Thursday, 25 July 2024


LAKEPORT – On Wednesday, during the 10th day of a Carmichael man's trial for felony boating under the influence, 10 witnesses gave statements, some of which contradicted portions of testimony given by a sheriff's captain on Tuesday.

Bismarck Dinius, 41, is facing felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury for an April 29, 2006, boat crash. He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber, whose girlfriend, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, died as a result of injuries in the crash. The sailboat is alleged to have been under way without lights and the prosecution alleges that Dinius was legally intoxicated.

On Tuesday, Russell Perdock was on the stand. Currently a sheriff's captain, Perdock was off duty when his powerboat collided with Weber's sailboat. He has not been charged in the case, but issues of his speed and responsibility have been linchpins of defense attorney Victor Haltom's case.

Perdock maintained on Tuesday that he was driving his powerboat at about 35 miles per hour, the sailboat wasn't lit and he didn't set foot at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa the night of the crash.

But testimony on Wednesday challenged critical portions of his testimony, from his speed to his whereabouts, with some witnesses maintaining they saw the sailboat with lights.

The day's first witness was Hans Peter Elmer, now a rancher in Montana. A retired police officer whose duties included being a watch commander of the East Bay Regional Park District's marine patrol, Elmer was at the Young Scandinavians Club, sitting on top of a picnic table overlooking Konocti Bay after dinner with his wife, when they witnessed the crash.

Elmer said he heard the powerboat coming around Fraser Point before he saw it enter Konocti Bay, with its running lights visible and the boat itself visible in light that was reflected on it. “I could see he was traveling at a very high rate of speed for nighttime.”

He recalled he told others at the club that night, “There's an idiot for you. He's going to kill himself or somebody else.” Five or six seconds later he heard the loud sound of fiberglass crashing together.

Elmer said he didn't see what the boat hit, because he had watched the powerboat and nothing else ahead of it. He estimated the crash occurred about 15 to 20 seconds after the boat came around Fraser Point.

He grabbed a cell phone and tried to call 911 but couldn't get through. He tried another cell phone and reached a 911 operator, who told him they were fielding other calls. Elmer told the dispatcher he and about 20 other witnesses were there and he suggested having a deputy come out to take their statements.

He said he dispatcher told him, “We've got it covered.” A deputy never came out and Elmer said local law enforcement never called him. Elmer said 10 days after the crash he heard the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office was investigating the incident and left four messages before then-Sgt. Charles Slabaugh called him back.

Hopkins asked questions about Elmer's police background. Elmer started as a police officer with the University of California, Berkeley in 1974 before transferring to the East Bay Regional Park District, the country's largest regional park system, which is located in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. He supervised patrol units in Contra Costa County and did boat patrol as well. He was promoted to sergeant in 1979 and retired in 1987.

Hopkins asked if he is familiar with how dispatchers can be overrun with calls during collisions. Elmer said yes.

Elmer, who has been visiting the Young Scandinavians Club since 1962, said the powerboat “sounded like a dragster” when it came around Fraser Point, traveling in a southwesterly direction.

He said its stern light disappeared in its wake five or six times as it traveled at a 45-degree angle before planing out. Even with the shore lights Elmer said he could clearly see the boat as it accelerated. He said he was afraid the boater was going to hit a log or dock and kill himself.

Elmer said he had a clear view of the whole bay, adding there is a flagpole there that his daughter always puts her underwear up when they visit.

As he watched the powerboat, he saw its lights go up in the air, come down and then it went dark.

Hopkins asked if he had said in other statements that there was no moon. “I don't remember that,” said Elmer.

Elmer said he had been counting to estimate the boat's speed, but couldn't remember at what number he stopped. “When I heard the crash everything else changed.”

Hopkins questioned him further about the 911 calls. Was it his opinion that the sheriff's office needed to send someone to interview he and other witnesses? Yes, said Elmer.

Several men from the club went out in a boat to offer help. “I could tell from the cries of help that somebody was seriously injured,” said Elmer.

“Why did you think they could spare somebody to talk to you?” Hopkins asked.

Elmer said the dispatcher didn't take his name and number when he tried to give it to her. In all Elmer made three 911 calls. “They told me they had it covered. I assumed that meant they were going to come out and talk to me.”

When Haltom attempted to ask Elmer to give an estimate of the powerboat's speed, Hopkins objected, saying, “That's beyond the scope.”

Byrne sustained, saying it's beyond the scope of the expertise for Elmer that had so far been established. “I think you're asking for speculation.”

Haltom asked to offer proof, and then asked Elmer if he had watched boats and estimated speed before. Yes, said Elmer, in the scope of employment. He also received training in estimating boat and traffic speed.

Hopkins still challenged the foundation for the evidence. But when Elmer estimated the boat's speed at between 50 and 55 miles per hour, Byrne allowed it to stand.

Had Elmer paced cars and done radar? Hopkins asked. Yes, said Elmer. He'd also done it on boats.

“You feel pretty comfortable about your ability to fix a speed?” Hopkins asked.

Elmer said yes, noting that he had written “a couple hundred” citations to boats for speeding. Hopkins asked how many were at night. Elmer couldn't say, but he was confident that at night it's even easier to determine speed due by using points of light.

What if the stern drive's engineer said the stern drive would have broken off above a certain speed? Hopkins asked. “I know that guy was going way faster than 40 miles per hour,” Elmer replied.

Knight was invited on nighttime cruise

Julie Knight testified to going to Richmond Park Bar & Grill in the hours before the crash with her friend, Jean Strak.

There they were eating, dancing, singing karaoke and watching the sailboats. She met Dinius there, and he invited her and Strak out on the night cruise but they declined.

Asked if the lights were on, she said, “They were. Absolutely,” noting she waved goodbye to them as they left.

Under Hopkins' questioning, she said said arrived at the restaurant about 7 p.m. Hopkins asked if she and her friend hadn't arrived at either 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. Knight believed it was later in the evening, but said it could have been earlier.

She was drinking champagne that evening when she and Strak met Thornton. They had dinner and she met Dinius at the bar, where he bought her a couple of drinks.

“Was Mr. Dinius being flirtatious with you?” Hopkins asked.

Knight said she didn't think so, saying he was just having fun. They talked but she added, “I wasn't hanging out with him,” because they were with different groups.

She went outside with Strak, who was smoking a cigarette overlooking the boats. “It was getting dark and it was lit up,” Knight said of the sailboat. She didn't recall a motor.

Hopkins asked if she had told an investigator that she got to the restaurant at 3 p.m. and watched the races. “I don't recall talking to anybody.” She did, however, remember, talking to Haltom's investigator more recently.

Statement places Perdock at resort

Next up was Dennis Olson, formerly assistant director of security at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. He was transported from the Lake County Jail, where he is serving time in connection with a hit and run that occurred last year. When he appeared before the jury he wore street clothes.

Olson said he knows Perdock – he'd seen him at the resort over the years and their children were on the same sports team – and he saw him at the resort “several times” over a few hours.

He said Perdock was at the main bar and the outdoor Tenderfoot Bar, where he was with a group of five adults, males an females; he didn't recall children being with the group. About 60 people were at the resort that night.

Olson didn't remember seeing Perdock's friend Craig Scovel, who had testified to being at the resort the night of the crash. If he had seen Scovel, who he knew, Olsen said he would have said hello.

He said he recognized Perdock's boat, although he could not describe what it looked like. He saw the boat leaving the resort's harbor but didn't recall Perdock getting into it before it pulled out. Olson said Perdock's group was saying it was “dead” at Konocti Harbor and they were going to Richmond Park.

He said he heard about the crash just after 9 p.m., about 25 minutes after he saw Perdock's boat leave the facility. That's when a 911 dispatcher called the resort's front desk to ask for help with landing a helicopter.

Olson saw Young Scandinavian Club members come in that night, noting they appeared shaken up. Sheriff's deputies also walked through the resort and asked if Perdock had been at Konocti Harbor that night.

Hopkins asked Olson what he remembered about the helicopter landing. Olson said they set up the landing spot in an upper part of the resort where helicopters have landed before. They put down flares and sandbags to hold them down. He said an ambulance came up and a person was loaded onto the helicopter. Later the deputies told him it was a woman who had been involved in a crash involving Perdock.

Did Olson remember the deputies? Olson said there was something said at the crash scene that Perdock was there. “I'm not asking you for the whole conversation, I'm just asking you if you remember who the officers were,” Hopkins said.

Olson didn't recall if the ambulance or helicopter left first. He didn't remember a concert that night.

During testimony, Olson said during his 10 years working at the resort he had seen Perdock drink at the resort during some of his visits, but added that he never saw him drink when he was running his own boat.

Strak recalls a well-lit sailboat

Jean Strak told the jury that she saw the sailboat completely alight before it set out on the lake that night.

She said she and Knight got to Richmond Park at about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., met a lot of people and talked to Dinius, who invited them on the sailboat. Strak wanted to go on the cruise but Knight didn't want to.

“I saw the lights on,” said Strak, who worked for Bayshore Marine Service and now supervisors Konocti Harbor's marina. If she hadn't seen the lights, “I woulda yelled at 'em.”

Strak, who said the whole boat was lit up with white lights all around it, stated that a uniformed deputy came to her tanning salon in the Clear Lake Riviera the following week to interview her for an hour. She also gave a statement to an insurance adjuster.

Watching the boat pull out as she smoked a cigarette, Strak remembered a “little tiny motor” being used to pull the boat out. At that point, “It wasn't pitch black but it was just after dusk,” she said. “It was to the point where I would have known if the lights weren't on.”

Hopkins – pointing to Sgt. Dennis Ostini, sitting beside him at the prosecution table – asked if he had interviewed Strak at her salon. “No, he was younger,” she said of the deputy who interviewed her, adding, “No offense.'

Strak was positive that she spoke with the deputy within a week of the incident, but she couldn't remember his name.

Witness claims something is “fishy” with case

Peter Erickson was with Elmer at the Young Scandinavians Club the night of the crash. He was helping clean up dishes after dinner, and didn't see the accident, but he responded to it on his boat along with four others.

He said he drove his boat out very slowly to the scene, which he found following Elmer's directions. “It was completely pitch black. You could barely see in front of the boat.”

The night was so dark that they were 60 feet from the sailboat, darkened after the crash, when they came upon it, Erickson said.

He said he asked if everyone on the boat was all right, and they told him they needed help immediately. “It sounded like the guy was crying.”

Two of the men on his boat got onto the sailboat and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Thornton while others called 911.

Erickson initially thought the crash site was a crime scene, and he was reluctant to move the boats. He said he was yelling at another boat in front of him to get out of the way as he towed the sailboat to shore and was told the boat couldn't be moved because it was disabled, a reference to Perdock. Hopkins objected and moved to strike the statement, and Byrne sustained.

Erickson towed the sailboat in to Boren Bega, where paramedics cared for Thornton and Ostini interviewed him.

“He told me the lights were off on the sailboat,” Erickson recounted of his interview with Ostini. Another deputy took names and information.

Erickson said he saw Perdock on shore. “He seemed very agitated and he was talking on the cell phone for a large portion of the night.”

He recounted hearing Perdock making a statement about having a soda at Konocti Harbor and going to Richmond Park for a soda.

“It was the most chaotic night of my life,” said Erickson. “It was almost surreal.”

Erickson and his friends later went back to the club and then on to Konocti Harbor, where he had contact with Olson.

Under Hopkins' cross-examination, Erickson maintained he definitely heard Perdock talking about getting a soda at Konocti Harbor while speaking with deputies.

At the scene deputies kept walking up to Perdock and shaking his hand. “I thought that was weird,” he said, so he tried to get closer so he could overhear what was being said.

Erickson believed he saw Perdock at the scene after midnight, and Hopkins asked him if it would be different if there were hospital records showing otherwise. Erickson's response was that everything in the case was “fishy.”

He added, “I don't believe a lot of what's been said,” but he said he had no bias in the case.

Following the crash the men went to Konocti Harbor for a last call, said Erickson. “Our nerves were frayed, our adrenaline was pumping, it was chaotic.”

Hopkins asked if Elmer told him the boat was going 60 miles per hour that night. “He said it was flying,” Erickson said, adding he believed it was going between 50 and 55.

Erickson maintained the boat was going “way too fast for conditions.”

“I know that because there was an accident and people died so it wasn't a safe speed,” he said.

Resort security director says he saw Perdock before the crash

Defense team member Paige Kaneb questioned the next witness, Joe Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's security director since 2004.

Gliebe and Olson worked on the night of the crash, and together assisted with the landing of an air ambulance helicopter that Gliebe said didn't end up transporting a patient, contrary to Olson's earlier statement. He said there also wasn't an ambulance that came to the resort to meet the helicopter.

Gliebe, who said he knows Perdock through the sheriff's office and as a patron, said he saw him earlier that night on a ramp coming from the marina into the resort's outdoor Tenderfoot Bar. It was getting dark and Gliebe said Perdock was a distance away that in court was estimated to be about 20 feet.

He said he waved at Perdock, briefly said hello and continued in his rounds. Gliebe successfully picked Perdock's picture out of a photo lineup presented to him by District Attorney's Office investigators, as Olson also had done.

Gliebe also remembered sheriff's deputies walking through later that night, which he said is common.

Myra Martinelli, a Konocti Harbor security guard who wasn't on duty that night, gave the shortest amount of testimony so far. In only about a minute on the stand, she recounted that she was heading to the resort that night to hang out and heard about the crash on a police scanner about 15 to 20 minutes before arriving.

Martinelli said she got to the resort at about 9:45 p.m., where she interrupted Gliebe and Olson, who were her superiors in the security department, talking about the crash. She said she heard them mention Perdock, a statement to which Hopkins objected. Byrne sustained the objection.

Haltom did not question her further and Hopkins did not cross-examine Martinelli.

Ex-wife disputes Perdock's time line

Perdock's ex-wife, Donna, took the stand Wednesday afternoon. Her testimony contradicted an events time line Russell Perdock submitted to District Attorney's Office Investigator John Flynn.

She said she was at home with her son and his friends, who were over for a slumber party, when she received a cell phone call from her then-husband to tell her about the crash. The call cut off and she couldn't reach him, so she called his mother.

Later, she left after midnight to pick him up from the emergency room at Redbud Community Hospital, since renamed St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake. She found him with sheriff's Chaplain Bob Sola. He was bleeding from the head and briefly told her what happened.

“He was upset. You could see that,” she said.

She said she only ever saw him wear glasses when he came home at night. The doctor had given him a prescription which she thought were for tired eyes.

Haltom asked if Russell Perdock drives fast in his speedboat, and if he finds it exhilarating. Donna Perdock said yes.

The day of the crash began with her making breakfast for their son and helping pack his things for a Scout hike. She disputed Russell Perdock's account in his time line that he made breakfast for his son.

Later, when they gathered for a birthday party for their son at Lower Lake pizza parlor, she said he arrived at 3 p.m., not 4:50 p.m., saying that the time line only allowed for an hour and 10 minutes for a birthday party attended by seven or eight boys. Donna Perdock said he had a beer at the pizza parlor.

She estimated he spent 45 minutes getting his powerboat ready to put in the water. She asked him not to go because she had three of their son's friends staying over for a slumber party, but she said he told her to “deal with it,” and left in the boat at around 7 p.m., not 8 p.m. It was still light at the time.

When it was rough water, Russell Perdock drove his powerboat slower, she said, and faster when it was smooth. She said the boat went on plane at 30 miles per hour.

Haltom briefly recalled Ostini to the stand, asking how long the sailboat was left unattended at the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility on the day following the crash. Ostini said it was from 2 a.m. to about 9 a.m.

“I made a mistake. I should have had somebody on it,” Ostini said.

At the time, he said he didn't think they had the equipment or resources to get the boat out of the water at 2 a.m. “It took multiple people to do that.”

Speed skier says he and Perdock raced their boats in hours before crash

John Jansen, a speed skier, was the day's last witness. He said he spent much of April 29, 2006, on the lake, practicing with friends.

He said he knew of Perdock, who he saw socializing, with a drink in his hand, at Konocti Harbor's Tenderfoot Bar at around 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.

Later, at around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., Jansen said he and Perdock raced across the lake to Pine Dell Resort.

It took only a few minutes to get across the lake in Jansen's fast boat, which he said outpaced Perdock's. “I just shut my boat down. There's no way he was catching me.”

After the race, Jansen said Perdock came up to him and they talked briefly about boats before Perdock went on his way. Jansen then headed back to the resort, running his boat around to see if anyone could beat him. Back at Konocti Harbor, he said he didn't see Perdock there.

Hopkins asked Jansen if he knows Denise Rockenstein, reporter for the Clear Lake Observer American and the Lake County Record-Bee, and if he was at the Lakehouse Inn in Clearlake with two friends talking about racing to Pine Dell in Rockenstein's presence. He said no.

Did he tell Rockenstein about the race? Hopkins asked. “She questioned me about it,” said Jansen.

Hopkins asked if Jansen told Rockenstein that he raced with Perdock in the afternoon. “No, I told her it was in the evening.”

At the end of court Judge Byrne told the jurors they were ahead of schedule in the trial, with evidence likely to be completed Aug. 18. Final arguments and instructions are tentatively scheduled for Aug. 20, with the case going to the jury either Aug. 20 or Aug. 21.

“The case will be in your hands and I can't tell you how long it will take,” said Byrne.

Testimony continues Thursday.

Witnesses so far, in order

Day one (following opening statements): James Ziebell, sailor, helped skipper Beats Workin' II in Konocti Cup; Doug Jones, past commodore of local sailing club; Anthony Esposti*, fisherman; Colin Johnson*, fisherman.

Day two: Lake County Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Andrea Estep*, phlebotomist, St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake (formerly Redbud Community Hospital); former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland; LaDonna Hartman, phlebotomist, Sutter Lakeside Hospital; retired sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman; California Department of Justice criminalist Gregory Priebe, Santa Rosa lab; California Department of Justice criminalist Gary Davis, Sacramento toxicology lab.

Day three: Jennifer Patterson, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Gina Seago, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Jordin Walker, passenger on Russell Perdock's powerboat; James Walker*, high school friend of Perdock's and passenger on his powerboat; sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed*; sheriff's communications operator Kimberly Erickson; sheriff's Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells*.

Day four: Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator; John Yount, criminalist with the California Department of Justice's Santa Rosa lab; sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day five: Richard Snyder, retired Mercury Marine engineer; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day six: Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office; California Department of Justice criminalist Toby Baxter; retired Sgt. Wes Frey, Lake County Sheriff's Office; Jeff Holdener, who responded to the crash scene via boat; Stephanie Green, friend of Weber and Thornton, who saw them leave in the sailboat a few hours before the crash; Craig Scovel, friend of Perdock's who assisted in taking his boat and trailer to the sheriff's Boat Patrol building.*

Day seven: Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator. The prosecution rested.

Day eight (Defense begins presenting case): Dr. William Chilcott, forensics engineer; Mark Weber, owner of the Beats Workin' II and Lynn Thornton's longtime boyfriend.

Day nine: Mark Weber; Brian Stole, witness at Bayview Estates; Zina Dotti, passenger on the Beats Workin' II; Ed Dominguez, passenger on the Beats Workin' II and Dotti's fiance; Russell Perdock, owner of Baja powerboat that hit the Beats Workin' II.*

Day 10: Hans Peter Elmer, retired police officer, witnessed crash from Young Scandinavians Club; Julie Knight, met Dinius at Richmond Park and saw sailboat leave; Dennis Olson, formerly assistant director of security at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa; Jean Strak; witness at Richmond Park; Peter Erickson, responded to crash from Young Scandinavians Club; Joe Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's security director; Myra Martinelli, Konocti Harbor security guard; Donna Perdock, Russell Perdock's ex-wife; John Jansen, ski racer.

* = Indicates a witness subject to recall at the request of the defense.

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


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Firefighters responded to a wildland fire in the Mendocino National Forest on Wednesday afternoon.

Dubbed the Summit Fire, the blaze was reported at around 1:30 p.m., according to Mendocino National Forest spokesperson Tamara Schmidt.

Schmidt said the fire is located near the Summit Springs trailhead on the southern edge of the Snow Mountain Wilderness in Colusa County,

At 4 p.m. Schmidt estimated the fire was between 15 and 20 acres in size, with multiple spot fires. By 5:30 p.m. the fire was reported to have grown to 40 acres.

“We're still in initial attack,” said Schmidt.

She said the fire had a slow rate of spread, despite the fact that winds were contributing to the spot fires.

Schmidt said the resources working the fire late Wednesday included one engine, one lead plane, three air tankers, one air attack, four hand crews, three helicopters and eight smokejumpers.

Because the fire is in a remote location, Schmidt said firefighters were having to hike in to it.

Firefighters were making good progress, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said a cause for the fire hasn't been reported.

Lake County News received reports from residents around Lake County who saw smoke from the fire on Wednesday afternoon.

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

Barry "Big B" Brenner opened each of the four nights of the third annual Blue Wing Blues Festival. Photo by Abby Brenner.


UPPER LAKE – About midway through the set of the Bottle Rock Blues & Rhythm Band’s set, vocalist Neon Napalm asked the crowd to join her in a moment of meditative Zen; a quick moment of silent appreciation, not only for the artistic vision of Bernie and Lynne Butcher, but also for the good fortune of just being able to be blessed by the music, food and camaraderie we all experienced at the third annual Blue Wing Blues Festival.

It was certainly a unique moment, one that perhaps went past some of us in attendance, yet appreciated as well by audience members who realize that this burgeoning event is destined to cement and enhance the perception of the capabilities of what goes on in the County of Lake.

This year’s festival kicked off on Wednesday, Aug. 5, in the picturesque garden courtyard between the Tallman Hotel and Blue Wing Café & Saloon.

Opening each night of the four-day festival was renowned country folk blues artist Barry “Big B” Brenner.

Mr. Brenner was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side and is heavily steeped not only in the traditional blues that migrated to Chicago and became an urban style of its own, but also the regional styles that migrated to the big city, including Mississippi Delta, Texas Plains, Piney Woods, Piedmont Seaboard, Ragtime and Louisiana Swamp Bayou.

A virtuoso on six-string, 12-string and National Resonator, Brenner keeps four guitars on stage and intersperses them all throughout his set list which included selections from masters such as Tampa Red, Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly and so many others. A craftworthy and accomplished songwriter, Big B also performs original works.

Over the four nights, Brenner proved to be not only a great player, but accommodating and gracious to the attendees also. Often he inserts vocal histories and anecdotes into the performance, educating and entertaining. It was a welcome return to the Blue Wing for Brenner, who last played here at the original Blue Wing Festival back in 2007. More info on “Big B” Brenner can be obtained at .

Lynne and Bernie Butcher, speaking separately yet of the same mind, concurred that the stark contrast between Barry Brenner's strictly acoustic roots-inflected sets and the electric blues ensembles of Mighty Mike Schermer, Chris Cain, Levi Lloyd, Twice As Good and Curtis Lawson made for a first class festival event.

One of the festival goers was also heard to remark that in the near future they're gonna have to block off Main Street in Upper Lake to contain the blues-loving throngs.

Closing the opening nights festivities was the Mighty Mike Schermer Band with special guest, Lara Price. Now some of you know of the resume of Mighty Mike. This is the guy whom Elvin Bishop says kicks his booty every night they play together.

For over 20 years Mighty Mike has solidly represented on guitar other heavyweights including Willie Dixon, Booker T., Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur Howard Tate, The Gospel Hummingbirds and many, many others. He has a smokin' new CD entitled “Live Set” and he and the band reprised much of it Wednesday night

When Schermer, the fellowette and fellows hit the stage the first thing he inquired was, “got any blues lovers in the house?” They then launched into their arrangement of CC Rider and by the second number, “Jump, Rock & Wail,” the dancers in attendance were up an moving.

Midway through the third number, Schermer had to come out of his jacket. It was gettin' hotter up there. Schermer and his very talented saxophonist Nancy Wright traded “touch the sky solos” throughout their set.

Mike Schermer is the author of the song “Big Sister's Radio,” a poignant, autobiographical, intensely soulful rocker that was No. 1 on XM radio in 2006. When he played it Wednesday night, the CyberSoulMan went a little nuts and sang along a little too loudly. When he hit a wrong note and was looked at crazily by a nearby blues lover, he shut up and went back to reporting to you what went on.

What transpired next was the introduction of the dynamic Lara Price. The music press keep calling her up and coming but trust me, she's already here. With four CDs already released, Ms. Price also has four live projects she performs with – Lara Unplugged, Velvet Plum, The Lara Price Band and Lara Price & Yesterday's Band.

She came out singing “I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water” and followed it with a blues medley that included, I believe, “The Love You Left Behind.” She and Mighty Mike then did a cover of Ike and Tina Turner's “It's Gonna Work Out Fine.” It was a great and different arrangement of a wonderful song. In fact it was one of the first records, that the young CyberSoulBoy bought. Ever!

The Schermer Band closed their first set with an extended jam medley that kept the dance floor sizzlin'. The songs included “Honky Tonk,” “Shotgun,” “I Got You,” “Knock On Wood,” “Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” “Pretty Woman,” “Satisfaction,” “Paint It Black,” “You Really Got Me,” “Shout,” “Tequila,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Wipeout.” The list goes on from there. I think they were out to hurt the dancers!

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

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



Levi Lloyd and Bettie Mae Fikes get the crowd hopping at the Blue Wing Blues Festival. Photo by Abby Brenner.

LAKEPORT – In between testimony from numerous witnesses on Wednesday, the prosecution, defense and judge in a fatal sailboat crash discussed concerns over a possible indirect contact between a juror and the district attorney, and arguments were presented on whether or not to take the jury on a nighttime boat ride.

In the end, Judge J. Michael Byrne, who is presiding over 41-year-old Bismarck Dinius' trial for felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury, decided there was no issues with the juror and that he would deny the defense's request for the trip onto the lake.

Dinius' trial is now in its third week. He was at the tiller of Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, on the night of April 29, 2006.

Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, died of injuries she suffered in the crash, which the prosecution argues was Dinius' fault because he allegedly was steering the boat and was under way without navigation lights, and is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

On Wednesday morning, before testimony began, Byrne and the attorneys discussed a letter submitted to them by Carol Stambuk, a friend of Thornton's and the executor of her estate, regarding a potential indirect contact involving District Attorney Jon Hopkins and a juror.

Hopkins said he was having lunch at Angelina's Bakery when he saw an acquaintance who was having lunch with one of the jurors. “I had no conversation with the man I know while he was having lunch,” Hopkins said.

Byrne said he saw no issues, although it was good that it was pointed out. He said he expects it to happen since there are so few places to eat downtown. The judge also was reluctant to question the juror about it due to concerns about making the individual feel pressured.

However, during an afternoon break defense attorney Victor Haltom raised the issue again, saying he had spoken with Stambuk about what she had witnessed.

“I don't want to single out this juror,” Haltom said. “I do think there needs to be an inquiry.”

Byrne had Stambuk take the stand and put her under oath, then began questioning her about what she saw at Angelina's Bakery on Tuesday.

Stambuk said she saw a juror at the next table eating with a man who was not identified. Hopkins came into the restaurant, and the male subject with the juror got up and hugged Hopkins.

As the juror and the man were leaving the restaurant, Hopkins' acquaintance turned back to Hopkins and said, “Good luck with the case,” which Stambuk said she could hear from across the room.

Haltom and Hopkins both took brief turns questioning Stambuk. Hopkins asked her about where each of the parties were in relation to each other and distances. He asked if she was the person who brought the civil lawsuit in relation to Thornton's death. Stambuk, who has been at the trial almost every day, said yes.

Byrne called out the male juror and briefly asked him questions. The man acknowledged seeing Hopkins but said he and the other male didn't discuss the case. “We talked football,” the juror said, noting that he didn't hear his friend say anything to Hopkins.

The judge then asked the juror if he was bothered by the questions, and he replied no.

Afterward, Byrne told the prosecution and defense he was “personally satisfied” there was no issue with the juror.

Attorneys discuss witnesses

Following the last witness Wednesday and after the jury was dismissed for the day, Haltom told the judge he wanted to call to the stand this week Deputy District Attorney John Langan, who formerly had prosecuted the case.

Haltom said he wanted to question Langan about why no report was ever filed on the statement witness Jean Strak said she gave a sheriff's deputy. On Wednesday Strak testified that she had seen the sailboat's lights on when it was leaving Richmond Park Bar & Grill for the night cruise during which it was hit.

“Are we going to call the secretaries, too, to see if they didn't get one?” Hopkins replied.

He called Halton's request “nonsensical,” and announced his intention to call rebuttal witnesses with respect to the issue.

Hopkins said he and his investigators currently are examining the sheriff's automated records to see if a sheriff's deputy ever talked to Strak. He said the issue isn't relevant unless a report was made.

Haltom replied that it's very relevant because part of his case is based on the idea that “these guys were in a campaign, from day one, to say, 'Lights not on, let's protect Perdock.'”

He also wanteda former District Attorney's Office employee who now works in Mendocino County available for testimony. Hopkins said the man will appear.

The defense's case could rest Thursday, Haltom said.

Judge turns down jury view

Haltom argued for taking the jury out on pontoon boats to see the effect of background shore lights at night. If that wasn't approved, he wanted to take them to the Young Scandinavians Club, where several people reportedly saw the crash, and Bayview or Boren Bega, where the damaged boats were towed.

Hopkins argued that Haltom hadn't laid the foundation for such a trip. He said there was no scientific information to justify it from defense expert Dr. William Chilcott, whose testimony, Hopkins said, “is way up for grabs.”

He asserted, “This is an experiment,” not a jury view.

Witnesses have stated they saw the lights on the sailboat about 45 minutes before the collision, but not during, said Hopkins. He also questioned Strak's testimony, which he said contradicted everyone else's because she had stated the boat was lit up “like a Christmas tree.”

He said the jury's view would not be the same as that of the parties on the night of the crash. He cited several California Supreme Court cases – spanning between 1966 and 2002 – to prove his point. As he started presenting appellate court cases Byrne stopped him and said the Supreme Court cases were enough.

“It comes down to discretion,” said Byrne.

There also are three main factors to consider – convenience, appropriate value, and diagrams and physical evidence that can be substituted for the actual viewing, Byrne said.

Haltom said he didn't need to lay a foundation for the importance of seeing the shore lights, because the case itself has laid them.

Byrne said he didn't see the value of going to the Young Scandinavians Club because the testimony of Hans Peter Elmer, one of the witnesses from that location, didn't address shore lights.

If the conditions could be duplicated, Byrne said the trip would be valuable, but he said at best he believed it would end up being an experiment, because he didn't think they could get an exact location on the crash. He also suggested there might be additional safety issues, with more boats on the water at this time of year.

He said the sunset in the next few days would be different from the day of the crash. “We have information it was pitch black that night,” he said, with only one witness recalling a sliver of a moon.

Another concern is the difficulty in keeping jurors from discussing such a trip, because they'll want to talk and ask questions, said Byrne.

Deciding that the witnesses, diagrams and photos were sufficient at the time, Byrne said, “At this time I'll exercise my discretion and deny the request.”

According to the US Naval Observatory's online database, the nighttime conditions on Tuesday, Aug. 18, will closely resemble those of April 29, 2006. To see an assessment of those similar conditions, see

Prosecution, defense argue final motions before Dinius trial begins .

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

LAKEPORT – A sheriff's captain who was involved in a fatal boating collision three years ago while off duty took the stand on Tuesday in a Carmichael man's trial for boating under the influence.

A crowd of about 50 people watched from the courtroom's gallery as Russell Perdock gave testimony about the crash between his Baja powerboat and the Beats Workin' II, the sailboat which Bismarck Dinius was steering on the night of April 29, 2006.

The prosecution alleges that Dinius, 41, was under the influence of alcohol and was under way without required navigation lights, and thus is responsible for the great bodily injury that led to the death of 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows, who died as a result of the crash. Thornton's boyfriend, Mark Weber, owned the boat.

Dinius' defense has asserted that Perdock was driving too fast on the night of the crash, and speed would be a central theme in the questions defense attorney Victor Haltom put to Perdock.

The day began with testimony from Weber, crash witness Brian Stole, and sailboat passengers Zina Dotti and Ed Dominguez, before Perdock took the stand in the afternoon.

Perdock, 47, originally had been scheduled to testify last Thursday, but District Attorney Jon Hopkins rested without calling Perdock, who he had been notified was the focus of an internal affairs investigation and has been on medical leave since June, as Lake County News has reported.

Wearing a dark gray suit, Perdock answered questions over an hour and a half, his voice sometimes so soft it could barely be heard.

On three occasions Haltom attempted to ask questions relating to Perdock's job with the sheriff's office – specifically, his current job status, and whether the case has resulted in any actions against him or adverse consequences. On all questions Hopkins objected to the relevance and Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained.

On the day of the crash Perdock took his son – who was celebrating his birthday – to a Lower Lake pizza parlor where Perdock said he had a beer that he didn't finish.

Under Haltom's questioning, Perdock maintained he did not set foot at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa that day, although he drove past the docks with friends James and Jordin Walker – who were with him for a nighttime boat ride – before the crash.

Haltom asked Perdock if he had received information about any of the day's earlier testimony from his girlfriend, Tami Turner, who was in the courtroom during the morning and was witnessed sending text messages. He said he only received information about scheduling because he hadn't wanted to be late.

Perdock, currently a captain, was a chief deputy at the time of the crash and was ranked second in the sheriff's office. He said his title changed due to a department restructuring.

He had an oversight role in sheriff's investigations and was the interim supervisor for the investigations unit at the time of the crash. He evaluated the performance of subordinates and his ratings could affect their pay and rank.

Everyone but Sheriff Rod Mitchell was subordinate to him at the time of the crash. However, only Mitchell had the power to terminate.

Perdock said the sheriff ordered him not to be involved in the case. “Did you comply with that order?” Haltom asked. “Absolutely,” Perdock replied.

Former Deputy Mark Hommer, who now works for the Lakeport Police Department, had sent an e-mail on Oct. 15, 2006, to records clerk Amy Valerio, communications supervisor Janell Rivera and Perdock regarding a response to a subpoena for the 911 records.

That e-mail included several recordings of 911 calls reporting the crash. Perdock said there may have been attachments, and then he said he deleted them.

In September of 2008 he provided the District Attorney's Office with the results of an investigation conducted by his insurance company. He said he only reviewed information on the case that came through a civil lawsuit, and didn't read sheriff's reports on the case.

When he met with district attorney's investigators John Flynn and Craig Woodworth in May, he suggested they look at wind conditions that night and contact Richmond Park Bar & Grill to see if the people on the sailboat had been drinking.

Questions of speed arise

He recalled giving statements to Lake County Sheriff's Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini and then-Sgt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office about his speed, but didn't recall talking to then-Sgt. Mike Morshed. Perdock said he estimated his speed at 35 miles per hour, although Morshed had testified to Perdock saying he was going 40 miles per hours. Slabaugh also put down between 40 and 45 in his report. Perdock said that was a mistake.

Looking at a picture of the powerboat's instrument panel, Perdock said he had given Slabaugh “my best estimate” about his speed, estimating his revolutions per minute was between 3000 to 3200.

If the speed indicators had been pointing up, how fast would the boat have been going? Haltom asked. Perdock said between 50 and 55 miles per hour. But he said he told investigators he erred in that estimate after he saw a picture of the gauges.

During testimony Perdock said his boat doesn't go on plane – or level out – until it hits around 30 miles per hour.

Perdock said he didn't see the sailboat before the impact, just a green glow of his navigation lights reflecting off of it. The crash was immediately after that. Perdock said he didn't see the sails even as his boat vaulted through the air.

Haltom had Perdock look over a time line he submitted to Flynn earlier this year. On that time line he said he put his boat in at around 8 p.m. on the night of the crash, after having spent a few hours cleaning it.

Perdock was asked if he knew Dennis Olson, formerly a security guard at Konocti Harbor, and he said yes. He also knew Joe Gliebe, the security director, but denied knowing John Walker Yashiki-Jansen, who has claimed he raced his boat against Perdock's earlier that day. Perdock said he didn't see any of them the day of the crash.

At one point during his boat ride his gas gauge dropped, so Perdock planned to go to Richmond Park to get gas. However, the needle then went back to half full.

He continued on his course around Fraser Point and into Konocti Bay, “just going for a short ride.” He was going to travel along the shoreline but along the way he spotted a white light from another boat off the bay's eastern shore, which appeared to him to be a stern light but which was a fisherman flashing a spotlight at him. Perdock He maneuvered his boat away from it to give the boat plenty of room, and the crash happened about a minute later.

After his powerboat went over the sailboat, Perdock estimated his boat stopped about 60 to 70 feet out from the sailboat, which was just visible within his stern light.

He said he didn't make a statement to the people on the sailboat that their lights were off. Dominguez, sitting in the audience, could be heard to say, “Liar.”

Perdock said he tried to get his powerboat back to the sailboat, starting up his engine. But the engine seized and quit around five to 10 feet from the sailboat.

During the crash he suffered a head injury, and then-Sgt. James Beland drove him to Redbud Community Hospital – now St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake – where his blood was drawn and he received stitches for his head injury.

The day after the crash, he and his friend, Craig Scovel, went to the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility at Buckingham Point to photograph the boats at the request of his insurance agent. He said Ostini supervised them while they did it.

He did not go to the sheriff's evidence facility. Perdock also confirmed that he was a member of the Masonic Lodge in Clearlake, along with Flynn.

Hopkins asked him if he had seen the lights on the sailboat before the impact, during or afterward. He said no.

He said he's experienced taking his boat out at night on Clearlake and differentiating between shore lights and navigation lights.

Perdock noted that he called sheriff's dispatch because if he called 911 he would have been routed to the California Highway Patrol dispatch in Ukiah. Following the crash he made several calls to Central Dispatch to give them updates on the situation.

Haltom asked Perdock if he was wearing his glasses at the time of the crash. Perdock said he wasn't. Did he have a prescription? Yes.

“Do you like the speed?” Haltom asked. “Does that do it for you, going fast in a powerboat?”

Perdock said no.

Hopkins complained that comments were being made in the audience. Byrne told the bailiff to tell people to step outside if it happened again.

Other than the 911 e-mail he was copied on, Perdock said he received no other official communications on the case. He did discuss the case with Mitchell, who informed him of the result of his blood alcohol test, which revealed zero alcohol.

Hopkins asked him about his glasses prescription. Perdock said he went for a normal eye check and told the doctor his vision gets blurry when his eyes are tired or stressed, so the doctor gave him a light prescription.

“Did you ordinarily wear them when you drove?” Hopkins asked. No, Perdock said.

Does the Department of Motor Vehicles require he wear corrective lenses? Hopkins asked. No, Perdock said.

Did he wear them for boating? No, Perdock said.

Perdock was excused just after 3:30 p.m., and admonished that he is subject to recall by the defense.

A hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, could determine if Perdock will come back to answer further questions.

Haltom filed motions last week for information regarding the internal affairs investigation and to have access to his personnel files. Perdock's attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, is out of state until next week. Byrne set the Aug. 18 hearing so that Wilkinson can be present to argue against the motion.

Weber returns to stand

Testimony on Tuesday had started with Weber back on the stand. He began his testimony on Friday.

Under Hopkins' cross-examination, Weber recalled getting to Lake County on April 28, 2006, the day before the crash. He and Thornton played golf that night at Rob Roy Golf Club then went to Richmond Park Bar & Grill to socialize before turning in for the night.

On race day, he was up at 6 a.m. and back to Richmond Park for a skippers' meeting. Weber raced in the half-cup which started at 10:30 a.m. and lasted until about 2 p.m., when he went back to Richmond Park. He and his team – which included Jim Ziebell and Bill Pickering – placed second in the half-cup race.

Weber said he had a 12-pack of Bud Light in his ice chest which he and others drank after the race and over the course of the afternoon. There also was a Coors Light and red wine on board, along with vodka and tequila, which had been on the boat in a cabinet for some time.

At Richmond Park that evening there was socializing and celebrating. Weber said he and Thornton ate dinner with Rob and Stephanie Green between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Later, he recalled, “We were down on the dock and a big gust of wind came up.”

Weber added he and Bismarck looked at each other. “I think we may have had the same thought at the same time” about taking a sail.

Thornton had just introduced him to Dominguez and Dotti, who she had met while golfing at the Clear Lake Riviera golf course earlier that day. She asked the couple to come along on the cruise.

Before they set out, Weber said he turned on the running lights and got out of the sailboat to walk around and make sure the stern light was on. The mast light didn't work, he recalled.

They motored out about 8:30 p.m. and set off across Konocti Bay, with Dinius taking the tiller as Weber raised the main sail, followed shortly by the smaller sail. They took a port tack going out, Weber said.

As they turned around about 600 to 700 yards off Fraser Point, the wind was coming from slightly behind the sailboat, Weber said. On the way back to Richmond Park, the wind died and he took down the smaller sail because he said Thornton asked him to.

“She was calling, pretty much, most of the shots,” he said. Hopkins asked if she was determining the course. No, said Weber.

Later, when it was dark, Weber turned on the cabin lights. He had turned on the AM/FM radio a short time after leaving dock.

Hopkins asked him why he turned on the running lights. Weber said it's the law. “You're very foolish to be out there without lights.”

The boat left about dusk and it got dark quickly. No moon was visible, Weber said.

Hopkins, quoting back to Weber a statement he made on the stand on Friday, asked if he says “We've got lights, let's go” every time he sails. Weber said no.

During the sail Weber recalled going to get Dinius a beer but finding there were no more left in the ice chest. He believed Dinius had a Coors Light from the cooler before they left dock.

Dinius was at the tiller from the time Weber got up and began manning the sails when they left the dock to the time of the crash.

A bottle of vodka was found on the deck. Weber didn't remember how it got there from a cabinet in the cabin. Hopkins cited statements Weber made to Haltom's investigator on Aug. 4 that the vodka and a tequila bottle had flown out of a cabinet during the crash.

The crash occurred about 30 or 40 minutes into the cruise, Weber estimated.

Hopkins asked him why he didn't turn the cabin lights on when he turned on the running lights. He said it was light then; he turned the cabin lights on when it was dark.

Weber recalled meeting Dinius around 1999 or 2000, and meeting up with him annually at the Konocti Cup.

He couldn't remember how much he'd had to drink that night. Weber explained that he had a head injury as a result of the crash, which knocked him out for five to seven minutes. There are many things about the day that he can't remember.

Weber said he also couldn't remember talking to Sgt. Dennis Ostini at the hospital in the early morning hours of April 30, 2006.

Hopkins put up a map of Konocti Bay and announced that a juror had brought laser pointers for he and Haltom to use. “Just don't use them against each other,” Judge Byrne quipped, which drew laughter from the roughly 20 people in the gallery during the morning session.

Witness saw lights converge

After an hour on the stand Weber was excused. He remained in the courtroom as Brian Stole came to testify.

Stole and his fiancée were at Bayview Estates next to the shoreline when he noticed Perdock's powerboat. “I did notice that there was a boat going too fast across the water.”

He said he saw the lights on the powerboat, which he estimated was going about 50 miles per hour, and also heard its motor. Stole said he saw the powerboat's lights and the lights on another object converge and then heard a collision.

Stole noted under Hopkins' cross-examination that “usually the faster the boat goes the louder the engine is going to run.” Hopkins asked if that sound figured into his speed estimate. Stole said yes.

When the boats collided, it sounded like “a stick of dynamite going off. It was pretty loud,” Stole said.

Hopkins questioned the different statements Stole had made to Haltom's investigators and district attorney's investigators. In two separate interviews, he stated he believed he powerboat was going 45 miles per hour, but he told Haltom it was going between 50 and 60 miles per hour. Hopkins also questioned different light colors Stole had attributed to the boats' running lights, which varied between green and red, white and yellow.

At one point Stole told one of Hopkins' investigators that he didn't know if the powerboat hit a boat or a dock. He'd also told a district attorney's investigator initially that he thought the crash was five to 10 miles away, but later said he thought it was 500 yards away. Stole said he'd had nothing to drink that night.

Sailboat passengers recount deadly crash

Dotti, who along with her fiance, Dominguez, went out on the sailboat that night, testified about meeting Thornton on the golf course that morning before later meeting her, Weber and Dinius at Richmond Park, where they were asked to go on a sail. Dotti said the sail had to be a short one, because she and Dominguez were meeting his parents later for dinner at Konocti Vista Casino.

It was still light when they left, and Dotti recalled they didn't use the motor going out. She remembered the cabin light being on; there was light illuminating grass and tules in the water, and they could see each other on the boat.

In response to Paige Kaneb, an attorney with Dinius' defense team who questioned her, Dotti said they weren't partying on the boat, but were talking about children and Thornton's golf game.

Dotti said they saw no other boats on the water that night. She was sitting on the sailboat when she heard something. It was a powerboat that “sounded like it was going fast.” She said Dominguez told her she didn't finish her sentence before the collision.

“Total chaos” followed, she said.

She remembered Perdock shining the light on them and asking if everyone was on the boat. Dotti recalled them yelling for 911.

Dominguez was giving Thornton cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boat until the paramedics took over on shore.

Dotti, who had an injured leg and was covered with blood, said she and her fiance weren't treated at all for their injuries when they got to shore. “Nobody even looked to see whether we were hurt,” she said.

A deputy later questioned them about where they had been during the entire day. “It sounded like they already made a decision whose fault it was,” said Dotti, referring to the sailboat.

They asked for a ride back to Richmond Park and a deputy said they didn't have enough cars. Later they did get a ride from a deputy back to the restaurant, where their car was parked.

Hopkins asked Dotti if she felt the deputy's questioning was inappropriate. “Yes, I did.”

She'd been asked if she had drinks earlier in the day. “You thought it was inappropriate they determine your perception as a witness was unaffected by alcohol?” Hopkins asked.

Dotti replied that she felt they should have checked on their physical well being.

She said she had a vodka cranberry at the bar before leaving on the sailboat. Thornton went in to sing a karaoke song before the cruise. Dotti said Weber and Thornton were excited about his second-place finish in the race that day.

On the cruise, she recalled Weber explaining what he was doing as he was working on the boat. Later, after the cruise was under way, she said he got Dinius a Coors Light, got wine for Thornton and Dominguez, and brought out the vodka for her. But there was nothing to mix with it, so she didn't drink any, and she said he left the bottle out on a bench.

For the most part, the conversation was between Dotti, Dominguez and Thornton. Dotti said Weber “was pretty quiet. He was running the boat.”

She remembered seeing stars but not the moon. Dotti estimated about 45 minutes passed before the start of the cruise and the crash.

She didn't see the powerboat before the crash; she only heard it, noting it sounded like the boat was accelerating. It happened so fast that she didn't see the collision.

When Perdock was asking if people were in the water, at first they weren't sure, said Dotti. The mast had fallen over and Dinius, Weber and Thornton were underneath it, with both men having collapsed on top of Thornton. They threw the sail and mast over the side of the boat so they could pull the injured out from under it.

She said Perdock asked if they needed a first aid kit. “More than a first aid kit was needed at that point,” she said.

Dotti sat at the tiller as the boat was towed in, getting instructions on how to steer from people on another boat. She recalled holding Thornton's hand on the trip in to shore.

Dominguez followed Dotti to the stand. He and Dotti had met Thornton on the fourth hole of the Riviera golf course that morning and played about six holes with her before agreeing to meet her later at Richmond Park.

The only boat light he could remember that night was the cabin light, but he said he didn't look for the others. Darkness fell quickly after they left on the cruise. He said he didn't recall seeing a spotlight that fisherman Colin Johnson said he flashed at the boat.

After the crash Dominguez and Dotti were the only ones still sitting up, while the rest had been knocked to the deck. Someone from the powerboat said, “You didn't having your f'ing lights on.”

He found Thornton under the sail, with Weber and Dinius lying across her. Dinius was having trouble breathing. Dominguez tried to prevent Weber from seeing Thornton “because she didn't look good.”

“She had a pulse at first,” he said, then he lost it as he did CPR on her.

Hopkins asked him about a statement he had made in the preliminary hearing about Dinius being “hammered up.” Dominguez said he meant that Dinius was looking like he was happy and having a good day.

“If I would have thought he was drunk I would never have gotten on the boat with him, if that's what you're implying,” Dominguez said to Hopkins.

When he was first invited to sail, Dominguez said he wasn't concerned because it was a short trip. Someone suggested the worst case scenario would be the boat tipping over and all of them having to swim back to shore, which he said everyone laughed at at the time.

Just before the collision itself, he heard a motor, and he wasn't sure if it was out of the water running. The collision happened so quickly he wasn't sure he saw the powerboat, although he said he can see it every time he closes his eyes.

The defense will continue presenting witnesses on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

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

LAKE COUNTY – As the remnants of Tropical Storm Felicia moved onshore with high-level clouds on Wednesday, temperatures are forecast to top off near the average temperature of 93 on both Thursday and Friday, with a return to warmer temperatures through the weekend.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS) expects highs in the mid-90s in Lake County today through Saturday, with temperatures on the cooler side at lower elevations.

Average temperatures for today include a low of 53 degrees and a high of 93 degrees. The record high for Aug. 13 was 111 degrees in 1933 the record low was 41 degrees in 1921.

The gusty afternoon winds on Tuesday and Wednesday cleared out the upper-level haze that the recent weather patterns have brought in to the Clear Lake basin and much of Northern California from fires burning in Shasta and Santa Barbara counties.

However, the Summit fire in nearby Colusa County in the Mendocino National forest, which had increased to 40 acres by 6:30 p.m. last night according to Cal Fire, may create more haze if not contained soon.

Gusty afternoon winds are expected to continue, according to the NWS today and Friday, but Saturday and Sunday should be calm.

Highs for Saturday are predicted to be in the mid-90s and a few degrees warmer on Sunday. Low overnight temperatures are expected near 60.

For up-to-the-minute weather and wildfire information, visit our homepage at .

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

WALKER RIDGE – A stretch of highway that has witnessed a series of vehicle collisions over the last few years will be the focus of a new paving project, Caltrans said Monday.

Caltrans said it's expediting a safety project on a half-mile-long stretch of Highway 20 east of Walker Ridge Road, located between Clearlake Oaks and the Colusa County line.

The project is in response to an increased number of collisions that have occurred on the downhill curve. Officials said the goal is a better, safer highway.

“This is just going to construction,” said Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie.

The project will take place in the area of mile post marker 44.19, located across the highway from the location of the now-mitigated Abbott and Turkey Run mines.

As Lake County News first reported in March, the area had been the site of several crashes in the last two years. By June 15 there had been seven collision in the area, at least two of which – including a March crash – have been fatal.

The California Highway Patrol has maintained that speed was the primary cause in all of the collisions, and all but one happened on wet or icy pavement.

But earlier this year, defense attorney Angela Carter told Lake County News that part of the problem was the roadway itself. Carter's firm is defending Suisun City resident Debra Curtis, who is being prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter for a fatal May 2008 crash in which a Sebastopol woman died.

Earlier in the year, Caltrans took several actions in an attempt to reduce crashes in the area. They included reducing the advisory speed at the curve from 40 to 35 miles per hour, and adding larger signage and rumble strips meant to raise motorists' awareness. Officials also shortened a passing lane prior to the curve.

Frisbie said Caltrans' Traffic Safety Office initiated this latest safety project in May.

The project went out to bid, with bids closing last month. The bids were opened on July 28 and the project, coming in at nearly $137,000, was awarded to Santa Rosa's Argonaut Constructors on Aug. 5, Frisbie said.

Frisbie, who anticipated that work on the project will start around the first week of September, said the project will begin with grinding off the top layer of asphalt.

Argonaut Constructors will then pave that section of highway with a 1-inch aggregate open-graded asphalt, which has a higher coefficient of friction and will provide more traction than smaller aggregates more commonly used, according to Frisbie.

The open-graded asphalt also contains open spaces between the aggregate which work with the grooves on vehicle tires to help insure against hydroplaning in wet weather, according to Frisbie.

The expedited construction schedule is meant to insure that the project is completed by the end of October, before the wet winter weather begins, Frisbie said.

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

An initial pile of recyclables after it's brought into the Ukiah facility. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.




UKIAH – We learn about recycling in grade school: reduce, reuse, recycle.

We used to have to separate our glass, plastic, cardboard/paper into separate bins and then stack the bins for pick up. In an effort to make recycling more “user friendly” the single stream recycling method was introduced. Utilizing this method, more people have chosen to recycle, as it does not require too much effort.

The big blue cans lining the streets on garbage day are a reminder of how more people are pitching in.

But, do you ever think beyond placing the blue can at the curb? Many people are proud of their efforts to recycle, but they may not actually know what happens to recycled goods once they leave the blue can.

C&S Waste Solutions – which includes Clear Lake Waste Solutions and Lake County Waste Solutions – transfers recyclables from Clearlake, Kelseyville, Nice, Lucerne and Upper Lake to the Pacific Recycling Solutions new Material Recovery Facility (MRF).

The new MRF, located in Ukiah, is where the contents of your blue can make their first stop.

Julie Price, C&S Waste Solutions' expert on recycling education, took Lake County News on a tour of the new facility.

The facility opened in January and uses a combination of manual labor and machine to sort all of the recyclables into high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which include milk cartons and heavier plastics; Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are soda and water bottles and other food containers; mixed paper; cardboard; aluminum; glass; and tin.

The trucks drop off the mixed recyclables at the site. A tractor takes loads of the unsorted recyclables and places them on a conveyor belt that goes up to the platform where the laborers quickly perform a visual inspection, pulling off clothing, electronics, plastic film (the thick plastic wrapped around flats of bottled water, for example), plastic bags, and other things that cannot be recycled on site. This is called the pre-sort section. Here, they also remove all cardboard from the belt to be recycled.

Glass falls down to a system that breaks it down into small pieces and puts it on another conveyor belt that takes it to a pile that is distributed to manufacturers that make various recycled glass products.

The next station sees the paper taken off the belt via ascending rubber plates that bounce the lighter objects (such as paper and magazines) up and allow the other, heavier, recyclables to continue on.

The conveyor belt is again visually inspected and laborers take off plastic bottles and cartons and drop them down chutes into separate stalls. The belt then reaches a magnet that snatches up tin objects and puts them in another stall. The final station on the trip utilizes an electric current that bounces aluminum off of the conveyor belt and down to the appropriate stall.

The remaining articles drop off of the conveyor belt into a pile and this pile is sent back trough the entire system to ensure that all recyclables are taken to their appropriate space.

When a stall fills up, its contents are taken to a small conveyor belt that feeds into a baler that then bales each specific type of recyclable good with wire. These bales are then stacked and ready to de distributed to approximately five different manufacturers.

It is important to recognize all of the work that goes in to separating the recyclables that we put in the blue can. In order for all of our articles to be recycled properly, they need to be clean, loose in the blue can, and tops separated from bottles and jars.

The new MRF in Ukiah is a great step in recycling for Lake County, according to the company. Not only does it decrease carbon emissions due to its proximity to Lake County, the single stream system makes it easy for more people to contribute.

Price said that C&S Waste Solutions' eventual goal is to get households to limit their weekly garbage to a 10-gallon can. This will be possible if residents continue to use the blue can.

For more information on Ukiah’s Material Recovery Facility, as well as to discover what you can and can not recycle, visit .

To see who your hauler is, visit . Here you will find a map that breaks down the different haulers around Lake County.

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




The beginning of the MRF conveyor belt. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.




A view from the ground at the beginning of the Ukiah facility's system (cardboard on the left, shredded paper and glass on the right). Photo by Caitlin Andrus.




A view of the belt toward the end

A helicopter making a water drop on a hot spot in the Hartmann Incident. Photo by Rick Hamilton.




HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – South Lake County Fire and Cal Fire quickly subdued a small grass fire that broke out near Hidden Valley Lake Wednesday afternoon.

The two-acre Hartmann Incident was located on the corner of Hartmann Road and Highway 29. Firefighters were dispatched at 1:38 p.m., said Cal Fire Capt. Paul Duncan.

At one point a lot of resources were assigned to the fire as part of Cal Fire's standard response, including one air attack, two tankers to drop retardant, one helicopter with eight personnel, six engines and two dozers. Duncan said a total of 28 personnel were on scene.

He said Cal Fire responded along with South Lake County Fire.

The fire, which was located in grass and brush, was completely out by 2 p.m., Duncan said.

No cause has been reported, Duncan said.

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




A picture of the fire taken from the top of Powderhorn Road in Hidden Valley Lake. A helicopter is shown dumping water on the fire at the corner of Highway 29 and Hartmann Road. Photo by Tina Hopper.




A Cal Fire plane overhead during the Hartmann Incident. Photo by Rick Hamilton.




The Hartmann Incident, pictured from Coyle Springs Road. Photo by Eric Soderstrom.

Dennis and Viola Scoles' Volvo station wagon after a crash that occurred on Highway 29 on Saturday, August 8, 2009. Photo by Rick Hamilton.

KELSEYVILLE – A Redwood Valley couple suffered injuries in a Saturday crash involving three vehicles on Highway 29.

Dennis Scoles, 66, and Viola Scoles, 65, were transported to the hospital following the crash, which occurred at around 2:50 p.m. on Highway 29 north of Highway 175 to Cobb, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP said Dennis Scoles had stopped his 2001 Volvo V-70 station wagon on the northbound shoulder of Highway 29 within a private driveway entrance, facing in a southwesterly direction and preparing to make a U-turn onto southbound Highway 29.

Kay White, 49, of Sacramento, was driving a 1998 Peterbilt tractor truck with two flatbed trailers following a car, traveling northbound on Highway 29 at a stated speed of about 45 to 50 miles per hour, approaching Scoles' position.

Behind White was Olivia Peregrina, 26, of Cobb in a 2002 Dodge Neon with a 3-year-old boy in the car with her, the CHP said.

When the car ahead of White passed Scoles, he is reportedly to have suddenly pulled into White's path, according to the report.

The CHP said White aggressively applied the truck's brakes and attempted to avoid Scoles but couldn't.

The front of the Peterbilt struck the Volvo's driver's side, causing the Volvo to spin off the road and onto a dirt area south of the highway where it came to rest on its wheels, facing in a southerly direction.

The CHP said Peregrina noticed quite a bit of smoke created by the braking Peterbilt and aggressively applied her own brakes.

She veered off the highway to the north to avoid striking the Peterbilt's rearmost trailer. The action caused her to run off the road onto a dirt embankment, suffering a flat right front tire.

White safely brought the Peterbilt to rest on the highway's northbound shoulder, the CHP said.

Both Dennis and Viola Scoles were airlifted to Sutter Santa Rosa for treatment of their injuries, the CHP reported.





Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears, I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!

Actually the Caesar salad has nothing to do with Julius Caesar – I’m just being theatrical.

Theatrics has everything to do with Caesar salad, not to mention it’s my favorite salad and I order it almost everywhere I find it.

There are several stories on how Caesar salad was created with the most popular and most believable being this ...

Cesare (the original spelling of his name) Cardini was born in Italy (Feb. 24, 1896) and he and his brother Alessandro emigrated to the United States when he was in his early 20s and worked in restaurants several places in California.

He eventually started “Caesar’s Place” in Tijuana in 1923 to escape the limitations of prohibition. He is credited with the invention of the salad over a long Fourth of July weekend in 1924.

There are other claims of the date of its invention by others at the very same restaurant but we’ll look at that more later.

During prohibition Americans including many Hollywood celebrities would cross the border into Mexico and eat dinner and have drinks at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant. One day due to a lack of ingredients or some say due to a staff shortage, he started making his Caesar salad tableside and to be eaten with the fingers.

I tend to believe a combination of both the staff shortage story and the lack of ingredients since eating with the fingers would alleviate the need for a dishwasher, being prepared tableside would lighten the workload on the kitchen, and the salad is very minimalist when it comes to ingredients.

One fact we can rely on is that the Fourth of July was on a Friday in 1924, which supports the long weekend story. Most of the stories tend to agree that it was invented when he was swamped with customers from the long holiday weekend.

“Alex,” Caesar's brother and a World War I fighter pilot, had a story claiming to be the inventor of the salad in 1926 and calling it the “Aviator's salad” in honor of Rockwell Field Air Base but eventually changed the name.

Paul Maggiora a partner of Cardini’s, told the exact same story but with the salad being created in 1927. Livio Santini, a cook at the same restaurant, claims the recipe was his mother's and when he was 18 he prepared it in the kitchen and Cardini took it from him.

There also is a story of the salad being invented in Chicago by Giacomo Junia at the New York Café in 1903. He allegedly named the salad after Julius Caesar, “The greatest Italian of all time.”

Yet, no real evidence backs any of the claims.

Anchovies are contentiously debated with Caesar salad and were never in the original recipe. Anchovies are naturally in Worcestershire sauce and that is where the misconception of anchovies being in Caesar salad.

Nobody knows when anchovies were first introduced; Caesar himself was against their use in his recipe. James Beard, the legendary epicurean, said, “This famous salad is often served, but seldom made correctly.” But his personal recipe includes anchovies.

Anchovies probably appeared from a person eating the salad and trying to copy it at home and misjudging the amount of anchovy flavor in the salad.

The process of making the salad was a show in itself. Cardini would roll a cart up to a table and would start talking to the guests with that Italian restauranteur's charm and begin tossing the salad while adding ingredients one at a time. “You look lovely tonight” and “What a handsome suit that is!” probably was said at every table as he charmed his way from table to table, salad to salad.

The egg would go in and would be tossed until combined, then the Worcestershire sauce would be added and the salad tossed again until combined, vinegar, tossed – you get the idea.

Once complete he would arrange the lettuce with the bases facing outward from the plate and the leafy end facing inward. This way the diner could pick up the firm base with their fingers and start eating the leafy end.

By the 1930s Caesar salad was being eaten in Europe by most royal families and was announced by the International Society of Epicures in Paris to be “the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years.”

No matter what story you believe the thing that should really baffle the mind is (although he was living in the U.S. and commuting to Tijuana), why is Caesar salad called an “All American classic” when it was invented by an Italian in Mexico?

Caesar salad dressing started to become so popular that diners started showing up to dinner with jars and bottles so they could take it home with them. In 1935 the family was living in San Diego while bottling and marketing the dressing. They sold it out of the back of their family station wagon at the Los Angeles Farmers Market. The family trademarked the recipe in 1948 and kept control of it until it was purchased by Marzetti Foods and currently has thirteen versions of “Cardini’s Dressings.”

Caesar salad has several fears associated with it so the recipe changes on a regular basis. The original recipe called for a raw egg then it changed to a coddled egg, and now some recipes recommend using egg substitutes (which are sterile) or no egg at all but using mayonnaise instead. Then people started to worry about soil microbes on raw garlic in the recipe so cooking the garlic in oil is found in many recipes.

Although the exact recipe has been lost the oldest known recipe for “The original Caesar’s salad” that I could find says this ...

The original Caesar’s salad

(For four persons)

3 medium heads of romaine lettuce, chilled dry, crisp

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Grated Parmesan cheese 5 or 6 tablespoons

Croutons about 1 cup


Garlic-flavored salad oil, about 1/3 cup

Wine vinegar, 1-2 tablespoons

Juice of 1 ½ lemon

1 raw egg

Freshly ground pepper

That’s it. No other instructions. The lettuce needs to be dry or the egg won’t adhere to the lettuce well and the dressing won’t be perfect. Just my guess that the list of ingredients is referring to “one half of a lemon” and not “one and a half lemons.” If you wanted to make the dressing in a bowl or jar before adding it to the lettuce that is always an option.

Julia Child’s memoirs talk of eating at Caesar's in 1925 or 1926 she was very young at the time and wasn’t exactly sure. What we know from Julia Child’s memoirs is that Cardini didn’t toss the salad but rolled it to avoid bruising the leaves. She described it as the leaves cascaded towards him like a wave to the shoreline. To me this sounds like he would hold the bowl and flip the salad as if sautéing in a pan rather than tossing it with spoons.

If I were to apply any of my own changes to the salad's presentation it would be that the croutons would be whole slices of toasted baguette lightly rubbed with a slice of garlic and instead of grated Parmesan topping the salad with shaved Parmesan (shave it with a vegetable peeler).

The larger croutons and shavings of Parmesan cheese are easier to eat with the fingers and give a sexier look to the finished salad … Yes, of course salads can be sexy!

I haven’t found anywhere that still makes Caesar salad in the classic fashion tableside but would be thrilled if someone did. I don’t have the food paranoia that many people have about raw eggs or soil microbes so I would happily order Caesar's “classic” salad and watch it made tableside just for the thrill of the experience. Let me know if you find one!

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.

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