Thursday, 25 July 2024


Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested Roger Bart Gordon, 46, on Thursday, August 19, 2010, after he allegedly made statements about putting feces on his hands and touching produce at the Safeway in Lakeport, Calif. Lake County Jail booking photo.

LUCERNE, Calif. – A Lucerne man has been arrested after allegedly claiming that he contaminated food in the produce section at the Lakeport Safeway this week.

Roger Bart Gordon, 46, was arrested at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Lucerne for making malicious statements of mingling a harmful substance with food or drink, which is a felony, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

At the time of his arrest, Gordon also was found to be in possession of a nonprescribed controlled substance, another felony charge. Bauman said Gordon was booked on both charges at the Lake County Jail, where he remained in custody with bail set at $10,000.

Specifically, Gordon had made statements that he had intentionally put fecal matter on produce items at the store, Bauman said.

The Lakeport Safeway closed its produce session temporarily after it received a report about Gordon's allegations, corporate spokesperson Susan Houghton told Lake County News on Wednesday.

She said the company took any threats seriously, and accordingly the section was shut down for part of Wednesday for cleaning and replacement of food products.

Bauman said that the issues that led to Gordon's arrest began on Tuesday morning, when sheriff's deputies responded to the Lucerne Community Clinic on Highway 20 where Gordon allegedly was creating a disturbance.

Deputies contacted Gordon at the scene and told him not to return to the clinic, but later that afternoon he returned anyway, which Bauman said resulted in the deputies going back to the clinic and transporting Gordon to Sutter Lakeside Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Bauman said the hospital subsequently discharged Gordon who, while at the hospital, told staff he was having irrational thoughts. Those thought included considering going to the Lakeport Safeway with feces on his hands and touching the produce.

Sheriff's deputies contacted the Lakeport Safeway management on Wednesday morning about Gordon. Bauman said that while the investigation didn't positively conclude that the produce had been contaminated, Safeway still purged and sanitized the produce section as a precaution.

The Sheriff’s Department reminded all consumers to be mindful of any food product that comes into contact with others. Fresh food products in particular, should always by thoroughly cleaned before consumption.

Bauman confirmed to Lake County News that the sheriff's office has had several previous contacts with Gordon.

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ELK, Calif. – The body of an Oakland woman who had been reported missing was found Tuesday floating in the Pacific Ocean off the Mendocino Coast.

A Coast Guard Helicopter crew retrieved the body of 64-year-old Cynthia Wyman from the waters off of Elk late Tuesday morning, according to a report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Smallcomb said that Wyman had arrived at a friend's residence on Monday afternoon and said she was going to the beach. She later was reported missing and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office began an investigation.

Although Smallcomb's report indicated that the incident was a suspected “self-inflicted drowning,” he also stated that the investigation into Wyman's death is continuing.

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KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – The case against a Kelseyville man arrested last month after shooting a man who came onto his property has been dropped, according to the county's chief deputy district attorney.

Nickolas Leone, 48, was arrested on July 10 for felony discharging a firearm in a negligent manner for shooting John Allen Kniss, 32, of Kelseyville, as Lake County News has reported.

Leone later was investigated for an additional count of felony assault with a firearm, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

The sheriff's office reported that the confrontation allegedly resulted after Kniss – who had been making threats over a woman Leone was seeing who previously had dated Kniss – drove onto Leone's property at a high rate of speed and tried to force his way through a gate.

Leone got his shotgun, told Kniss to leave and fired a warning shot, which Kniss ignored. He then shot Kniss in the arm and shoulder at a distance of 80 to 100 feet before Kniss fled the property, according to the original report.

Kniss was picked up about a week later on a misdemeanor bench warrant for battery on a spouse, false imprisonment and vandalism. At that time he still had several pellet wounds in the left arm, shoulder and chest from the incident, and admitted to authorities that the incident had occurred, officials said.

However, after reviewing the case, Hinchcliff decided that he would not formally charge Leone in the case.

He said Thursday that the evidence showed that Kniss had made threats earlier in the day. “There was a prior history of violent or potentially violent conduct” between Kniss and his ex-girlfriend, who had more recently been dating Leone.

Ultimately, Hinchcliff decided he would not be able to convince a jury that Leone wasn't acting in reasonable self-defense.

“I'm not necessary saying that he acted in reasonable self-defense,” Hinchcliff was quick to add.

“The decision I made is based solely on the facts of this case and is in no way meant to imply that if someone comes on your property you can shoot at them,” he emphasized.

Hinchcliff said a felony case is pending against Kniss for felony evasion, driving under the influence and using force or violence against peace officers from an incident earlier this year.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A woman accused of embezzling from her employer has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor grand theft in a deal that will require her to serve jail time, do community service and make restitution.

Michelle Lynn Davis, 25, reached the plea agreement with the Lake County District Attorney's Office late last month, according to Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson.

On July 21 she made the plea, with Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentencing her to three years probation, 45 days in jail, 360 hours of work and community service, a restitution fine of $100 and an agreement to repay her former employer, Shannon Ranches Inc., $50,000 in restitution, Abelson said.

Davis' attorney, Kristine Burk of Sebastopol, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Davis was arrested in January 2008 and originally charged with felony embezzlement and a special allegation for having allegedly taken more than $150,000 from the Clearlake Oaks-based Shannon Ranches, a vineyard management company where she had worked for five years, as Lake County News has reported.

Clay Shannon, who owns Shannon Ranches along with wife Margarita, said Wednesday that the amount Davis took was more like $240,000.

Abelson said the case against Davis alleged that between March 14, 2006, and Dec. 14, 2007, Davis had taken funds from the company.

Davis allegedly was using a company-issued credit card for shopping, vacations for herself and her boyfriend to Disneyland as well as out-of-country trips, and had also issued herself extra checks, Abelson said.

Abelson, who is familiar with forensic accounting and handles many of the embezzlement cases prosecuted through the District Attorney's Office, said Davis was smart at hiding the funds she allegedly was taking.

Eventually, however, the fact that money was missing came to light. “When their bills weren't getting paid, that's when it kind of came to a head,” Abelson said.

Abelson said a trial had been under way in the spring. “I was almost done with my evidence, we just had one more witness,” she said.

But that last witness, Margarita Shannon, became ill and Abelson said a mistrial resulted.

A new trial was set to start July 20 but the Shannons and their attorney, Peter Windrem, asked that the case be pleaded out as a misdemeanor so they wouldn't have to participate in a trial, Abelson said. They also came to an agreement with Davis and her attorney on the $50,000 restitution.

Clay Shannon said he's glad the matter is over with and behind he and his family, but added that Davis “got off easy.”

He said he was upset that the case took so long to come to a close.

However, Shannon said, “Margarita and I just have too many great things going on” in their business and here in the county.

“Times are tough in this economy and we have no time to spend goofing around in trial,” he said.

Abelson said Judge Hedstrom wants Davis monitored, and has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13 to determine her restitution payments and keep track of her situation.

The hearing was set at that time to give Davis the opportunity to serve her 45 days in jail. Abelson said Davis is eligible to sign up for electronic home monitoring.

If Davis doesn't repay all of her restitution during her probation period, Abelson said a civil judgment can be issued for what's still owed.

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Booking photo of Laura Michelle Gallegos, age 38, of Redding, Calif. Photo courtesy of the Glenn County Sheriff's Office.

GLENN COUNTY, Calif. – A Redding woman turned herself in to Glenn County officials on Tuesday following an investigation that resulted in her being charged with numerous counts relating to a sexual relationship she had with a teenager and exchanges of sexually explicit text messages with another juvenile male.

Laura Michelle Gallegos, 38, was booked into the Glenn County Jail in Willows on a warrant charging two counts of exhibiting lewd material to a minor, three counts of contacting a minor to commit lewd acts, two counts of arranging meetings with a minor to commit lewd acts, one count of oral copulation, and two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor with a three year, or more, age difference. Bail was set at $110,000.

She is alleged to have become sexually involved with a 17-year-old male and to have taken part in “sexting” with a 15-year-old male, according to a report from Glenn County Sheriff Larry Jones.

Jones' agency received a call from an Orland-area mother on April 11, with the woman reporting that she believed her 15-year-old son was receiving explicit text messages from an adult female and wished to speak with a deputy.

Deputy Jon Owens was dispatched to speak with the 34-year-old mother, who related her son was on the Orland High School wrestling team and they had just returned home from a tournament in Reno.

While at the tournament, the mother had the opportunity to view her son’s cell phone with a saved contact listed as “GF” with a phone number. Jone said that, by chance, a friend – a mother of another wrestler seated next to the reporting mother – had received a text message from the same number.

The number belonged to the mother of one of the wrestlers, Laura Gallegos. Jones said the 15-year-old's mother stated she knew Gallegos as a teacher’s aide at Shasta High School in Redding.

When she questioned her son he said he met Gallegos while at a wrestling event, and admitted they had been “sexting” each other, Jones reported.

At that time, a second possible victim, a 17-year-old from Orland who also was a member of the wrestling team, also was identified. A preliminary report was taken and the case was turned over to Detective Greg Felton of the Sheriff’s Major Crimes unit.

Authorities obtained search warrants for the cell phones alleged to be involved and conducted interviews, with Felton making trips to Redding, Jones said. At Shasta High School Felton was informed by the administration that Laura Gallegos had resigned from her position as a teacher’s aide. Copies of emails were obtained and retained as evidence.

The 17-year-old male of Orland High School admitted meeting Gallegos for the first time in Red Bluff at lunch time on or around March 11, and missing the last two periods of school. Sexual acts were completed inside a vehicle, Jones said.

School records at Orland showed the victim with two unexcused absences for the periods after lunch on that date, Jone said The victim also related the suspect had performed a sex act on him while seated in the stands at the wrestling finals in Bakersfield. He also admitted to an additional meeting for sex in Corning.


The Tehama County District Attorney’s Office was contacted and it was agreed Glenn County would assume jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed in Tehama County, Jones said.

Upon completion of the investigation, the case was submitted to the Glenn County District Attorney’s Office and a complaint was issued, with Glenn County Superior Court Judge Peter Twede signing the arrest warrant.

After being booked into the jail on Tuesday Gallegos immediately posted bond and is to appear in the Orland branch of the Glenn County Superior Court on Sept. 21.

Jones commended what he called Det. Felton's “exemplary investigative work” on a complicated case that required much diligence and attention to detail.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY – Another confrontation between law enforcement and illegal pot growers turned deadly this week when a man guarding a cultivation operation in Mendocino County was shot dead during a confrontation with a sheriff's deputy and a firefight took place between deputies and other suspects.

The incidents occurred during a series of pot eradications carried out early Wednesday morning in the 3000 block of Branscomb Road of Laytonville, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

The name of the dead man was not released.

Smallcomb said the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office Marijuana Eradication Unit, along with patrol deputies and detectives, was assisted by the Major Crimes Task Force, Mendocino County Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Mendocino County Probation, Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agents, Alcohol,Tobacco and Fireams agents and Forest Service agents in serving a search warrant at the Branscomb Road address just west of Laytonville.

The search warrant was for a large marijuana cultivation operation involving armed guards and ex-felons, he said.

On arrival law enforcement conducted several residential searches on the large parcel of property. Smallcomb said several marijuana plants were seized along with firearms and other narcotic paraphernalia.

At the residential site deputies arrested several suspects, Smallcomb said.

They included Laytonville residents 52-year-old Gerald Stephenson, arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and cultivation and sales of marijuana; David Higgs, 50, arrested for possession of a controlled substance, possession of an assault rifle and tampering with a firearm serial number; and 41-year-old Kelly Dutra, arrested for cultivation and sales of marijuana. Also arrested was 22-year-old transient Delfino Contreras on an immigration violation.

Smallcomb said the suspects were transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.

Law enforcement then proceeded to two large marijuana grows which were identified as part of the same investigation, he said.

At the upper site officers encountered numerous armed suspects tending to the garden. A total of 426 growing marijuana plants were located and eradicated at this location. Smallcomb said several firearms and ammunition were further recovered.

It was at that location that the officer-involved shooting took place. Smallcomb said the Mendocino County District Attorney along with the California Department of Justice are investigating the incident.

Law enforcement also was investigating a lower site at approximately the same time as the upper site when the firefight ensued, Smallcomb said.

There was no evidence located which revealed anyone was shot or injured during the armed encounter, which Smallcomb said the Mendocino County District Attorney and the California Department of Justice are investigating.

At the site of the gun battle a total of 1980 marijuana plants were eradicated and a firearm and ammunition were recovered, Smallcomb said.

Smallcomb said the investigation is continuing.

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From left, Robinson Rancheria Chief of Police David Mendoza, Tribal Chairperson Tracey Avila and District Attorney Jon Hopkins. Courtesy photo.

ROBINSON RANCHERIA, Calif. – An agreement to allow Robinson Rancheria's federally commissioned law enforcement officers to direct file cases with the Lake County District Attorney's Office has been finalized.

On Aug. 12, District Attorney Jon Hopkins approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians that Robinson Rancheria Police Chief Dave Mendoza said was nearly a year in the making.

The agreement will allow the District Attorney's Office to prosecute suspects based on the investigations submitted and testimony of the Robinson Rancheria’s federally commissioned law enforcement officers, Mendoza said.

“This is a very significant step forward for law enforcement, not only on the Robinson Rancheria, but throughout Lake County,” said Mendoza.

It's the first agreement of its kind in Lake County, he said.

“As a result of this agreement, those who are arrested by federally commissioned police officers for breaking the law on the reservation will be prosecuted the same way as any other offender in Lake County and the victims of those crimes will be provided the same representation,” Mendoza added.

Mendoza told Lake County News in an interview earlier this month that Robinson Rancheria's officers were issued special law enforcement commissions by the secretary of the Department of the Interior in April 2009, one of only eight such agencies in California.

That makes them federal law enforcement officials who Mendoza said retain their federal status both on and off of the reservation. They can therefore enforce federal law and, in some cases, state law.

Mendoza said the agreement will allow Robinson Rancheria's federally commissioned police officers to submit their investigations directly with the District Attorney’s Office, which will handle the police reports in the same manner as reports filed by the other law enforcement agencies in Lake County.

If the District Attorney decides to prosecute the suspect, the Robinson Rancheria’s federal law enforcement officers will be available to testify in the cases, Mendoza said.

Hopkins said the agreement was the “next logical step” in the work he's been doing with Lake County tribal communities since being elected district attorney in 2006.

“It is important to have tribal members trust the resources outside their community and to work together to make sure all victims of crime are protected and benefit from a stronger public safety effort,” he said. “All law enforcement should be able to be focused on keeping people and property safe.”

By agreeing to prosecute meritorious cases filed by the Robinson’s federal police officers for crimes committed on the Robinson Rancheria, Hopkins said, “We have effectively expanded the number of police officers protecting the people of Lake County. That’s good for everyone.”

Mendoza said the new arrangement with the Lake County District Attorney’s Office falls right in line with the recent agreement made with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, where Federal Magistrate Nandor J. Vadas holds federal court on the Hopland Reservation for the five federal agencies who work in Lake and Mendocino County.

That arrangement was accomplished by working mutually with Hopland Chief of Police Brett Rhodes and is supported by the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Marshal’s Office, according to Mendoza.

Hopland Rancheria's officers also are federally commissioned, according to Rhodes, whose agency holds a similar direct filing agreement with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Mendoza complimented Hopkins for working with the Robinson Rancheria on its law enforcement program.

“We have had the full support of Mr. Hopkins and his staff from day one and his input and direction has played a vital role in the success and development of the Robinson Rancheria’s Police Department,” said Mendoza, adding that Hopkins' work was “foreword thinking and timely.”

Mendoza said the agreement forecasts the future goals and policies being set by the federal government with the passage last month of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010.

In the current difficult economic times it is important to build upon the community's resources in order to continue to provide quality public safety services to the citizens of Lake County,” he said.

Hopkins' approval of the agreement has added another valuable law enforcement agency to the community, said Chief Mendoza.

With Robinson's federal law enforcement officers now able to conduct their investigations, arrest criminals and submit their cases directly to the prosecuting agency of the county, “That makes people on and off the reservation more secure,” Mendoza said.

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LAKEPORT, Calif. – After being closed down for cleaning and an investigation on Wednesday, the Lakeport Safeway's produce section reopened early in the evening.

Customers arriving at the store on 11th Street Wednesday reported encountered a closed off produce section with store staff unable to elaborate on the reasons.

“It's back up and running,” Susan Houghton, Safeway's director of public affairs, said at around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The issue that prompted the closure was a man who reported having tampered with the food the night before, Houghton said.

“We had a customer who indicated that he might have intentionally tried to sabotage the food in the produce area,” she said. “Any time that situation occurs, whether it's real or not, we have to take it very seriously.”

Typically in such a situation, the store will remove all of the food in the area – much of it is thrown away – and the area is thoroughly cleaned, Houghton explained.

Houghton said local police received the initial report and it was relayed to Safeway. However, Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke said his agency didn't receive the report.

“We had nothing to do with it and I have no knowledge of the incident,” he said.

Burke said he spoke with a Safeway manager who said she couldn't discuss the matter with him without permission of the corporate office.

That leads to the possibility the report was made to the sheriff's office. However, the sheriff's office couldn't be reached for comment after the close of business Wednesday, when Lake County News confirmed Lakeport Police hadn't handled the call.

Houghton said Safeway is trying to get to the bottom of the issue. She said they're working with security to review the video to see if it indicates that the man – whose name was not available Wednesday – actually did something.

“So far we haven't been able to find any evidence of tampering but we're taking a lot of precautions,” she said.

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SACRAMENTO – State health officials are urging consumers not to eat certain Wright County Eggs due to a recently reported Salmonella outbreak.

Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), issued the warning this week because of concerns that Wright County Eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella, a dangerous bacteria that may cause serious health problems.

Wright County Eggs are produced in Iowa and packaged under numerous brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.

Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (six-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons). The eggs were processed by plants with identification numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946. Plant identification codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton. The plant number is preceded with the letter “P” and followed by a three-digit number.

The recall applies to numbers 136 to 225. For example: P-1946 223 would be a carton subject to the recall. The Julian production dates in question, 136-225, convert to May 16 – Aug. 13 calendar dates.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea which may be bloody. Most infected people recover within a week; however, some may develop complications that require hospitalization.

Infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for more severe illness.

Since May of this year there has been a nationwide increase in the number of infections due to a strain of Salmonella Enteritidis. Outbreak investigations in several states, including California, have found that some of these illnesses were likely related to eating eggs or foods containing eggs prepared by restaurants or caterers who obtained shell eggs from Wright County Eggs.

This particular strain, defined by a matching DNA pattern, is the most common Salmonella strain in the United States, and a common source may not explain all of the illnesses.

To prevent illness, consumers are advised to cook eggs thoroughly before eating to destroy any Salmonella or other bacteria. People who develop symptoms of Salmonella infection after consuming Wright County Eggs should consult their health care provider.

Eggs affected by this recall were distributed to food wholesalers, distribution centers and foodservice companies in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Wright County Eggs has initiated a voluntary recall. Consumers who believe they may have purchased these shell eggs should return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund. This recall is of shell eggs only. Other egg products produced by Wright County Eggs are not affected.

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MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – Two local women were injured in a head-on collision Tuesday morning.

The crash, which took place shortly after 10 a.m. on Highway 29 north of Butts Canyon Road, sent both 43-year-old Suzanne Wallahan of Middletown and Brittany Franklin, 18, of Clearlake to the hospital, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Franklin was driving a 2008 Chevrolet northbound on Highway 29 when, for an unknown reason, she allowed her vehicle to drift to the right and began to leave the roadway, Tanguay said.

He explained that Franklin then turned her car back to the left and entered the southbound lane of traffic directly in front of the 2004 Nissan truck Wallahan was driving.

The two vehicles collided head-on and the Nissan truck went down a dirt embankment to the west of the roadway, while the Chevrolet came to rest blocking both traffic lanes, Tanguay said.

He said both drivers were transported by air ambulance to U.C. Davis Medical Center for injuries sustained in this collision.

The roadway was completely blocked, and then open for one-way traffic control for just over an hour, Tanguay reported.

Alcohol and drugs are not considered factors in the collision, which CHP Officer Brian Engle is investigating.

Another major injury crash occurred on Highway 20 near Clearlake Oaks shortly after 6 p.m., according to the CHP.

The head-on collision reportedly involved two vehicles and blocked a portion of the highway, based on initial reports from the scene.

Additional details weren't immediately available Tuesday evening.

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