Thursday, 25 July 2024


The team captains' meetings this year had themes such as purple, crazy hats and formal as a preview for contests during the Relay for Life. Courtesy photo.





LAKEPORT – The American Cancer Society Relay for Life Lake County is a special annual event involving participants from all over the Lake County who have joined in the battle to defeat cancer.

The event takes place this weekend at the Kelseyville High School Football Field, 5480 Main St. This year's theme is Hawaiian, so get out your Hawaiian shirts, dresses and leis and have fun with the group while supporting a great cause.

The relay begins with a Celebration Ceremony and Survivors' Lap at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 15, and continues with entertainment, games and contests all day. Fund raising for all teams will be held at each team site.

The Remembrance Luminaria Ceremony will start at dusk. The relay participants will continue walking all night.

The Fight Back and Closing Ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 16.

This year there are 57 participating teams made up of families, friends, organizations and school mates. Each person has their own reasons for joining in the fight against cancer.



This is Melisa Falgout's first year in the relay. Falgout is a registered nurse from Kelseyville whose employer, Keith M. Long, DDS, made a donation of $500 to Relay for Life which entitled him to sponsor a team.

Falgout convinced the office staff to have their own team, which is the relay's newest team this year, starting on May 6.

She said she will continue to have a team to celebrate cancer survivors and to remember those who lost their fight, adding that her goal is cancer education. She would like to start with the team captains so they could pass the information on to their team members and they, in turn, can pass the information on to family and friends.



This is Lucerne resident Beth Berinti's seventh Relay for Life.

Berinti, who lost her mother to cancer, is a cancer survivor herself since 1991. She started on a team from work her first year; was a team captain and committee chair for four years, event chair for two years and this year is online chair.

“I will be involved in Relay until there is a cure for cancer,” she said.



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Team captains sport wacky hats at a recent meeting. Courtesy photo.


LAKEPORT – Lakeport businesses were urged on Monday to keep an eye out for counterfeit bills similar to one recently passed at a business in the city.

Both Lakeport Police and the Lake County Chamber of Commerce issued warnings about counterfeit $100 bills being circulated in Lakeport.

Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department said a counterfeit $100 bill was passed at a local grocery store on May 6.

“They determined that the watermark showed that it was a $5 bill made to look like a $100,” Rasmussen said.

The investigation determined that the person who passed the bill had gotten it when they cashed a check at a local bank, where the bill may have been deposited in a night drop, he explained.

No one was taken into custody and so far it appears to have been an isolated event, Rasmussen said.

“Occasionally we get these kinds of bills circulating around town,” Rasmussen said, adding that he's not seen a rash of them in light of the economy.

If someone is going to pass counterfeit bills, they'll do it no matter what, he said.

Anyone who is presented with one such a counterfeit bill is urged to call the Lakeport Police Department at 707-263-5491.

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 .

LAYTONVILLE – Mendocino County officials arrested a man late last week who they allege tried to burn down the home he shared with his girlfriend.

Shawn McNeely, 42, was arrested May 7 on a charge of arson, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

On May 7 deputies responded to a residence on Meadow Lane in Laytonville regarding a possible arson, Smallcomb said.

When they arrived, deputies located a fire burning in the rear of the residence, in a small yard area. Smallcomb said the deputies also noted approximately 90 marijuana plants in a small carport which had the heavy odor of gasoline on and around them.

In their investigation, the deputies located a gasoline can and lawn mower which appeared to have been the source of the fuel for the fire. With the large amount of moisture in the grass and foliage around the residence, the fire had not burned well and was easy to put out, Smallcomb said.

At the residence the deputies contacted a female adult who advised she had been in a dating relationship with McNeely, according to Smallcomb.

That day, the couple had been at their home and McNeely had been drinking, eventually becoming inebriated. Smallcomb said the female requested McNeely leave the residence due to his drunken state, which he did.

However, Smallcomb said that a short time later, the electricity suddenly went off inside the residence. The woman stated that she believed McNeely was responsible for turning off the power.

A few minutes later McNeely entered the residence through the back door, Smallcomb said. The female stated she ran out the front door fearing there would be a physical altercation. She then called law enforcement and waited outside the residence in the woods until deputies arrived at the location.

Deputies searched the house for McNeely with no success, however they continued to search the woods and surrounding areas, until such time McNeely was located and placed under arrest, Smallcomb said.

McNeely told deputies he had been burning brush all day. Due to the close proximity of the fire to the residence and the obvious use of accelerant on the marijuana plants in the carport, it appeared McNeely was attempting to burn the property of another, according to Smallcomb.

Smallcomb said McNeely was transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for arson.

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It takes a special person to sit on a cow hide pulled by a galloping horse, but the traditional hide ride at the Middletown Days gymkhana is always a big hit with the audience. The gymkhana runs all day Sunday following Saturday's parade, barbecue, ranch rodeo, and dance at the 49th annual Middletown Days celebration June 19 and 20, 2010. Courtesy photo.



MIDDLETOWN – The 49th annual Middletown Days celebration is set for Father’s Day weekend, June 19 and 20, with the usual parade, ranch rodeo, dance, and gymkhana, plus some possible new attractions still in the planning stages.

This year’s theme is “Spirit of the Old West.”

The parade starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, with lineup beginning at 7 a.m. at Perry’s Deli on the south end of Middletown.

Entry forms are available by email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by calliing Susie Knowles at 707-987-3626.

Pick up forms at Lower Lake Feed and in Middletown at Hardester’s Market, CJS Ranch Supply, and Studio 175.

Get your entry in by June 13 to ensure a good spot in the parade lineup.

Parade entry cost is $5 for kids under 12, for $7 for adults, and $10 for organizations and groups.

Spectators should get to town by 9:30 a.m. to avoid getting caught in the detour traffic. Parking is available on all streets east of Highway 29, including a public parking lot at the corner of Washington and Douglas Streets. Parking will not be permitted on most streets west of the highway.

After the parade the fun moves to Middletown’s Central Park for a delicious country barbecue and the Ranch Rodeo. The rodeo starts at noon (signups at 11 a.m) and includes events such as mutton bustin’, junior hide ride, calf riding, a ribbon race, and a mystery event.

The traditional barbecue begins at noon and features tri-tip and chicken with all the trimmings, and the Cowboy Cafe will be open all day for hot dogs and hamburgers.

Parade awards and the karaoke contest start around 1 p.m. Vendors in the park include jumpy houses for the kids, lots of food, crafts and games.

As the sun goes down, it’s time to put on your dancing shoes for an evening under the stars with the Dave Russell Band. The dance starts at 8:30 p.m., and cost is $25 per couple, $15 for singles, and $10 for teens. Food, beer and other refreshments will be available in the park during the dance.

On Sunday morning, enjoy the annual Father’s Day Breakfast sponsored by the Middletown Lioness Club from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Cost is $7 for adults, $4 for kids 6 and under.

Then it’s on to some fun action in the arena with the gymkhana beginning at 11 a.m. (signups at 10 a.m.). Enter all five events in your age category for $30 for the day. There will be lots of great prizes.

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You never know what might happen in the annual Middletown Days parade, from a 4x4 pileup featuring the Lake County Crawlers to dancing horses and fairy tale characters. The parade takes place on Saturday, June 19, beginning at 10 a.m. along Highway 29 through downtown Middletown. Fun for the whole family follows at Middletown's Central Park on Saturday and Sunday. Courtesy photo.

Wanda Quitiquit (foreground), along with EJ Crandell, and Irenia Quitiquit and Marion Quitiquit in the background, protested her family's disenrollment at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice, Calif., on Friday, May 7, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



NICE – Throughout the day Friday, about two dozen American Indian community members and their friends stood alongside the entry into Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino, holding signs, shouting slogans and trying to bring attention to the situation of local tribal disenrollees.

The action comes in the wake of a Bureau of Indian Affairs decision last month to uphold the December 2008 disenrollment action carried out by the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council against a total of 67 tribal members, as Lake County News has reported.

Members of the Quitiquit family, several dozen of whom were disenrolled from the tribe, were back at the scene on Friday, a day they picked because it also was the fifth annual National Indian Day.

The group called for a boycott of the casino and demanded a hearing on what they argue are civil and human rights violations.

They carried signs with slogans that accused the tribe of offering the disenrollees no due process and misspending tribal and federal funding.

But the main issue was the disenrollment action, which has cut off the now-former tribal members from the rancheria and their cultural ties. They say disenrollment is an attack on their identity as American Indians.

“Why is the government backing this genocide on paper?” asked Wanda Quitiquit, one of her family's most vocal members.

A message left at the tribal office seeking comment was not returned.

Quitiquit, ironically, worked for years as a member of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization (AIRRO), to bring attention to the growing number of disenrollment actions across California and the nation before she herself became a target of it.

AIRRO has estimated 3,500 Indians have been disenrolled in California, with a total of 11,000 civil and human rights violations across the United States as a whole.

During the Friday protest, American Indians from other tribes – including Dry Creek in Sonoma County, and the Apache and Passamaquoddy, the latter from Maine – stopped in to ask questions, as did other community members.

Natives from other areas agreed that many of the problems facing tribes is all about money.

The Quitiquits and others whose names were removed from the tribal rolls say they are planning to appeal the BIA decision, with a letter expected to go out to the agency announcing that intention this week.

“We really don't want to go into court, but if that's the last thing we have to do, that's what we'll do,” Quitiquit said.

Even a favorable court decision doesn't guarantee a welcome back into the tribe, she said, pointing to court rulings in other states that still left disenrollees without resolution.

However, there are efforts to draw attention to the disenrollment problem, both from other activists and from Lake County's congressman, who is calling for a congressional hearing on the matter.

On April 29, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson wrote a letter to Congressman Nick Rahall, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, which includes the Office of Indian Affairs.

“Disenrollment of tribal members is an issue among tribes in my district and throughout California, as well as in other parts of the United States,” Thompson wrote. “In some cases, members are voted out of tribes for bona fide reasons such as their lack of relative bloodline and/or failure to meet membership or residency requirements in accordance with tribal constitutions. However, in other cases, there appears to be arbitrary removal of entire families for obscure reasons.”

Thompson explained that when Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968, tribal members who believed that their civil rights were abused had no legal recourse except to turn to the tribal bodies that were accused of civil rights infringements.

“On behalf of the growing number of disenrolled Native Americans, I believe this issue merits a congressional oversight hearing be convened to review enforcement of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968,” he said.

Late last week, Thompson's Washington, DC office told Lake County News that there had been no formal response to, or acknowledgment of, the letter yet.

Quitiquit said she and the others impacted by the disenrollment action are looking to Thompson for leadership at this time.

She credited him with being the only congressman standing up on the issue.

While the call for a hearing is welcome news to many of Lake County's disenrollees, Indian activists elsewhere are calling for more serious and systemic reform.

Laura Wass, director of the Fresno office of the American Indian Movement (AIM), is advocating for the California Indian Legacy Act.

That legislation, said Wass, “will bring everybody home and allow no more disenrollments whatsoever.”

Wass pointed out that the BIA and other governmental agencies “all love that gaming money,” which she said is a deterrent for action by some officials, who don't want to commit political suicide by going up against the tribes.

That, she said, doesn't make disenrollment a sovereignty issue, as many tribal and federal government leaders have argued.

Wass said the challenge is to get the people disenrolled from the various tribes together to work for a “full on movement,” because she believes the necessary federal changes are possible.

“It has to happen,” she said, otherwise disenrollments will continue.

“Eventually what's going to happen, I foresee, is that the tribes are going to dwindle down to families, then the feds are gonna step in,” she said.

A movement of Indians and Congress will get the necessary changes, she said.

“It's a very simple issue. You're either Indian or you're not,” she said, pointing out that Indians should qualify for membership based on blood quantum – or the percentage of Indian ancestry – and not be at the mercy of internal disputes.

Wass said that neither Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar nor his assistant deputy and BIA head Larry EchoHawk are doing anything about disenrollment.

While she believes they're willing to do something, “They are not going to do anything until they are pushed to do it.”

Wass, who is herself a California Indian, said “California is by far the worst place” for disenrollments, which she attributed to the combination of historical trauma, the fact that rancherias are made up of several tribes and that temporary fix-it policies for tribal issues are the norm.

“We don't know what it is to have a really full, strong tribal government and still maintain cultural identity,” she said.

The internal racism is “devastating,” she said, and only continues the trauma that tribes have endured historically.

As a result, Wass said the average life span for American Indians is 47, and Indians have a teen suicide rate seven times the national average. She asked how the BIA can dare turn its back on the problem.

“Here in this state we've got a major catastrophe on our hands,” Wass 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 .




Disenrollee Tonia Ramos shows a picture of Ethan Anderson, described as a kind-hearted and generous member of Robinson Rancheria, who is an ancestor to some of the current tribal members accused of being responsible for the disenrollment action. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

SANTA ROSA – A man who shot a disabled woman to death before setting her home on fire will spend the rest of his life in prison.

John Michael Wayne, 35, of Sonoma, was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 25 years to life, plus eight years, for the 2006 slaying of April Denton, a disabled Santa Rosa woman, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.

On March 8 a jury found Wayne guilty of first-degree murder and also found true two special circumstances of murder during the commission of robbery and murder during the commission of burglary and that Wayne used a firearm during the crime which caused death, Passalacqua reported.

“This killing exemplifies the tragic consequences of drug use and greed,” Passalacqua said. “I am very pleased that this man will never be free to prey on our community again.”

Denton, 52, lived at a semi-rural property located off of Santa Rosa Avenue, just outside the limits of the City of Santa Rosa, with her two dogs Athena and Britney.

According to the district attorney's report, she sustained a serious and debilitating back injury in an ice-skating accident a number of years before her death.

As a result of the injury she suffered chronic back pain, was unable to work and was prescribed large quantities of pain medications. Denton supplemented her limited disability income by selling, illegally, a small percentage of her pain medications.

On Jan. 22, 2006, firefighters responded to her home which was engulfed in flames. Denton was reportedly found in her bedroom, deceased, and badly burned over most of her body. Her two dogs were found dead inside the enclosed porch area of the residence having died as a result of heat and fire related injuries.

Denton's death originally was thought to be from smoke inhalation caused as a result of an accidental fire, according to the report.

It wasn’t until the autopsy on Jan. 23, 2006, when the cause of death was determined to be the result of a single gunshot wound to the right side of her neck, that law enforcement suspected this was a homicide.

Arson investigators examined the scene and concluded that the fire was arson and was set with the use of gasoline being deposited in several locations within the residence. A quantity of pain pills and cash were also found to be missing from her home, officials reported.

Wayne, who reportedly had a serious and longstanding addiction to pain medications, was a friend of Denton’s son, Benjamin. Wayne had purchased pain killers from April Denton on several occasions and on the evening of Jan. 21, 2006, he is alleged to have desperately wanted more pain medications.

The prosecution alleged that Wayne called a friend, Steven King, to go with him to Denton’s rural Santa Rosa home. At the time, Wayne lived at his parents’ home in the city of Sonoma; and Steven King was living with friends on a property located near Tolay Creek, next to San Pablo Bay.

Wayne drove King and another friend, Johanna Persi, to Santa Rosa, stopping near April Denton’s house. Neither Steven King nor Johanna Persi knew April Denton nor had they ever met her and neither had ever been to her house before.

According to the report, Wayne stopped his Suburban and walked away from the vehicle toward April Denton’s house which was down a dark driveway. King, who got into the driver’s seat and drove away from the area, had arranged with Wayne to return to the area in a few minutes and believed Wayne was going to a residence in the area to obtain drugs.

However, King drove back to his residence near Tolay Creek and shortly after arriving home, King received a phone call from Wayne asking King to come pick him up.

King and Persi drove back to Santa Rosa and picked up Wayne who admitted to killing April Denton. Wayne also was seen in possession of a quantity of prescription pills. Wayne said that they needed to burn down the residence in order to conceal his crime. They allegedly drove to a nearby rural location and Wayne and King syphoned gas into bottles.

It's alleged that Wayne drove back to the area and stopped near April Denton’s house, where he got out and took the gasoline bottles with him. King drove off with an understanding that he was to return in a few minutes to a predesignated spot to pick Wayne up. Wayne then disappeared from view. Wayne made his way to April Denton’s house, entered and set the house on fire for the purpose of concealing his crime.

Wayne, King and Persi then returned to Kings Tolay Creek residence. King allegedly took the gun and a knife from Wayne and threw the items into the San Pablo Bay which was just behind King’s house. Wayne burned his clothes in a burn barrel, before getting into his Suburban and driving away by himself. Both King and Persi testified at Wayne’s trial.

Steven King previously pleaded guilty to felony charges of arson and being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

The District Attorney’s Office and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office worked closely during this investigation and in presenting this case to the jury. Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner was the assigned prosecutor and Dave Pederson the lead sheriff’s investigator.

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A Friday plane crash claimed the life of a California Highway Patrol officer.

The CHP reported that Officer Dan Benavides was killed May 7 when the Cessna 206 patrol aircraft

he was piloting crashed in a remote section of desert southwest of the Salton Sea in Imperial County.

The CHP’s Border Division-based air unit, designated as Air-63, was en route to work a speed-enforcement detail on Interstate 8, when the El Centro Communications Center lost radio contact with its pilot, Officer Benavides around 9:30 a.m.

A military and multi-agency search and rescue operation for the aircraft was immediately initiated. At approximately 4:03 p.m., debris from the aircraft was located in a rugged, mountainous, desert area near SR-78, west of Split Mountain Road by a California State Park Air Unit.

Benavides was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the collision is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

“No one can choose how they die. You can only decide how you live,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “By choosing a life with the California Highway Patrol, Dan chose a life dedicated to the

service of the people of California. Each time he put on that uniform, he became a symbol of courage, honesty and integrity.”

A veteran pilot and 13-year member of the CHP, Benavides is survived by his wife and 9-year-old daughter.

He was assigned to the Border Division Thermal Air Operations Unit as a fixed wing aircraft pilot. He had been assigned to the Thermal Air Operations Unit since July of 2006. His previous assignments included working in the Monterey, San Jose, San Diego and Oceanside CHP Area offices.

Benavides joins 215 other fallen California Highway Patrol officers who, since 1929, have given their lives in the line of duty to protect the community in which they served.

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Supervisor Rob Brown and local preschoolers enjoy learning activities during his recent stint as a preschooler for a day on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Courtesy photo.





LAKEPORT – Proving he is truly “young at heart” and committed to quality early childhood education for Lake County’s young children, District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown recently enrolled in the Lakeport Early Connection Preschool for a one-day experience as a preschool student.

His participation is allowing advocates to raise awareness about the importance of quality early childhood education, said Shelly Mascari, director of the Lake County Child Care Planning Council.

The day began on April 28 at 8:15 a.m., and Brown enthusiastically joined circle time, during which teacher, Katie Mansell, guided the children through songs and activities reinforcing the seasons of the year, and their monthly theme of “growing and changing.”

Students were invited to bring in photographs of themselves as infants, and share with the class skills and abilities they now have that they didn’t have as babies. The children glowed with pride as they shared skills they had mastered.

This activity helps prepare children for success in elementary school, by increasing their self-esteem, and preparing them to confidently share their ideas with the group.

“Many children enter kindergarten without this ability, and those who have had the benefit of a quality preschool experience really hit the ground running and find early success, which increases positive attitudes about school,” said Shirley Littleton, site supervisor at Lakeport Early Connection Preschool.

Brown's busy morning continued with outside activities, during which the children learn the importance of physical activity for a healthy lifestyle. Mascari said he was a big hit, with the kids lining up for the tire swing.

The day’s activities continued with spatial awareness activities, like blocks and puzzles; and pre-math skills development with art and games. Mascari said Brown seemed to enjoy tracing letters in piles of shaving cream, an activity that is popular with all the students.

The highlight of the day was the creation of a worm farm, which provided a great hands-on science learning experience.

Quality early childhood education has been proven an effective way to eliminate the achievement gap and make sure all children have equal opportunity to succeed in school, Mascari said.

Recent research has definitively found that adults who had the benefit of quality early childhood education achieved (from the Perry/High Scope Preschool Study):

  • Higher monthly earnings (29 percent versus 7 percent earning more than $2,000 per month);

  • Higher percentages of home ownership (36 percent versus 13 percent);

  • Higher level of schooling completed (71 percent versus 54 percent completing 12th grade or higher);

  • Lower percentage receiving social services (59 percent versus 80 percent);

  • Significantly fewer arrests (7 percent versus 35 percent).

April was “Lake County Cares for our Kids” Month, which helped raise awareness about child abuse prevention, and the importance of quality early childhood education. Brown finished off a month of activities that included an Advocacy Walk, a Children’s Art Festival and the countywide paper doll project.

“Lake County is especially fortunate to have leaders who support children’s issues,” said Mascari.

She said that Brown enthusiastically participated in this activity, Supervisor Jeff Smith, showed his support in the Advocacy Walk and Art Festival, and Supervisors Denise Rushing, Anthony Farrington and Smith were set to participate in the Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award Dinner.

“We appreciate their support; it makes a difference,” said Mascari.

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LAKE COUNTY – With more uncertain times ahead for education, the Lake County Office of Education's (LCOE) Board of Trustees has taken a step toward creating a funding safety net for local school districts.

At a recent meeting, the Lake County Board of Education voted unanimously to establish a temporary “bridge” fund which would offer county school districts special loans.

County Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck said the loan fund will make available up to $1 million for school districts that temporarily need funds during times when the state has decided to postpone school funding.

“Districts can be assured that when the state creates cash flow emergencies the county office will be there to support them,” said LCOE Board President Patricia Hicks.

Geck said LCOE created the fund by using the reserve in its deferred maintenance fund account. He credited LCOE Business Services Director Michelle Buell with coming up with the idea.

Before approving the bridge fund, the LCOE board received a positive audit report from independent auditors, Robertson and Associates for the 2008-09 school year, Geck said. The audit showed that LCOE complied with the requirements of the state and federal programs it operates.

“There were no findings or questioned costs relative to the financial statement,” the audit stated. “There were no findings or questioned costs relative to federal awards or programs. There were no findings or questioned costs relative to state awards or programs.”

The auditor also commended LCOE and the Lake County Board of Education for its leadership in maintaining a strong budget position in these challenging budget times.

“Once we received the positive audit report it made sense that we could move forward with the loan fund proposal,” Geck said. “Districts are struggling with cash flow and this is a way to temporarily deal with a shortfall.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's “May Revise” to his budget is expected within the next week or so, and Geck said, at that point, districts will be making plans for next year, with cash flow likely to be a big issue.

“So we expect if a need surfaces we will be contacted,” he said.


Lakeport Unified School District Superintendent Erin Hagberg said Monday that, at this point in time, her district's business manager doesn't anticipate that they will need to borrow from LCOE's bridge fund.

“However, should cash flow become a problem for our district next year, we do appreciate having that option available for us,” Hagberg said.

Geck said LCOE works with the school districts to identify areas where it can support student learning.

“We operate many exemplary programs that are recognized regionally and statewide for their service to our schools and districts,” he said.

He pointed to programs like Healthy Start and the College Going Initiative, preschool and after school programs, certified nursing program graduation, summer school academies focused on algebra and science, AmeriCorps community service and reading tutorial programs, Community School community service activities, Safe Schools Counseling programs and teacher training programs in algebra and English language arts.

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 .

SONOMA COUNTY – The body of an abalone diver found on the Sonoma County coast on Sunday has been identified.

On Monday, Sonoma County Sheriff detectives positively identified the diver as 43-year-old Brett Shoji Uchiyama of Santa Cruz.

Uchiyama's body was found in the ocean by another abalone diver on Sunday at about 7 a.m. near Timber Cove Reef Campground, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported.

Officials reported that Uchiyama disappeared while abalone diving near the Reef Terrace portion of Fort Ross State Park on April 29.

He was diving with a friend who heard Uchiyama yell for help. The friend began diving in the area where he last saw Uchiyama, but he was unable to find Uchiyama in the rough water that had poor visibility, according to the report.

California State Parks officers, Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies and the sheriff's helicopter began an extensive search for Uchiyama to no avail. The search continued for Uchiyama for the next several days, officials said.

Preliminary results from an autopsy conducted Monday at the Sonoma County Coroner's Office indicated that Uchiyama's cause of death was probable drowning. He had blunt force head injuries consistent with hitting rocks in the rough waters of the ocean.

The final cause and manner of death will be determined once all toxicology and laboratory reports are completed, which could take several weeks, officials said.

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