last year.

Three Lake County mosquito samples – two from Lakeport and one from Upper Lake – tested positive for West Nile Virus last month, as Lake County News has reported. Last year there were eight local mosquito samples that tested positive.

No sentinel chickens or squirrels have tested positive for West Nile locally this year, Scott reported. Statewide there have been 134 sentinel chickens and 13 squirrels reported to be infected.

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


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