Monday, 15 July 2024


LAKE MENDOCINO – A Cloverdale man drowned late last week at Lake Mendocino, according to a Monday report from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Matthew Arreguin, 26, was on a camping trip with his family when the tragedy occurred, according to the report.

The sheriff's report explained that Arreguin and his friends were towing a large raft out into the water.

For unknown reasons, Arreguin turned around and started to swim back towards shore. Near the shore, in approximately four feet of water, Arreguin yelled for help and went under the water, the report said.

Arreguin was pulled from the water by a bystander after being under water for approximately one minute, according to the report.

Just after 4 p.m. Friday, emergency services were dispatched to Lake Mendocino for a possible drowning victim with cardiopulmonary resuscitation in progress in the area of the Kyen Campground, officials said.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies, patrolling the lake in their patrol boat, responded to the location, where they found Army Corps of Engineers personnel and bystanders performing CPR until emergency medical services from Redwood Valley Fire and Ukiah Ambulance arrived on scene.

Emergency medical services continued with life-saving techniques but Arreguin died on scene.

Sheriff's officials did not directly state alcohol was involved, but offered the reminder that people should be careful and safe when drinking alcohol in and around the water.

Arreguin is the second drowning victim this month at the lake.

A Redwood Valley man, 19-year-old Pablo Macias, drowned in the lake on June 16, but his body wasn't found until a week later, as Lake County News has reported.

LAKE COUNTY – With no state budget in place, last week the state began giving IOUs to the state's 58 counties.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature are locked in budget impasse over the shape of the budget ahead.

Last Tuesday, Schwarzenegger followed through on his promise to veto a budget that didn't fully resolve the state's crushing deficit issues. He then issued an emergency declaration on Wednesday – the day the new fiscal year began – and expanding the number of furloughs for state workers.

The governor also called a Proposition 58 legislative special session to address the budget, giving them 45 days to solve the crisis, otherwise no other bills will be able to be addressed and they'll be forced to remain in session.

On Thursday, State Controller John Chiang began issuing $776 million in registered warrants – also known as IOUs – to county governments for CalWORKs grants, administration of social services, mental health services and alcohol and drug treatment programs. Counties are mandated to provide those services under state and federal law, according to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). In February, Chiang also had delayed some payments.

Chiang said the state's “massively unbalanced spending plan” and cash shortfall haven't been seen since the Great Depression, with its $2.8 billion cash shortage in July estimated to grow to $6.5 billion in September. And after that, he said, “we see a double-digit freefall.”

Only those categories determined by the state constitution, federal law and court decisions will receive regular payments this month, Chiang's office reported.

The IOUs are added injury for counties, which already are facing proposed cuts of $4.3 billion, according to CSAC, which said some counties could themselves be pushed to the financial brink as a result.

“We are putting the governor, Legislature and residents we serve on notice that we cannot uniformly ensure the delivery of critical health, public safety and other vital services in the current fiscal

environment," said Gary Wyatt, Imperial County supervisor and CSAC president.

“Let's be clear, services will be disrupted at the local level, and the state's inability to resolve its budget issues is severely impeding counties' ability to meet the needs of the people we serve,” Wyatt said.

CSAC accused the state of pushing its cash crisis down to counties, which it said will be forced to conserve cash by paring down services, such as libraries, parks or road maintenance, or by issuing their own IOUs to vendors in order to make ends meet.

Lake County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox said the state budget agreement approved several months ago included payment deferrals to counties for certain programs for two months, so the county already was anticipating IOUs, which he said are better than standard payment deferrals because of the interest earnings tied to them.

Cox said the state set an interest rate of 3.75 percent on the IOUs on Thursday. He said the notes will mature on Oct. 2.

“That's actually a very favorable interest rate and better than we can do on most of our current treasury investments,” said Cox.

He said the county's primary bank, Wells Fargo, will accept the state's warrants through at least July 10, so there is no immediate impact on the county.

Cox said he doesn't anticipate the state's payment deferrals and IOUs to force the county to borrow from outside sources, because the county's treasury has sufficient funding and reserves.

He estimated that the county's Social Services Department received revenue for July aid payments last month, so they are good until the end of July, and they have other resources to get them through August.

Cox is concerned about deferrals of mental health revenues to the county's Mental Health Department, which already has been operating on a very tight budget. Cox said Mental Health has no ability to absorb additional payment deferrals and will likely require interim financing from another source in the county budget.

With the state under tremendous pressure to bring the budget to a conclusion, Cox said he doubts the IOUs and deferrals will continue for an extended period, and that the county should be able to weather the situation until then.

For Cox and other county officials, the bigger concern is the outlook of a final state budget, which has a laundry list of potentially negative impacts for Lake and its sister counties.

“The county could very well end up with a long-term loss of road maintenance funding, a long-term borrowing by the state of our local property tax revenues, significant amounts of new fees imposed by the state for forensic lab services and other state services that we must use to fulfill our responsibilities, a loss of Williamson Act open space subvention revenues, and major long-term financial implications of changes to the welfare and mental health programs – implications that will result in a substantial shift of costs from the state to the county,” said Cox. “Those are the things I'm most concerned about and anxious to see resolved.”

CSAC said the state is proposing to raid $1.7 billion in local gas tax funds. There also is the proposed suspension of Proposition 1A of 2004, which protects local government revenue.

“Counties are not confident that the state will be able to repay the property tax 'loan' in a timely manner, as the Constitution requires,” the group said in a statement last week.

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

LOWER LAKE – Two visitors to Lake County found themselves diverted to the jail early Friday morning after their vehicle was stopped and law enforcement allegedly discovered their car to be filled with drugs and illegal fireworks.

Bob Anthony Marino, 47, of Campbell and Rochelle Monique Eblen, 32, of San Jose were arrested by California Officer Steve Curtis on Friday morning, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said Curtis stopped Marino and Eblen for speeding shortly before 8 a.m. at Highway 29 and B Street south of Lower Lake.

When Curtis approached the vehicle he smelled marijuana, said Tanguay.

That led to a vehicle search, Tanguay said. When Curtis looked through the vehicle, he allegedly found not just marijuana but methamphetamine and 200 to 300 fireworks.

The fireworks Curtis found weren't just little bottle rockets and sparklers but mortars and other major explosives, said Kelseyville Fire Battalion Chief Joe Huggins.

Huggins estimated the cache of fireworks found was between 75 and 85 pounds. “These are flat out high explosive – the bad stuff,” he said.

CHP called Kelseyville Fire and said they had seized the fireworks, Huggins explained.

Kelseyville Fire then took the fireworks, photographed them and wrote a report, and contacted the state fire marshal, Huggins explained.

The amount of fireworks is so large that Huggins said the state fire marshal's office will send an investigator to collect the fireworks and take them back to the state offices in Sacramento.

Huggins said they had never seen such a large fireworks seizure. Tanguay added that since he came in Lake County in 2001, this was by far the biggest batch of seized fireworks he had seen.

Eblen was booked on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance and impersonating another individual, plus a misdemeanor bench warrant, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and giving false identification to a peace officer. Her bail was set at $25,000.

Officials booked Marino on felony charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, transporting a controlled substance and illegal possession of an explosive, and misdemeanor charges of selling or using unclassed fireworks and possession fireworks without a permit. His bail was set at $15,000.

Both Eblen and Marino posted bail later in the day to gain their release from jail.

Officials weren't sure if Eblen and Marino were visiting the county or simply passing through.

With local officials concerned about dry conditions and the July 4 weekend, Huggins said, “This kind of stuff's not going to be tolerated any more.”

Eblen and Marino are scheduled to be in court next month.

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


ST. HELENA – A Sunday fire destroyed two structures in Calistoga, according to a Monday report.

Cal Fire Battalion Chief and Fire Marshal Pete Muñoa reported that the fire was reported just after 11 a.m. Sunday at 1202 Tucker Road in unincorporated Napa County.

He said firefighters from Cal Fire, Napa County Fire, Calistoga City Fire and St Helena City Fire Departments responded to the incident.

The first arriving firefighters reported heavy smoke and fire coming from the buildings, said Muñoa.

Muñoa said a total of two structures were destroyed. The total estimated damage – including the buildings and their contents – is $125,000.

The sole resident, a man in his 50s, is being assisted by the Napa Chapter of the Red Cross. Muñoa said no injuries were reported.

Investigators from the Napa County Fire Marshal’s Office believe the cause of the fire to be accidental, Muñoa said.



My neighbor Chris works at my local grocery store and told me he would like to see a column and recipe on barbecue sauce.

It was still winter when he told me that, but since barbecue sauce is thought of as a summer thing I liked the fact that I would really have some time for experimenting.

It was easy to understand why he would want a barbecue recipe; he’s one of those people who has friends, likes to entertain all of the time and barbecues outside for them. Me being a misanthropic curmudgeon, you can count the number of people who have been to my house on one hand.

There is enough information about barbecuing and barbecue sauces to fill many books so I won’t be able to cover everything in this short column, but hopefully you’ll get some new insights.

Researching different barbecue sauces turned out to be very entertaining. I found that all barbecue sauces have one thing in common and that is ... nothing at all.

There are regional sauces for Kansas City, St. Louis, Owensboro, Memphis, Texas, the Carolinas, “Southern” and Cajun, even Argentinean (now that’s southern!).

China has a barbecue style sauce called Hoisin that is a favorite at my house. There are barbecue sauces that revolve around unique ingredients like mustard, maple, vinegar, cola, root beer, fruit, whiskey, bourbon, chipotle and honey. There is even an Alabama white barbecue sauce, which is basically mayonnaise with vinegar and hot sauce.

Alabama white barbecue? The sauce is made and used in a certain restaurant in Alabama and it has several copycats. I just don’t get it, personally. Although I have dated women from the Southern states (one girlfriend actually thought “Damn Yankee” was one word and a noun), I will never understand southerners or certain facets of their cuisine. I don’t understand the fascination with NASCAR either so I’m probably the one in the wrong here.

Barbecue as we know it was created in the Caribbean, but the American Southern states adopted it and I may even say perfected it over the past couple hundred years. It has been useful for social occasions, feeding slaves and political rallies.

The American South came to revolve around the pit. But while it is a staple of that region, almost every nation, culture and ethnic group has their own version of barbecue. South American countries like Chile and Argentina are also very passionate about the culture of the grill.

I love to grill and barbecue but I always have the historical facts and gross details going through the back of my mind as I do. Trust me, we’ll get to them today.

While barbecuing and grilling are closely related they are not the same thing, and insinuating so in the American South would be fightin’ words; Southerners take their “’cuein” very seriously. It would be like walking up to a win maker and saying that Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines taste the same.

Barbecue is the act of slow cooking over many hours in a low heat with plenty of wood smoke. It also usually involves some sort of spice rub or sauce that is applied before the cooking process.

Grilling is cooking on a rack over different types of charcoal or gas.

The act of barbecue was created in the Caribbean as a way of slow cooking tough meat so the connective tissues break down and moisturize the meat, making it more palatable.

There are many conflicting stories about the invention and evolution of barbecue, and since there aren’t many written records from that time and area we may never get the entire story.

What we do know is that chunks of meat were sandwiched between racks of green sticks and slowly cooked for hours until it was moist and tender. The fire was made in a pit and while some foods cooked underground others were cooked on the racks above.

This slow way of cooking was called a barbacoa (in some aboriginal dialects of the Caribbean) and the slow cooking and smoking process itself was called buccan (in other dialects).

Pirates traveling through the Caribbean during the early years of its discovery adopted this manner of buccan cooking and eventually became known as “Buccaneers.”

The word barbacoa is still being used in Mexico to describe a type of cooking underground with hot rocks and maguey or banana leaves, similar to Hawaiian imu cooking.

The Buccaneers preferred to cook goats and pigs with this method while many of the native tribes used it to cook rival tribes' people. Yes, you read that right, the origins of barbecue come from cannibalism. Since human flesh cooks and tastes similar to pork cannibalistic tribes call humans “long pig.”

There is a story about how the word barbecue came from the French “Barbe a queue” which means “Beard to tail,” and another anecdote says it came from American bar slang for “Bar, Beer and Cues (billiards),” but both have been discredited. Those French, always trying to take the credit for creating a great thing. There is also a story (discounted) on how the French invented sushi so you can see the pattern.

The invention of barbecue sauce is a mystery to the unbiased. Asking who created barbecue sauce is like asking who Jerusalem belongs to. Not only will you get a dozen different answers and all of them have valid claims but by the end somebody is throwing out threats of war.

There are stories of Christopher Columbus bringing a sauce from the Caribbean, and stories of its invention in colonial North America. South Carolina-style vinegar, mustard and black pepper barbecue sauce has been traced back to 18th century German immigrants and it appears that most barbecue sauces evolved from that original creation.

The mustard-based sauce was enhanced with ketchup in the early 1900s when ketchup became commercially produced, the pairing first made in possibly Virginia or Georgia. Commercial barbecue style sauces didn’t become popular until the 1950s.

So the barbecue sauce that you get in the grocery store is a relatively new arrival in the culinary scene. Although North Carolinians also claim the invention of the original sauce, we Californians may look at the feud and wonder, “What’s the difference? They’re both Carolinas!” But I’ll warn you, barbecuers are fanatics! Ask one for their recipe and the subject of how you are going to die WILL be discussed. The discussion on barbecue to southerners can be compared to asking a Californian, “Which city has the best restaurants, Los Angeles or San Francisco?”

So with my neighbor Chris in mind, I wanted to create a unique barbecue sauce that could represent Lake County – something that when you taste it would make you think that it represents the Lake County flavor.

I tried to make a barbecue sauce for grilling bass or catfish and trust me, you don’t want to drive down that road. What did I come up with instead? Pear barbecue sauce made with fresh pears and pear champagne.

This recipe works best if you have a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill ... well, buy one; it will change the way you cook.

With this recipe, putting it through a food mill will easily remove all the tomato seeds, tomato and pear peels, etc.

If you absolutely don’t want a food mill you could smash the cooked mixture through a sieve or strainer with fairly good results but, trust me, you want a food mill.

Lake County pear barbecue sauce

4 pears, seeded and coarsely chopped

3 large tomatoes (or 9 Romas), coarsely chopped

2 cups Lady of the Lake Pear Champagne

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic, smashed

1 cup rice wine vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)

½ teaspoon chipotle powder

Put all of the ingredients in a two quart stockpot and set to high heat. Bring to a boil (uncovered), then reduce heat and simmer for two hours.

When the contents have reduced by half, turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

When mixture is cooled and not dangerous to handle, put through a food mill.

Put strained sauce in the blender and puree, or use a stick blender to smooth it out to desired consistency.

Put into a container and allow to sit at least 24 hours to let the flavors meld.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

BLUE LAKES – A crash on Highway 20 near Blue Lakes resulted in major injuries and blocked traffic on Friday night.

The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. Friday near the Le Trianon Resort, according to the California Highway Patrol.

CHP, the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Northshore Fire were among the responders to the crash, which reports from the scene said involved more than one vehicle, one of which was overturned.

The blocked roadway didn't open up again until nearly 9 p.m.

In the mean time, a REACH helicopter transported one of the subjects to an area hospital, while two others went to Sutter Lakeside, the CHP reported.

Major injuries were reported, but the identify of the injured and specifics about their conditions were not available late Friday.

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

Lakeport's fireworks display on Saturday, July 4, 2009. Photo by Ron Keas.




LAKE COUNTY – Lake County residents and visitors were out in force this hot, clear weekend, enjoying Independence Day festivities around the lake.

Clearlake Oaks kicked off the celebration on Friday evening with its fireworks display.

On Saturday, the cities of Clearlake and Lakeport celebrated July 4 with all-day festivals that culminated in nighttime fireworks displays.

The International Worm Races, an annual favorite, were back again this year. Always an opportunity for good fun, the race had the worms at their mark with coaches standing by.

Possibly the most hilarious event of the weekend was the second annual cardboard and duct tape boat race off of Library Park in Lakeport.

Since last year, competitors have been perfecting their efforts. The boats held up even better, with only one child managing to sink a boat this time around.

Find a video of the 12 and under age division race shot by correspondent Terre Logsdon at the YouTube Lake County News Channel, .




Residents and visitors line the lakeshore in Lakeport's Library Park during the Saturday, July 4, 2009, celebration. Photo by Ron Keas.




Boats off of Lakeport's Library Park on Saturday, July 4, 2009, before the annual fireworks display. Photo by Ron Keas.




Lakeport's annual fireworks display on Saturday, July 4, 2009, was once again spectacular, and could be seen across the lake. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Carnival games offered tests of skill during Clearlake's annual Independence Day celebration. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.




Clearlake's annual Independence Day carnival featured rides, vendors and a full day of fun. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.




Teeny Tucker and Robert Hughes, her band director and manager, on stage last at the Monterey Blues Festival in Monterey, Calif., during the weekend of June 27, 2009. Photo by Gwen Windham.

MONTEREY – Picture 44 acts on three stages over a three day weekend – a potpourri of top-notch musicians from the world famous Neville Brother’s of New Orleans to lesser known local newcomers like the Dani Paige Band – against a backdrop of Monterey Bay, with delicious international flavored cuisine at every turn.

This year's Monterey Bay Blues Festival was blessed with sunny, balmy temperatures in the daytime from the mid 70s to the low 80s despite the forecast for gray 60s.

We arrived on Saturday in time to witness the set of Winnsboro, La. native Ernie Johnson, a favorite on the blues festival circuit.

We then caught the Saturday night closer of soul great Clarence Carter, who crossed over with his 1970 hit, “Patches.”

Carter, who is blind, is also known for his risqué repertoire. Adult themed songs like, “I Be Strokin’” and “Dr. C.C.” keep him popular with the mature baby-boomer R&B crowd. Standing absolutely still at the microphone, save for the movement of his hands on his guitar, Carter’s mellifluous baritone monologues kept the audience in stitches.

On Sunday, the first performance on the arena stage was for those inclined to appreciate gospel music. The feature was the heavenly sounds of the revered Mighty Clouds of Joy. Led by the great Joe Ligons, the Clouds went back to the country church of Ligons’ childhood and ushered forth songs he remembered being sung by his grandfather.

“My dad was a Gospel singer, his dad was a preacher,” said Ligons. “My grandfather didn’t have a strong voice, but I loved to hear him sing, 'Nearer My God To Thee.'”

Building as well upon the many years of great gospel recordings by the Clouds, Ligons built the spiritual tension into a wonderful explosion of joy, praising the name of Jesus in conjunction with the faithful in the crowd who stood exuberantly and joyfully.

The Clouds set list included “You Need The Lord,” “Praise His Name,” “Ride The Mighty High” and several others, including the Ojays' “Love Train” which started their set.

We had an exclusive audience with the great Teeny Tucker, who happens to be the daughter of the legendary Tommy Tucker. He was the composer of the blues standard, “High Heel Sneakers.” Tucker was one of many Chess Records artists who were left out of the critically acclaimed film, Cadillac Records.

Since 1963 when Tommy Tucker (born Robert Higginbotham) crashed the charts with the original version of the song, it has been recorded over 200 times, by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jose Feliciano and many others.

Teeny Tucker started her career in her church choir in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, at a very young age. Two of her best childhood memories was receiving a transistor radio for Christmas and discovering Mahalia Jackson on it.

She has spoken of visiting her dad in New York and begging him to let her stay up late to hear him jam with other musicians, then falling asleep under his Hammond B-3.

She branched into top 40 as a young woman and was persuaded into singing the blues by a European promoter familiar with her dad’s canon. The promoter thought she sang blues like her dad and offered to book her in Berlin if she would learn some blues. She learned 10 songs and was booked by the promoter and it launched her blues career. Teeny was well into her 30s at that point in her career.

We actually started Sunday evening interview off by swapping notes on a performance the prior evening of a lovely performer whose thin voice wasn’t able to withstand the rigors of a slamming, hard driving band.

I then remarked somehow to Teeny Tucker that the great Eastbay/World vocalist Lady Bianca had sang “Precious Lord” at my own mother’s funeral back in May. In a blues/gospel moment of synchronicity, Teeny admitted she had sung the same song at her own mother’s funeral back in February of this year. We then consoled each other with post funeral anecdotes relating to family dynamics.

I related to those in attendance, which included Teeny Tucker's bandleader, Robert Hughes, and my photographer, Gwen Windham, that Teeny would have been a natural to play the part of Etta James in the recent Cadillac Records film. Teeny then recalled a recent festival experience where she reprised the Etta James song, “At Last” and brought down the house.

CyberSoulChildren, I wish I could but play you all the audio tape of the interview. We covered a myriad of subjects in the 20 or so minutes the tape was rolling. She talked about her love of West Coast blues diva Sugar Pie DeSanto.

Teeny reminisced about sharing the stage in 2007 with the recently departed Chicago blues queen, Koko Taylor. She recalled what a kind, sweet woman Koko was and what a knock-kneed, nervous experience it was to sing a duet with the Queen. She will always remember the music tips that Koko gave her that day.

She recalled how early in her career under the compelling call of the stage, she drove from Columbus to New York in the dead of winter to audition at the Apollo Theatre. The payoff was the standing ovation she received.

As we ended our interview with Teeny Tucker she indicated that her forthcoming CD is nearing completion and should be released around Thanksgiving. She gave a joyous shout out to her fans old and new.

The Lake County News Crew then retired to the audience to witness her steaming set which included material from the forthcoming CD as well as a song written by her dad entitled “Daughter To The Blues.”

Monterey Bay Blues Festival Director Lee Durley composed a tune for Teeny Tucker that she opened her set with. She also did a bone chilling, gospel-inflected version of Bob Dylan’s “Serve Somebody.”

The finale was “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” the rouser popularized by Jerry Lee Lewis. Teeny, in a little history lesson, taught the crowd that the original version of the song was recorded by Big Maybelle who received $500 and an obscure footnote in the history of the blues for her efforts.

Teeny Tucker has enlarged Big Maybelle’s window of history with her current release, “Two Big M’s – A Tribute to Big Mama Thornton & Big Maybelle.” It’s a great album by a great artist celebrating the contributions to the world by two great foremothers of the Blues.

Information on the Monterey Bay Blues Festival can be obtained at . Visit Lake County News next week for a CyberSoulMan report on the July 4 weekend Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa.

Keep prayin’, keep thinking those kind thoughts!

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .

CHINO – A woman convicted of the 1987 murder of a local woman was denied parole for the sixth time.

The Board of Prison Terms denied parole to Jane “Daisy” Benson, 61, on June 24.

Bensen currently is serving a 17-years-to-life sentence at the California Institute for Women in Chino, according to a Friday statement from the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

On April 1, 1988, Benson was convicted of the second-degree murder of Elaine Wright and of using a firearm to commit the crime, and sentenced to 17 years to life by Judge Robert L. Crone Jr. Stephen O. Hedstrom, who is currently a Superior Court Judge for Lake County, prosecuted Benson.

The murder occurred on June 16, 1987.

Benson went to Wright's residence on Manchester Street in Clearlake to confront her and her boyfriend, because the boyfriend had stolen some property from Benson, according to the case background.

Benson entered the victim’s bedroom with a handgun, where the victim and her boyfriend were lying in bed, and fired two shots into the floor. Both the boyfriend and Benson exited the bedroom briefly, then Benson re-entered the bedroom to again confront the victim.

Witnesses inside the residence heard another shot, and found the victim in bed shot once in the heart.

Benson claimed that she accidentally shot the victim when she was bumped from behind by someone causing the gun to discharge. However, all witnesses at the scene stated that at the time the victim was shot, the only two people in the room were Benson and the victim.

Deputy District Attorney Edward M. Borg participated in the parole hearing from Lake County by video-conferencing to argue against Benson’s release. The video conferencing was arranged by the District Attorney’s Office to avoid having to send a representative to the prison facility. This saved the county and taxpayers funds that would have had to be spent for motel, air flight, car rental and meals for a deputy district attorney to make an in-person appearance at the hearing in Chino.

During the video conference hearing, Borg argued that the time Benson had spent in custody was not sufficient punishment considering the callousness of the crime and Benson’s consistent unwillingness to accept full responsibility for the murder.

Borg further argued that, based upon prison psychiatric reports, Benson still presented an unreasonable risk of danger to others if released because of her lack of insight into her actions and her lack of strategies to avoid re-offending if she were released.

At the parole hearing, Benson continued to claim that the shooting was accidental.

The Board of Prison Terms ruled Benson was unsuitable for parole.

She first became eligible for parole in 1999. This was Benson’s sixth appearance before the Board of Prison Terms to request parole.

Her last parole hearing was on June 26, 2008. The Board of Prison Terms found Benson to be suitable for parole after that hearing; however, that decision was subsequently overturned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

LAKE COUNTY – Seven nonprofit organizations, five high schools, senior centers and health programs have been selected as beneficiaries of this year’s Lake County Wine Auction, announced Margaret Walker-Stimmel, president of the sponsoring Lake County Wine Alliance.

The Wine Alliance, a nonprofit organization of wineries, winegrape growers, vineyard owners, related businesses and community supporters founded in 2000, raises funds to benefit “the arts, health and community” of Lake County, while promoting Lake County as a premier growing region for fine wine grapes. An all-volunteer board of directors and auction committee plan and direct the annual charity event.

This year’s Wine Auction, the 10th annual, will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the National Guard Armory, north of Lakeport.

In these times of challenging economic uncertainties for many local nonprofit programs and agencies, the sponsors recognized the need to limit expenses in order to donate more funds to the beneficiary groups.

Walker-Stimmel noted that over $714,000 in proceeds has been contributed to Lake County programs from the first nine events, held at the Buckingham Golf & Country Club with the support of owner Mark Wotherspoon.

The Wine Alliance board has expressed its appreciation to Wotherspoon and his staff for their exceptional contributions to the community through hosting the auction activities.

This year’s beneficiaries are the Allegro Scholarship Program, Lake County Hunger Task Force, St. Helena Hospital Clearlake Mammography Fund, Stitch and Give Knitters, Vietnam Veterans of Lake County, People Services Inc., Senior Law Project Inc., the fine arts programs at the five Lake County high schools and the Meals on Wheels programs at five senior centers.

A special “fund a need” portion of the live auction will benefit the Ely Stage Stop & Country Museum project of the Lake County Historical Society.

Beneficiaries were selected by the Wine Alliance board of directors and a committee of community members, and chaired by Judy Luchsinger.

The event is a black tie affair that showcases fine foods and wines from Lake County restaurants, caterers, and wineries. The ticket price is $100 per person and includes participation in the live and silent auctions and dancing to live music, provided this year by the LC Diamonds.

Tom DiNardo, sommelier diplomate with the International Sommelier Guild, is this year’s guest auctioneer. He will be joined by Stephanie Green, sommelier and owner of the Kelseyville wine shop, Focused on Wine.

Andy Beckstoffer, chairman and CEO of Beckstoffer Vineyards, and a major North Coast vineyard owner, is the Wine Auction event chair.  Congressman Mike Thompson, chair of the 2008 benefit, is a special guest.  Beckstoffer and Thompson continue their longtime support of Lake County and the expanding local wine industry.  Rob Roumiguiere, partner in Roumiguiere Vineyards and Wine Alliance treasurer, is this year’s master of ceremonies.

A record number of applicants submitted their funding requests to the Wine Alliance, demonstrating the number of programs in Lake County seeking financial assistance.

The recipient organizations will use their grants for the following projects.

The Arts: The Allegro Scholarship Program assists exceptional music students with financial needs and will receive $2,000. The fine arts programs at each of the five high schools in Lake County (Clear Lake High, Kelseyville High, Lower Lake High, Middletown High, and Upper Lake High) will share the balance of funds in this category.


The Lake County Hunger Task Force will receive $2,500 to assist senior centers and food banks with produce from its community gardens.

The balance of funds will be shared equally by the five senior centers that provide “meals on wheels” or nutrition programs and the St. Helena Hospital Clearlake Medical Imaging department for its no-cost mammograms to low or no-income women.


The Stitch and Give Knitters will receive $1,000 to help them provide knitted items to the women’s shelter, pregnant teen program, Head Start program, and newborn hats to the area hospitals.

The Lake County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America will receive $5,000 for its advocacy and outreach programs, including the Avenue of Flags at local cemeteries, and providing gifts to patients at extended care facilities.

Remaining funds in this category will be shared between Peoples Services Inc., and Senior Law Project Inc. People Services has been meeting the needs of the developmentally disabled in Lake County for 35 years. The Senior Law Project provides legal help to elder clients in Lake County.

The Ely Stage Stop & Country Museum project of the Lake County Historical Society will receive special attention through a “fund a need” live auction lot. The recently relocated structure is considered to be Lake County’s oldest “stick-built” building, dating to the late 1850s. It will be the centerpiece of a new interpretive museum for Lake County’s agrarian past.

Additional events include winemaker dinners at several locations on Friday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m.  More details about hosts and locations will be announced later. The proceeds from the dinners will also be contributed to this year’s beneficiaries. Tickets will be $60 per person, after the purchase of a ticket for the Wine Auction.

Members of the Wine Alliance board include Margaret Walker-Stimmel, president; Marie Beery, vice president; Pamela Shine-Duncan, secretary; Rob Roumiguiere, treasurer; and Kaj Ahlmann, Judy Luchsinger, Wilda Shock, and Janet Thompson, directors.

More information, tickets and reservations, and sponsorship opportunities may be obtained by contacting the Lake County Wine Alliance by phone, 866-279-WINE, by mail, P.O. Box 530, Kelseyville, CA 95451, or at .

An adult American barn swallow. Courtesy photo.



“When our clime the sunbeams gild,

Here your airy nest you build;

And, when bright days cease to smile,

Fly to Memphis or the Nile”

Jacob Henry Studer, 1840-1904, “Birds of North America” (1903)

Once caught by the thousands to be used in women’s hats, eating insects literally on the fly, and returning year after year to the same nesting sites, the American barn swallow is one of the harbingers of summer. A beautiful low-flying bird, I always look forward to the spring nesting ritual and the summer babies emerging from the nest.

The barn swallow is also the species the slaughter of which aroused in the mind of George Bird Grinnell such indignation that he wrote a vigorous article in 1886 on the incredible waste of bird life for millinery. That of course soon led to the founding of the first Audubon Society.

On the farm the comings and goings of the barn swallow is as familiar as the clucking of the hen or the challenge of the rooster, albeit a bit more melodious though no less beneficial.

Reportedly this species eats 70 percent of its diet in large flies, and having them around a farm or any other area that is prone to large populations of unwanted flying insects is immensely useful.

When they forage they fly low to the ground with their mouth wide open “catching” flies, mosquitoes, moths and other insects. Not one to allow an opportunity to go by they often will get an easy feed by following the tractor out in the field to “catch” the insects the tractor dusts up.

The barn swallow is a very cosmopolitan bird, having the widest distribution of all the swallows, with different subspecies nesting in North America, Europe and Asia.

Being a long distance migrant, they adjust to the seasons so that they can follow the warmth. In western North America they summer from the southern parts of Alaska to the central parts of Mexico, and they winter from south Mexico to the lowland portions of South America.

Their Latin name (Hirundo rustica) literally means “swallow of the country” so of course they are usually found in open habitats such as marshes, lakeshores, fields and farms. Their nests are typically a cup or funnel made of mud, clay, grass and plant stems.

In today’s world they tend to attach the nest to the side of a wall or on top of a ledge, and they prefer old comfortable barns with open rafters that make it easy for them to get in and out of while providing needed shelter. Before barns they would have resorted to nesting in the caves and crags found in the natural world but they have adapted well to human structures.

Female barn swallows lay between three to seven eggs, which are of a creamy white color marked with dark brown.

Watch out if you are around a barn swallow nest, for they will defend it by swooping down and around any creature great or small that comes near the nest.

Both parents assist in the incubation, which lasts about two weeks, and once the eggs have hatched both parents take care of the young. After about three weeks the young will leave the nest.

A monogamous yet social bird species, barn wwallows tend to occur in small flocks and are often seen perching in a row atop a power line or fence.

The song of the barn swallow is a cheerful warble, but I can always tell when the barn cat is around for their call sharpens and quickens.

The barn swallow is a common bird, found abundantly across the state. They are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, but as the plight of the passenger pigeon reminds us, just because a bird is abundant doesn’t mean it is safe.

Climate change may affect them in a variety of ways. Any drought can cause weight loss and slow feather regrowth, and hot dry summers will reduce the availability of insect food for chicks.

Many aspects of their ecology may also be affected by climate change, such as earlier springs that may cause some birds to migrate earlier due to the warmer temperatures.

As the saying goes, “One swallow doesn’t make a summer.” I do hope our beautiful guests of the summer will remain abundant for many generations to come.

Debra Chase is the executive director of Tuleyome, a local nonprofit working to protect both our wild heritage and our agricultural heritage for future generations. She resides on a small family farm in Colusa County. Visit the group online at .



Juvenile barn swallows cluster together in a nest. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – Firefighters quickly contained two small fires near Lower Lake and Kelseyville that broke out Friday afternoon.

The first fire, in grass along Highway 53 near Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, was reported about 3:30 p.m. Friday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

That fire was small and quickly contained; Cal Fire didn't have information on its size.

Later, another fire was reported north of Lakeport at Bridge Arbor Drive.

That fire, contained just after 6 p.m., burned about three acres, according to Cal Fire.

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

Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Board of Supervisors
07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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