Thursday, 18 July 2024


Denise Rushing and Brent Siemer visited the Bridge Arbor Trail Project on Thursday, April 23, 2009. Photo courtesy of Bernie Butcher.

UPPER LAKE – On April 23 District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing and County Public Works Director Brent Siemer hiked the levees along Middle Creek south of the Highway 20 Bridge at Upper Lake to evaluate the feasibility of a foot and bike trail along Middle Creek and into the Rodman Slough area. Both are eager to see this picturesque area with abundant wildlife opened to public access.

Assuming easements can be obtained from two landowners and the State Department of Water Resources, there is only one obstacle to making an off-road connection from Upper Lake along the old Bridge Arbor Road all the way to the Land Trust Visitors’ Center at the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff.

That one obstacle is a pedestrian and bike bridge over Scotts Creek near its confluence with Middle Creek. Heavy  pilings remain from the now washed-out bridge that previously carried the main road between Lakeport and Upper Lake.

Siemer was enthusiastic about the possibility of making use of these pilings to construct a replacement bridge over the 175 foot span.  He suggested a possible design competition to spur creativity or using a Bailey Bridge or other types of pre-fab construction.  

The project may qualify for grant funding through state and federal transportation programs and is generating interest in local fundraising efforts.

Bridge Arbor trail is one option contemplated within the local Konocti Regional trails plan, with a focus on promoting the region and improving the local economy.

Funds for the bridge and trail enhancements may be available from county reserves for bike access expansion plus local community fund raising efforts.

Rushing commented that the modest expenditures associated with opening up the beautiful Rodman Slough area to foot and bike traffic should provide a tremendous return on investment for the community.  It also would demonstrate how controlled public access over private land can be done in a responsible way without property-owner liability.

Also along on the hike were Tallman Hotel owner Bernie Butcher as well as Chuck Lamb and Holly Harris, who are spearheading the efforts for a broader Lake County Trails Network.

Harris said they’ve secured the services of a rural trail expert on a project basis and that individual will be available to help Denise and Brent move the Bridge Arbor project forward.

LUCERNE – A longtime Northshore festival is having a revival this weekend.


On Saturday, the Lucerne Booster Club and North Shore Business Association will presented the return of the Alpine Arts Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Harbor Village Artists, 6197 Highway 20, Lucerne.


The event will feature the music of David Neft beginning at 10 a.m., a Youth Writes poetry showcase at 11 a.m., two skits from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by the Lucerne Elementary Drama Club, performances by the Upper Lake High School Band, an open mike, 50/50 raffle by Lucerne Elementary’s eighth grade class, vendor booths, game booths, eight art booths with activities for children, lots of food and fun.


Spearheading the festival’s return is the Lucerne Booster Club, led by President Lani Urquiza and Vice President Jim Hankins.


The festivals began in the 1930s, and originally were hosted by the local fire department auxiliary as a way to raise funds for Lucerne’s fire department, said Urquiza.


Later, the festival was turned over the booster club, but the festivals had stopped in recent years, she said.


Urquiza said Lucerne Elementary Principal/Superintendent Mike Brown asked her to begin putting the festival back together, a process which began last December, when Urquiza was elected the club’s president.


She said the experience has been a positive one, with a group of about 25 parents getting involved to get the new festival off the ground. Urquiza credited Hankins for also being a big inspiration, since he remember the original festival and had been involved with organizing them. Numerous businesses also have pledged their support.


The North Shore Business Association is partnering with the booster club in sponsoring the event, which Urquiza said is being held at the artists’ colony to put the spotlight on the area’s redevelopment. The Northshore Fire Protection District also is taking part.


She said it’s going to be a great event for the community’s children. “That was the main goal, to get our children involved in a positive, creative way, and bring our community together.”


Urquiza said Upper Lake High School’s art teacher will have a booth where children can enjoy art activities, while the Upper Lake Town Council will host suncatcher painting for children. There also will be face painting and activities for little children, including making bubbles and butterflies.


She said her husband will have a booth where children can build toolboxes, with Friedman’s donating numerous little tape measures to be included. Foster’s Freeze is donating ice cream prices.


“It’s very heartfelt,” said Urquiza. “So many people in the community have really pulled together to bring this event back.”


With local schools facing greater and greater budget challenges, booster clubs and the funds they raise are becoming crucial. “All of our schools are suffering big budget cuts,” she said. “We all are feeling it.”


Urquiza said this year the club raised around $5,000 to send the school’s fifth and six graders to science camp for the first time. The club also furnishes young author and citizenship awards, and is helping the eighth grade with its graduation.


Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the club can send checks to Lucerne Booster Club, P.O. Box 537, Lucerne, CA 95458.


For more information, contact Urquiza at 707-349-5457 or e-mail the booster club at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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

SACRAMENTO – Amidst rising concerns about a swine flu pandemic, on Tuesday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency for California.


This declaration facilitates coordination between local public health offices and the California Emergency Management Agency.


There are currently 64 laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu nationwide and 10 in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control. None have been reported in Lake or Mendocino counties.


The proclamation is meant to speed up government response by ordering all state agencies and departments to utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities to assist the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the State Emergency Plan as coordinated by the California Emergency Management Agency.


DPH and Emergency Medical Services Authority also are ordered to enter into any and all necessary contracts for providing services, materials, personnel and equipment to supplement extraordinary preventive measures being taken across the state. At the same time, noncompetitive bid contracts for services, material, personnel and equipment needed to respond to this outbreak have been suspended and select certification requirements for public health laboratories to help in the state’s expansion of our testing capabilities have been waived.


On Tuesday, California also became the first state in the nation to do its own confirmatory testing for this strain of swine flu without having to send samples to the Centers for Disease Control, which will greatly speed up detection efforts in California.


The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported that it is monitoring and responding to the current swine flu outbreak in conjunction with federal and state agencies.


“It is important to understand that there are no reports of swine flu in pigs in California, or the United States, at this time,” said California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer. “Our monitoring program is aimed at detecting the illness early in pigs. It also is important to recognize that swine flu is not a threat to the food supply. According to the Center for Disease Control, you cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe.”


CDFA stated that its top priority is to test any pigs that are linked to a human swine flu case or are showing signs of a respiratory disease.


The agency’s veterinarians are working closely with public health officials and to date no such human links have been established. Similarly, there have been no swine samples submitted for testing due to respiratory disease. In comparison to many states, California is a relatively small pork producer with fewer than 100,000 animals, ranking 28th in the country.


CDFA’s second key objective is to reduce apprehension related to swine health. CDFA currently is focusing on communication and outreach with the California Department of Public Health by sending material to: Future Farmers of America; Grange members; 4-H groups; fair managers; animal control directors; custom slaughter plants; anyone who has submitted a swine sample to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in the past year; agricultural colleges and universities; the California Veterinary Medical Board; the California Veterinary Medical Association; accredited veterinarians; sales yards; and feed stores.


CDFA veterinarians are also visiting all known swine farms to drop off swine flu information, look into the general health of herds and test any pigs showing signs of respiratory disease. The veterinarians also will monitor the check-in for swine at fairs around the state to provide general information and examine and test any pigs with a history of respiratory disease. Pigs determined to be sick will not be allowed to stay at the fair.


The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory will test all samples from swine submitted to them for swine influenza at no charge to the owner. As of today there have been no recent submissions. Meat and poultry Inspectors regularly inspect California licensed swine processing facilities and will continue to monitor for any signs of respiratory disease. To date, there have been no concerns reported.


Local health officials remind individuals to take normal precautions that assist in preventing the spread of flu, including covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands often with soap and water, and, most importantly, staying home from work or school and avoid public gatherings if you are sick.


Updated information about swine influenza can be found at the following Web sites: California Department of Public Health,, and the Centers for Disease Control,

NORTH COAST – People are being warned about a new Internet scam that’s affecting neighboring Mendocino County.

On Thursday, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a message on the agency's Tip-Line in regards to an Internet scam. A sheriff's office detective contacted the person who left the message and learned the following about a scam targeting potential renters.

On April 26, the caller was checking the listings for rental properties in Mendocino County, via the Craigslist Web site. The rental listing was for a three bedroom, two and a half bath, 2,300-square-foot, single-family home on 43 acres. The listing directed people who were interested to email “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,” according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s report.

The caller began to communicate with the supposed owner, James, via email. In these email communications "James" stated he was in Africa working for a charitable organization called "Go West Africa". James sent the caller a questionnaire and asked the caller to complete it and then email it back to him. The caller completed this questionnaire, which included the caller's full name, current address, monthly income, spouse's full name, occupations and telephone numbers.

James replied to the questionnaire by informing the caller they could rent the house provided they send $1,700 by Western Union to Africa ($1,200 for rent and $500 as a security deposit). James advised the caller that the residence was located at 4700 Orr Springs Road and told the caller they could check out the exterior of the home and property if they desired. James said he would not provide the caller with a key in order to see the interior of the house until after he had received the $1,700 money wire.

The caller did not send the money and began to do some research on the property.  The caller learned the home was currently listed for sale with a local real estate company and that "James" was not the first name of the property's owner.  The caller stated they were provided with two telephone numbers by James (2348027403145 or 0112348027403145) in case they wanted to speak with him in person but the numbers were never called.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is warning the public of this specific Internet scam and others of a similar nature.  Any suspicious Internet postings of this nature should be thoroughly investigated and reported to local law enforcement prior to the wiring of any money under these circumstances.

LAKE COUNTY A sobriety checkpoint is in the works for the end of the week, according to a Wednesday report from the California Highway Patrol.


CHP, Clearlake Police Department, Lakeport Police Department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are planning the checkpoint at some point in the next few days at an unspecified location.


“Traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can be expected to be arrested,” said CHP Commander Lt. Mark Loveless.


He added, “Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist. DUI enforcement patrols as well as sobriety checkpoints are effective tools for achieving this goal and are designed to augment existing patrol operations.”


The agencies reported that they take a zero tolerance approach to impaired drivers on local roadways.

Each agency has received funding from the Office of Traffic Safety, and working together they have developed a plan to deploy DUI enforcement patrol teams and sobriety checkpoints through December of 2009.


The coalitions’ desired result is to save lives and make everyone’s family summer excursion, for both our community residents and those visiting our beautiful county, a safe and pleasurable memory.

Sobriety checkpoints will be staffed by officers and deputies from each department who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers. Drug Recognition Experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use.


The officers and deputies will also be equipped with state of the art hand-held breath analyzing devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.


Cal-Trans employees will be on site providing traffic control in order to ensure the safety of officers and motorists alike.

CLEARLAKE – A teenager charged with stabbing to death a classmate last summer entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter on Monday.


Gabrielle Varney, 18, originally was charged with murder for stabbing 17-year-old Heather Valdez to death in an after-school confrontation near their homes in Clearlake on June 5, 2008.


However, Varney's defense attorneys Stephen and Angela Carter reached an agreement on Friday with the District Attorney's Office and prosecutor John DeChaine that allowed Varney to plead guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter with a special allegation of using a knife.


When she's sentenced on June 8, Varney will face between four and 12 years in prison, said Stephen Carter. With time served and inmate credits she'll automatically receive, Varney could be out of prison in three years.


Carter said the plea agreement means Varney will have a life outside of prison, and Valdez's family won't have to suffer through a lengthy trial.


The Carters plan to put on a lengthy sentencing hearing with a large number of witnesses who will testify as to the ongoing, severe bullying and emotional abuse that they allege Varney underwent at the hands of Valdez in an effort to shed light on the complex relationship between the two young women.


At that time Valdez's family also will have the opportunity to offer victim impact statements, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


Hopkins said Monday that the plea agreement properly defines the crime Varney committed when she killed Valdez. Hopkins said his office won't make a decision about what sentence to seek until they see a probation report being prepared for the sentencing.


Hopkins said he didn't believe a jury would find Varney acted in self-defense, but he and his team also had concluded that a jury wouldn't accept that Varney had acted with the malice aforethought necessary for a murder conviction, based largely on the evidence that supports that Valdez's death resulted from a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.


“I think it fits the facts,” Carter said of the agreed-upon plea. He said he believed he had an excellent chance of getting a not guilty verdict on the murder charge.


The concept of a sudden quarrel or heat of passion is the leading theory in California law that supports voluntary manslaughter, said Carter. “It's the emotional mind in action,” he said.


The other theory is that of “imperfect self-defense,” in which the person believes that they are in peril and overreacts. “They think this is what they need to do but they're wrong,” said Carter, noting that either theory fits this case.


The plea agreement was in discussion for some time, but it was settled after the District Attorney's Office met with Valdez's mother on Friday to explain the agreement to her. “Her sentiments were that she trusted our judgment and understood what we were looking at,” said Hopkins.


He added that she wasn't asked to sign on. “She did not have to make that decision,” he said. “You try not to put that on the victim's family.”


The prosecution and defense are divided over whether or not the case illustrates an example of bullying exploding into violence.


Hopkins said he doesn't know if evidence of bullying exists. His staff researched the relationships between Varney and Valdez, who were classmates at Carle High School.


The girls at one time had been friends, spending time together at each others' homes, said Hopkins. However, at some point a disagreement arose.


“I wouldn't call that bullying, I would call that a spat between two teenagers,” he said.


The stabbing occurred after the girls were let off the school bus near their homes at the end of the school day. Other students who were on the school bus told Hopkins' investigators that “things that were said back and forth by both of them sounded like they were liable to get into a fight.”


Once off the bus, Hopkins said Varney pulled a knife out of her pants pocket. It’s that 4-inch folding pocket knife which Varney allegedly used to fatally stab Valdez in the neck.


Carter said the case is a complex one, involving a long-term friendship between the girls that went sour and became very negative very fast. He pointed out that relationships between adolescent girls sometimes contain aspects of bullying.


He didn't believe having the knife with her was a sign of intent on the part of Varney. Clearlake can be a rough town, especially for a girl who's not very assertive and has low self-esteem, he added.


Carter said Varney is a bright girl who needs to serve her term and try to move forward into an environment where she can grow. “She's prepared mentally and spiritually to handle incarceration for a lengthy period,” said Carter.


Varney didn't have all of the nurturing she needed, but he said she has promise. “It's horrible because she didn't intend the result,” he said. “She overreacted to the threat, and she didn't understand what she was doing.”


The resolution in the Varney case comes as the Carters are awaiting a verdict in the trial of another teenager, Erik McPherson, 19, accused of stabbing to death Nicolai Chukreeff in May of 2008.


“They're very different cases, they're very different people,” said Carter.


The jury in the McPherson case began deliberating on April 21, said Carter, and will continue deliberating on Tuesday. That trial has been under way for two and a half months, which Carter estimates is his second-longest trial in the local courts.


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

NORTH COAST With salmon populations still showing troubling declines, the federal government announced Thursday that it is extending fishing restrictions to protect the fish.


US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said Thursday he was extending the 2008 West Coast salmon disaster declaration for California and Oregon in response to expected poor salmon returns to the Sacramento River, which have led to management reducing commercial salmon fishing off southern Oregon and California to near zero.


Locke also announced that he would release $53.1 million in disaster funds to aid fishing communities.


“Salmon returns are expected to be near record lows again this year. The extension of the disaster declaration will ensure that aid will be available to affected fisherman and their families to help offset the economic impact of the closure of the commercial fisheries,” said Secretary Locke. “These funds can also aid fishing-related businesses, such as ice and bait suppliers, who may struggle with the financial effects of the closure.”


Locke’s announcement followed the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s April 8 recommendation that California’s commercial salmon fisheries be closed for the 2009 season. Following its recommendations, California's Fish and Game Commission took action to close recreational ocean fishing.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will formally adopt the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s full recommendations, made in April, halting virtually all commercial salmon harvests off the West Coast south of Cape Falcon, Ore. A recreational coho fishery and a limited commercial fishery will be allowed off Oregon. Salmon season formally begins May 1.


On April 21, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oregon Governor Theodore Kulongoski sent a letter to Locke, requesting the disaster declaration extension of additional federal aid for those impacted by the closure. Schwarzenegger also declared a state of emergency in California in response to the salmon situation.


On Thursday, Schwarzenegger thanked Locke for taking the action. “California’s salmon are not only a vital part of our state’s overall economy, they directly affect the livelihoods of thousands of California fisherman and their families.”


NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service will work with the states and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to distribute the $53 million in remaining salmon aid from last year’s $170 million Congressional appropriation to help fishing communities affected by the poor returns.


Based on the economic impact, of the remaining $53 million, Locke has allocated approximately $46.4 million to California and $6.7 million to Oregon.


Sacramento River Fall-run Chinook are the foundation of the West Coast’s commercial salmon harvest and in typical years 400,000 to 600,000 of them return to spawn. Under current federally approved rules for managing the ocean salmon fishery, a minimum of 122,000 Sacramento River Fall Chinook must be predicted to return to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River system before any harvest can take place.


Last year, barely 66,000 Fall Chinook returned to their spawning grounds in the system. This year, a greater number of Chinook are expected, but only marginally more than the 122,000 needed to maintain the health of the fishery. Agency biologists said the 2008 collapse was triggered primarily by climatic conditions that produced little food in the ocean, compounded by too much reliance on fish produced in hatcheries instead of the wild.


“NOAA will continue to work with the states and our partners in the region on habitat and hatchery issues that may be contributing to the difficult fishery management problems that the Sacramento River system has been experiencing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.


Earlier this week, three bills by Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) aimed at helping salmon and the industry based on them cleared a key legislative hurdle.


On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water voted to approve Senate Bills 539, 670 and 778, which now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Senate Bill 539, which the committee approved 7-4, directs the state Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to give the Legislature a report that ranks the solutions to reversing the alarming decline of salmon and steelhead populations and lists the costs to implement those actions. The OPC is the state arm that coordinates state agencies’ efforts to protect and conserve coastal and oceanic ecosystems.


In her testimony before the committee, Wiggins said that the OPC’s mission “is to ensure California maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. SB 539 enlists the OPC in restoration efforts by authorizing it to engage in the full range of activities needed to bring back salmon and steelhead.”


Senate Bill 670, which the committee approved on a bipartisan vote of 8-3, prohibits the use of suction dredge mining equipment in rivers and streams that provide critical habitat to spawning salmon until the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG) completes its court-ordered overhaul of regulations governing the controversial recreational activity.


In presenting SB 670, Wiggins noted that “the salmon numbers are so low that the National Marine Fisheries Service has placed a ban on all salmon fishing along the coast of California and Oregon. This ban affects the livelihoods of thousands of commercial fishermen, fish processors, and charter boat operators. Yet while fishermen are being told to stop fishing, suction dredge mining is allowed to continue. SB 670 is about equity. We simply cannot ask an entire fishing industry to stop their work while a small group of hobbyists are allowed to continue.”


Senate Bill 778, which the committee approved on a bipartisan vote of 9-1, requires the state DFG to provide a thorough accounting of funds generated from commercial salmon fishing permits, known as “salmon stamps.” The self-taxation funds paid by fishermen are required to be spent on fisheries and habitat restoration.


There is growing concern in the fishing industry that the money is not getting to top priority projects. SB 778 would incorporate measures, based on an audit, to strengthen the program and, with agreement from fishermen, will increase the price of the “stamp” in order to ramp up protection efforts during the ongoing salmon crisis.


In her testimony, Wiggins said SB 778 “continues the tradition of commercial fishermen dedicating a portion of their permit fees to help restore the salmon fisheries that sustain their industry. The dedicated portion of the fee is managed by the DFG for salmon regeneration. Because of the salmon crisis, fishermen are volunteering to raise the cost of salmon permit to $350. The bill also seeks to require the DFG to provide a better accounting for the expenditures of this fund. This will ensure that the funding goes directly to priority projects, in a timely manner.”


Wiggins, who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, said that it’s imperative that the Legislature and the responsible state agencies do all that they can to protect the invaluable salmon populations.


“Salmon are not just trophy and sport fish. They form the backbone of California ecosystems, tribal cultures, local economies, a commercial fishing industry and a once-plentiful, wonderful food. We must work together to give these magnificent fish a chance to recover,” Wiggins said.



CLEARLAKE – On Tuesday a jury found a teenager guilty of voluntary manslaughter for the May 2008 death of a Clearlake man.


The verdict was handed down to 19-year-old transient Erik Michael McPherson Tuesday morning, according to defense attorney Stephen Carter of the law firm Carter & Carter.


The District Attorney’s Office had charged McPherson with murder and a special allegation of using a knife for the death of 40-year-old Nicolai Chukreeff.


However, after a week of deliberation, a jury convicted McPherson of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.


McPherson’s sentencing is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. June 11 before Judge Stephen Hedstrom, who presided over the trial, which lasted two and a half months. Jury selection had begun on Jan. 13, according to the District Attorney’s Office.


McPherson could face as many as 12 years in prison, and must serve 85 percent of the term, said Carter, who noted that by the time of his sentencing McPherson will have been in jail for 13 months, which he’ll receive credit for as time served. He said that McPherson should be out of prison by the time he’s 30 years old.


Chukreeff’s family did not respond to messages left for them on Tuesday.


Carter said the jury had only been deliberating a few hours on Tuesday morning before they sent out a note requesting clarification on the manslaughter law.


Within a half hour they issued the verdict, which found McPherson guilty on the one count of voluntary manslaughter and the special allegation of using a knife, and acquitted him of the murder charge, Carter said.


Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine said he wouldn’t speculate as to the reason for the jury’s verdict, but said they were faced with a lengthy trial and arrived at a good result. “I think the evidence strongly supports that verdict.”


The verdict came just a day after another local teenager, 18-year-old Gabrielle Varney, reached a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office that allowed her to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the June 5, 2008, stabbing death of 17-year-old Heather Valdez, as Lake County News has reported.


DeChaine said it’s unclear whether Chukreeff and McPherson knew each other before the encounter at the Harbor Lite Resort in Clearlake on May 4, 2008.


Chukreeff and several friends were having drinks in the resort’s gazebo when McPherson arrived. DeChaine said the two got into a heated exchange and violence erupted.


The evidence, said DeChaine, was that Chukreeff was the primary aggressor in the fight, and that he died as the result of unreasonable use of deadly force by McPherson.


Carter, who spoke with a juror after the verdict was announced, said the fact that Chukreeff was the initiator of the fight appeared to be a key to the jury’s decision, and had been a point which he emphasized during the trial.


He said McPherson acted in response to being attacked by Chukreeff, whose blood contained high levels of alcohol and methamphetamine according to toxicology results.


As the two men fought, McPherson used two weapons – a chrome-studded leather belt, which left distinct bruising on Chukreeff’s back – as well as a knife, which DeChaine said McPherson used to slash a large wound in Chukreeff’s chest and then to stab him through his sternum, with the knife going into the heart.


“The pathologist testified that he could not conceive of a way that the slash and stab wound could have arose from one single action,” said DeChaine.


Complicating the case was the fact that no one actually saw McPherson with a knife, or saw the stabbing, said DeChaine. However, McPherson was seen running away from Chukreeff immediately before Chukreeff collapsed from the stab wound to his heart.


None of the witnesses knew McPherson by name, according to DeChaine, who added that solid police work by Sgt. Tom Clements and Detective Martin Snyder of the Clearlake Police Department led to McPherson’s identification and ultimate arrest.


DeChaine said that McPherson was wearing the belt he used to hit Chukreeff when Snyder contacted him. That belt, which Snyder seized as evidence, was matched to the bruising on Chukreeff’s back by Senior Criminalist Richard Mike Waller at the Department of Justice. In addition, McPherson’s thumbprint was found on a broken pair of glasses recovered from the crime scene.


The defense employed its own investigator, Rob Zehrung, who saw holes in the case and found witnesses who police hadn’t interviewed, said defense attorney Angela Carter of Carter & Carter.


The defense also presented testimony by a noted criminal forensic scientist, who testified on the investigation’s shortcomings, including compromised evidence and people being allowed to leave the scene without being thoroughly searched and before they had given statements, some of which were taken hours later, Angela Carter said.


Carter’s defense had included allegations that another man – who had been with Chukreeff that night – had actually committed the crime.


That individual’s DNA was found under Chukreeff’s fingernails, Carter said.


However, DeChaine said the jury rejected that theory, and said the exchange of DNA was easily explained because Chukreeff and the man in question were good friends. When law enforcement arrived at the scene, the man was found cradling Chukreeff’s head.


Carter said McPherson and his family were elated with the verdict. McPherson’s grandmother came from Colorado and attended every day of the trial, with her husband arriving to stay during the week of deliberations.


“I think the jury worked really, really hard,” said Carter.


Angela Carter said an appeal will be filed, which is standard operating procedure in California.


DeChaine said a grand theft charge, for which McPherson originally was arrested on May 7, 2008, is still pending against him.


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

KELSEYVILLE A Kelseyville man died Sunday after being injured in a crash the previous day.


James Lebert, 82, was involved in a crash that occurred just after 7 p.m. April 25 on Hummel Lane in Kelseyville, said California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.


Tanguay said Lebert was driving his 1988 Volvo 240 DL northbound on Hummel Lane, north of Bell Hill Road, at an unknown speed when the collision occurred.


For an unknown reason, Lebert’s vehicle drifted off the pavement to the right, said Tanguay, where the Volvo struck a mailbox post and then continued through a wire fence with wood posts.


Lebert’s vehicle continued, out of control, across an open field and then struck a tree, said Tanguay.


Tanguay said Kelseyville Fire responded to the scene and had to extricate Lebert, who was then flown by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital where he died at 6 a.m. Sunday.


CHP Officer Nick Powell is investigating the collision, Tanguay said.

With tender loving care and attention, this 25-year-old Arab gelding has made a recovery after being found neglected on February 4, 2009, by a Lake County Animal Care and Control officer. Photo courtesy of Lake County Animal Care and Control.



LAKEPORT – A horse who – when he was rescued earlier this year – was severely underweight and in bad condition has made a big recovery, and Lake County Animal Care and Control officials are hoping to find him a new home.


Animal Care and Control took the 25-year-old Arab gelding into custody due to neglect, according to Deputy Director Bill Davidson.


He said on Feb. 4 Officer Nehemiah White responded to a neglected horse call off of Highway 29 near Lower Lake.


Davidson said Animal Care and Control immediately called Dr. Jeff Smith of Middletown Vet Hospital, who estimated that the horse was approximately 150 pounds underweight, had parasites, long hooves and severe dental disease.


On Wednesday Davidson said that they've passed the two-month mark in the horse's recovery, and the veterinarian has given the all clear on the horse's condition.


The difference in the horse, said Davidson, is incredible.


When he was first brought in, the gelding's ribs and hip bones jutted out under his ragged, “flea-bitten” – denoting small flecks of color – gray hide.


Now, however, he's looking much healthier, with added weight and alert eyes.


“We did some dental work, parasite control, supplied the proper nutrition, and that's all it took,” said Davidson. “Following Dr. Smith's regimen of care we now have ourselves a healthy, energetic and potentially rideable horse.”


Davidson said Animal Care and Control will submit a case to the District Attorney's Office sometime next week, seeking animal cruelty charges against the horse's former owner.


They also have the happier work of looking for a loving, forever home for the gelding.


Davidson said they are accepting sealed bids from interested horse lovers through 5 p.m. May 18.


The minimum bid is $250, said Davidson. The highest bidder with an approved application will get to take home a new four-legged friend.


For more information, contact Lake County Animal Care and Control, 707-263-0278.


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


The gelding, as he looked when Lake County Animal Care and Control impounded him on February 4, 2009. Photo courtesy of Lake County Animal Care and Control.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – On Tuesday a Lake County jury convicted a Clearlake Oaks man of robbery.


The District Attorney’s Office reported that 40-year-old Shawn Sidney Hammond was found guilty of one felony count of robbery. The jury also found true a special allegation that a deadly weapon was used to commit the crime.


The jury deliberated for approximately two hours in Department Three in Lakeport before returning with the guilty verdict.


Deputy District Attorney Sharon G. Lerman prosecuted the case on behalf of the Lake County District Attorney’s Office. Defense attorney William Conwell represented Hammond. Judge Arthur H. Mann presided. The trial began last week on Tuesday, April 21 and lasted three days.


Hammond used a folding knife to rob a former construction contractor of $36 in front of a Pine Street residence in Clearlake Oaks on Dec. 1, 2008.


The District Attorney’s Office said Hammond did not previously know the victim, but he believed Warrington owed more than $1,000 to Carlos Cruz, an acquaintance, for a construction job completed in Clearlake last October.


With Cruz present, Hammond held the knife at his side in an aggressive stance and said to Warrington, “What are you going to do for him, here and now?”


Warrington opened his wallet and handed Cruz $36, then showed Hammond that his wallet was empty, according to the District Attorney’s report.


Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Martin arrested Hammond on Dec. 13 after several days of investigation.


Hammond, who was on felony probation for theft at the time he committed this offense, faces up to six years in prison. A sentencing hearing will take place on June 1.

NICE A bicyclist who was injured in a collision with a pickup truck on Sunday later was arrested for being under the influence of alcohol.


Robert Sherman, 55, of Nice was arrested for riding a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.


Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday Sherman was riding his bicycle southbound on Lakeview Drive, traveling down a hill toward Sayre Street when he failed to yield to through traffic, said Tanguay.


Sherman collided on Sayre Street with the front passenger side of a 1976 Chevrolet Silverado pickup driven by 29-year-old Jason Horton, who Tanguay said was approaching Lakeview Drive at approximately 20 miles per hour.


Tanguay said Sherman sustained head trauma due to the collision and was flown by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The pickup’s occupants weren’t injured.


It was at the hospital that Sherman later was arrested, Tanguay said.


Tanguay said CHP Officer Dallas Richey is investigating the collision.

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