Thursday, 01 December 2022

News

THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED AND UPDATED, WITH NEW INFORMATION FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION.


LAKEPORT – The story behind the murder this week of a Lakeport man took on an even grimmer tone with the confirmation that the murder victim had recently served time in prison.


Michael Anthony Dodele, 67, was stabbed to death in his home at Space 19 in the Western Hills Mobile Home Park on Tuesday morning.


That same morning, Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested 29-year-old Ivan Garcia Oliver. Officials reported that Oliver was allegedly covered with blood and made statements admitting to attacking Dodele.


Oliver is from San Diego, where he was on parole for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, according to a report from the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


A reader tipped Lake County News that Dodele was listed on the Megan's Law Web site, which lists registered sex offenders and their addresses.


A check of the site confirmed that Dodele was on the site, registered at the Lakeshore Boulevard address. The record noted that he was in compliance for registration.


The Lake County Sheriff's administrative office was closed Friday, so Chief Deputy Russell Perdock could not be reached for comment on the case.


Dodele, who also went by the alias Michael Salta, had been convicted of rape by force, according to the Megan's Law Web site and confirmed by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records.


Previously a resident of Sonoma County, records obtained by Lake County News showed that Dodele was committed to state prison in February of 1988 after being convicted of rape in Sonoma County. He received a 26-year sentence.


Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records show that Dodele was discharged from that agency's supervision in February of 2004.


According to court records he later was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital, which is where the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation commits patients including offenders with mental illnesses and those being held under the California Sexually Violent Predator Act, according to state legislation. However, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had no information about his time at Atascadero.


While at the Atascadero State Hospital in San Luis Obispo County, Dodele took a case to the First Appellate District Court Jan. 23, 2002. His case was argued before the court in San Francisco Jan. 29, 2003.


The court upheld his conviction, and he next appealed to the state Supreme Court, which denied his petition for a review on April 20, 2003.


It is not clear from records if that appeal was an effort to have his original conviction overturned or if it was related to his commitment to Atascadero.


While he was at Atascadero in 2005, Dodele suffered chest pains and thought he was having a heart attack. Doctors found out he had a hyatal hernia, but when they tried to arrange surgery, Atascadero personnel refused to allow the treatment, according to an article about the incident on Echoes of the Gulag, a Web site dedicated to people held under the Sexually Violent Predator Act.


In May 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of California reached a settlement concerning civil rights violations at state mental hospitals, including Atascadero, according to court documents.


An autopsy of Dodele is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, as part of the ongoing investigation into his murder, Perdock reported this week.


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LUCERNE – A Lake County woman who drove the wrong way on a Bay Area highway and caused a collision is facing arrest.


Wendy Jensen, 34, of Lucerne somehow got onto Highway 4 near Martinez going the wrong way early Sunday morning, said California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Yox of the Contra Costa CHP office.


“We're not certain exactly where she got onto the freeway the wrong way,” said Yox.


Jensen, driving a 1997 Ford Explorer, was heading eastbound in the highway's westbound lane in an area where the highway is separated by a divider, said Yox. “She didn't cross over the freeway, she got on the wrong way.”

Yox said investigators believe that Jensen saw headlights – it was about 4:45 a.m. – and swerved to the right to avoid hitting the vehicle.


She struck the center median guardrail with her Explorer's passenger side, said Yox, and bounced back into the path of a 2005 Dodge Neon driven by Rickey Stratton, 49, of Hayward, hitting him head-on.


Stratton suffered severe injuries – including breaking both legs, suffering multiple facial fractures, punctured lungs, a lacerated kidney and diaphragm, said Yox. Stratton was taken to John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, where he was reported to be in critical condition.


Jensen also was taken to the hospital, complaining of neck and back pain, said Yox. He said she may have suffered a spinal injury.


A CHP officer who responded to the accident concluded that Jensen was driving under the influence, said Yox. “As soon as she clears the hospital she will be taken into custody.”


The charges, said Yox, will be felony drunk driving and driving the wrong way causing bodily injury.


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Ivan Garcia Oliver's booking photo.

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED AND THE SUSPECT'S AGE CORRECTED.


LAKEPORT – Officials have arrested a 29-year-old man for murder in connection with an incident that took place Tuesday morning at a Lakeport trailer part.


Sheriff's deputies arrested Ivan Garcia Oliver, a construction worker and Lakeport resident, at Western Hills Mobile Home Park, located at 3555 Lakeshore Blvd.


Chief Deputy Russ Perdock reported Tuesday afternoon that investigators had been having difficulty confirming Oliver's identity. Oliver was finally booked at 11:31 p.m. Tuesday.


Perdock reported that the Lake County Sheriff's Office responded to the trailer park after the agency's Dispatch Communications Center received a 911 call for medical aid from an anonymous woman on Monday at approximately 10:14 a.m.


The caller reported that a male subject who was bleeding from his hands was located at Space 31B at the park, according to Perdock.


Believing that there had been an altercation at the address, sheriff's deputies responded to secure the scene and any armed or dangerous individuals, Perdock reported, with fire personnel directed to stage near the area.


Upon their arrival at the scene, which Perdock said came minutes after the 911 call, deputies discovered the body of a 65-year-old Caucasian male, who was the victim of an assault.


As the deputies checked the area for other victims as well as possible suspects, Perdock said park residents directed them to Space 31B, where they contacted the 19-year-old Oliver.


Plain clothes deputies arrested Oliver at gunpoint, according to a Lake County News contributor who witnessed the scene. Even after Oliver was arrested he continued to struggle with deputies.


Deputies Tom Andrews and Cynthia Radoumis detained and secured Oliver, who also had injuries to his hands, consistent with having been in a physical altercation, according to Perdock.


Sheriff's investigators remained at the scene Tuesday afternoon, conducting the investigation and collecting evidence, Perdock said.


Perdock added that another report will be released Wednesday morning once the victim's family has been identified and more information is available.


Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.


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Deputies arrest Ivan Garcia Oliver in connection with a reported murder at Western Hills Mobile Home Park. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

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This is the second of two articles on Lake County's legislators reporting on their year in the legislature.


LAKE COUNTY – State Sen. Patricia Wiggins has had a busy freshman year in the Senate. {sidebar id=35}


Like her North Coast colleague in the Assembly, Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) had nine of her bills signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger by the October deadline.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said the 120-member Legislature sent 964 bills to Schwarzenegger’s desk in 2007, with Schwarzenegger signing 750 and vetoing 214.


Wiggins authored a total of 34 bills. Of those, 14 were approved by the Legislature and sent to the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, according to Wiggins' spokesman, David Miller.


Of those 14 bills, Schwarzenegger signed nine and vetoed five, Miller reported.


This year comprised the first half of the two-year, 2007-08 Legislative Session, Miller reported. He said Wiggins has 13 other bills that she introduced in 2007 that are still alive going into 2008 while, at the same time, discussing potential bills with her staff for the 2008 legislative year.


During this session, Wiggins – a member of the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee – called for an audit of the Yountville Veterans Home and held a hearing on the matter Aug. 29.


She also worked on agricultural issues, with four ag-related bills – including Lake County's pear shed bill and legislation to get more funding for state efforts to fight the light brown apple moth – receiving the governor's signature.


Legislative highlights for 2007


Among her bills signed this year by the governor, Wiggins reported that she is most proud of her environmental and ag-related legislation, including SB 319, which extended a labor law exemption allowing Lake County minors to work longer hours during pear harvest.


“Given the support of my colleagues, and the governor, on my bill, SB 319, I am optimistic that we will be able to pass new legislation, some time in the near future, to eliminate the sunset date altogether, and make this very productive provision of law permanent,” Wiggins said.


Her disappointments included Schwarzenegger's veto of SB 565, which had sought to establish a position to oversee health care management at the Yountville Veterans Home. In his Oct. 12 veto message, Schwarzenegger said the bill was unnecessary because he said such a position already existed. He said the bill also infringed on his authority to administer state agencies and programs.


Wiggins said she also was disappointed by Schwarzenegger's veto of SB 678, which would have enabled Napa County to purchase the property known as Skyline Park from the state (the county currently leases the land for a nominal annual amount); and his veto of SB 861, which would have allowed the North Coast Railroad Authority to reallocate some of its funds toward environmental cleanup.


Wiggins said she was saddened that SB 623, her bill that would have covered the cost of drug co-payments for seniors and other individuals under the Medicare Part D program, died in the Legislature.

 

“Clearly, this year did not lack for disappointments, but I think it is important to keep things in their proper perspective,” said Wiggins. “We have yet to implement a strategy for reforming health care, which has of course been frustrating, but we are still working at it and I remain hopeful that something will come together in the near future.”


She added, “On a personal level, while I am disappointed, and in some cases perplexed, over the Governor’s decision to veto some of my bills, I am nonetheless appreciative of the fact that he did, in the end, sign nine of my bills into law this year.”


With one exception – SB 556, an “urgency” measure establishing the Light Brown Apple Moth program within the state Department of Food & Agriculture – all of the new laws created by Wiggins' legislation will take effect next January.


Those bills signed into law and brief explanations follow.


SB 106: Ratified the gaming compact between the state and the Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation, allowing the tribe to operate up to 99 gaming machines at a fuel mart and future gaming facility on its reservation.


SB 108: Expands the types of nonprofit organizations able to allow wine orders to be taken by wineries at their events to include civic leagues, social organizations and “voluntary employees’ benefit associations (this is an expansion of AB 1505, a 2003 bill by then-Assemblywoman Wiggins).


SB 319: Extends to Jan. 1, 2012 an exemption to state labor law allowing minors in Lake County (16-17 years of age) to work up to 10 hours a day and up to 60 hours a week in agricultural packing plants during the harvest season (when school is not in session).


SB 556: Creates the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) program within the California Department of Food and Agriculture.


SB 568: Authorizes counties to administer necessary medications to inmates diagnosed as mentally ill and found incompetent to stand trial (the bill requires that the drugs be administered utilizing a medically approved protocol at a county jail facility, in the same manner as at an in-patient unit or state hospital).


SB 581: Transfers the Volunteer Firefighter Length of Service Award System (a program that provides a small monthly stipend to people who do perform long service to their communities as volunteer firefighters) from CalPERS to the California State Fire Employees Welfare Benefit Corp.


SB 701: Reinstates the California Forest Legacy Program, which had expired in 2007 (the program, which is designed to protect forest land, including working forests, from development pressures, is necessary for the state to receive federal funds for forest conservation).


SB 773: Allows 43-foot cattle trailers to be used in transporting livestock over certain parts of Highway 101.


SB 813: Clarifies that a specific section of the state elections code does not apply to runoff elections (the legislation was necessary due to a conflict which arose following the 2006 race for district attorney in Mendocino County).


“We expanded or extended existing laws, and created some new ones, in areas which will benefit the state as a whole,” said Wiggins.


Looking ahead at the 2008 legislative year, Wiggins said her top priorities include the wine industry, fish and game, smart growth, waste diversion, rural telephone rates and North Coast railroad issues.


Wiggins would be termed out of service in the Senate in 2014.


Visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


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LAKEPORT – Sheriff's officials reported Wednesday morning that a Lakeport man found murdered in his home appeared to have been stabbed repeatedly by his assailant.


Michael A. Dodele, 67, was found dead Tuesday in his home, located in Space 19 of the Western Hills Mobile Home Park at 3555 Lakeshore Blvd., according to a report from Chief Deputy Russ Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.


Dodele’s name had been withheld Tuesday until his next of kin were contacted and notified of his death, Perdock said.


Perdock reported that deputies found Dodele with what appeared to be multiple stab wounds to his left side and chest.


Arrested in connection with Dodele's death is Ivan Garcia Oliver, 29, a construction worker who lived in Space 31B at the same trailer park, according to Perdock.


Neighbors had pointed deputies in Oliver's direction Tuesday after they reportedly saw him leave Dodele's residence with what appeared to be blood on his hands and clothing, Perdock reported.


When deputies arrived at Oliver's residence, Perdock reported that they found blood on the car, in front of the apartment and at the front door. When they entered the residence to check for additional victims they met Oliver, who allegedly had blood on his hands and clothing.


Perdock reported that deputies immediately detained Oliver, who at that time allegedly made several incriminating comments, essentially admitting to attacking Dodele.


Based on Oliver's alleged statements and their observations at the scene, deputies requested sheriff's investigations personnel respond, said Perdock.


Deputies subsequently cordoned off the area and restricted movement within the park to allow the investigators to examine the scene, according to Perdock. Investigators interviewed several people who had witnessed what took place at the park Tuesday morning.


At 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, investigators secured a search warrant for the residences of both Dodele and Oliver, Perdock reported.


Detectives continued processing the scenes for evidence throughout the rest of the day Tuesday, Perdock said. Their on-site investigation finished up just after midnight Wednesday morning.


The investigation turned up what may be a key piece of evidence, said Perdock.


“We have a weapon but we're not sure if that's the weapon,” he said. “We're waiting for autopsy results.”


Dodele's autopsy, according to Perdock, is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27.


Officials took Oliver to Sutter Lakeside Hospital for treatment of what appeared to be superficial injuries, consisting of a small cut to his right hand, according to Perdock.


Once he was treated and released from the hospital, Oliver was transported to the Lake County Jail for booking. Perdock reported that the sheriff's office initially was unable to confirm Oliver's identify, a problem that was solved once they ran his fingerprints.


Jail records show that Oliver is being held on a murder charge and a felony parole violation, the latter causing him to be held without bail.


Oliver was on parole from San Diego through the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for assault with a deadly weapon, Perdock reported. A parole hold was placed on Oliver because of his alleged involvement in Dodele's death.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said Wednesday afternoon that he will be prosecuting the case, with Oliver scheduled to appear in court Monday, Nov. 26.


No charges have yet been formally filed, Hinchcliff said, because sheriff's investigators haven't yet forwarded the case to his office. “They're still working on it.”


Perdock reported that the investigation is continuing.


Anyone with information about the case who has not yet spoken with investigators is encouraged to contact Det. Corey Paulich of the Lake County Sheriff's Office at 707-262-4200 during business hours.


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MENDOCINO COUNTY – A late Monday afternoon car collision along Highway 20 claimed a Ukiah woman's life.


The California Highway Patrol's Ukiah office reported that the three-car collision took place at 3:15 p.m. Monday just east of the buffalo ranch between Blue Lakes and Ukiah.


The CHP did not release the names of any of the three drivers involved.


The report explained that a 57-year-old Sacramento man, driving a 1996 Chevy pickup, was traveling eastbound on Highway 20. Heading westbound at the same time was a 2007 Mercury SUV driven by a 59-year-old Ukiah woman, followed by a 2004 Dodge Neon driven by a 23-year-old Upper Lake man.


The Sacramento man's pickup traveled into the westbound lane, colliding head-on with the Mercury SUV, according to the CHP.


The Upper Lake man was able to brake and turn his vehicle to the left to avoid colliding with the pickup, but was still struck by debris from the collision, the CHP reported.


The CHP's original log entries reported that one of the vehicles caught on fire following the collision.


Rescue personnel were sent both by ambulance and by helicopter, according to the CHP. Animal Control was summoned for a dog riding in one of the vehicles.


CHP reported that officers found the Ukiah woman dead at the scene.


The Sacramento man was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of major injuries, according to CHP.


The Upper Lake driver was uninjured, the CHP added.


According to CHP, all three drivers were using their seat belts.


Traffic didn't start to move until after 5 p.m., according to witness reports. CHP didn't report the roadway completely clear for another hour after that.


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SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – A planned trip to Southern California for local fire resources won't be necessary after all.


Jim Wright is a battalion chief with both South Lake County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire. He explained that South Lake County Fire contracts with Cal Fire to run its south lake fire operations.


As Lake County News reported Thursday, local Cal Fire resources were being summoned to Southern California based on a forecast predicting high Santa Ana winds, coupled with the area's already dry conditions.


Cal Fire also had reported that an Office of Emergency Services engine at South Lake County Fire also had been notified to be prepared to leave, with a decision expected Friday morning.


That decision, however, was made Thursday, said Wright.


“That order was canceled so they are not going tomorrow morning,” said Wright. “At this point they're not going.”


Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit sent three engines to Southern California, one each from its Clearlake Oaks, Kelsey-Cobb and Middletown stations, Wright said.


Wright said Cal Fire's local resources in Southern California include several “overhead” – or fire command – personnel, along with two bulldozers and its helicopter, based on Boggs Mountain.


The helicopter, which has been in Southern California for about two weeks so far, has a 21-day commitment, said Wright.


Wright added that he has sent down two crew members as relief for the helicopter team.


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LUCERNE – Just before 10 a.m. Tuesday Supervisor Rob Brown presented a proclamation to the family of Northshore Fire Captain David Fesmire, thanking him for his service to the county. {sidebar id=33}


Fesmire, suffering from terminal cancer, was unable to make the event, said Brown. He read the proclamation that honored the 55-year-old Vietnam veteran to a standing-room-only audience.


Fire chiefs and officials from around the county lined the back of the room; others in attendance included Fesmire's friends from the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951.


Minutes later, Brown walked out into the courthouse lobby to greet a room filled with teary-eyed people. It was then he discovered Fesmire had died just minutes before the proclamation's presentation.


Shortly before noon, flags at fire stations around Lake County were lowered to half-staff in Fesmire's honor, and will remain at half-staff until the close of business Friday, according to Northshore Fire District officials.


Fesmire, a native of Carmichael, served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1973, according to the county's proclamation.


A veteran of two tours in Vietnam, Fesmire was a helicopter crew chief gunner for the Troop C (Air) 16th Cavalry. In that capacity, he earned two Bronze Stars, received the Purple Heart and numerous other honors including 34 Air Medals for combat flight time and one for valor.


Back in the states, Fesmire was in the California National Guard from 1976 to 1980, serving in the 126th Helicopter Company Air Ambulance. He also volunteered at the Rio Linda Fire Department, according to his friend and boss, Northshore Fire Chief Jim Robbins.


Robbins said Fesmire came to Lake County in 1987 as the supervisor for Redwood Empire Life Support. Two years later he joined the Lucerne Fire Department as a volunteer.


“He was a very, very dedicated volunteer all through the years,” said Robbins.


Fesmire didn't join the fire department as a full-time employee right away, said Robbins. “I had been trying to lure him into coming to work for me for several years.”


Eventually, Robbins got his man. Fesmire came to work as captain/paramedic with Lucerne Fire – later to be consolidated into Northshore Fire District.


On Tuesday Robbins, saddened by his friend's death, could still remember the exact day Fesmire joined the department – Nov. 3, 2002.


“Fezzy” – as he was known to his friends and colleagues – could be a little gruff with the new volunteers, Robbins remembered, likely due to his time in the service.


But Fesmire was ultimately a generous man with a heart of gold, Robbins said, giving countless hours to the department, hours that came at the expense of personal time with his family and other interests, like motorcycle riding. Robbins said Fesmire had an old Harley Davidson motorcycle in his shop that he never quite got around to rebuilding.


Ginny Craven, who for 14 years was a volunteer with Lucerne Fire, said she got to know Fesmire well over the years, running medical and fire calls with him.


Besides seeing him save strangers, Craven said Fesmire's skills as a paramedic saved her mother, who he resuscitated during a medical call in 1991.


Less than a month ago, Fesmire began suffering flu-like symptoms, said Robbins. At the same time, Fesmire's kidneys began to shut down.


Fesmire sought medical treatment for kidney failure, and after running other tests doctors discovered he had a large tumor on the vena cava, the body's second largest vein, said Robbins.


“He wanted me to be one of the first to know what was going on,” said Robbins, who explained that the prognosis hadn't given Fesmire much time.


Fesmire's attitude, said Robbins, was one of trying to get as much life out of his remaining days as possible.


On Saturday, Nov. 17, Fesmire's friends celebrated him at “Fezzy Fest,” held at the Lucerne Firehouse.


“It was wonderful,” said Robbins. “We had close to 300 people here, and they came from all different walks of life.”


Fesmire's friends included other Vietnam vets, motorcycle enthusiasts and, of course, firefighters, said Robbins.


“It put a big smile on his face, and that kind of helped some of us heal a little bit,” said Robbins.


Craven added that the event gave her an even greater sense of the many dimension's of Fesmire's life and impact on others.


One of Fezzy Fest's big surprises, said Craven, came from his friend Rod Harper, owner of The Hog Pen in Nice.


Harper had gone over to Fesmire's place and pulled out that old Harley he never got around to fixing, and rebuilt it for him. Robbins said Harper also read a poem for his friend that “knocked everybody's socks off.”


Harper couldn't be reached for a comment on his friend for this article.


On Sunday, Fesmire took the bike out for a ride, said Robbins.


Along with his many friends and colleagues, Fesmire leaves behind wife, Karen; daughters, Kendra, Katie and Michelle; and granddaughter, Danielle.


Memorial services haven't yet been announced, said Robbins. “Knowing Dave, he's got everything planned out.”


Robbins said he's giving the family space to grieve before finding out what they have planned. He said announcement about services will follow shortly.


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Det. Richard Towle's car after the Friday crash. Photo courtesy of Clearlake Police.


 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH INFORMATION ABOUT BILLINGS AND OFFICER.

 

CLEARLAKE – An investigation into a Friday crash involving an officer on his way to a call has ruled that the officer was at fault, according to a Monday report.


Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police reported that the agency concluded its look into the crash, which took place at the intersection of Highway 53 and Lakeshore Drive Friday night. The report also was reviewed by the California Highway Patrol's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team.


The Friday crash involved Det. Richard Towle and 19-year-old Desiree Perez of Kelseyville, as Lake County News first reported over the weekend.


Towle was responding from the area of 40th Avenue with lights and sirens to an emergency call in which an individual was threatening to kill an off-duty police officer, said Hermann.


When Towle came to the intersection at Highway 53 he was hit by Perez, driving southbound on Highway 53 in her Honda Civic, said Hermann.


Sgt. Tim Celli has passed through the intersection ahead of Towle, said Hermann.


Perez and another vehicle traveling towards the intersection had reportedly slowed for Celli's patrol vehicle, but then accelerated again after he cleared the intersection, according to witness statements, Hermann reported.


Because of “natural vision obscurements” at the intersection, Perez and other southbound vehicles were unable to see Towle's patrol vehicle until he actually entered the intersection, according to Hermann.


After seeing each other's vehicle, both drivers attempted to avoid a collision but were unable to, said Hermann. Perez's vehicle struck the passenger side of Towle's patrol car, causing major damage to both vehicles.


Both Towle and Perez were transported to Redbud Hospital where they were treated for minor injuries and released, Hermann said.


Hermann reported that, while section 21056 of California Vehicle Code states that the "driver of an emergency vehicle is exempt from the rules of the road while responding to an emergency," it also states that drivers of emergency vehicles need to drive with "due regard" for the safety of all persons using the highway.


The department's investigation concluded that Towle failed to ensure that all cross traffic had come to a stop or that it was clear to enter the intersection against the red light, according to Hermann.


As a result, Hermann said the investigation ruled that Towle was at fault for the collision.


Regarding the reason for the emergency response, Hermann reported that Scott Billings, 24, of Clearlake was arrested for public intoxication.


Billings, who was known to the department, had been making some threats outside the home of Officer Tim Hobbs, said Hermann. It was determined that Billings was too intoxicated to properly care for himself, and he was transported to the Lake County Jail.


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LAKE COUNTY – Local fire resources may once again be headed to Southern California this week as part of a statewide firefighter staging effort.


When fires broke out in Southern California in October, Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit sent firefighting personnel equipment, as did Northshore, Lakeport, Lake County and South County Fire Protection Districts, as Lake County News has reported.


Chuck Abshear, division chief of operations for the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit, said the unit sent 10 of its 11 crews to battle the Southern California fires in October.


Those units have since returned. But with continuing dry conditions in the south, combined with a forecast for strong Santa Ana winds through this coming weekend, state officials began ordering Cal Fire resources back to Southern California, said Abshear.


“There's potential for significant fire weather,” he explained.


Fire crews and equipment originally scheduled to leave last Sunday, however, were delayed until Tuesday, said Abshear.


Cal Fire's local unit was preparing to send a strike team of five engines, with three personnel for each engine, said Abshear, plus three more engines that would combine with Santa Clara's Cal Fire resources to form another strike team.


In addition, the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit planned to send four hand crews each from two conservation camps – Konocti Conservation Camp and a Solano County camp – plus three bulldozers, Abshear reported.


The Cal Fire helicopter stationed at Boggs Mountain has been in Southern California for the last two weeks, said Abshear.


The local Cal Fire unit will retain nine engines, three inmate crews and one or two bulldozers, said Abshear. With the recent rains Cal Fire feels confident that fire danger in the unit is reduced, he added.


Like other Cal Fire units around the state, the Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit retained seasonal employees in order to respond to Southern California's fire, Abshear explained.


“We still have seasonal employees on,” he said, adding that only about one-third of the unit's 200 seasonal firefighters have been laid off.


Local assistance also was requested through the Office of Emergency Services (OES), said Abshear, with state-owned OES engines called on to report to Southern California.


Northwestern California was to send four strike teams of OES engines, said Abshear.


South Lake County Fire has one OES engine that was called on and supposed to leave earlier this week, said Abshear.


However, Suzie Blankenship, a Cal Fire fire prevention specialist, reported that plans had changed, with South Lake County Fire waiting to hear if it actually would need to respond with a crew.


“It looks like they're on standby and that a decision will be made some time Friday morning as to whether they'll be launched or not,” said Blankenship.


South Lake County Fire officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.


Abshear, who said he has been with Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit for eight years, said in that time the unit has not kept on seasonal firefighters this long.


“This year is unique in terms of its continuous fire threat and that's warranted us keeping our staff on,” Abshear said.


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CHP Officer Erich Paarsch shows the drugs he reportedly found in Sarah Theiss' vehicle Monday. Photo courtesy of the CHP.

 


UPPER LAKE – A Fort Bragg woman found herself in jail Monday after a traffic stop allegedly revealed a large amount of drugs in her vehicle.


Sarah Jean Theiss, 25, was arrested Monday afternoon following a traffic stop by California Highway Patrol Officer Erich Paarsch, according to CHP Officer Adam Garcia.


At about 3:55 p.m. Monday Paarsch was on his way to assist the CHP Ukiah office with a fatal collision on Highway 20 just past the county line, said Garcia.


As he was heading to the accident dispatch advised him that a possible drunk driver had hit a fence in Upper Lake and was leaving the scene, traveling westbound on Highway 20, according to Garcia.


Paarsch spotted the vehicle, which reportedly was crossing into oncoming traffic, and he made a traffic stop, Garcia reported.


On stopping the vehicle, Garcia said Paarsch found Theiss, the vehicle's only occupant, had allegedly been drinking. He conducted an investigation and subsequently arrested Theiss for driving under the influence.


After arresting Theiss, Paarsch searched the vehicle and found 9.6 pounds of marijuana packed for sale in her vehicle, according to Garcia. Theiss offered no explanation for the marijuana despite being the solo occupant and registered owner of the vehicle.


She was taken to the Lake County Jail and charged with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana and hit and run with property damage, according to booking records. Bail was set at $22,740.


Theiss, who had posted bail and been released by Tuesday morning, is due to appear in court on the charges on Jan. 14, 2008, according to booking records.


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SPC Peter Schmidt and an Iraqi child. Schmidt died Nov. 13 in Iraq. Courtesy photo.

 

 

LAKE COUNTY – A soldier with ties to Humboldt and Lake counties was killed last week in Iraq.


“We lost a hero,” Ginny Craven of Operation Tango Mike said in a statement released Monday on the death of SPC Peter W. Schmidt, 30, of Eureka.


Schmidt, who was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was killed in action Nov. 13 in Mikhisa, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated during dismounted combat operations.


He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash., and had been deployed since April, according to Craven.


Craven founded Operation Tango Mike, a local group that sends troops overseas care packages. She said Schmidt's cousin, Valerie Donelson of Kelseyville, told her about him, and he became a recipient of the group's care packages.


Schmidt's death has been taken hard by the Operation Tango Mike volunteer family, who are also grieving, as they have lost one of their own, said Craven.


A graduate of Arcata High School, Schmidt is being remembered as a creative, athletic and kind man, who signed up for the military during wartime because he wanted to make a difference, Craven reported.


Schmidt wrote frequent and informative letters, describing daily life, rewards and disappointments in a war zone, Craven reported. He marveled at the Iraqis’ determination and often shared candy and other prized items with Iraqi children.


He enlisted in 2004, knowing the likelihood of being deployed to Iraq, Craven reported. The prospect did not deter him; in fact, he wanted to go to Iraq to contribute and to make a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people.


Another example of Schmidt’s giving nature was his Web page, according to Craven. Schmidt shared photos, giving folks a glimpse of everyday life in a war zone. He expressed his frustrations, but continued giving of himself. Not only did he post pictures of military equipment, but he shared pictures of himself interacting with Iraqis.


“He was indeed making a difference,” said Craven.


Schmidt is survived by his parents, Mike and Marianne Schmidt of San Jose; siblings, Andrew, Amy and Daniel; grandfather, Bill Schmidt and aunt, Diane Sigola, both of Cloverdale; and cousin, Valerie Donelson of Kelseyville.


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