Saturday, 18 May 2024

News

LAKE COUNTY – It could end up being another record year for illegal medical marijuana eradications in Lake County. {sidebar id=99}


The local seizures of illegally grown plants on public and private lands this year is fast approaching last year's record total, according to Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Over the last several years Lake County has led the state in the number of illegal marijuana plants eradicated. State and local officials have attributed the rapid growth in illicit marijuana grown locally to the county's many remote areas where the plants and growing operations are easy to hide.


The Mendocino National Forest itself has been a particular target, with officials estimating that the illegal grows are causing extreme damage to natural resources and wildlife, as well as posing danger to humans who happen across them.


So far this year, the amount of processed marijuana and firearms seized, as well as arrests, are down, according to statistics provided by Garzoli.


However, this year saw the first reported homicide related to a marijuana grow, as Lake County News has reported. A Santa Rosa man's body was found in an illegal pot garden off Highway 175 near Middletown. Initial report indicated he may have been attempting to steal marijuana to settle a debt owed him by one of the growers.


The most recent number for eradicated plants in Lake County this year is about 470,000, said Garzoli – compared to last year's total of 507,000.


That's despite getting a late start on eradication activities this year, said Garzoli.


“Our whole operation hinges on the availability of helicopters,” he explained.


Garzoli said the helicopters normally used in finding marijuana were put into emergency service when the state was hit by hundreds of wildfires earlier this summer.


The state Department of Justice's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting – known by the acronym CAMP – has provided eradication assistance to the sheriff's office for much of the summer, said Garzoli.


CAMP's operations for the year are getting set to wrap up, however. The Department of Justice's Burean of Narcotic Enforcement confirmed to Lake County News that CAMP's last day of operation for this year's summer harvest season is Oct. 17.


The sheriff's efforts continue year-round, said Garzoli.


“We've got our own funding from DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and we'll continue to fly up until it starts raining,” said Garzoli.


At that point, rather than looking for plants they'll be focusing more on looking for vehicles in the Mendocino National Forest, Garzoli said.


Garzoli estimates he'll have firm numbers on the season's eradications by mid-November. Indoor grows could add to a larger end-of-year total.


The flyovers will cease for the rainy and then resume next March, when law enforcement looks for illegal marijuana garden planting. Garzoli said that early intervention helps address the thousands of seedlings being planted at that time.


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


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LAKEPORT – On Tuesday a Clearlake teenager was ordered to stand trial for the fatal stabbing of a schoolmate in June.


Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 18, was in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on a first-degree murder charge and the special allegation of using a knife in the June 5 death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez, a fellow student at Carle High School in Lower Lake.


The preliminary hearing resulted in Varney being ordered to stand trial for Valdez's death.


Varney is alleged to have stabbed Valdez in the neck with a folding pocking knife after Valdez began hitting her. The incident was part of an after-school confrontation that occurred when the girls got off the bus near their Clearlake homes, as Lake County News has reported.


In June, Varney – who told police that she didn't intend to stab Valdez – pleaded not guilty to the charges.


“The preliminary hearing is virtually meaningless here because this case will ultimately be decided by a jury,” said Varney’s defense attorney, Stephen Carter of the Law Offices of Carter and Carter.


Carter wouldn't offer details about his plans to defend the teen.


“We will not tip our hand at this point since our defense will not be presented or made public until the jury trial,” he said. “The preliminary hearing is a necessary step in the march toward the jury trial and we are happy that a trial date will be set now that it is over.”


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff declined to discuss the prosecution's allegations in the case. He said Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine will prosecute Varney.

 

Carter said the court date to set the jury trial will take place on Oct. 14.


Varney remains in the Lake County Jail.


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


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Great views await riders in this weekend's 18th annual Konocti Challenge. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strong.


 


LAKE COUNTY – The 18th Annual Konocti Challenge Bike Ride on Saturday, Oct. 4, promises to be an awe-inspiring event.


Hundreds of intrepid bicyclists come from all over to tackle this challenging and beautiful ride, which has four options: the 65- or 100-mile course following the circle of the lake, or the 19- or 30-mile family ride. All of the choices offer beautiful views and first class rest stops.


Pre-registration is Friday, Oct. 3, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lakeport Yacht Club. This event is a benefit for the Rotary Club of Lakeport.


The ride release times for the 100-, 65- and 30-mile rides are from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday with the 19-mile family ride having a mass start at 9:30 a.m.


The 100-mile ride is for riders who are really ready to test themselves, knowing they really earned the absolutely great steak and chicken dinner at the end a great day in the saddle.


The 65-mile ride is also not for the faint of heart – like the 100-mile ride you will ease into the ride as you enjoy coasting along the beautiful Clear Lake shoreline, keeping Mt. Konocti in your sights from across the lake. This ride also offers some of the Konocti Challenge's greatest vistas – you may want to pack a camera.


The 30-mile ride sets you on a course traveling south of Lakeport through rows of engaging orchards and quiet country roads. Their new 19-mile fun ride is designed for you and your family to spend a wonderful day of riding together enjoying beautiful Lake County and each other. All rides offer full support and rest stops along the way.


There really isn’t anywhere else that offers more beautiful countryside and magnificent views than Lake County, so if you choose to participate in one of the rides or just go out and cheer the riders on, it is a great way to spend a beautiful fall day in Lake County and support a great organization.


Pre-registration fees are $60 for the 100-mile ride, $50 for the 65-mile ride, $40 for the 30-mile ride, $10 for 12 and under and $20 for 13 and over for the 19-mile family ride. Add $10 to the fees if you wait to register the day of the race. You can get an official ride jersey for $75.


For more information about the Konocti Challenge, with in-depth detail about the courses, visit www.konoctichallenge.com or call 707-349-0815.

 

 

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Gabe Strong-Oilar takes a break at a rest stop during last year's Konocti Challenge. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Strong.
 

 


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LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol is urging motorists to pay special attention when it comes to ensuring children are safely secured in vehicles.


Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading killers in California for children ages 14 years and under, with unrestrained or improperly restrained children being the No. 1 contributing factor.


“You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your children,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “The best way to keep your child from becoming a grim statistic is make sure they are properly secured in their safety seat.”


According to CHP statistics, statewide for 2005 to 2007, out of the 148 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities among children under 6 years of age, an estimated 89 – or 60 percent – were totally unrestrained.


To help combat the problem, the CHP has obtained a $1 million federal grant from the Office of Traffic Safety. The money will provide the CHP with the means to strengthen its enforcement and education efforts statewide with a combination of seat belt and safety seat usage surveys, in addition to child passenger safety presentations.


“This grant will help us arm parents and child care providers with valuable information and equipment that can save their child’s life,” said Commissioner Farrow.


In addition to the 20 checkup events and 125 safety presentations, 25 of which will be to individuals for whom English is a second language, the Statewide Highway Restraint Enforcement Campaign (SHREC) II will provide for safety seats to be distributed to parents whose seats don’t measure up to current safety standards.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said the Clear Lake area CHP office has benefited from the $1 million grant, which helped buy them safety seats for distribution. Local CHP officers also have participated in five car seat checks held at various locations within the county.


Money from the federal grant also will be used to increase the number of technicians certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to perform child safety seat inspections at CHP Child Safety Seat Fitting Stations.


Garcia said the grant funded local CHP officer hours at car fitting stations.


There are four such stations in Lake County:


  • Clearlake: Lake County Fire Protection District Station, Olympic Drive; telephone 994-2170.

  • Kelseyville: California Highway Patrol, Highway 29 and Live Oak Drive; telephone 279-0103.

  • Middletown: South Lake County Fire Protection District Station, Highway 175; telephone 987-3089, Extension 1.

  • Upper Lake: Northshore Fire Protection District Station, Main Street; telephone 275-2446.


Commissioner Farrow urged parents and other caregivers to buckle up themselves and set a good example for children.


You may report unrestrained children in a motor vehicle to the California Highway Patrol by calling 1-800-TELL CHP.


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LAKE COUNTY – Sales of local homes continue to be slow, with August showing a sales decrease compared to the previous month while, at the same time, showing improvement over August 2007.


Home prices also are continuing to fall, according to recent real estate reports.


Fifty-eight homes closed escrow in August; that's a 34.1-percent decrease from July, but is 9.4 percent above August 2007 sales numbers, according to the Lake County Multiple Listings Service (MLS). The median home price in Lake County also fell in August by 11.7 percent.


Across the state, sales increased 56.7 percent while the median price of a home fell 40.5 percent, the California Association of Realtors reported recently.


“Sales are now 85 percent above the monthly trough for this cycle, which occurred in October 2007, and for the first time this year are ahead of 2007 in year-to-date terms,” said California Association of Realtors President William E. Brown.


“While this is encouraging news, we don’t expect to see a housing market recovery until prices stabilize and the number of distressed properties on the market declines,” Brown said. “Sales gains continue to be driven by the large share of deeply-discounted distressed sales in many parts of the state.”


The median price of a home in Lake County during August 2008 was $207,500, down from the $235,000 median for August 2007, according to the MLS.


However, the August 2008 median price actually increased 3.8 percent compared with July’s $200,000 median price.


“Although the month-to-month decline in the median price was the smallest in a year, it’s still premature to say that the median price has begun to stabilize,” said California Association of Realtors Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.


“While sales appear to have turned the corner, the median will experience additional downward pressure as we move into the off-peak season in the coming months, and will continue to face pressure from distressed sales," she said. "Sales are just one of the variables that must fall into place before we see real improvement in the market.”


Highlights of Lake County’s resale housing figures for August 2008:


  • Lake County’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in August 2008 was 19.5 months, compared with 26.2 months (revised) for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.


  • Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 6.48 percent during August 2008, compared with 6.57 percent in August 2007, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.26 percent in August 2008, compared with 5.67 percent in August 2007.


  • The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 95 days in August 2008, compared with 121 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.


Ray Perry is a Realtor with CPS Country Air Properties. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a pair of bills by Assemblywoman Patty Berg designed to curb the rapid growth in financial scams that target the elderly.


Berg's bills, AB 2149 and AB 2150, crack down on the use of trumped-up credentials that unscrupulous sales people use to gain quick credibility with the older customers.


The new laws by Berg, D-Eureka, require real, verifiable training in order to use titles like "senior specialist" or "certified senior advisor.”


"If you want to call yourself an expert, you'd better really be one," said Berg. "If you want to use a title, you have to earn it."


Agents or brokers who violate the laws could lose their licenses or have them suspended.


Elder financial abuse is a growing problem in California and across the nation. More than a quarter million older Californians fall prey to some sort of abuse each year.


In 2007, a New York Times investigation found that the number of "certified" senior experts in insurance and financial product sales increased by 78 percent in the last five years.


While some of these agents are legitimate, many have obtained the credentials through dubious means, or simply invent a title themselves.


Some insurance companies and state regulators have begun to change the rules governing how sales agents can behave.


In 2007, Massachusetts prohibited financial advisors from using titles like "certified senior advisor" unless they were recognized by an accreditation organization or the state. But in most states agents can use any title that they choose.


"If you think there's an epidemic of abuse now, just wait," said Berg. "With the aging of our baby boomer generation, California's population of older adults is going to double in less than 15 years. We had to take these common sense steps now to stop these scams before they start."


Both laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.


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SACRAMENTO – State Climatologist Michael Anderson of the Department of Water Resources is encouraging California residents to participate in a volunteer program to measure precipitation.


Rainfall captured in backyard rain gauges will be logged on an Internet-based weather network developed in Fort Collins, Colo. by CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network.


California is the 36th state to join the network which has more than 11,000 volunteers currently.


The nonprofit CoCoRaHS network is sponsored in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and other individual contributors and organizations, including Cooperative Extension.


The long-term goal of CoCoRaHS is ultimately to recruit one volunteer observer per square mile in urban areas and one volunteer observer per 36 square miles in rural areas for all 50 states.


“There is no substitute for accurate, local measurement of the weather,” said Anderson. “This data will help not only during short time-scale events like storms and floods, but also serve as an added tool for recording and analyzing climate change.”


Home-based and amateur rain spotters take daily rainfall measurements and report them to the CoCoRaHS Web site, www.cocorahs.org. Each volunteer is asked to read the rain gauge each day at the same time and upload the measurement to the website. The result is more precise information about where rain, snow and hail falls and in what amount.


Anyone with an interest in weather and access to the Internet can sign up. The only equipment needed is a cylindrical rain gauge available from the network for $23 plus shipping. Simple training is available at www.cocorahs.org.


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LAKEPORT – In the aftermath of last week's purchase of Washington Mutual by JP Morgan Chase, the message to Washington Mutual customers both locally and across the nation is to hang on as the changeover takes place.


There's also good news for local branches, which a company official said will remain open.


Last Thursday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. – FDIC – and the government's Office of Thrift Supervision facilitated the sale of Washington Mutual to JP Morgan Chase Bank for $1.9 billion.


FDIC officials have emphasized that customer deposits are fully protected.


"For all depositors and other customers of Washington Mutual Bank, this is simply a combination of two banks," said FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair. "For bank customers, it will be a seamless transition.”


Bair said there would no interruption in services and, as she predicted, Washington Mutual branches around the country – including Lakeport's – have continued on, with the Washington Mutual name on the door and, until just this weekend, on the bank's Web site.


When calling Lakeport's branch, the automated phone service as well as branch employees continue to identify themselves as Washington Mutual.


The Lakeport branch forwarded all questions about operations to corporate officials.


Tom Kelly, a Chicago-based spokesman for JP Morgan Chase, told Lake County News that Washington Mutual customers will continue to see the familiar name at the bank for a long time, as the internal transition takes place.


Usually large purchases like this take months, said Kelly. But the JP Morgan Chase deal has been a whirlwind by comparison, with the bank making the bid for Washington Mutual last Wednesday night and closing the deal the next day.


“The good news for customers is, nothing changes for them,” said Kelly.


Customers – many of whom began pulling their funds before Washington Mutual was sold – are now backed by JP Morgan Chase, a $2 trillion institution, said Kelly. That, he said, amounts to a stronger base.


JP Morgan Chase also will take on some of Washington Mutual's mortgages, along with branches and bank accounts. It did not assume the company's stock or debt, Kelly added.


Washington Mutual's $1.9 billion price tag was a fraction of what it would have been had the bank been in good shape, said Kelly. He said JP Morgan Chase feels the deal is a fair one.


One of the best pieces of news for Lake County and other North Coast customers is that JP Morgan Chase plans to keep the existing Washington Mutual branches in operation, said Kelly.


That means that the 12 jobs in the Lakeport branch are safe, and jobs in other North Coast locations – Ukiah, Willits, Cloverdale, Santa Rosa and Ft. Bragg – appear secure for the time being.


JP Morgan Chase, which has branches in 17 states, has no California locations, Kelly explained, so Washington Mutual's 688 California branches proved one of its main attractions.


With the two banks coming together, Kelly said their combined resources now include a nationwide network of 14,000 ATMs and 5,400 branches.


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


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Lt. Mark Loveless is the new leader at the California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake area office. Courtesy photo.



KELSEYVILLE – Increasing road safety and partnering with the community to save lives are just two of the goals that Lake County's new California Highway Patrol commander has in mind as he begins his tenure.


Lt. Mark Loveless, 46, is taking the helm as commander of the CHP's Clear Lake area office in Kelseyville. He succeeds Lt. Dane Hayward, who retired this past summer.


Loveless, whose most recent assignment was in Redding, is no stranger to Lake County. He served as an officer in the Clear Lake office for two and a half years in the late 1990s.


He and his wife, Lori, have been married 25 years, and have two children – Megan, 23, and Drew, 20.


Loveless started "late" as a CHP officer; Loveless was 29 years old and had a career in forestry when he decided to join the CHP. His interest was piqued by a friend who was a CHP officer. It's that kind of word of mouth, Loveless added, that is the CHP's best recruitment method.


Loveless started his CHP career out of the academy in East Los Angeles, where he spent five years before transferring to Lake County in 1996 and then on to Redding's Northern Division CHP office.


While in Redding, and still a member of the CHP, he took an assignment for three years with the Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.


From there it was back to the Redding area office, then on to Susanville, and back to CHP's administrative division in Redding, where he was an administrative sergeant. After serving there for two years, the Lake County assignment became available.


Loveless is part of a younger generation of CHP administrators who are challenged to do more with less, because the budget isn't as strong as it was five years ago. He said that requires some creativity, including working closely with local allied agencies to make the best use of resources.


The CHP's ranks – with 8,000 officers statewide – also has grown very little historically, said Loveless, in comparison to the vast growth of the state population. Locally, the CHP office has 25 officer positions, with three of those slots not filled or about to be empty due to retirement.


But when it comes to Lake County itself, home to the largest lieutenant-run division in the CHP's vast Northern Division – reaching from Lake County north to the Oregon border – Loveless said the county has challenges regarding public safety that aren't different from anywhere else.


One of those challenges is finding good recruits. New cadets are seldom brought from the academy directly to Lake County, said Loveless. In an effort to change that his approach to recruitment is to draw interested applicants from the community, because area residents know the needs and will come back here to work and live.


A goal for Loveless is promoting increased education and safety for motorcycle riders. He said there is a growing trend of more people riding motorcycles, which he believes is due in part to higher gas prices.


With the growing number of riders comes an increase in motorcycle-related collisions. That may be partially an issue of inexperience, as many of the collisions have been the fault of the motorcyclists, said Loveless.


To address that, Loveless said he's pursuing a grant that will support a combination of education and enforcement efforts in an effort to drop the collision rate.


He's also working on getting a full-time auto theft investigator for his office. From 2006 to 2007, vehicle thefts in Lake County increased 4.8 percent while the county's CHP office had a 13.1-percent increase in the number of stolen vehicles it recovered. The most popular cars to steal, he said, remain Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys.


One of the most important things for people to understand about the CHP is that the agency needs the community to be involved in the work of making the roads safer. That includes wearing seatbelts and properly using child safety seats, and sharing a common goal of saving lives.


"Most of us get into this to help people," Loveless said of CHP officers.


He said the drop in the death rate on the highways can be attributed to many factors – including the CHP getting the word out on safety measures and the resulting community involvement.


With his new job, comes a whole new level of responsibility. "There's no passing the buck from here," Loveless said.


A lot of his work from now on will have a more formal, administrative flavor. A CHP commander's desk is liable to have huge stacks of paperwork, and then there's the business of managing officers and staff.


However, Loveless said his heart "is still on the road," and he'll be out there on the highway whenever he gets the opportunity.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – As local, state and presidential campaigns head into the final month before the November election, it's a busy time at the Registrar of Voters Office.


From now until the Nov. 4 election is certified, it's crunch time, said Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley.


Staff are now dealing with the election year influx of new voter registrations, working on absentee mailings and other preparations that are necessary in a presidential election year.


On Sept. 23 the office received its absentee ballots. With the ballots came the need for extra help. So, the same day the ballots arrived, Fridley's four permanent staffers – two of which are part-time – were joined by six employees who will offer extra help during election season.


Elections staff is currently in the process of preparing thousands of vote-by-mail ballots for absentee voters. Fridley said the first day they can begin mailing absentee ballots is Oct. 6.


In recent years there has been a significant shift among Lake County voters to absentee voting, said Fridley.


Today, 44.3 percent of county voters vote by absentee ballot in Lake County. Among the county's 33,680 registered voters, 18,727 vote at precincts and 14,953 are registered to permanently vote by mail, with 182 of those people either serving in the military or living overseas, Fridley said.


Those voting at precincts have the option to use electronic voting machines, which remain a controversial election-related topic because of security concerns raised by officials including California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.


Lake County has one electronic Hart InterCivic eSlate voting unit per precinct, as required by the Help America Vote Act. In 2006 the county spent more then $567,000 on 50 electronic machines, as Lake County News has reported.


However, Lake County doesn't rely on such machines. Fridley said the county continues primarily to use the paper-based Mark-A-Vote optical scanning system, which has been in use locally since 1983.


Only three counties in California – Lake, Sonoma and Madera – continue to use the Mark-A-Vote, said Fridley.


Last August, Bowen reported that the eSlates were among several electronic voting systems that required additional security. In December 2007 she conditionally reapproved the Hart InterCivic voting machines with a lengthy list of security requirements.


Fridley's office follows an audit procedure to help deal with security concerns. She said votes registered on the machines aren't tallied on electronic equipment. Rather, the voting information is transferred to a printed ballot which is marked onto a Mark-A-Vote ballot.


Looking at voter statistics this year, Fridley noted that voter registrations are up, said Fridley.


“Every presidential year the registration and the turnout is higher,” she said. “Statistically, that's how it plays out.”


The Elections Office currently is receiving about 25 voter registrations a day. Fridley said most of those registrations are new.


That registration rate is about the same as it was for the February primary election, she said.


From Jan. 1 through Sept. 23, there have been approximately 1,326 new registrations. Fridley said that's a good rate for an election year.


Lake County's registration report for September showed it has a 71.86-percent voter registration rate, higher than the state average, according to the California Secretary of State's Office. In all, Lake County has 46,714 people who are eligible to vote.


In partisan statistics, 43.32 percent of Lake County voters are registered Democrats, compared to 30.64 percent for Republicans, 3.19 percent for the American Independent Party and 1.14 percent for the Green Party.


The California Secretary of State reports that the state's voter registration is now at 69.79 percent, slightly behind the 70.91 percent statewide registration recorded in September 2004. While there are 16.1 million voters registered in California, up from 15.6 million in 2004, there also are 1.1 million new eligible voters this year.


The state's partisan voter registrations mirror those in Lake County, with Democrats leading with 43.91 percent, followed by Republicans with 32.32 percent, the American Independent Party with 2.06 percent and the Green Party with 0.72 percent, according to state reports.


Presidential years typically have a higher turnout, which Fridley expects to be the case again this year.


For the 2000 presidential election, 69.9 percent of the county's voters cast a ballot, said Fridley. Of those, 20.2 percent voted absentee and 49.7 percent at precincts.


In November 2004, precinct voting fell to 42.3 percent and absentee voters rose to 32.8 percent, for a 75.2 percent overall turnout, said Fridley.


Those wishing to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election must have their registration postmarked no later than Oct. 20, Bowen's office reported.


Registration forms can be downloaded at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm or picked up at the Registrar of Voters Office, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport; the Department of Motor Vehicles; city clerk's office; public library; or post office.


The Registrar of Voters also will mail a registration form to a potential voter; call them at 263-2372.


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


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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder for a 2006 shooting rampage in which a woman died and three others were injured.


Wilbur Home Cope III, 38, was facing trial for first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder and several other allegations, but reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that reduced the charges, the District Attorney's Office reported.


With the plea agreement, Cope will spend the rest of his life in prison, but the deal will give him better circumstances in the prison system, according to his defense attorney, Stephen Carter.


Cope entered the guilty plea in the 2006 murder of ex-girlfriend Kristin Lori Raviotta and the attempted murder of Terry Lee Cain, the husband of Cope's ex-wife, Michelle, according to the District Attorney's Office.


He also admitted to two special allegations relating to the use of a firearm in Raviotta's death and Cain's shooting, said prosecutor John Langan.


Superior Court Judge Richard Martin presided over the Monday proceedings in his Department 2 courtroom, Langan reported.


Cope's case now goes to the Lake County Probation Department for a report and sentencing recommendation to the court. Langan said Cope will be sentenced by Judge Arthur Mann on Oct. 27. Whether or not Mr. Cope will testify at the hearing is undecided at this point, said Carter.


On Sept. 10, 2006, Cope was alleged to have shot Raviotta during a domestic dispute that occurred inside his automobile, according to the District Attorney's Office.


Raviotta was on her cell phone at approximately 3:10 a.m. with a 911 dispatcher reporting that Cope had just struck her, when he shot her once in the head. The prosecution said the sound of the gunshot was captured on the audio-recorded 911 telephone call.


Following Raviotta's shooting, Cope sped to the home of his ex-wife, Michelle Ann Cain, with Raviotta's body still in the car's front seat. He reportedly crashed the car into a telephone pole just north of the residence Michelle Cain shared with her husband, Terry.


Hearing the crash, several neighbors, including Sharon Kay England, came outside to help Cope. The District Attorney's Office said that Cope responded by firing several gunshots at England, striking her once.


Cope then took a shotgun from the trunk of his car and walked to the Cain residence, yelling for the couple to come to the door. Langan said the Cains, asleep at the time, awoke and came to the sliding glass door. From just feet away, Cope fired three blasts from the shotgun directly at them, striking both of them.


Terry Cain, who took the full force of the blasts, was severely and permanently injured, and today has a paralyzed arm, said Langan.


The District Attorney's Office originally charged Cope with first-degree murder and multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder, mayhem with great bodily injury and various firearm enhancements.


Carter said the plea agreement worked out with the District Attorney's Office reduced the charges from first- to second-degree murder and from first-degree attempted murder to second-degree attempted murder.


Langan said the additional charges of attempted murder and aggravated mayhem were dismissed by a Harvey waiver, which allows the court to consider the facts of the charges in its judgment.


All of the charges and special allegations amount to a maximum sentence of 74 years to life, said Carter, with the firearm use lengthening the prison term considerably.


Langan said Cope would have to serve 72 years before becoming eligible for parole – which would make him 110. “He's going to spend the rest of his life in prison, which is basically what we were looking for.”


At the Oct. 27 sentencing, Carter said he'll delve into the evidence about Cope’s physical and mental condition at the time of the shootings.


Cope, Carter explained, was working as a volunteer firefighter when, in 2001, he was injured fighting a fire in Clearlake. Carter said Cope fell through the floor of a building, causing major injuries to his back.


The accident ended Cope's career as a fireman and left him disabled, said Carter.


Cope was regularly taking pain medications for his injury; in addition, Cope suffers by bipolar disorder, which he was not being treated for at the time, Carter said.


The mix of painkillers and alcohol interfered with Cope's ability to control his emotions and triggered an anger event, which resulted in what Carter called “a tragic mistake.”


“It's not the first time I've seen violence at or around this level with that kind of mixture,” said Carter.


During evaluations of Cope, psychiatrists found that he was sane at the time of the shootings, which didn't favor an initial plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense and prosecution said.


Even though the plea deal essentially results in life in prison, Carter said Cope “has an exceptionally high level of remorse” and didn't want to put the victims through a trial. “He wants to take responsibility for what he did.”


Carter said the plea bargain also will help Cope obtain a better placement within the state prison system, since he will not be in prison for first-degree murder.


Cope is now being treated with medication for his depression and is a different person; Carter said speaking with Cope today, it's hard to imagine him committing such acts.


“I'm hopeful that the rest of his life will be humane and in a placement that's appropriate for him,” said Carter.


Langan said the Cains and will be at the Oct. 27 sentencing, and he's also spoken with Raviotta's mother about attending. He said he'll give the victims an opportunity to tell the court exactly how the shootings impacted them physically and emotionally.


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


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I hate to start the column off on a negative note, but you aren’t pronouncing it right. The pronunciation is actually or “Vee SHEE swahzz” not the more pretentious and/or genteel “Vish-EE-swah” (the “e” after the “s” signifies the “z” sound). Vichyssoise is as American as fortune cookies (both of which are associated with foreign countries but were actually invented in America).


The origins of this cold soup are disputed. Although evidence shows some version of leek and potato soup has been in existence since at least the 1800s, the evolution of the cold, pureed version has a couple of claimants to its creation.


The version that most people put faith in is that it was created in 1917 by Chef Louis Diat at the Ritz-Carlton in New York. This ascription, although the most popular and with the most “facts,” has been found full of holes by the “Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink.” So at best the story is anecdotal, and most likely the story was reverse engineered to fit the situation like a Nostradamus quatrain.


The only thing we know of for sure is that the cold pureed version first appeared in the U.S. during the early 20th century. The name Vichyssoise was changed to “Crème Gauloise Glacee” for a short time after World War II since the soup was named after the town of Vichy, France. This town had collaborated with the Nazis during the war and Americans love to punish the French by renaming food; remember “Freedom Fries”?


Most versions of this soup contain chicken stock and massive amounts of cream. In order to make this soup a little healthier and available to my vegan readers, the following recipe of the popular summer soup is one I adapted myself. Since I couldn’t find soy or vegan cream anywhere locally, I decided to make my own with silken tofu and soy milk: three-quarters of a cup of silken tofu, one-quarter of a cup of soy milk, 2 teaspoons white sugar and a pinch of salt. Put it all in a jar and shake until smooth (about one minute). You end up with a reasonable replacement for cream.


Even non-vegetarians will notice that after eating true vichyssoise your mouth has a slimy feeling from the massive amount of fat from the cream. This recipe avoids that fatty consistency while providing the body the soup needs. Vichyssoise served with a dollop of sour cream is fantastic, but in all of my experimenting with silken tofu, vinegar, lemons and sugar I couldn’t come up with a sour cream substitute ... sorry, but I am still trying.


The good news is while developing this recipe (don’t even ask about the version made with coconut milk) I broke my stand blender, so I get to go shopping for a new blender!


Unfortunately, cooking potatoes and leeks renders them about as nutritious as cardboard, but you at least will be getting a good amount of fiber and a tasty cool soup. You can have some fun and jazz vichyssoise up by adding little things here and there like crab, lobster, asparagus and cucumbers; I’ve even seen recipes with oysters. It also makes a great hors d’ouvres by serving it in shot glasses. This recipe will serve four.


Vegan Vichyssoise


3 Idaho baking-type potatoes

3 leeks (white and light green parts only)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 and a half cups soy milk

1 cup soy cream (see above)

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Salt to taste

Chopped chives for garnish


Peel and slice the potatoes and boil them in slightly salted water. Meanwhile cut the roots off of the leeks and cut the leaves off where the leaves start to split away. Split them lengthwise and wash them (I like to put them in a gallon ziptop bag with several cups of cold water and then shake like a salsa dancer); after a minute remove the leeks and dump the sandy water on the houseplants. Chop the leeks into a medium dice (approximately one inch squares). Heat the olive oil to medium in a frying pan and add the leeks. The purpose is to sweat the leeks, but not brown them or give them any color. Cook them until slightly translucent.


When the potatoes are cooked, drain in a colander and then return to the pot they were boiled in. Add the leeks, soy cream, soy milk and white pepper. Stir for a minute to combine, then blend with a stick blender (you can also ladle mixture into a regular stand blender). When it has been blended mostly smooth, process soup through a food mill, chinoise or strainer. The objective is to remove any leek fibers and have a perfectly smooth soup. Add salt and white pepper to taste, and then chill. Serve topped with the chives.


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.


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