Wednesday, 01 February 2023

News

LAKE COUNTY – With jury selection completed, the trial of a San Francisco man accused of the murders of two friends is set to begin next week.


Renato Hughes, 23, will go on trial beginning Wednesday, June 11, in Martinez, District Attorney Jon Hopkins reported.


Jury selection wrapped up Friday, said Hopkins.


The minute the jury was selected, a young woman raised her hand and asked to be excused because a medical condition she has was being exacerbated by the proceedings, said Hopkins.


The judge granted the request, said Hopkins, which required he and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon to choose a new juror from among four alternates.


Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, said Hopkins.


He anticipates the trial wrapping up in the latter part of July.


Hughes is being tried for the murders of his two friends, Christian Foster and Rashad Williams, who were shot to death after allegedly breaking into Shannon Edmonds' Clearlake Park home on the morning of Dec. 7, 2005.


The case against Hughes alleges he and his two companions beat Edmonds, his girlfriend and her son severely as they tried to steal marijuana Edmonds claimed to have a medical prescription to use.


Edmonds reportedly shot Foster and Williams as they ran from the home, but Hughes is being tried for their deaths under the provocative act legal theory because he allegedly took part in a crime that could result in a lethal response – the shooting of his two companions.


The jury seated Friday actually is the second jury to be selected in the Hughes case.


Last Nov. 15, after a three-week jury selection in Lake County was completed and the jury seated, Judge William McKinstry, a retired Alameda County judge assigned to the case, granted Hanlon's change of venue motion. In his decision McKinstry cited the number of jurors excused for various reasons.


In January, Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann ruled the trial would move to Contra Costa after Hanlon and Hopkins mutually agreed to the venue.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKEPORT – The 64th anniversary of the D-Day invasion will be commemorated this Friday at a special ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Memorial flag mast at Library Park.


The public is invited to attend the event, which begins at 11 a.m.


On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched one of the greatest invasion forces in history in an attempt to take back Europe from Adolf Hitler's German forces.


Before the soldiers went into battle, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower delivered a message in which he told them, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”


A US Army history of the event reports that 160,000 Allied troops – with the support of more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft – fought their way ashore along a 50-mile stretch of Normandy, France, where they encountered the Germans' heavy fortifications.


US soldiers set foot on Omaha and Utah beaches, the British landed at Gold and Sword beaches, and the Canadians at Juno Beach, according to military histories.


Eisenhower also had warned his men that the waiting German forces would fight savagely, and he was right. After ferocious fighting and heavy casualties – the US Army said more than 9,000 men died or were wounded in the invasion – Allied soldiers would hold the beach and begin their march across Europe.


Veterans who survived the “Day of Days” will be honored at Friday's event.


For more information contact Veterans Services at 263-2384.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKE COUNTY – For those of you who don't vote by absentee ballot, Tuesday is the day to remember to get to the polls.


The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. around Lake County on Tuesday.


This will be the second of three votes county residents will make this year. Voters last took part in the presidential primary in February.


Three supervisorial seats – for Districts 1, 4 and 5 – are on Tuesday's ballot, when they could be decided or sent to a November runoff.


If you have questions about polling sites or other election-related questions, call the county Elections Office, 263-2372.


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKEPORT – A Tracy man has filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Santa Rosa and a local priest, seeking millions of dollars for damages he alleges he suffered due to sexual abuse.


Christopher Griego, 31, of Tracy filed a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court on Jan. 2 in which he alleged he was sexually abused as a child. However, in that initial filing he did not specifically name anyone, referring only to a “John Doe,” according to court documents.


On May 5, his attorney – Richard Simons of Hayward – filed an amended complaint naming the diocese and Lakeport priest Father Ted Oswald.


The diocese's attorney, Dan Galvin of Santa Rosa, said Griego is seeking just over $2.5 million in total damages – from psychological and emotional damages, to current and future medical expenses and earnings losses.


Galvin said the complaint was just recently served on the diocese, which plans to file a response.


Griego's suit alleges he was the victim of sexual abuse from 1988 to 1995 – during which time he was a Lakeport parishioner and an altar boy – and that the diocese failed to protect him.


The amended complaint states that in 2006 Griego discovered that his “psychological injuries and illnesses” resulted from childhood sexual abuse, but his allegations do not include specific incidents.


A number listed in the phone book for Griego was not in service. Simons didn't return a call seeking comment on Thursday.


Court records show the case is set to have a hearing on Aug. 14.


On Sunday, at the end of morning mass at Saint Mary Immaculate Church in Lakeport, Oswald told his parish about the accusations and said he would be taking a leave of absence, as Lake County News has reported.


Dierdre Frontczak, the diocese's spokesperson, said Oswald was placed on administrative leave as of Monday, which is standard procedure when such an allegation is made.


Oswald requested, and was granted, administrative leaves of absence from his chaplain posts at the Lakeport Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff's Office, officials in those agencies confirmed.


Saint Mary Immaculate's priest since 1988, Oswald told Lake County News this week that he is innocent and that he wants his day in civil court to resolve the matter. He said he hopes to return to his parish and go back to work.


Oswald also has reported that parishioners and friends continue to offer their support and encouragement.


Galvin said cases such as this typically come down to the alleged victim's word versus that of the alleged perpetrator.


“In this situation, the plaintiff claims he was sexually abused,” said Galvin. “The priest denies vehemently it ever happened.”


He added, “Credibility is, typically, the key in these cases.”


How long the case could take to resolve is hard to say, said Galvin. Civil discovery will look into the background of the individuals involved, and depositions could take months to complete.


Many such cases end up in mediation before they get to trial, Galvin said.


It's also not guaranteed that the case will make it through. “We have had several of these cases thrown out by the trial court based on statute of limitations defenses,” Galvin said.


However, Galvin will be up against a tough opponent in Simons.


The biography listed for him on the Web site for his firm – Furtado, Jaspovice and Simons – reports he has extensive experience representing clients who bring sexual abuse cases. He was co-counsel for more than 125 victims in Northern California cases where child sex abuse was alleged against priests or other clergy, and assisted in bringing in more than $150 million in settlements and awards.


Griego never reported his abuse allegations to the Lakeport Police Department, officials there confirmed this week. Lakeport Police has asked the District Attorney's Office to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations, which is in progress.


David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, based in St. Louis, said he didn't consider it unusual for Griego's case to have begun in the civil courts and not the criminal system.


People alleged to have been abused by an authority figure are likely to distrust other authority figures – such as police and other law enforcement, according to Clohessy, who said he is an abuse victim.


When cases such as this go through the civil process, Galvin asserted that the plaintiffs are looking for money.


Clohessy acknowledged that there have been some false accusations made against clergy members – with money a motivation for some – but said if a person's goal is to scam the court system, sexual abuse is the wrong claim to make, because church officials hire defense attorneys who “fight brutally and ruthlessly” to beat the cases in court.


Frontczak said Oswald went before the diocese's review board, where he maintained his innocence and denied Griego's allegations.


The review board assists in investigating initial reports and accusations against clergy, said Frontczak.


Griego also has been invited to the board, but Frontczak said she doesn't know if he will appear. Very often individuals bringing abuse allegations don't want to meet with the board, she added.


Clohessy said his group urges people making abuse allegations to think “long and hard” before going to church authorities, because the group believes the church will not act in the victims' best interest.


He said he finds it troubling that, in cases like Oswald's, people rally to a clergy member's cause rather than waiting to see what will be determined in court.


That reaction by church and community members, he maintained, will discourage other alleged abuse victims from coming forward.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – With its packed field, the campaign for District 1 has looked very much like a horse race and, true to form, Tuesday's result was a photo finish.


Susanne La Faver took 31.7 percent of the vote, with James Comstock coming in a hair behind at 30.5 percent of the south county vote.


In the final results Tuesday – which the Elections Office still must officially certify – La Faver took 599 votes, with Comstock edging to within 22 votes of her, with 577.


Don Dornbush, who came close to upsetting Ed Robey in his reelection bid four years ago, placed third, with 232 votes or 12.3 percent of the vote, followed by Scott Fergusson, 208 votes, 11 percent; Robert MacIntyre, 171 votes, 9 percent; and Joey Luiz, 99 votes, 5.2 percent. There also were four write-in candidates which accounted for 0.2 percent of the vote.


As the two frontrunners, La Faver and Comstock will now gear up for the next phase of the race, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 4, in concert with the presidential election.


La Faver said Tuesday's results were exactly what she had expected.


“We campaigned against five tough candidates,” she said. “We’re thrilled to be the top choice of District 1 voters. We look forward to discussing the issues with voters and our opponent during the next five months, then going on to win in November.”


Comstock said Tuesday night that it felt “really good” to be in the runoff.


La Faver, 59, a consultant and graduate business instructor at Golden Gate Unviersity, was one of the first candidates to declare her intention to run for the District 1 seat last summer when Supervisor Ed Robey announced he would not seek reelection. She later garnered Robey's endorsement.


Comstock, 58, a longtime member of the Middletown Unified School District Board of Trustees and a well-known local businessman and rancher, came into the race after La Faver.


“We got in a little later, and we're playing catch up and it looks like we caught up,” he said.


Throughout the returns Tuesday night, Comstock and La Faver had topped the field, with La Faver beginning with a sizable lead of absentees and votes reported from the initial precincts.


But as the last precincts were tallied, Comstock had closed the gap, coming to within less than two dozen votes of a tie.


Comstock said his lead issues – which have remained the same from the beginning – are jobs and the creation of businesses locally, which he said have resonated with people. His school board experience and lifelong residency also gained him support, he added.


Both La Faver and Comstock are getting ready to kick their campaigns into high gear for the five-month stretch ahead.


That includes looking at returns and trying to pick up voters from the four candidates – Dornbush, Fergusson, MacIntyre and Luiz – whose campaigns ended Tuesday.


La Faver said Tuesday she already had spoken with Joey Luiz and invited him to join her summer and fall campaign, indicating he had accepted.


Comstock said he suspects the November turnout will be much higher than that on Tuesday, which between absentees and precinct ballots cast amounted to 25.2 percent countywide, according to the Registrar of Voters report, with a 27.1 percent turnout in District 1.


Of the greater turnout expected in November, he added, “Who knows who that's gong to benefit?”


Find out more about the candidates at www.susanneforsupervisor.com and www.jimcomstock.com.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:3}

LAKE COUNTY – If you see a lot of helicopter activity around the county this week, you're likely noticing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at work checking out its power line system.


The company is planning its annual helicopter patrols in parts of the county this week as a means of ensuring its power system's reliability.


Using helicopters, company representatives will check power distribution lines for maintenance from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, weather permitting.


The patrols will take place in Lake and Mendocino counties Wednesday through Friday, the company reported.


Company officials are looking for sagging lines, fallen tree limbs, vegetation overgrowth, potential fire hazards and other problems. Issues identified during these patrols will be corrected to ensure system safety and reliability going forward.


PG&E patrols and inspects all of its lines annually – more than 100,000 miles of them – to ensure safety and reliability, and to identify equipment in need of repair.


The company reported that the patrols allow officials to proactively schedule repairs of problems that might otherwise result in power outages.


In rough country, remote areas, or areas where there are fewer trees, the most efficient and sometimes only way to accomplish this is by helicopter.


Depending on the terrain and other seasonal obstacles, some power lines are inaccessible by truck and can only be seen from the air.


The helicopter patrols allow crews to get almost eyeball-to-equipment to identify potential problems, the company reported.


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKE COUNTY – A man convicted 18 years ago of attempting to murder his girlfriend was denied parole for the fifth time this week.


Richard Dowdle, 53, was once again denied parole by the Board of Prison Terms, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who attended the parole hearing to argue against Dowdle’s release.


The parole hearing was held on June 2 at Corcoran State Prison, located 240 miles southeast of Sacramento.


In August 1990 Judge Robert C. Crone sentenced Dowdle to life plus five years for the attempted murder of his girlfriend, Hinchcliff said. Current Superior Court Judge Richard Martin was the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Dowdle.


In January 1990, Dowdle was released from the Hill Road Jail in Lakeport after serving time on a domestic violence offense against his girlfriend, according to Hinchcliff.


When he returned to their residence on Emerald Drive in Kelseyville that day, Hinchcliff said Dowdle discovered that his girlfriend had moved her 17-year-old son and a friend of his into the residence to help pay rent.


Hinchcliff said Dowdle, who worked in The Geysers steam field as a driller and was a cross-dresser, was upset that there were “intruders” in the house. He stated that being a “roughneck” he would be too embarrassed to wear female clothing in front of the “intruders.”


Dowdle became angry and confronted the victim while she was in the bedroom with their baby daughter, and punched her, Hinchcliff explained. Dowdle then went into the kitchen, retrieved a butcher knife, and stabbed his girlfriend several times in the shoulder and abdomen. Her son helped her escape from the house.


When deputy sheriff’s arrived and entered the residence, they found that Dowdle had used the knife to cut his own throat and disembowel himself, according to Hinchcliff.


Hinchcliff said Dowdle initially became eligible for parole in May of 2000.


This was Dowdle’s fifth parole hearing since 1998, said Hinchcliff, who also attended the previous hearings to argue against parole.


Although Dowdle has obtained his GED and remained disciplinary free in prison, and may some day be granted parole, the parole commissioners agreed with Hinchcliff that Dowdle had not done enough in prison to address his alcohol abuse problem, his anger control problems or his psychiatric problems. They also found he had no concrete parole plans if he were released, and he still presents a substantial risk of danger to women if released from prison.


Hinchcliff said Dowdle's next parole hearing will take place in two years.


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKE COUNTY – Although there were local, state and federal offices on the ballot on Tuesday, Lake County voters didn't turn out in big numbers for the second of three trips to the polls many will take this year.


The Lake County Registrar of Voters reported that 8,366 ballots were cast in the June 3 primary, only a 25.2 percent turnout from among the 33,143 registered voters countywide. That's compared to the 47.3-percent turnout reported on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.


Total ballots included 4,844 absentees (14.6 percent) and 3,522 precinct ballots (10.6 percent), according to records from Tuesday, which still have to be officially certified by Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley and her election staff.


In the race for the House of Representatives seat representing Congressional District 1, incumbent Congressman Mike Thompson handily won against fellow Democrat Mitch Clogg, gaining 86.4 percent of the votes to Clogg's 13.2 percent, with 15 write-in candidates accounting for 0.3 percent of the vote.


In the Republican race for the Congressional District 1 seat, Zane Starkewolf defeated Douglas Pharr, 55.2 percent to 43.6 percent, besides 1.1 percent of the vote going to 27 writes-ins. Carol Wolman was the only candidate on the Green Party ticket for the seat in Congress, with 95.8 percent of the vote for her party, plus two write-ins, which accounted for 4.2 percent of the vote.


State Assembly hopeful Wes Chesbro, facing no challenger from the Democratic Party, received 98.8 percent of the vote,or 4,066 ballots cast in his favor, with 1.2 percent devoted to write-ins. Republican Jim Pell, also running unopposed on his party ticket for the District 1 State Assembly seat, took 98.3 percent of the vote, or 2,158 ballots. Thirty-eight write-ins gained 1.7 percent of the Republican vote.


As in February, decisions by local voters mirrored state results with respect to the battling eminent domain measures. Proposition 99 won statewide and in Lake County as well, garnering a 64-percent approval locally while Proposition 98 was defeated with a 57-percent “no” vote.


Measure A, a special tax proposed in the Butler-Keys Community Services District, passed with 80 percent of the vote, according to vote tallies.


Among local partisan central committees, no candidates filed in Republican Central Committee districts 1, 2 and 5, where write-ins took 100 percent of the vote in each district. In District 3, there were a total of five seats available, but the only stated candidates were Penny Lunt, who took 49.6 percent of the vote, and Robert Gene Lanfranco II, with 49.2 percent, with eight write-ins. In District 4, it was Gregory D. Scott, 31 percent; Judith Steele Lanfranco, 23.8 percent; Tracy L. Davis, 22.9 percent; Martha Steward, 21.4 percent; and 13 candidates vying for the remaining vacancy.


Among major parties, Democrats had a larger turnout overall, with 4,632 total ballots cast – 2,696 absentees, 1,936 at precincts – amounting to 32.3 percent.


Approximately 2,948 registered Republicans – or 28.8 percent – voted in Tuesday's election, with 1,266 precinct ballots cast and another 1,660 cast by absentee ballot.


Green Party members had a 16.2-percent turnout, with a total of 63 ballots – 29 absentee, 34 precinct.


The largest turnout by supervisorial district was in District 5, where incumbent Supervisor Rob Brown was elected to a third term over challenger Robert Stark. Turnout in District 5 was 29.7 percent or 2,152 ballots cast.


Those results compare with 27.1 percent, or 1,922 ballots cast, in the crowded District 1 race, and 23.7 percent turnout or 1,555 votes cast in District 4, where Supervisor Anthony Farrington easily won his unopposed reelection.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:3}

Image
The United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team at a recent funeral in Kelseyville. The group has been named among the beneficiaries of this year's Wine Auction. Courtesy photo.




LAKE COUNTY – Ten community organizations and agencies that work hard to make Lake County a better place have been chosen to receive the proceeds of this year's Wine Auction. {sidebar id=84}


Thirty-five groups applied for funding from the annual event, which over the last eight years has contributed more than $621,500 to local programs since the first event was held at Guenoc Winery in 2000, according to the Lake County Wine Alliance. The beneficiaries are selected by the Wine Alliance Board of Directors.


The beneficiaries from this year's event are Kids 4 Broadway, Lake County Special Olympics, Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, Hospice Services of Lake County, Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, the Military Funeral Honors Team, Church Women United, Operation Tango Mike, the Lake Family Resource Center, the Lake County Literacy Coalition and the fine arts programs at five Lake County high schools.


The Buckingham Junior Golf Program will receive support through the auction of golf balls to fund activities of the Lake County Junior Golf Council, the Wine Alliance reported.


The ninth annual Wine Auction will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Buckingham Golf and Country Club, Kelseyville. This year's gala charity benefit is chaired by Congressman Mike Thompson.


Military Funeral Honors Team chosen this year


This is the first year the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team has received a grant, said Rich Rich Feiro, the team's firing party commander.


Feiro, who founded the group, said they've offered military honors at 490 funerals since May 2001, the year they started. A retired Air Force man, Feiro formed the group because he wanted to see veterans receive an honorable and proper military ceremony when they are laid to rest.


The team currently has 24 members, mostly retired vets, including four buglers, a chaplain, numerous riflemen and Feiro. The team is certified by the Department of Defense.


It costs the team about $5,000 a year to travel to do its solemn work, said Feiro. Demand is growing; this past month, they had 13 funerals, which is well above the average. Most are World War II vets, who reportedly are dying at a rate of 1,000 each day across the United States.


When a veteran dies, funeral homes ask the families if they want a military funeral. If they do, the funeral homes call Feiro, who then swings into action, scheduling the team and making contact with the branch of the military to which the vet belonged. That branch then sends an active duty member to the funeral.


The team performs a three-volley salute at the funerals, the symbolism of which is part of a long military tradition going back to Roman funeral rites, he said. In more recent wars, when truces were called for the purpose of burying the dead, volleys signified the work of burials was done. Since the Civil War, the playing of “Taps” has been a party of military funerals as well.


For each funeral, Feiro estimates he spends at least two hours doing paperwork and making arrangements, including sending off the veterans' information to the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense, who track veterans' death.


The riflemaster, he added, spends at least an hour per funeral cleaning and doing any needed repairs on the group's seven 1903-era Springfield rifles, which the government gave the team for free.


Feiro said the funds the group receives will be used for everything from repairs on the team's bus, to meeting rising gas prices, replacing uniforms and repairing the rifles which, because of their age, require expensive parts and repair.


The group accepts private donations and is seeking more grants like that from the Wine Auction to keep up their work, said Feiro. Donations may be made to the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team at P.O. Box 1365, Kelseyville, CA 95451.


“Every penny helps,” he said.


An important opportunity for children, horses


Susie Wiloth of Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center said she was excited by the news of receiving a grant from the Wine Auction. She said she was guaranteed to receive at least $2,500 from the benefit. This is the first year she's applied.


The school, operating since May 1, 2006, is located in Lower Lake in the Noble Ranch Estates.


Wiloth's school provides about half of its riding sessions to the mainstream public, with the other half devoted to therapeutic sessions with special needs children around the county. Her school is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and can be found online at www.wilothenterprises.com.


Wiloth said she will take the funds from the Wine Auction and match them to provide more free therapeutic sessions for children.


She works with all seven school districts to provide – at no charge – the therapeutic sessions to children who need them, either at her main facility or at a rented arena space in Kelseyville. Her mainstream business helps support the therapeutic side, Wiloth explained, as do weekend fundraiser rides.


In addition to helping children, the school helps horses. Many of the horses taking part in the therapy work have been rescued and themselves rehabilitated, an effort Wiloth plans to increase in order to have more horses for her school.


Caring for Alzheimer's patients, families


Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake is a multi-year recipient of funds from the Wine Auction, having received awards in previous years, including last year, said Director Eva Johnson.


The program offers day care for Alzheimer's patients, including classes and activities, said Johnson. It also benefits families by giving them some time away from caregiving.


Johnson knows firsthand the struggle to care for an Alzheimer's patient. Her husband was diagnosed in 1984 with Alzheimer's, a disease which wracked his family, including most of his siblings. He fought a losing, 13-year battle with the disease, dying in 1997.


“The year he died was the year I started the program up in Clearlake,” she said.


The program offers two days of care in Clearlake, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at St. John's Lutheran Church. It's affiliated program in Lucerne offers a day of care on Thursdays, also at the Lutheran Church.


They have activities for clients, including projects like flower arranging, said Johnson.


She said of the clients, “We have them for a short time, but it allows them to have a place where they can have a special time.”


Johnson is also concerned about the increase in Alzheimer's cases that may result from the large baby boomer generation.


The day care and respite program is under the umbrella of the Senior Support Services program based at the Upper Lake Senior Center, located in the old courthouse on Mendenhall and First, Johnson said.


Johnson said the program is mostly volunteer, and more volunteers are needed. She also has a few paid staffers.


She said gets calls all the time from people seeking help, although she said she's troubled that most families still don't know about the services available to help them.


“It is a wonderful program and I'm very proud of it and how it's developed,” she said.


Many other worthy groups included


Other projects named as beneficiaries of this year's event include:


The Arts: Kids 4 Broadway will provide tuition scholarships for children ages 6-14 to participate in productions and learn the discipline of working in the theater; fine arts and performing arts programs at Clear Lake High School, Kelseyville High School, Lower Lake High School, Middletown High School, and Upper Lake High School.


Health: Lake County Special Olympics will use its funding to purchase sports equipment, uniforms and training supplies, and provide transportation to out-of-county competitions. Hospice Services of Lake County will continue its high quality, end-of-life care for all who need its assistance.


Community: Church Women United continues to provide shoes for school-age children in need. Operation Tango Mike prepares and ships care packages to Lake County residents deployed in military combat zones. The Lake Family Resource Center will operate separate summer camps for young men and women ages 12 through 17. The Lake County Literacy Coalition will train more tutors to serve adults needing help with reading and writing English.


The Lake County Wine Alliance is a nonprofit organization of wineries, winegrape growers and community members founded in 2000, according to a group statement. The all-volunteer group raises funds to benefit “the arts, health and community” of Lake County while promoting Lake County’s fine wines and its premier grape growing region.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKE COUNTY – A task force carried out special enforcements late last month targeting driving under the influence and drivers without licenses.


Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's reported that over the past Memorial Day weekend, the Lake County “Avoid the Three” DUI Task Force conducted a driving under the influence/driver's license checkpoint in the city of Clearlake and special saturation patrols in and around the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport.


The task force's objective, Bauman reported, is to detect and remove intoxicated or impaired drivers from Lake County streets and highways.


The checkpoint and saturation patrols were conducted by members of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Lakeport and Clearlake Police Departments, and the California Highway Patrol, said Bauman.


Eleven officers operated the DUI checkpoint on May 23 from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the city of Clearlake, Bauman reported.


Of the 391 vehicles screened during the checkpoint, he said two arrests were made for DUI, 10 arrests were made for other misdemeanor violations, 15 citations were issued and nine vehicles were impounded.


The DUI task force conducted five saturation patrols in and around the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake from May 24 through May 26, according to Bauman. The increased patrols resulted in a total of 149 vehicle stops in which 25 field sobriety tests were conducted, nine DUI arrests were made, 17 other misdemeanor or felony arrests were made and seven vehicles were impounded.


The DUI Task Force is planning additional checkpoints and saturation patrols for the upcoming Independence Day weekend in July, and the Labor Day weekend in August, Bauman reported.


Funding for the “Avoid” program is provided through a grant managed by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Safety Administration.


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

THIS STORY HAS BEEN CORRECTED, WITH REFERENCE TO THE TIME OF THE SUIT'S FILING. 

 

LAKEPORT – At the end of his 10:30 a.m. Sunday mass – the biggest mass of the week – Father Ted Oswald stood before his parishioners at Saint Mary Immaculate Church and delivered a shocking piece of news.


The 63-year-old priest told his flock that he was taking a leave of absence because of a civil lawsuit that alleges he sexually abused a teenage boy between 1988 and 1995.


He said he couldn't do his work as priest until the lawsuit was resolved, adding that he wanted his day in court.


Oswald, who has been the parish's priest for 20 years, then asked his church members to pray for him and all involved in the case.


Lakeport resident Phillip Myers, a pastoral advisory council member who was attending mass that morning, said the reaction to the well-beloved priest's announcement was “absolute astonishment.”


Late last month, a copy of a civil complaint making the allegations against Oswald was delivered to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, according to Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department.


Dierdre Frontczak, spokesperson for the Diocese of Santa Rosa – which oversees Lakeport – said the lawsuit specifically names the diocese and Oswald as defendants, but she had no other details.


The civil case was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court, with an amended complaint filed on May 5.


On Monday Rasmussen issued a brief statement to Lake County News on behalf of the department, where Oswald has been a volunteer chaplain, responsible for such duties as delivering death notices and offering counsel to officers and citizens. He and his dog therapy Rosie are known for visiting the hospital and jail, as well as their regular walks in Library Park.


Rasmussen said Oswald has been placed on administrative leave from his police chaplain position. Meanwhile, Lakeport Police asked the Lake County District Attorney's Office's Criminal Investigation Division to conduct an independent investigation of the civil case's allegations, which currently is in progress.


Oswald, who also has served for many years as one of the Lake County Sheriff's Office chaplains, asked Sheriff Rod Mitchell last week for a leave of absence while the matter is being reviewed, a request Mitchell confirmed Monday that he granted.


Frontczak confirmed Oswald was on a leave of absence from the parish. She said it's the diocese's policy to put anyone faced with such an allegation on leave until the legal process is sorted out.


“Our policy, to be on the safe side, is to safeguard our young people,” said Frontczak.


She said it's not the diocese's policy to comment specifically on litigation.


The civil complaint has made no crossover to criminal allegations, according to officials.


The alleged victim has not contacted the Lakeport Police Department about his complaint, said Rasmussen – despite the fact that the case alleges the abuse took place in Lakeport.


Nor did the Lake County District Attorney's Office receive any criminal complaint relating to the matter, according to District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


“To my knowledge we have not been given a report asking us to file charges against Father Ted for anything,” Hopkins said Monday.


Frontczak had no information on what, if any, monetary amount was specified in the civil lawsuit.


Since 1990, the diocese has paid or promised to pay $20 million in settlements relating to cases in which priests were accused of having sex with minors, according to a September 2007 Associated Press report that attributed those numbers to Frontczak.


Of the 17 priests who had been accused by the time of that report, allegations could only be verified in roughly half of the cases, according to the Associated Press.


Overwhelmed by community support


Oswald is a colorful figure, a motorcycle-riding priest who did a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968, and spent three years in the military police and 11 years as a civilian police officer before leaving to pursue the priesthood.


“A good cop and a good priest are the same thing,” he told Lake County News.


In 1984, the year he earned a master of divinity degree from a seminary in Rome, he met Pope John Paul II.


He said he came to Lakeport in 1988 to fill in for a short time and ended up staying and falling in love with the county. Since then, he has become a well-known local figure.


In April 2005, it was Oswald who officiated at the funeral mass for slain human rights advocate Marla Ruzicka, his authority and calm anchoring a grieving community, and angering actor Sean Penn because Oswald asked speakers to keep politics out of the event.


In an interview on Monday evening, Oswald said, “You know, I'm doing good, believe it or not.”


He said he has been overwhelmed by support from his parishioners and fellow clergy members from different denominations, one of whom had called to pray with him a few minute before the interview.


Following the Sunday mass, Oswald said church members came to hug him after his message, many of them weeping, which caused him to break down.


“I want to fight this,” he said of the allegations against him, which he stated are absolutely false.


He's an unlikely person to be accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, considering his background and his own efforts to bring such a case to light more than 30 years ago.


As a young teaching brother in the church in 1976, Oswald had investigated a sexual abuse case involving a Catholic priest with whom he had worked in Yuma, Ariz., according to an Arizona Daily Star report.


Oswald took reports from several boys involved and reported it to the Diocese of Tucson. The following year, he quit the order after he asked about the boys' statements and was told the diocese didn't know anything about them, he said. That priest was later transferred to another part of the diocese, according to the newspaper report.


While he knew about such cases firsthand before these recent allegations surfaced, Oswald said he has publicly – and from the pulpit – criticized the idea of “repressed memory,” under which many priest abuse allegations have been made, and he believes those statements may have made him a target. He mentioned a Swiss priest who, after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him, committed suicide. Oswald added that he feels many innocent priests have been unfairly accused.


He said he received notification of the allegations about two weeks ago. Although the allegations are painful, he said he made it through Vietnam, and every day since then has been a gift. He believes he can make it through this situation as well.


His fellow veterans in the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951 are standing behind him.


“We believe in Father Ted and we support Father Ted,” said chapter President Dean Gotham.


Oswald is the chapter's chaplain, and has arranged for them to hold their monthly meetings at Saint Mary Immaculate's parish hall, said Gotham.


He added that the chapter has no plans to ask Oswald to take a leave of absence from his chaplain's post.


Future uncertain for priest, parish


Oswald, who also is caring for his 91-year-old mother, said he wants to get back to his work.


I want to return to my parish and retire there when it's time to retire,” he said.


The church is still waiting to hear who will act as priest in Oswald's absence. Myers said they're supposed to know something from the diocese the middle of this week.


However, Myers, said the church is supporting Oswald, who he called a “fantastic priest” who works hard for people.


“All of the parishioners I have talked to are totally behind Father Ted,” Myers said.


Added Gotham, “I think the Lord will look out for him on this one.”


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

LAKEPORT – A longtime former city department head has died.


Larry Jack, 64, who served as Lakeport's finance and parks director for many years, died at his home in Puerto Rico late last week, said City Attorney Steve Brookes.


Jack was to be brought back to Lake County over the weekend, said Brookes, with funeral services to take place sometime this coming week.


Brookes said Jack joined the city's finance department around 1980, working his way up to leading finance and parks before he retired in 2002. During that time, he oversaw a significant portion of the city's growth, and would become one of the longest-serving city department heads.


Jack, a graduate of Pepperdine University, moved to Lakeport in the late 1970s, after having worked at Hughes Aircraft in Southern California, said Brookes.


He was good with numbers and also brought a sense of humor to his work, Brookes added.


While keeping busy in city government, Jack also found time to be a volunteer fireman, said Brookes.


Jack helped hire former Police Chief Tom Engstrom, who remembered Jack as a wonderful person to work with, a professional and “a great guy.” Engstrom expressed shock and sadness at his death.


“He's basically responsible for bringing me here to Lakeport, which is probably one of the best things that has ever happened in our family's life,” said Engstrom.


Jack's responsibilities made him close to being a city manager, said Engstrom. The city hired its first official city manager, Randy Johnsen, in 2001.


Engstrom recalled Jack's professionalism as he guided police chief candidates – including Engstrom – through the interview process. Serving as police chief in Soledad at the time, Engstrom said Jack visited the community to do a background check, and kept him up-to-date on what was happening when.


“So we got to know each other pretty well,” said Engstrom, who was a guest at Jack's wedding to his wife, Nidia.


Nidia Jack is originally from Puerto Rico, but the couple met in Lake County. Engstrom said Larry Jack purchased land in Puerto Rico and dreamed of building a home there after retirement, which he did. Jack showed Engstrom plans for his home – a concrete, hurricane-proof building – with views of the ocean.


Brookes said Jack had been in Puerto Rico about three years, and they had kept in touch. Engstrom said Jack extended invitations to all of his friends to come and visit him at his new home.


Engstrom said Jack was a good guy and a good family man, with two grown children – a son and a daughter. “He was very proud of his kids.”


Engstrom said he'll miss his friend, who gave him the opportunity to come to Lakeport. “I'll always be grateful to him for that.”


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


{mos_sb_discuss:2}

Upcoming Calendar

1Feb
02.01.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
1Feb
02.01.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clear Lake hitch listening session
2Feb
02.02.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
2Feb
02.02.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
8Feb
02.08.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
100+ Women Strong in Lake County
9Feb
02.09.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
11Feb
11Feb
02.11.2023 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild

Mini Calendar

loader

LCNews

Responsible local journalism on the shores of Clear Lake.

 

Memberships:

 

Newsletter

Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.
Cookies!

lakeconews.com uses cookies for statistical information and to improve the site.