Tuesday, 23 July 2024


COVELO – A Covelo man convicted of carjacking who later was arrested for other charges in Lake County was sentenced this week to nine years in state prison.

Reginald Lewis Azbill, 26, received the sentence in Mendocino County Superior Court, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Azbill had pleaded guilty to one felony count of carjacking on June 5, 2008, officials reported.

While waiting for his sentencing date, Azbill was granted a one-day pass by Judge David Nelson to attend a funeral, according to the report.

Officials said Azbill absconded and was finally arrested and convicted in Lake County for possession of a dangerous weapon, and sentenced to the Department of Corrections on a parole violation.

After serving a year in prison, Azbill was returned to Mendocino County on the carjacking case, the Mendocino District Attorney's Office reported.

While the Probation Department recommended three years in state prison, the district attorney argued for the aggravated term because Azbill’s record was extensive, and the victim of the carjacking was a minor who was traumatized by the incident.

Judge Clayton Brennan agreed and ruled that the longer term was appropriate.

Daniel McConnell prosecuted the case for the District Attorney’s Office. Christina Briles of the alternate public defender's office represented Azbill.

CLEARLAKE – The Clearlake Police Department issued a report Thursday morning that offered details about an officer-involved shooting the previous day.

The incident currently is under investigation by the Lake County District Attorney's Office, which was called in to head up the case, as Lake County News has reported.

Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain said Thursday that 26-year-old Sean Pryor was shot after confronting officers with weapons. Pryor is at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital in stable condition.

Based on policy and standard procedure, the officer who shot Pryor is on paid administrative leave and his name will not be released, McClain said in his report.

McClain said that at 10 a.m. Wednesday officers responded to an address in the 16000 block of 33rd Avenue on a report of an adult male inside the residence destroying property who had threatened to kill the other occupants.

When officers arrived they could hear someone breaking items inside the residence, McClain said.

Officers attempted to talk with Pryor, who McClain said was very agitated, uncooperative and refused to come to the door.

McClain said his officers obtained a key to the residence from family members and entered the residence through the front door.

As the officers entered the house Pryor confronted them, allegedly holding a large knife or machete in one hand, according to McClain.

McClain said Pryor had poured a flammable liquid onto the linoleum floor entry way. The first officer through the door slipped on the wet floor and fell to the ground, and when the officer went down Pryor attempted to light the flammable liquid but the liquid failed to ignite.

Pryor continued to move toward the officers and as Pryor stood over the officer on the ground the officer fired his weapon, McClain.

The officers on scene called for an ambulance and administered first aid to Pryor who was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment.

The District Attorney’s Office is investigating this incident and any further comments regarding this investigation will come from their office, McClain said.

McClain urged anyone with information regarding this investigation to contact Lake County District Attorney Investigator John Flynn at 707-263-2722.

CLEARLAKE – The District Attorney's Office is leading an investigation into a shooting involving a Clearlake Police officer.

The shooting occurred Wednesday morning, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

A man at a residence on 33rd Avenue was injured in the shooting, Hopkins said. The officer was not hurt.

The names of the officer and the victim haven't been released.

Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain and Lt. Craig Clausen didn't return calls for comment on Wednesday.

However, Hopkins said his office is now in charge of the incident, including releasing information about it.

“We've actually taken over the investigation because it's an officer-involved incident,” said Hopkins, which is part of a protocol that's invoked when such situations occur.

“It was Chief McClain's request that we come in and investigate the case,” he said.

Four of Hopkins' investigators were on scene since Wednesday morning, along with two state Department of Justice criminalists assisting with processing the scene under a search warrant, Hopkins said. He joined them in the afternoon and stayed until the evening.

Hopkins said he anticipated scene processing continuing into the night, with interviews also taking place Wednesday and into Thursday, although interviews could possibly take longer.

He was not prepared to release specifics about the incident or what led to the shooting, explaining that he is still verifying information and didn't want to comment preliminarily.

“That will be part of our investigation, getting all that information so it's accurate,” hes aid.

He said Clearlake Police officials have been present during the investigation, and some evidence may be stored with that agency.

Hopkins said he couldn't estimate when the investigation would be concluded or the results released.

The last officer-involved shooting the District Attorney's Office was called in to investigate took place at York's Mobile Home Park on Old Highway 53 in June 2008, as Lake County News has reported.

In that case, 63-year-old David Vestal was shot after allegedly pointing a shotgun at officers.

That investigation – which wasn't released until this past February, seven months after the incident – found no wrongdoing on the part of the officer.

Vestal's daughter, who was present at the incident along with her young son and boyfriend, later filed a lawsuit against the city which was paid by the city's insurance carrier.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

Many California families depend on Medi-Cal to pay for long-term residential skilled nursing care, and also for "medically necessary" services; that includes, but is not limited to, hospitalization, nursing home care, prescription drugs, physician's visits, x-ray and laboratory tests, adult day health care, prosthetic and orthopedic devices, hearing aids, some dental care, hearing aids, home health care services, and some medical equipment.

Who is eligible for Medi-Cal? Becoming eligible is a two-step process: First, one must be linked to Medi-Cal; and, second, one must not exceed Medi-Cal’s strict resource limitations.

How is one linked? The following three classes of persons are linked to Medi-Cal: “seniors,” “persons receiving SSI benefits” and “disabled persons.” Seniors, persons 65 years or older, are automatically linked, as are persons receiving any monthly SSI payments, regardless of age. Lastly, “disabled persons” are persons found to be disabled under Social Security standards. Usually a Social Security Administration disability hearing is used to establish disability, but sometimes the Department of Social Services may use its own physicians.

How much may one own? One cannot own more than a very limited dollar amount of available, countable resources (assets). That threshold is presently $2,000 for an individual, and $3,000 for a family. Countable resources do not include exempt assets, such as a primary residence, personal property (unlimited value), business assets (a time-limited exemption), musical instruments, marriage rings, a vehicle (one per family), a burial plot, and retirement accounts (provided they are paying required minimum distributions if the participant is age 70 ½ or older).

In the case of a couple, where one spouse is receiving Medi-Cal for residential skilled nursing care, the stay-at-home well spouse (i.e., so-called “community spouse”) is entitled to retain further (otherwise countable) resources equal to the so-called “Community Spouse Resource Allowance” (CSRA) – currently around $110,000 (2009). The CSRA is most commonly used to shelter cash and investment accounts and helps to provide the stay-at-home (well) spouse with an income stream on which to continue to live at home.

How does one deal with excess assets? To qualify, many persons convert their excess available, countable – nonexempt assets into exempt assets, gift assets, spend-down other countable resources on necessities (although any purchase for fair value received counts for spend down); or they make the assets non-available (by placing it up for sale, e.g., listing real property with a broker).

This can become complicated when a person with dementia is involved. Often, court approval to gift assets between spouses is necessary. Furthermore, and very importantly, gifting of countable resources done within Medi-Cal’s so-called “look-back” period will create periods of ineligibility. The current look-back period is thirty-six months for gifts made directly between persons and sixty-months for gifts made from a trust.

Next is determining one’s share of cost – i.e., how much one must pay before Medi-Cal (a payor of last resort) pays. For persons living in residential skilled nursing facilities, all income, except a $35 a month allowance goes to pay share of cost. There is an exception when the stay-at-home spouse receives less than the so-called “Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance” (‘MMMNA’), currently around $2,700/month, in which case the shortfall may be deducted from the incapacitated spouse’s income (i.e., before paying share of cost) to bring the well spouse’s income up to MMMNA, so far as possible.

After the Medi-Cal recipient dies, the Estate Recovery Unit must be notified, and the State has 90 days to “bill” for what Medi-Cal paid-out. Interestingly, medical services received before age 55 years of age are not subject to recovery. That exception, however, does not apply to skilled nursing home services.

Lastly, Medi-Cal applications involve stringent scrutiny. All bank statements need to be submitted going back three months before application, as well as ‘back-up’ documents to entries such as ‘income’ deposits, or payments when spend-down is involved. Also, documents such as birth certificate, driver’s license and social security cards must be provided.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

LAKE COUNTY – As the state does battle in court over its decision to divert transit funding from agencies around California, Lake Transit Authority is receiving more than $1.1 million in federal stimulus funding which will help it bridge a critical funding gap.

Caltrans announced this week that Lake Transit was among several rural North Coast transit agencies receiving more than $3 million in funds from the American Recover and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Lake Transit Authority received the most of any North Coast transit group, with an award of $1,113,956 for replacement buses and to catch up on preventative maintenance.

In Del Norte County, Redwood Coast Transit was awarded $484,529, the city of Arcata received $220,000, the city of Eureka was awarded $150,000, Humboldt Transit Authority was awarded $519,516 and Mendocino Transit Authority received $606,000.

Caltrans reported that, statewide, $34 million was awarded to 77 rural agencies.

Lake Transit General Manager Mark Wall said they began monitoring the stimulus bill at the start of the year. He said they talked to Congressman Mike Thompson's office in order to try to influence the bill.

At the same time, they were trying to find a way to close the funding gap after the state diverted all transit funding.

“We lost 100 percent of our transit funds,” he said, which amounts to about $500,000, or 25 percent of the agency's operational budget.

Overall, the award equals nearly a third of the agency's 2009-10 budget, which includes $2,025,000 for operations and $1.5 million for capital, Wall said.

Actually applying for the stimulus funds was much like the process of applying for regular federal grant funding, which Lake Transit receives every year. “The process was similar but a little more complex this time,” Wall said, with more reporting, required monthly, on these funds.

The stimulus money included no operating funds, but it did provide preventive maintenance, some of which Lake Transit was having to take from its operational budget. Wall said that helped them make their budget this year.

A total of four applications were required to get all of the funding, Wall said.

Wall said they received $205,946 for three smaller, paratransit buses and $205,000 for preventive maintenance.

They also were able to apply for intercity funding because they operate routes outside of the county, he said.

Lake Transit received $360,000 to replace four of its larger buses, $24,000 for equipment such as radios and $120,000 for bus shelters.

“We did pretty well,” he said.

Wall said they're now in the process of having to “hurry up and spend it.”

He said Caltrans was swamped with those and other grant applications from around the state. Phil Frisbie of Caltrans' District 1 office in Eureka said those applications are being processed in the agency's Sacramento office.

Wall said Lake Transit is kind of in “survival mode,” so looking into purchasing hybrid buses is off into the future.

He said their priorities are to keep everything operating, replace the buses that need to be retired out and put in bus shelters.

If they hadn't received the federal grants, said Wall, “We would have had to cut a couple of bus routes,” and the lack of funding for vehicles could have led to reliability issues.

“So this is essential to us,” he said.

Battle over state funding continues

Despite the fact that voters approved statewide propositions such as 116 and 108, which allocated funds to transportation, the governor and the legislature diverted the funds away from agencies like Lake Transit, said Wall.

At the beginning of the year, Lake Transit was told it would receive $501,000 from the state transit system, an amount which had grown from $285,000 several years before due to the inflation in gas prices. The laws included an increase for agencies based on inflation.

“When gas prices go up suddenly, transit agencies naturally pay a lot more for fuel,” and the demand for ridership grows, Wall said.

Wall said Lake Transit's ridership grew significantly when gas prices peaked, and they've kept many of those riders even after prices dropped.

The California Transit Association sued the state over the fund raid and won. The Schwarzenegger administration appealed, but the Third Appellate Court upheld the ruling and declared the public transit funding raids illegal.

The case has since been submitted to the California Supreme Court, said California Transit Association spokesman Jeff Wagner.

Wagner said it's estimated that the state has taken nearly $4 billion since the association filed its suit in 2007.

He told Lake County News that the association has yet to be notified about whether the California Supreme Court will hear the case. The court typically observes a 60-day self-imposed deadline to decide on appeal petitions, and the deadline is fast approaching, since the state's appeal was filed on Aug. 11.

If the court does accept the case, a decision could occur around March 2010, but he said it's conceivable there could be a delay in action to buy the Legislature and administration another budget cycle to get their house in order.

Wagner said the association has been advised the the court can't compel the Legislature to repay the money that it has taken, although state officials have indicated that they would be liable for the funds. “We’re not certain how the court might ultimately rule on that aspect of things,” he said.

That leaves the association in a holding pattern for now, he said.

Wall said if the appellate court decision is upheld, Lake Transit is owned more than $1.4 million in back funds.

“We need that money,” he said.

“When we look ahead another year or so, we get out to 2011, and we may be cutting service, because this federal money will be gone,” he said.

Lake Transit is currently in the process of implementing some new changes, including adding service to its route three, from Clearlake to Calistoga and St. Helena. People wanting to travel back and forth to Napa County will find that they have more schedule options, including Saturday operations.

In addition, Lake Transit has taken their route one, from Clearlake to Lakeport, and made it into two routes. One of those routes, route eight, is a Lakeport loop that runs every two hours. The main route one won't see a real change, Wall added.

He said those changes should soon be included on Lake Transit's Web site, www.laketransit.org/ .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

The Konocti Challenge will circle Lake County this Saturday, October 3, 2009. Courtesy photo.





LAKEPORT – A great way to enjoy Lake County is from a bicycle, and this weekend it's once again time to saddle up for the annual Konocti Challenge.

The 19th annual event will take off from Lakeport on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 3, with rides for all ages and fitness levels.

“It's a great way to see the county,” said Rotarian and Ride Director Jennifer Strong.

Strong said the Konocti Challenge is the only event that showcases nearly all of Lake County. The only area the ride doesn't extend to is Middletown.

The Konocti Challenge is one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Lakeport Rotary, which took the event over from the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce about 12 years ago, said Strong.

She and a dedicated committee of five work on the event year round, with all of the Lakeport Rotarians working the event itself.

Strong said the event usually nets between $8,000 and $10,000 for the club, although last year was particularly good, with the challenge bringing in $12,000 that was used for the Rotary's local efforts.

“All of the funds raised go to an extremely good cause,” she said.

Last year's ride also drew 450 participants from all over California and a total of eight states, Strong said.

They have high hopes for another great event this year, with beautiful fall weather in the 70s expected Saturday, according to Strong.

The ride has four courses, all of which start and end at the Lakeport Yacht Club at 15 Fifth St., said Strong.

“There's something for everybody,” she said.

The courses include a 19-miler for families which leads down to the Gnarly Dude Ranch on Steelhead Drive, and which includes Rotary escorts for children riding without their families; a 30-mile course that winds through the resort and vineyard sections in Big Valley and Lakeport; a 65-mile adventure course along the lakeshore; and the endurance-testing 100-mile course around the lake, then up Cobb Mountain.

Riders in the 30-mile course leave between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., while 65- and 100-mile riders leave between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

The 100-miler is a serious ride for avid cyclists that includes 6,200 feet of climbing. “It's rated as extremely difficult in the cycling world,” said Strong.

Helping keep riders on track will be six rest stops along the way, run by local nonprofit groups including Hospice Services of Lake County, Clearlake Rotary, Early Lake Lions, Operation Tango Mike and People Services, Strong said.

The rest stop groups compete for votes from riders, with whoever wins getting a $500 donation from Rotary. Strong said Operation Tango Mike won last year.

Along with rest stops, there will be about 12 to 15 vehicles on the road to pick up riders and assist with flat tires, Strong said. “There is a lot of support for the ride.”

After the ride, Kenny Parlet of Lakeview Market will host a barbecue back at the Lakeport Yacht Club, Strong said.

She explained that riders can sign up online at the event's Web site, www.konoctichallenge.com , until Thursday at 8 p.m. They also can sign up at the Lakeport Yacht Club from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and on the morning of the event.

For more information visit the Web site or call Strong at 707-349-0815.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

Lakeport attorney Doug Rhoades plans to run for district attorney in 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





LAKE COUNTY – Another hat is being tossed into the ring for the office of district attorney.

Lakeport attorney Doug Rhoades has announced his candidacy for district attorney in the 2010 election.

Rhoades, 56, will join another Lakeport attorney, Don Anderson, 57, in challenging incumbent Jon Hopkins, who has indicated he'll seek reelection next year. Hopkins, 63, was elected after running unopposed in 2006.

A Lake County resident since 1962, Rhoades has extensive experience both in law enforcement and in legal practice.

Rhoades worked for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, serving as a correctional officer, deputy sheriff and sergeant, for more than 21 years.

After obtaining an administration of justice degree from Mendocino College, he attended Sonoma State University where he received a bachelor’s degree.

In 1996, Empire School of Law in Santa Rosa awarded a juris doctor degree. He began his law practice the following year.

Rhoades is active in the local community and many civic organizations.

He is past president of the Lake County Arts Council, the Lake County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and served on the Kelseyville Unified School District’s Board of Trustees.

“Many good things have happened in Lake County since I was a young boy here,” Rhoades said. “But I have seen what occurs when poor decisions are made. Prosecutorial decisions need to benefit our entire community, but many recent actions have been detrimental to Lake County’s reputation.

“That’s one reason I am seeking the office of District Attorney,” Rhoades said. “The other is a desire to continue to serve the public. I am fortunate to have received the support of many friends in the community who have asked me to run.”

Anderson welcomed Rhoades to the race. “I know Doug well,” he said.

“The more competition, the better,” and the more issues that will come out, Anderson added.

Hopkins responded to Rhoades' announcement and his criticism of the District Attorney's Office with strong statements of his own.

“This is not a political job, it is a professional job,” Hopkins said.

He said the district attorney is the last person who should make decisions based upon which way the political wind is blowing. “We make thousands of decisions a year, and they have to be based upon a professional opinion of what should be done to protect the public and accomplish justice.”


There are several key issues to the effective and fair administration of justice, according to Rhoades.

“The right to a jury trial is guaranteed to all criminal defendants. But that can mean no other settlement was possible. When the prosecuting agency refuses to discuss resolution of a case, the defendant is left with little choice but to put it before a jury,” Rhoades said.

“As district attorney, I would seek to resolve appropriate cases through serious negotiation of the charges and consequences,” he added.

Hopkins responded that his office never refuses to discuss resolution in a case, but it won't sentence bargain with accused felons, which is a longheld stance.

“We have seen a succession of defense lawyers advocate a run for district attorney on this platform that urges a policy of greater leniency on felony cases, and the people of Lake County consistently say no,” Hopkins said.

Rhoades said the District Attorney's Office's current administration wastes resources that should be devoted to the most serious crimes, such as drug trafficking and production, crimes against the elderly and all crimes of violence, domestic or otherwise.

“In our current economy, resources will be even more scarce,” Rhoades said. “We must focus on violent crimes and those that cause significant economic loss, rather than devote those resources to incidents that do not put the public at risk.”

Hopkins said Rhoades' claim of wasted resources is not true. He said he has two senior deputy district attorneys who devote most of their time to prosecuting drug trafficking and prosecution, as well as a team comprised of a prosecutor, investigator and victim advocate assigned to elder abuse cases, both financial and physical abuse.

In addition to receiving new grants for pursuing domestic violence and driving under the influence prosecutions, Hopkins also has a team dedicated to child molestation and abuse cases, which he said are priorities for his office. That led to the creation of the multidiscipline interview center (MDIC), completed last year, to serve child victims in a more secure, comforting environment.

Rhoades, who also handles court-appointed cases for indigent defendants, emphasized the inconvenience and cost to the public that a failure to resolve cases produces.

“Many people respond to a jury summons only to find a case has settled on the day of trial or been continued,” he said. “That wastes time for each juror, not to mention lost wages and travel costs. Those reporting for jury service should expect their time to be respected and reserved for serious cases that cannot be resolved in any other manner.”

Hopkins said there are many reasons for continuances and delays – some of which result from the actions of defense attorneys – and it wouldn't be helped by adopting a policy of sentence bargaining with felons.

“An investment of a juror's time in sitting on a criminal case is always a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that makes our system the best in the world, and it makes our communities safe,” he said.

Rhoades, Anderson and Hopkins will begin the bulk of the paperwork for the election process early next year, when petitions for signatures in lieu of filing fees will start in January, to be followed the next month by declaration of candidacy and nomination papers.

The primary will be held June 8. If no candidate wins a 50 percent plus one majority, the two top vote getters will take part in a runoff election in November 2010.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

LOWER LAKE – After much anticipation and hard work by people around the county and country, the very first “People's Choice Wine Awards” will be held this Saturday, Oct. 3.

Hosted by the Lake County Winery Association at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery, the competition will determine the winners in the first ever, comprehensive judging of Lake County wines.

The competition will culminate in a tasting that will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery, 13372 Spruce Grove Rd., Lower Lake.

Kaj Ahlmann, chairman of the Lake County Winery Association, said the competition is a great way to spread the word about Lake County's outstanding wines.

The contest is in two parts, the first of which took place in August when a panel of professional wine judges narrowed down the field of 168 wines down to 38 of the best that Lake County has to offer.

The prestigious panel of judges, made up of wine experts from around the country, included Steve Heimoff of The Wine Enthusiast Magazine; Deborah Parker Wong of The Tasting Panel Magazine; Traci Dutton of Culinary Institute of America; Doug Frost, master sommelier and master of wine; Chris Sawyer, “sommelier to the stars”; Tom DiNardo, sommelier and wine appraiser; Bob Foster, California Grapevine Newsletter; Alan Goldfarb, AppellationAmerica.com; Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee; and Martha Dunne, Winegigs.com.

The second part of the competition is where the “people’s choice” aspect is engaged, and that is what is taking place this Saturday.

The public is invited to come and judge for themselves the best of what Lake County's wines. Attendees of the inaugural event will have the opportunity to blind taste all 38 of the judges’ nominations.

In addition to the finalists there will be 20 other wines to sample which earned from the judges awards of distinction.

Food will also be available, provided by Teo’s Lakeside Bistro, Nice; Main Street Pizza, Lakeport; Bigg's 155 Diner, Lakeport; and Twin Pine Casino's Manzanita Restaurant, Middletown.

Tickets are $25. You must be 21 years of age or older to purchase.

For more information, call 707-994-4068 or 707-355-2762 or visit www.lakecountywineries.org .

Ross A. Christensen is Lake County News' food and wine writer. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

SONOMA COUNTY – A Kelseyville teenager arrested earlier this year for the shooting death of a Santa Rosa man will not be prosecuted for the murder, with another man now facing the primary charges in the case.

Santa Rosa Police arrested 17-year-old Marco Antonio Meza April 8, two days after the alleged driveby shooting of 18-year-old Luis Suarez, as Lake County News has reported.

Arrested with Meza, a suspected Sureno gang member, was Fernando Mendoza of Santa Rosa, who police said at the time was arrested for a parole violation.

But on Tuesday the Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua reported that a “continuing and cooperative investigation” between his office and the Santa Rosa Police Department had led to a first-degree murder charge being filed against the 21-year-old Mendoza, and the murder charge against Meza being dropped.

“Our office and the Santa Rosa Police Department consider not only incriminating evidence, but exonerating evidence, as well,” Passalacqua said. “When new evidence surfaced, we jointly investigated it thoroughly, resulting in not only the dismissal of a murder charge against one person but the issuance of an arrest warrant on the person we believe is responsible.”

Passalacqua said Mendoza also faces special allegations related to benefiting a criminal street gang and personal use of a firearm. Mendoza is due to be arraigned on the charges Oct. 15, with Deputy District Attorney Troye Shaffer assigned to prosecute the case.

Meza, whose name was previously released by police in connection with the case, was not named specifically in Passalacqua's Tuesday statement.

The initial investigation – led by Santa Rosa Police Det. Brad Connors and Sgt Steve Fraga of the Violent Crimes Investigation Team – focused on the teenager, who Passalacqua said sent incriminating text messages to a third party claiming that he committed Suarez's murder.

However, based on the new evidence, an arrest warrant was issued for Mendoza and the murder charges were dismissed on Sept. 23 against Meza, who faced being tried as an adult, Passalacqua said.

While Meza no longer faces the murder charge, he's facing charges related to the case that are now pending in juvenile court, Passalacqua reported.

Passalacqua's office said the juvenile proceedings are confidential under California law and cannot be disclosed to the public.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

KELSEYVILLE – Firefighters were able to quickly subdue a small grass fire in the Big Valley area Thursday morning.

The small grass fire was reported at around 11 a.m. at the corner of Big Valley and Renfro, said Capt. Jim Dowdy of the Kelseyville Fire Protection District.

It was located on the roadside and began burning into an open field, said Dowdy. No structures were threatened.

The first Kelseyville engine on scene was able to contain the fire, said Dowdy, with a Lakeport Fire Protection District engine coming for backup being canceled before arrival.

Dowdy said the fire was held to a quarter-acre in size, and contained within about 10 minutes.

The cause is still under investigation, he said.

Red flag conditions for high winds were expected in the area today, said Dowdy, adding, “We're not really seeing any right now.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY – The 19th annual “Make A Difference Day” will be marked this month.

Billed as America's largest day of doing good, Make A Difference Day is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The Lake County Office of Education’s AmeriCorps program is holding its 10th annual “Make A Difference Day” food drive on that date from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event is a collaboration between the Lake County Office of Education’s AmeriCorps Program, the Lake County Hunger Task Force, Catholic Charities and the Lake County Community Action Agency.

During the years the food drive has collected and distributed more than 25,000 pounds of nonperishable foods within Lake County.

All donations are distributed to local families though the Lake County Community Action Agency in Clearlake and Lakeport, Catholic Charities based in Middletown, and all Lake County senior centers.

Volunteers will be collecting food at Hardester's Market in Middletown, Cobb and Coyote Valley; Safeway in Clearlake and Lakeport; Ray's Food Place in Clearlake; Red & White Market in Clearlake Oaks; Sentry Market in Nice; and Bruno’s Shop Smart and Grocery Outlet in Lakeport.

If you are interested in volunteering for this or one of the many other opportunities available here in Lake County, call your local AmeriCorps office at 707-263-6291 for more information.

LOWER LAKE – The victim of a fatal crash that occurred late last week near Middletown has been identified.

Albert Gene Brandon, 47, of Lower Lake was the victim of the crash, which occurred early on the morning of Sept. 25, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Brandon died when his vehicle went off of Butts Canyon Road, a mile and a half east of Highway 29, then overturned and hit a utility pole, as Lake County News has reported.

The California Highway Patrol investigation found that Brandon was wearing his seat belt and his car's airbag had deployed.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

Upcoming Calendar

07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.24.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



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