Monday, 22 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man arrested earlier this week and charged with attempted murder was released from jail on Friday, with no criminal case currently filed against him.

Clearlake Police arrested Alejandro Mondragon, 31, on Wednesday, alleging he was responsible for stabbing two men – brothers Wesley Auten, 21, and Samuel Auten, 26 – during a fight at an Oak Avenue home earlier that day, as Lake County News has reported.

However, Mondragon, who tentatively had been scheduled for arraignment and was being held on $50,000 bail, was released on Friday with no charges formally filed against him, according to officials.

“At this point, the evidence we have before us is insufficient to file charges against Mr. Mondragon,” District Attorney Jon Hopkins said.

The decision not to move forward at this point surprised Clearlake Police.

“We had enough to go forward,” said Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain.

He said the Autens are being uncooperative in the case, which could be causing a hangup for prosecutors.

However,  McClain – who wanted to be careful to guard key information about the case – said his department had witness statements to support the case even without the Autens’ cooperation.

Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Sgt. Tom Clements at 707-994-8251.

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 .

UKIAH – A Lakeport man was the victim of a fatal head-on crash early Wednesday morning near Ukiah.

Officials still had not released the man's name late on Thursday, pending notification of kin.

Lt. Rusty Noe of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said he expected the information would be released Friday.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Scott of the Ukiah area office said the crash happened at about 6:50 a.m. Wednesday on the Russian River bridge, east of Highway 101.

The 49-year-old Lakeport resident, driving a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, was traveling westbound on Highway 20 and crossing the bridge at 50 miles per hour, said Scott.

Traveling the opposite direction was Edward Turberville, 33, of Santa Rosa, driving a Ford F-550 utility truck eastbound at 50 miles per hour, according to Scott.

Scott said the Lakeport man lost control of his vehicle and crossed into the path of Turberville, who wasn't able to avoid the crash. The two pickups collided head-on.

The Lakeport resident was pronounced dead at the scene, Scott said. Turberville was transported by ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center.

Scott said both men were wearing their seat belts.

While the cause of the crash is still being investigated, “Mechanical failure is not an issue,” Scott said.

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 .

The Walker Ridge project while it was under way. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.


WALKER RIDGE – A project to increase safety along a stretch of Highway 20 that has been the scene of several crashes over the last few years – some of them fatal – has been completed, Caltrans reported Wednesday,

The Walker Ridge curve improvement safety project in southern Lake County began construction in the fall of 2006, according to Caltrans.

“This project showcases Caltrans’ dedication to use context sensitive solutions, even in rural settings,” said Charlie Fielder, Caltrans District 1 director. “It also shows our commitment to improving highway safety while preserving the environment.”

The area had seen several major crashes in one particular downhill stretch near mile post marker 44.19, across from the old Turkey Run and Abbott mines, as Lake County News has reported.

The project made several improvements to increase safety year-round, officials reported.

Those improvements included improved drainage, widened shoulders, installation of radar speed signs, replacement of a tight 25 mile per hour curve with a gentle 55 mile per hour curve, and repaved 3.5 miles of highway with a top layer of open-graded asphalt for improved winter traction.

Caltrans reported that, of all the improvements, the most eye-catching is a tie-back retaining wall which is 380 feet long and varies in height from five to 50 feet. The wall is anchored, or tied back, to the hillside by steel cables grouted into 201 holes drilled up to 141 feet deep into solid rock.

The wall was aesthetically treated by spraying the surface with concrete, hand sculpting a rock texture, and then staining to match existing rock outcroppings.

During construction, impacts to the environment surrounding nearby Grizzly Creek were avoided or minimized, Caltrans noted. Measures were also taken to reduce impacts to native oak and elderberry, and oak seedlings were planted to replace oak trees which had to be removed.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY – Officials have released the name of a Lakeport man who died earlier this week in a collision in Redwood Valley.

Paul Brown, 49, was the victim of the head-on crash, which occurred on the Highway 20 overcrossing at Highway 101 on Wednesday, according to a Friday morning report from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

The crash occurred shortly before 7 a.m., as Lake County News has reported.

Brown was traveling westbound in his Dodge Ram pickup when he lost control and collided with a Ford F-550 utility truck driven by 33-year-old Edward Turberville of Santa Rosa, according to the California Highway Patrol reported.

The CHP said that Brown died at the scene.

Turberville also was injured in the crash and transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, according to officials.

Both men were wearing their seat belts, the CHP reported.

The CHP continues to investigate the crash's cause.

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 – Cold and wintery weather is in store for Friday, along with rain and a winter storm warning for northern Lake County that includes a chance for high winds and the first snow of the season.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento has issued a winter storm warning for northern Lake County, which will be in effect from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday, along with a 100-percent chance of rain for the entire county.

Strong wind with gusts up to 50 miles per hour will begin in the morning and continue throughout the afternoon, the National Weather Service reported. Snow levels are predicted to drop throughout the day and into the evening as the storm moves across Northern California, bringing with it 1 to 2 inches of rain.

The chance of snow is highest in the Mendocino National Forest area as the storm moves towards the east, with snow levels dropping to 3,000 feet in the afternoon in to the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency forecast temperatures on Friday that will only reach into the low 40s, with overnight temperatures near 32.

The Sierra Nevada mountains between the 3,000 and 6,000 foot elevations are forecast to receive between 4 and 8 inches, with up to 15 inches in the higher elevations, the National Weather Service reported.

A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice are expected. Strong winds are also possible, making travel very hazardous or impossible.

For updated weather information, please visit the Lake County News home page.

E-mail Terre Logsdon 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 .

ST. HELENA – Residents of the Cobb and Anderson Springs areas can expect a brief interrupting in 911 service early Friday morning.

Cal Fire reported that AT&T will be conducting fiber optic upgrades which will cause an interruption to 911 service for anyone who has a 928 prefix in the Cobb and Anderson Springs area of Lake County between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.

During that time anyone with a 928 prefix in need of an emergency response from fire, medical or law enforcement will be unable to reach emergency providers by dialing 911, Cal Fire reported.

Those in need of fire, medical or law enforcement during this time need to call the South Lake County Fire Protection District Fire Station 62 in Cobb at 707-928-5411, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire said additional staff will be on duty at the Cobb Station to receive emergency calls and route those calls to the appropriate emergency provider during the outage.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 a reverse 911 call will go out to residents in the 928 prefix as a reminder of the planned 911 outage on Friday.

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LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's superintendent of schools said Friday he won't seek reelection when his term is up next year.

“After much deliberation and discussion with my family and with my best friend and wife of over 40 years I have decided that after my term ends next year I will retire to spend more time with my family especially, my grandchildren. Time passes much too quickly and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be a part of their lives,” said Dave Geck in a statement released to Lake County News

Geck, 61, currently is in his first term as superintendent of the Lake County Office of Education, which has a $16 million annual budget and 120 employees. His current annual salary is $122,000.

He took office in 2006 after Dr. Bill Cornelison announced he would retire. After Geck won in the June primary, Cornelison stepped down in September so Geck could assume office early.

Geck  said he's excited about his final year as county superintendent, and will look forward to working closely with Lake County Office of Education staff and the county's schools and districts “as we continue to make the support of student learning our top priority.”

He said he's proud of the strong relationships his office has built with the county's school districts in an effort to improve the lives of students and their families, and noted it has been a privilege to serve the county.

In turn, fellow superintendents around the county – including Lakeport Unified’s Erin Hagberg, Bill MacDougall of Konocti Unified, Korby Olson of Middletown Unified and Dave McQueen at Kelseyville Unified – credited Geck’s efforts to support districts and provide much-needed services.

“As a county superintendent, Dave’s focus has been to support all Lake County school districts and their students,” said MacDougall. “The grant-funded services such as Healthy Start, Safe Schools, preschool and the after school programs provided by LCOE, under Mr. Geck’s leadership, have had a very positive impact on the lives of the children in this county.  It is an honor and pleasure to work with Dave.”

Geck told fellow superintendents about his decision at a Monday meeting, but asked them not to say anything until he was able to tell his staff and board, according to Olson.

Olson said he wasn’t surprised that Geck – who is at retirement age – isn’t seeking reelection, noting that a four-year term is a big commitment.

Geck’s career in education has spanned 34 years, the last 30 of which have been spent in Lake County.

During that time he has served in a number of capacities – as a high school counselor, principal, program director and assistant superintendent under Cornelison before seeking election to the county superintendent seat.

MacDougall, formerly the principal of Carle Continuation High School in Lower Lake, called Geck “a a visionary leader and a superb educator.“

Geck preceded MacDougall as principal at Carle, which Geck led to model school recognition. According to MacDougall, Geck “provided me with everything I needed to be successful when I took over as principal.”

Over the last two years, Geck's administration has faced scrutiny from the Lake County Grand Jury on a variety of issues, including treatment of employees, handling of finances and student-related matters.

In the most recent report issued this past summer, the grand jury faulted his handling of former administrator Allison Hillix's application to participate in a credentialing program for which she was not eligible.

In that case, Geck admitted he signed a form which he didn't check the accuracy of beforehand, and said new controls have been put in place to prevent such problems again.

In October, former Lake County superintendent of schools Judy Luchsinger – who served 16 years in the office before Cornelison defeated her in a reelection bid – announced that she would run for the office next year.

None of the other superintendents Lake County News contacted Friday were planning to run for Geck’s office.

Geck said the Lake County Office of Education has faced “unprecedented challenges” in dealing with the state's severe budget reductions over the past two years.

In spite of that, he said his office was able to expand direct support to districts and students. They added a career pathway in health sciences and increased the number of students accepted to colleges and universities through the College Going Initiative.

Olson said he appreciated  the flexible way in which the Lake County Office of Education has worked with the county’s school districts. He said Geck and his staff have worked to meet the unique needs of the districts, and have offered “outstanding” curriculum and instructional support.

Geck thanked his staff for never losing sight of the office of education's mission to support schools and communities with “planning, coordinating, facilitating and delivering exemplary services and educational programs.”

In his capacity as superintendent, Geck currently serves on a number of boards and commissions, including the Lake County Special Education Local Planning Area Governing Council and the Lake County First 5 Commission. He's the North Coast Representative to the California County Superintendents Educational Association Board of Directors, is a member of the State Pre-K Task Force, is a member of the Lake One Stop Inc. Board of Directors, is on the Board of the Friends of the Lake County Museum and is a member of the Mendocino College Foundation Board of Directors.

“It has been humbling to see day in, day out people saying yes to going above and beyond what is expected,” he said. “That is what I will miss most when I leave office next year. I will miss working with the people in our programs and with the people in our schools that make supporting students their top priority.”

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 .

HOPLAND – State budget constraints are forcing Caltrans to change one of its North Coast projects.

The agency reported this week that the scope of the Hopland Bypass project on Highway 101 in Mendocino County has been scaled back at this time.

Caltrans officials said the project will now only include widening Highway 101 from just north of the Cal Fire station to the existing four-lane freeway north of Nelson Road.

The project will be renamed the North Hopland Upgrade, Caltrans reported.

The scope modification recently was presented to the Mendocino Council of Governments, and Caltrans reported that it obtained the council's concurrence to proceed with the changes.

On Tuesday, Caltrans presented the modification to partner agencies and the Hopland Bypass Citizens Advisory Committee.

Caltrans reported that it is planning to hold a public open house in late 2010 to provide more details on this project and receive public input.

As updated information is made available it will also be posted to the project Web site, .

Questions and comments regarding the project should be directed to Project Manager Steven

Blair at 707-441-5899 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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LAKEPORT – Sutter Lakeside Hospital is preparing to launch its new Mobile Health Services Unit, which will make its long-awaited debut in a Thursday event.

The community is invited to come and see the new custom-made van, which will bring health services to a wide variety of people who have mobility and transportation challenges.

The launch party and ribbon cutting will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Sutter Lakeside Hospital campus, 5176 Hill Road East in Lakeport.

Tammi Silva, Sutter Lakeside's public relations director, said the mobile unit cost $297,000, which was made possible through community contributions and a $100,000 matching grant from Sutter Health.

Silva said the project has been in the works since the fall of 2006.

American Custom Coach built the van over the past year. The company's owner, Charlie Mello – who will be at the Thursday event – worked with the hospital to design the unit and even donated $25,000 worth of solar panels that are being installed on the van's roof, Sutter Lakeside reported.

The solar equipment – the installation of which resulted in a slight delivery delay – will supplement the vehicle's generator and help reduce day-to-day operating costs, according to hospital officials.

On a yearly basis, the mobile unit is expected to serve approximately 1,000 people who have difficulty accessing health care, Silva said.

Services will include health screenings, from dental and basic vision to well child and developmental assessments; immunizations for all ages; education; referrals for primary care physicians, specialty and acute illness care, pregnancy testing and family planning, kindergarten roundup and wellness services; and social service referrals.

Tours of the unit will take place during the Thursday event from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., with an awards ceremony from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and a ribbon cutting ceremony from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The medical team responsible for developing the clinical program and the medical professionals who will provide the care to patients will be in attendance, Sutter Lakeside Hospital reported.


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 .

Sutter Lakeside Hospital held a special dedication ceremony for its new mobile health services unit on Thursday, November 19, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Community leaders came together on Thursday to celebrate the culmination of several years of work to improve accessibility to local health care.

Sutter Lakeside Hospital's Mobile Health Services Unit was introduced to the community at the afternoon ceremony, held at the hospital's Lakeport campus.

The unit, which cost nearly $300,000, will provide a variety of screening services and annually serve an estimated 1,000 patients who have challenges traveling to health care providers.

Tammi Silva, director of the Sutter Lakeside Hospital Foundation as well as the hospital's public relations director, said the project's completion exemplified the community's dedication and perseverance.

She said the unit was introduced not as a business venture, but in answer to a community need, with an estimated 6,000 people of all ages countywide who have no access to basic health care.

The community responded to the effort, which included a 2007 fundraising event featuring actor Jamie Farr, who portrayed Corporal Max Klinger in the TV show “MASH,” which Silva said was in keeping with the mobile medical unit spirit.

She said the campaign never waned, even as the hospital faced financial struggles and fewer government funding sources.





Members of the service carry the men's cremated remains to their final resting places. Photo by Ginny Craven.






LAKEPORT – On a crisp autumn day the American flag flew at half staff and fluttered in the breeze.

The Military Funeral Honors Team of Lake County, Patriot Guard Riders, United States Army Honor Guard, friends, family and others gathered to say farewell to three veterans this past Monday.

The ceremony began when the Patriot Guard Riders rumbled into Hartley Cemetery with flags flying.

Seventeen riders, some from as far away as Roseville and Napa, joined locals to pay tribute to their comrades. They didn’t know the men being buried, but they knew they were veterans and that was enough to bring them together.

Monday morning was clear and bright as the bugler’s notes rang through Hartley Cemetery. The playing of “Taps” and firing of the traditional three round volley stirred the emotions of all in attendance to honor Harry E. Peckham (Navy), Perry A. McCosker (Army) and Jack C. Zent (Army) at Veterans Circle.

It is a privilege for ordinary citizens to attend services and pay tribute to our veterans. Honors are rendered and the appropriate thanks are bestowed upon those who honorably served our country.

Family members of the three men were proud of their loved ones and verbalized their deep appreciation for the presence of others honoring them.

The final farewell was honorable, just as the veterans who had earned it.

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The Patriot Guard riders arrive at Hartley Cemetery in Lakeport on Monday, November 16, 2009. Photo by Ginny Craven.



A folded flag about to be presented to a family member. Photo by Ginny Craven.


A member of the military prepares to salute after offering the flag for one of the veterans to a family member. Photo by Ginny Craven.

A bugler with the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team played

POTTER VALLEY – A Potter Valley man was arrested early Monday for allegedly shooting off a handgun while driving up and down a Potter Valley road.

Luiz Alfonzo Mez-Alvarez, 26, was arrested for discharging a firearm from a vehicle, having a concealed firearm in a vehicle and driving with a suspended license, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

At 1:20 a.m. Monday the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center received several 911 calls from the 9000 block of Potter Valley Road in Potter Valley, where a truck was reportedly traveling up and down the road and a subject inside was firing off a gun, according to Smallcomb's report.

Smallcomb said deputies responded to the area and located a truck in a parking lot in the 11000 block of Main Street with a male, later identified as suspect Meza-Alvarez, in the driver's seat, accompanied by a female passenger.

Upon contact with Meza-Alvarez, a Browning 9mm pistol was located on the ground near the driver's side of the truck. Smallcomb said several spent 9mm bullet casings were located in the bed of Meza-Alvarez' truck, and a magazine for the pistol was located in the driver's side sun visor.

Meza-Alvarez appeared to be intoxicated, so California Highway Patrol officers responded and conducted a DUI evaluation on Meza-Alvarez, whose blood alcohol level was found to be over the legal limit, Smallcomb reported. Meza-Alvarez's driving privileges were found to be suspended or revoked.

Meza-Alvarez was arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Jail, with his bail set at $35,000, Smallcomb said.

Smallcomb also reported that a search of the 9000 block of East Side Potter Valley Road revealed two discharged 9mm bullet casings.

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 .

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