Thursday, 25 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Early on the morning of Sept. 22, 2009, three men were involved in a confrontation that turned deadly along Old Highway 53 in Clearlake.

Two of the men would walk away, while the third, they said, lay moaning in the roadway.

That third man, 25-year-old Shelby Uehling, would be found by police not long after the fight, his body facedown along the side of the road, several feet from a large pool of blood on the roadway and another pool of blood beneath his torso, coming from his slit throat. He would be declared dead at St. Helena Hospital Clearlake a short time later.

The two men who walked away from the fight – Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and his best friend Melvin Dale Norton, 38 – are on trial for Uehling's murder.

As the closing arguments in their trial began on Wednesday, the prosecution and defense gave their versions of that early morning fight, suggested motives and, ultimately, reminded the six-woman, six-man jury that they would be the ones to conclude the true shape of that morning's events.

“We are not the ones who decide what happens. You are. That's really what jurors do. You tell us what happened,” attorney Doug Rhoades, representing Edmonds, said during his closing arguments in the afternoon.

Motives, as well as what Norton and Edmonds knew as they walked away from Uehling – did they know the extent of his injuries, and what had been their true intent when they walked up to his car from their homes in nearby trailer parks – were debated by Art Grothe, the case's prosecutor, Rhoades and Stephen Carter, Norton's attorney.

Grothe would begin closing arguments Wednesday morning after Carter reported to the court that information he received the previous day about a possible fight between Uehling and two other individuals a day or so before his death didn't appear to be an issue.

Grothe went over the counts with the jury – including murder charges against both Edmonds and Norton, who also are both facing three charges of assault with a deadly weapon regarding the use of a knife, an asp – an extendable police-style baton – and a golf club, a special allegation against Edmonds that he personally inflicted great bodily injury and a charge against Norton that he acted as an accessory.

A week to 10 days before Uehling's murder, Patricia Campbell – Edmond's on-again, off-again girlfriend and a family friend of Norton's – met Uehling, with whom she would have a week-long relationship marked by methamphetamine use, Grothe said.

Campbell and Edmonds, who were introduced by Norton last June, were having problems and then Campbell left with Uehling for a week, he said.

Campbell had left for brief periods before during which she was involved with other men, which Grothe suggested played on Edmonds' mind.

He and Uehling would later exchange text messages, during which Edmonds called Campbell a “bag whore” who used men for drugs.

“Know what's gonna happen and what goes around comes around, Shelby. I know a lot of bad people in this town,” Edmonds wrote to Uehling.

Campbell would then dump Uehling and return to Edmonds, although she and Uehling later would exchange messages, Grothe said.

He said Uehling was no saint, and was doing meth regularly. But Grothe argued that Uehling didn't deserve to die, and he wasn't stalking Campbell as she had told Edmonds and Norton. Rather, the bigger issue, the prosecutor suggested, was the threat Uehling posed to Edmonds' relationship with Campbell.

Grothe showed the jury the asp along with the two knives Edmonds regularly carried with him, including the Fighter Plus brand double-bladed knife with which Edmonds is alleged to have dealt the final, fatal neck wound to Uehling.

Holding up the knife in its package, Grothe said, “It's for slitting people's throats, it's for opening up human bodies, it's not for working on cars,” the latter being the use Edmonds said he had for the knife on a regular basis.

Grothe replayed portions of Edmonds' recorded interview with police on Sept. 22 in which he recounted Uehling stabbing him in the arm during the fight. Another part of the interview had Clearlake Police Det. Tom Clements confronting him about lying to investigators regarding what happened during the fight.

When Clements asked him why he didn't call police, Edmonds replied, “Because I figured he was hurt pretty f---ing bad.”

Grothe alleged that Norton had approached Uehling's car, parked and running on a street off of Highway 53, and challenged him to get out and “talk like a man.”

“That's garbage,” said Grothe, suggesting to the jury that Norton instead was telling Uehling to get out and fight.

Grothe theorized that Norton hit Uehling in the back of the head with the golf club, then went around to the passenger side of the car and swung through the window, embedding the head of the golf club in the dashboard and snapping off the handle.

Showing pictures of Uehling's body and two specific marks on the torso, Grothe compared those marks with the head of the asp, which has a ball on the end. He suggested, “They match. There's nothing else that matches that.”

Grothe argued that Uehling took a heavy blow to his throat early on, rendering him unable to speak. A knife wound to his back punctured his lung, which would have started collapsing.

A neighbor reportedly heard a gasp outside of his home, and allegedly heard someone say, “I cut his throat.” That same witness testified to seeing two subjects near Uehling, kicking him.

Grothe alleged that Edmonds took three weapons with him to the fight – two knives and the asp.

At the fight's end, “He's down,” Grothe said of Uehling. “He is not moving. He's hurt bad. He is down on the ground and he is not capable of any kind of resistance at that point, and that's when Shannon Edmonds makes the decision.”

Grothe added, “Just being beat down is not good enough for Shannon Edmonds at that point. He makes the decision to slit his [Uehling's] throat and kill him.”

Defense attorneys offer alternate view

When court reconvened in the afternoon, Rhoades spent about an hour and a half offering his final arguments on the case.

Nothing that the case is a convoluted one, Rhoades said, “Shelby Uehling is dead, most apparently, from injuries inflicted by Shannon Edmonds.”

After Campbell and Uehling broke it off, it's Norton who intervened to tell Uehling that Campbell doesn't want to see him anymore. When Uehling shows up outside of her mother's home Norton tells him to leave, and when Uehling tries calling on her Campbell's phone when she's sleeping off the meth run, Norton is handed the phone by Edmonds and tells Uehling to stop calling. That call occurred hours before the final fight.

“His beef now could well have been with Mr. Norton,” said Rhoades said of Uehling.

He then asked, “Why does that that fit anything? Here's why. Where is he parked?”

When Norton headed home early on the morning of Sept. 22, he saw Uehling's car parked near the entrance to the trailer park where he lived.

Rhoades said that the marks on Uehling's chest that Grothe alleged were from the asp were not bruises but scrape marks, based on the pathologist's testimony. They were consistent with nylon straps used to secure patients on a backboard on their way to the hospital, Rhoades suggested.

He also questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, saying detectives didn't check parts of the scene for the location of any additional evidence, and noted that fingerprints lifted from the car weren't checked.

Rhoades questioned if Edmonds was the aggressor or if he was reacting to Uehling's aggression.

If Edmonds killed Uehling not with premeditation but just in reaction to the fight, “then you do not have a murder, you have a manslaughter,” said Rhoades.

He said the jury instructions will explain that they must have an “abiding conviction” of guilt. Rhoades said “abiding” is a somewhat archaic word with important meaning – it's not temporary or fleeting, but is for years to come.

“You can't go along to get along. It's not that easy here,” he said.

During his closing arguments, Carter explained that Campbell loved Edmonds before, during and after her brief tryst with Uehling.

Of Uehling, Carter aid, “Where he specifically lives in Clearlake, methamphetamine is a big problem for a lot of people there.”

After Campbell broke off her relationship with Uehling, “Shelby wouldn't accept that his meth wasn't enough to pull this girl in anymore,” said Carter.

Uehling had no good reason to be in Norton's neighborhood in the hours before his death, during which he was making “odd, weird, paranoid calls” to friends saying he had people after him, said Carter.

Norton rides his bike home, sees Uehling's car parked alongside of the road, running, with the lights out. “Creepy, isn't it?” Carter suggested.

Why didn't Norton call the police? Carter suggested that, with his previous criminal record, Norton was in danger of not being believed.

Norton confronts Uehling, who has weapons with him, including a knife in his shoe. When he reached down for a weapon, Norton hit the car with a golf club, which Carter said was done in panic.

“What if you're about to die? Would you swing the golf club? Melvin did. And what happened? It broke,” said Carter.

He said the prosecution hadn't explained the damage to the car's driver side weather stripping, but he suggested that is where the club would have hit before breaking, sending the head to embed into the brittle, older plastic dash.

Uehling got out of the car and would pull up his shirt to grab a weapon from his waist band. Carter said Edmonds “did something brave” by charging in at that point.

Carter said if Norton is to be proved an accessory to murder, the prosecution has to prove that he knew a murder had been committed.

“Melvin couldn't have known that,” said Carter, adding, “It's too dark and he couldn't see.”

Closing arguments will continue Thursday morning, to be followed by jury instructions.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT – “We aren't trimming fat, we're cutting meat,” Lakeport’s school chief said of the $561,800 in budget cuts she proposed at a Tuesday night special meeting of the school board.

Lakeport Unified School District superintendent Erin Hagberg told the audience of almost 20 that the cuts would have a “crippling effect” on funding and services to students during the 2010-11 school year.

If approved, students will get a longer Thanksgiving vacation, elementary level teachers will have more students and more children will be walking to school.

Using an overhead projector to show revenue losses totaling $528,850, Hagberg explained that the combination of $300,000 in state budget cuts and $198,000 attributed to declining enrollment was largely responsible for the reductions.

A negative cost of living adjustment for employees accounted for the remaining $30,000 shortfall from this year to next.

If the cuts are approved at the regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday evening, four teachers, one principal, and an assistant day care position will be gone this fall. “It will have an impact, obviously, on kids,” Hagberg said.

Also, a fiscal services assistant would see a nearly 40-percent reduction in hours, Hagberg said. “We are already understaffed compared to every other district in the county.”

Under the proposal a bus route also will be eliminated, Hagberg said. Which route will be cut is to be determined according to safety assessments, not distance to school.

Perhaps the only popular cut would be to the school calendar, cutting the two days of the year with perhaps the poorest attendance so students wouldn’t go to school at all the week of Thanksgiving.

Other cuts would include eliminating the K-8 grade summer school program, which “directly affects kids,” in Hagberg’s words, and loss of the high school readiness program.

Hagberg explained that school districts throughout California are having similar meetings to make cuts in anticipation of a March 15 state budget deadline. To make matters worse for Lakeport’s district, Hagberg added, “We are among half the school districts in the state facing declining enrollment.”

Noting she had proposed to cut slightly more than projections require, Hagberg said these cuts amount to $200 per student. “We are hearing rumors it could be $250,” she said of the governor’s proposed budget shortfall. “I’m thinking this is a best-case scenario, not a worst-case scenario.”

Hagberg commented that the cuts proposed Tuesday would bring Lakeport district’s total for the past three years to $1.6 million in budget reductions. The 2010-11 district-wide budget will be $14 million after Thursday’s expected cuts.

Three of the teaching positions proposed for the chopping block will occur at Terrace School, which serves fourth through eighth grades. The other would be at the elementary school, where class sizes would grow to 24 students per teacher. Teacher to student ratios are worse at the district’s other campuses.

The principal position being eliminated would be that of the alternative education principal who currently administers the district’s home school program, the community day school and the alternative high school. “It will certainly have an impact on children,” Hagberg said.

Explaining her budget choices, Hagberg thanked administrators at all campuses for their thoughtful input.

“The process I’ve chosen to follow and I feel has been effective,” she said, referring to the third time the district has had to downsize, is to consult the principals to decide what is the least damaging place to cut. “We work together as a team,” she said, “to make recommendations to the board.”

Noting, “This becomes more difficult every year,” Hagberg said that although last year she was confident some teaching positions recommended for cutting would be restored, this year is different. “I’m not seeing that we will be putting those positions back.”

Board members responded to Hagberg’s proposals with few questions.

Trustee Dennis Darling expressed appreciation for the work that went into the recommendations. “It’s been hard on staff,” he said.

Board member Bob Weiss echoed Darling’s sentiment. “It’s not supposed to be personal but obviously in this small community, it is.”

Weiss added, “As hard as these decision are, it is clear it will be harder ... if we don’t make these decisions.”

Board president Tom Powers, who said he “looks forward to when this trend reverses,” referred to the personal affect the cuts will have on his family. “I have two children in this district and I know these cuts will affect them,” he said.

Transportation Director David Norris said he feels the district is “at what I consider the bare minimum for safety,” commenting, “our board will have to change its walking policy.” He also commented that the expected increase in traffic from the loss of a bus route will be “more dangerous for kids.”

Norris also said, “it works against everything that is green … (with a bus) you have one engine transporting 90 kids.”

As the board went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, Terrace Middle School Vice Principal Andy Goodwin commented, “This is an awful time for anybody.”

The cuts, he said, “are certainly not in the best interests of the kids ... outside of kids, you start looking at people’s lives.”

E-mail Maile Field at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

CLEARLAKE – This week Caltrans completed the installation of stop signs meant to help cut down on crashes at the intersection of Highway 53 and Olympic Drive in Clearlake, but the change in traffic flows resulted in a crash on Tuesday.

Phil Frisbie, a Caltrans spokesman, said on Wednesday that the agency had changed the intersection – which previously had a stop sign from Olympic onto Highway 53 – to an all-way stop.

Frisbie said the agency also installed advance warning signs and rumble strips to alert motorists of the upcoming stop.

The intersection's alterations, Frisbie said, are interim measures to improve safety and will remain in

place until traffic signals are installed.

The signals have been merged into a larger highway rehabilitation project, which will also provide wider shoulders, longer turn pockets at intersections, and repave over four miles of Highway 53 from just north of 40th Avenue to just south of Highway 20, he said.

The total project, including the intersections new traffic lights, is expected to be completed by the

fall of 2012, Frisbie said.

Area motorists are still getting used to the new signs, which appear to be catching some of them off guard.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday two vehicles collided at the intersection, according to Clearlake Police Lt. Craig Clausen.

He said that one car was stopped at the intersection and was rear-ended by another vehicle that failed to make the stop and was traveling at abut 55 miles per hour at the time of the crash.

Both drivers were taken to the hospital with complaints of neck, back and face pain, Clausen said.

Caltrans urged motorists to drive with caution and slow down as they approach the intersection, and to be alert for inattentive drivers who may not notice the new stop signs.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT – One of two men being tried together for a September 2009 Clearlake murder was back on the stand Monday.

Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, spent about 45 minutes on the stand Tuesday, following several hours of testimony he gave when court was in session last Thursday.

Edmonds is facing charges for murder and a special allegation of using a knife to kill 25-year-old Shelby Uehling during a fight along Old Highway 53 in Clearlake in the early morning hours of last Sept. 22.

Edmonds' codefendent, Melvin Dale Norton, was on the stand last week. The 38-year-old Norton faces charges of murder, a special allegation that he used a billy club, assault with a deadly weapon, being an accessory, a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, and two strike enhancements.

The deadly confrontation had allegedly arisen because Edmonds and Norton walked up to warn Uehling, who was parked not far from Norton's home, to leave Patricia Campbell alone. She was a longtime family friend of Norton's and Edmonds' on-again, off-again girlfriend who had dated Uehling for about a week in September during a breakup with Edmonds.

Also on Tuesday, the defense asked for time to investigate new information suggesting that two other men may also have been in a physical confrontation with Uehling a day or so before his death.

The defense attorney and prosecution put Edmonds through several rounds of questions during his brief return to the stand.

Edmonds' defense attorney, Doug Rhoades, began redirect questioning of Edmonds Tuesday morning, asking him about his difficulty answering prosecutor Art Grothe's questions last week about the fact that Uehling was dead.

Edmonds explained that it was very hard for him to accept that something he did caused Uehling to die, but he acknowledged that the former Montana resident was dead.

Stephen Carter, Norton's defense attorney, asked if Edmonds saw Norton and Uehling physically fighting when he arrived at Uehling's car, parked off of Highway 53 near Norton's home. Edmonds said no, and he did not see Norton using a golf club he was carrying against Uehling.

Grothe asked Edmonds if he saw Norton hitting Uehling. Edmonds said it was too dark to tell if they were shoving or hitting each other.

The prosecutor then drew Edmonds' attention to a transcript of his interview with Clearlake Police detectives hours after Uehling's death on Sept. 22.

In that interview, Edmonds told police that Uehling and Norton were “basically going on at it,” and described them as “boxing.” But when Grothe asked him on Tuesday of the men were fighting, Edmonds said he didn't know, although he acknowledged he had told police they were.

When it was again Rhoades' turn, he asked Edmonds if he had seen Norton and Uehling with their fists up, facing each other, he said no.

Rhoades then asked when Clearlake Police interviewed him on Sept. 22. Edmonds said it was shortly before 10:30 a.m. During questioning, Rhoades concluded that Edmonds had been awake 25 hours at that point.

“Safe to say you were getting pretty tired?” Rhoades asked.

“Very,” Edmonds replied.

Carter asked if Edmonds had answered the detectives' questions fairly and honestly at the time. Edmonds said yes. Carter asked if any of the questions in court changed Edmonds' testimony that when he ran up to the scene he found Norton and Uehling in some kind of physical confrontation. Edmonds said it did not.

Grothe, noting that Edmonds said testified to answering police fairly and honestly, pointed to several pages in the transcript where he alleged discrepancies.

In particular, Grothe said Edmonds had told police that he hadn't known Uehling and Campbell had a sexual relationship, which contradicted testimony he gave in court last week.

Edmonds also had given police a chronology of his activities, which Grothe pointed out omitted killing Uehling.

“So that was a lie?” Grothe asked.

“Correct,” said Edmonds.

Edmonds admitting to lying to police about Norton's phone call to him before the fight, warning him about Uehling's presence. He had told police Norton had called to say “he was home and he'd see me tomorrow.”

Grothe also pointed out that Edmonds had not been truthful about his blood-stained clothing, and that he had said he had injured his arm when falling over a fence rather than being stabbed by Uehling, as he testified in court.

At one point in the police interview Edmonds said the situation was “bullshit,” and Grothe asked him what he meant. He said he felt Det. Tom Clements was harassing him with repetitive questions, “just as you're doing now,” Edmonds told Grothe.

Grothe followed by suggesting Edmonds didn't do his best to answer the officers truthfully, and Edmonds replied no, not at the beginning.

Rhoades pointed to the transcript about a third of the way into the interview when Edmonds asked for a cigarette and was promised he would receive one when the interview was done. He asked Edmonds if, from that point forward, he was attempting to tell the truth. He said he was.

Rhoades read from the transcript, in which Edmonds told police he and Uehling got into a brawl, Uehling pulled a knife and stabbed him and Edmonds stabbed him back.

“This was happening pretty fast, was it not?” Rhoades asked.

“Extremely,” Edmonds said.

During testimony it was noted that Edmonds told police that he was scared and terrified, which was a reason for lying.

Grothe questioned Edmonds about his statements to police about not wanting to go to prison over Uehling, who Edmonds had called a drug dealer.

Was he still afraid of going to prison? Grothe asked.

“Of course,” Edmonds said.

“You still willing to lie to avoid that, sir?” asked Grothe.

“No,” Edmonds replied.

Rhoades asked his client if, during the fight, he remembered Uehling saying, “Stop, that's enough, I quit, anything like that?”

“No, not at all,” Edmonds said.

As Grothe returned to questioning, Edmonds testified to remembering “a lot of screaming through the entire fight.”

Grothe asked if he remembered Uehling screaming near the oak tree where his body later was found after his throat was cut. Edmonds said no.

He played a snippet of Norton's interview with police in which he imitated Uehling making a guttural “agggghhhh” sound.

Rhoades asked if Norton had heard other people making sounds like that described by Norton. He said yes. Were those people using methamphetamine? Yes, Edmonds said.

Carter asked Edmonds if he associated those sounds with Uehling being angry during the fight as opposed to being hurt. Yes, Edmonds replied.

Grothe asked if Edmond had ever heard someone attempting to speak who has had the horns of their thyroids broken off and their throat crushed. Rhoades objected to the question, which he said was “convoluted,” but Judge Arthur Mann overruled.

“I've heard people scream who have been punched in the throat,” Edmonds stated.

The attorneys asked to approach the bench, after which the jury was briefly excused and the attorneys went into the judge's chambers for a short time. When they returned the jury brought back in and testimony continued.

At that point the defense stated that they rested.

Prosecution calls rebuttal witnesses

In presenting rebuttal witnesses, Grothe recalled Clearlake Police Officer Michael Carpenter, who testified earlier in the trial. Carpenter, who came to the stand in uniform, was the first to arrive at the scene and discover Uehling's body.

The attorneys questioned him about dealing with people who use methamphetamine. He described them as having rapid speech and a dry mouth, and being unable to stay on topic in conversation. Their tongues move around rapidly, they can't control their bodily functions, their eyes are dilated and have rapid movement, and their internal clocks are off.

“There's a reason it's called speed?” Rhoades asked.

“Correct,” Carpenter said.

Rhoades asked Carpenter about bruxism, which he said is teeth grinding, another symptom of methamphetamine use, as well as scratching.

Rhoades questioned the officer about when Uehling's shirt was removed. Carpenter said it was sliced open at the scene and removed at the hospital.

Carpenter, under questioning both by Rhoades and Carter, didn't remember if Uehling had been strapped to a backboard for the ride to the hospital. Nor had he ever seen a dead body strapped down.

“Doesn't it matter how a body that's needed for evidence is transported?” Carter asked,.

Carpenter said he didn't see the body fall off the gurney. From the scene to the hospital medics had conducted cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Uehling.

Carter asked if Carpenter had received any training in the psychological aspects associated with methamphetamine. He said he was not.

Grothe entered a stipulation that a zip tie that had been attached to the end of an asp – or extendable baton – that the men are alleged to have used against Uehling was actually placed there by Clements prior to his testimony.

The defense also entered a stipulation that Officer Timothy Alvarado would testify that he interviewed Linda Dale and Joseph Taylor, who told him that at 9 p.m. Sept. 21, 2009, Uehling called Taylor to tell him that he was standing in field near Cass Avenue, which is near Old Highway 53.

Following the stipulation, Grothe requested the asp be moved into evidence. The defense did not object and Mann accepted it.

Following the lunch break, the jury heard from Alisha Stottsberry, a registered nurse who is medical director at the Lake County Jail – which she and Grothe were careful not to mention by name because of concerns about Edmonds' incarceration being prejudicial.

Edmonds had stated in testimony last week that he has epilepsy and that five grand mal seizures he had suffered since his arrest last Sept. 22 have caused him to lose memory.

When asked directly about Edmonds' medical conditions and records, Stottsberry said she couldn't answer because of new laws preventing disclosure without Edmonds' consent. Grothe asked Mann to order her to answer, which Mann did, saying that Edmonds had already disclosed the information and therefore it was not a violation of health record disclosure laws.

Based on a review of Edmonds' medical records, Stottsberry said Edmonds did report suffering from “seizures” on his medical intake form. On Dec. 29, nonmedical staff at the jail witnessed him having a seizure, although Stottsberry said it wasn't a grand mal-type seizure, which can result in violent shaking and tremors, a subject being unable to breath and losing bowel control.

Edmonds also reported having another seizure that was not witnessed by staff on Dec. 31. At that time Stottsberry said it was documented that Edmonds reported having other seizures not witnessed by staff.

Rhoades asked Stottsberry about longterm memory loss as the result of seizures. He pointed to Epilepsy Foundation documents that stated long-term and short-term memory loss are symptoms of the disease. She said her experience is that people who suffer from seizures usually don't remember what happened during the seizure.

He also asked her about Edmonds' epilepsy medications, the dosages for which are at 1,800 milligrams. Stottsberry called that level “medium high.”

After Stottsberry left the stand, Carter and Rhoades asked the court for more time to try to locate a woman named Katherine Lawson who visited Norton in jail on Saturday and told him that Campbell's ex-husband and a relative of his had a physical alteration with Uehling within 48 hours of his death.

Carter's and Rhoades' investigators were trying to locate the woman, and they asked for a brief stay in the trial while they investigated. “None of this information was ever know by my client or me or Mr. Rhoades or his client prior to this morning,” said Carter.

Rhoades called it “somewhat tenuous information” but felt it needed to be investigated.

Grothe was against the delay. “I'm always somewhat leery of these last minute, 'somebody else did it' assertions by folks who come into the jail,” said Grothe, adding he didn't think it would be admissible.

Mann gave the defense until 9 a.m. Wednesday, noting that the information seemed “pretty speculative.”

Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday morning.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake home suffered major damage Saturday due to a structure fire.

The fire occurred at an older, stick-built residence located at 3759 Buckeye St.

Firefighters were dispatched to the scene shortly before 11 p.m.

Lake County Fire Protection District firefighters, with assistance from Cal Fire, arrived on scene within five minutes of the call to find that the home was about 60- to 75-percent involved, said Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Willie Sapeta.

Sapeta said 18 firefighters, along a Lake County Fire Protection engine, a water tender, two medic units, a battalion chief and one Cal Fire engine responded.

“We had the fire controlled in about 20 minutes,” he said, adding that the fire was confined to the residence and didn't damage any other structures nearby.

The blaze was an accident, which Sapeta said was triggered by a grease fire that rapidly involved the entire kitchen.

Damage spread to about 75 percent of the residence, he said.

The home's two residents escaped uninjured with three of their cats, although Sapeta said they lost a fourth cat in the fire.

Overhaul and salvage at the site kept firefighters on scene until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.

The Red Cross arranged for temporary housing for the home's occupants because of the damage resulting from the fire, Sapeta said.

Sapeta estimated the damage to the home to be between $60,000 and $80,000.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY – Late last week, a total of more than $6.2 million in California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) was awarded for mental health services in Lake, Mendocino, Mono and San Bernardino counties.

Lake County will receive $410,000, while $187,409 was approved for Mendocino County in prevention and early intervention funds. Another $24,000 was approved for Mono County and $5.6 million was approved for San Bernardino County in innovation funds.

The California MHSOAC is a 16-member commission charged with the oversight of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). The MHSA was approved by California voters in 2004 as Proposition 63 to provide for expanded mental health services in California.

“Prevention and early intervention programs will transform the mental health system. We will stop requiring consumers to “fail first” before receiving services and we will move to a “help first” system,” said MHSOAC Chair Andrew Poat. “Prevention and early intervention programs are a new approach to mental health in California. This program is a win for both mental health consumers and taxpayers.”

Prevention and early intervention (PEI) funds are approved for programs that apply strategies focused on preventing mental illness from becoming severe and disabling.

“Our prevention programs will decrease expensive emergency room visits as we provide prevention services to consumers of mental health services,” Poat said. “Prevention and early intervention funds will keep kids in school, keep families together, and will avoid long term unemployment.”

Lake County plans on using their PEI funds for eight prevention and early intervention projects. Project 2 will provide one-on-one attention to children who may be facing personal and social adjustment issues.

Mendocino County will use their PEI funds for four projects. Mendocino’s Project 3 expands existing services to include isolated American Indians and Latinos. This project uses culturally appropriate senior peers who have established relationships in these communities.

The funds approved by the MHSOAC for innovation (INN) purposes will help fund county mental health programs that are novel, creative, and ingenious in their mental health approaches. These programs are also developed within communities in ways that are inclusive and representative.

“Innovation funds will help to jump start our thinking about how to improve our mental health programs,” said Poat.

Mono County will be using their innovation funds for their Peapod Innovation Program, which will test a different approach to increase the effectiveness of support groups in English and Spanish for diverse new parents countywide.

San Bernardino County plans on using their Innovation funds, for four different programs. One of these programs, the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation Program (CASE), will develop a model of comprehensive and collaborative care that facilitates a safe haven and clinical rehabilitation for exploited children who are drawn into prostitution.

The MHSOAC met on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the California Institute for Mental Health in downtown Sacramento.

This MHSOAC meeting is one of many commission meetings that take place around the state. The intent of these meetings is to conduct business where the public can have access to the commission and where the commission can bring information regarding mental health oversight and accountability to the public.

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SONOMA COUNTY – A man who allegedly kept a woman captive at his home while he sexually assaulted her has been charged with eight felony counts.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua said that on Monday John Manuel Negrete-Gomez, 40, of Santa Rosa, pleaded not guilty to eight felony counts involving the sexual assault of a woman whom he had kept captive in his trailer by tethering her ankle with a cable mounted to the floor of his trailer bedroom.

Negrete-Gomez is charged with three counts of oral copulation by force, one count of penetration with a foreign object by force, one count of false imprisonment, one count of criminal threats, one count of possession of a controlled substance for sale, and one count of possession of a controlled substance.

The acts allegedly occurred between Feb. 9 and Feb. 12.

Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies rescued a woman who said she was tied up, beaten and sexually assaulted for three days in a south Santa Rosa mobile home park until she managed to call for help.

When deputies entered the bedroom of the trailer, where Negrete-Gomez lived, they found a 40-year-old woman, tethered at her ankle to a bolt in the floor, pleading for help, Passalacqua's office reported.

Detectives obtained a search warrant to collect potential evidence at the residence and also located evidence of sales of methamphetamine as well as various pills.

Negrete-Gomez is being held at the Sonoma County Jail. Bail has been set at $2.1 million. The case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 29.

Deputy District Attorney Dan Cohan is the prosecutor assigned to the case. Sonoma County Sheriff’s Detective Jake Vivian is the lead detective.

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NORTH COAST – In the wake of a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake that occurred early last Saturday morning off the shore of Maule, Chile, rescue organizations around the world are mobilizing to offer assistance to that country.

More than 100 aftershocks have reportedly hit the country in the wake of Saturday's earthquake, tsunamis were triggered and more than 700 people are reported dead, with more casualties expected, according to media reports.

Groups like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Operation USA are fundraising to assist the country.

On Monday, US Ambassador to Chile Paul Simons reported that the Chilean government indicated that it was open to receive offers of assistance from the international community.

According to the Mobile Giving Foundation, the following organizations are taking donations for Chile through mobile giving:

  • Text the word “CHILE” to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of World Vision;

  • Text the word “CHILE” to 52000 to donate $10 on behalf of the Salvation Army;

  • Text the word “SAVE” to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of Save the Children Federation Inc.;

  • Text the word “CHILE” to 85944 to donate $10 on behalf of International Medical Corp.;

  • Text the word "4CHILE" to 50555 to donate $10 on behalf of Convoy of Hope;

  • Text the word "CHILE" to 50555 to donate $10 on behalf of Friends of the World Program;

  • Text the word "REBUILD" to 50555 to donate $10 on behalf of Friends of the Operation USA.


The American Red Cross, which made an initial commitment of $50,000 to Chilean relief, is accepting donations at its Web site,

Simons reported that the US Embassy activated a consular operations center in an effort locate the 18,000 Americans residing around Chile, and about 1,000 living in the Concepcion area.

He said that, as of Monday, “we do not have any reports of any American citizens who have died or had any serious injuries.”

Simons said the situation in Santiago, Chile's capital, “is returning to normal fairly quickly,” with electricity and water being restored to most of the city.

“But the Concepcion area, the Maule area, were hit very, very, very hard, and the situation there is quite precarious,” he said. “And that really will be the focus of our efforts in the coming days in terms of American citizen work.”

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LAKE COUNTY – Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) will host another in his series of regular live town hall meetings via telephone on the evening of Tuesday, March 9.

Thompson is inviting every resident of the 1st Congressional District to join him.

Participants can ask him questions about the issues that are important to them, and the congressman will respond live for everyone to hear.

“Our country is facing many challenges right now,” said Congressman Thompson. “I know that many people are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet. I look forward to responding to your questions and listening to your concerns. Please take this opportunity to make your voice heard by calling in to participate.”

The town hall will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Time March 9.

When the call starts, dial 877-269-7289 and enter the passcode 13293.

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Kelseyville Pharmacy was the scene of an alleged armed robbery on Saturday, February 27, 2010. Employees said a man came in carrying a kitchen knife and demanded OxyContin. Photo by Gail Salituri.

KELSEYVILLE – Authorities are searching for a man who they say allegedly took several bottles of prescription painkiller at knifepoint from a local pharmacy on Saturday.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to Kelseyville Pharmacy on Main Street at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday in response to the report of an armed robbery.

When contacted by Lake County News on Monday, a Kelseyville Pharmacy staffer said a supervisor was not available to speak about the alleged incident.

Pharmacy employees told deputies that a man walked into the store at about 9:25 a.m. Saturday with a kitchen knife in his hand, Bauman said.

When the three employees realized the man was armed, Bauman said they immediately ran for an exit door leading into the pharmacy's back parking lot, with two of them making it out.

However, the suspect cornered one of the women before she could get to the door and demanded she give him some OxyContin, Bauman said.

Bauman said the woman gave the suspect several bottles of OxyContin and as she was looking for more he fled out of the pharmacy and continued on foot towards the Main Street bridge, which spans Kelsey Creek.

None of the employees were injured during the alleged robbery, Bauman said.

Witnesses told Lake County News that in the hours following the incident deputies searched downtown Kelseyville – questioning visitors and business owners in the area and performing a search of the creek.

Bauman said deputies searched the area for several hours but didn't find the man.

He said witnesses described the suspect as a white male adult, unknown age, at least 6 feet tall, weighing 170 to 220 pounds, and wearing white or gray sweatpants, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a black “puffy” jacket over the sweatshirt and a red bandana over his face.

Bauman asked that anyone with information about the alleged robbery and the suspect's possible identify call the Lake County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit at 707-262-4200.


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Lake County Sheriff's deputies searched around Kelsey Creek after a man allegedly robbed the nearby Kelseyville Pharmacy on Saturday, February 27, 2010. Photo by Gail Salituri.

COVELO – A Covelo man arrested Sunday for beating the woman he lived with was located by deputies thanks to his dog.

David C. Peters, 29, was arrested for inflicting injury upon a cohabitant, in this case the 29-year-old woman who shares his home on Highway 162 in Covelo.

Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that deputies responded to the home at 4 p.m. Sunday on the report of domestic violence and found the alleged victim at a friend's home.

Deputies observed visible swelling and bruising to the left side of the victim's face. Smallcomb said she also was bleeding from an injury to her left elbow and a laceration on the side of her neck.

She told deputies that the injuries resulted from an assault committed by Peters, who she reported struck her four times with his closed fist, according to the report.

Smallcomb said the woman lost consciousness as a result of the assault, and was later transported to Howard Hospital by a friend where she was treated and released that same evening.

Peters was arrested later that evening by deputies, who followed Peters' dog from his yard to a hiding place in a wooded area behind the home, Smallcomb said.

He added that Peters was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on a charge of inflicting injury on a spouse or cohabitant.

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