Tuesday, 23 July 2024


The October star chart. Courtesy of John Zimmerman.




LAKE COUNTY – October is the beginning of fall. And there are popular songs that remind us of some of October’s celestial events.

First there is “Moondance” by Van Morrison (‘… it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes, a fantabulous night to make romance neath the cover of October skies’).

And while October skies might be a bit chilly for romance outdoors at night, there are certainly some bright stars overhead (see the star chart at the end of this article).

Our old friend, the Summer Triangle of 3 bright stars is slowly sinking into the west. But taking its place is the constellation of Pegasus, the great winged horse. The huge square that makes up the body of Pegasus can be seen dominating the southeastern part of the sky.

Attached to Pegasus is the constellation Andromeda, a beautiful princess in Greek mythology. In Andromeda there is a galaxy similar to our own – the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Through a telescope it is very big and bright – the light we see from Andromeda started its journey 2.5 million years ago. When we look at this galaxy, we are, in effect, looking back in time 2.5 million years!


Andromeda Galaxy by Philip Perkins.


Speaking of beautiful princesses, check out the constellation Cassiopeia on our star chart. This bright, “W”-shaped group of stars overhead is hard to miss.

In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia became the queen of Ethiopia. She was very vain, and a picture of her shows her seated brushing her hair. The ‘W’ represents the chair she is seated on.

And let’s not forget the moon, as suggested in our “Moondance” song. The moon will be at its fullest on Oct. 25.

If you think the moon looks larger when it is low on the horizon, it isn’t. That’s just an optical illusion – it’s the same size no matter where it is in the night sky.

To wrap up our musically inspired October skies, how about that old hit “Venus” by Frankie Avalon?

If you get up an hour or so before sunrise and look to the east, that very bright star is the planet Venus. Venus is the second planet from the sun. It has an atmosphere of almost pure carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide traps all of the sun’s heat inside the planet’s atmosphere, and the result is a surface temperature that is higher than that of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.


Venus by NASA.


If you believe in global warming, Venus may provide a glimpse of the earth’s future if the trend is not stopped.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory Web site at www.taylorobservatory.org.


John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


CLEAR LAKE – The search for a young Windsor man appears to have come to an end, with the Thursday discovery of a body along the lake's shoreline not far from where he disappeared.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office confirmed shortly before 5 p.m. that a body with physical characteristics matching those of 22-year-old Matthew Zanoni was discovered at 12:25 p.m.

Rescue divers have searched for Zanoni since Saturday evening, when he disappeared over the railing of a pontoon boat moored about 150 yards offshore from Buckingham near Shag Rock, east of Lakeport.

In a twist that deepens the tragedy, Zanoni's father, Mike Zanoni, was with the party that located the body.

A report from Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said that on Thursday Supervisor Rob Brown and Lake County Lakebed Manager Skip Simkins joined the effort to locate Matthew Zanoni's body.

While Marine Patrol deputies searched another area of the shoreline, Brown and Simkins took a boat to a location where Simkins believed that human remains would be likely to surface, based on a description of the search area provided by the Marine Patrol, according to Lt. Brown's report.

On the way, they met Mike Zanoni, Matthew Zanoni's father, in another vessel, Lt. Brown reported.

Together, they went on to the location Simkins wanted to search, where they found the body along the shoreline.

“My dad found my brother,” said Jennifer Zanoni, Matthew Zanoni's sister.

After the body's discovery, Mike Zanoni went to be with his family while Brown and Simkins called the Marine Patrol and helped them recover the body, according to the sheriff's office report.

Lt. Cecil Brown said the sheriff's office can't yet confirm the body is Matt Zanoni's. That, he said, must wait for the results of a coroner's investigation, which will positively identify the man and the cause of his death.

However, Brown added, “Based on the location of the recovery and the physical characteristics of the deceased man, we believe it is likely that it is the body of Matthew Zanoni that was found today.”

He said an autopsy is scheduled for Friday.

Zanoni and the group of people on the boat were visiting the county to attend BoardStock, according to Jennifer Zanoni.

The Lake County Sheriff's Office had issued a Wednesday statement in which it was reported that passengers on the boat said Matthew Zanoni had been drinking alcohol before he went into the water.

However, Jennifer Zanoni said she didn't believe alcohol was an issue, since the information she received in speaking with passengers on the boat was that her brother had only had a few beers.

Jennifer Zanoni, 28, has been highly critical of the local efforts to find her younger brother, which she didn't not feel were aggressive enough. She said she has spoken with an attorney and is trying to have the case turned over to the Sonoma County Coroner's Office.

“I absolutely do not want them involved in the conclusion of this,” she said of the Lake County Sheriff's Office. “I don't want them touching him.”

Sheriff Rod Mitchell said he was grateful to Rob Brown and Skip Simkins for joining in the search, which helped end the family's agonizing wait.

Officials had estimated earlier in the week that it might take weeks more for a body to surface. A drowning victim in that same area in 2004 wasn't discovered until several months later.

Zanoni, who said she called Rob Brown to ask for his help, said she was very grateful to him for his work in the search.

She said finding her brother had eased her family's suffering somewhat. “My dad is confident he's OK now.”

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


CLEAR LAKE – On Wednesday the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that they were “scaling back” the search for a Windsor man who fell into Clear Lake Saturday and is presumed drowned, a move which angered the man's family.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed at 11 a.m. that the search for 22-year-old Matthew Richard Zanoni was being called off, based on the determination of search leader, Lt. Gary Basor.

An official statement written by Basor that was released later in the day said that, as of Wednesday morning, the search was “scaled down significantly,” but would continue with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Search and Rescue Teams, as well as with the continued efforts of the Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Service Patrol.

Zanoni is described as a white Caucasian male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 145 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes, according to Basor. He was last seen wearing board shorts and white socks. Zanoni was not wearing as shirt.

Zanoni was a passenger on an 18-foot Tracker pontoon boat when he went into the water, Basor reported. The boat was stopped about 100 to 150 feet offshore from Shag Rock, located just west of Buckingham peninsula, and some of its passengers had gone swimming.

Witnesses told authorities that Zanoni had been drinking alcoholic prior to the accident and that he wasn't wearing a life vest when he went into the lake, according to Basor's report.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol first responded to the Rattlesnake Island area, based on the initial reports, Basor reported. When they arrived and couldn't find the boat they made a followup call and found that the incident occurred near Shag Rock.

Basor said when the deputies arrived, witnesses reported that several attempts were made by those on the pontoon boat to locate Zanoni.

Minutes after arriving, deputies requested that the North Shore Dive Team assist the sheriff’s department in the rescue efforts, said Basor. Members of the North Shore Dive Team made several dives that afternoon.

Beginning Sunday and lasting through Tuesday at 5 p.m., members of the North Shore Dive Team, the Lake County Search and Rescue Dive Team, as well as divers from Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties continued searching for Zanoni, Basor reported.

Basor said Thomas Tessier of Santa Rosa-based Aqua-Tech Inc. also volunteered to help, bringing his highly sophisticated drop sonar equipment for the search effort. Tessier helped search for a drowning victim on the lake in May.

The team – which Basor said was composed of highly trained professionals – assisted in more than 100 drop search positions in the given search area, which covered over one million square feet within the waters of Clear Lake.

Each location identified as a potential location for Zanoni was checked and searched, said Basor, but recovery efforts were temporarily slowed when civilian vessels also searching for Zanoni entered the search area causing concern for the diver’s safety. The boats were directed to leave the immediate area.

Family taking its own measures

Jennifer and Laura Zanoni, Matt Zanoni's sisters, were angry that the search was called off.

They said officials told them that they needed to “let nature take its course,” with Matt Zanoni's body expected to surface in about two weeks due to decomposition.

The sisters also were concerned because they said witnesses on the boat reported there were fishermen in the area who saw Matt Zanoni go into the water, yet the fishermen left quickly after the accident and didn't stay around to give a statement to sheriff's deputies.

They insisted that alcohol couldn't have been a major factor, as they were told by witnesses that he only had a few beers before he disappeared over the boat's side.

Jennifer Zanoni said she began making calls at 8 a.m. Wednesday, asking various agencies around the state for help.

Basor's report, however, said he had been in contact, and had been contacted, by some of those other agencies, including the US Coast Guard, and all agreed that every immediate effort to recover Zanoni has been tried.

“There's only so much we can do,” Chief Deputy Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriffs' Office told Lake County News.

He said the sonar equipment volunteered by Aqua-Tec was better than that used by Sonoma County.

Perdock also asserted that the Zanonis had told the other agencies that it was a rescue operation, not a recovery, which it had technically been since Sunday.

The Zanoni family plans to hire their own divers, who are scheduled to begin searching for Matt Zanoni on Saturday.

“Right now we're just trying to focus on finding that body so we can have some closure,” said Laura Zanoni.

Jennifer Zanoni asked for anyone who saw the incident to call her at 480-4254.

Basor reported that the investigation into the incident's cause is continuing.

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


LAKE COUNTY – With jury selection set to begin later this month for Renato Hughes' trial, his attorney is asking a judge to remove the district attorney from the case, a move the prosecution calls a delay tactic.

San Francisco attorney Stuart Hanlon told Lake County News this week that he has filed a motion to have District Attorney Jon Hopkins and his department recused from the case.

Hanlon's 23-year-old client is accused of the homicides of friends Rashad Williams and Christian Foster.

Hopkins alleges that the three men broke into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds and Lori Tyler in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005, and assaulted the family while attempting to steal marijuana Edmonds claims to have a medical recommendation to use.

Hughes didn't shoot the men – Edmonds shot them as they ran from his home, according to case records.

However, Hopkins alleges Hughes is responsible for their deaths under a provocative act law, which holds a person responsible for the death of accomplices in a crime that is likely to result in a lethal response.

In this latest action, Hanlon is asking that Judge William McKinstry – the retired Alameda County judge who will preside over the trial – remove Hopkins.

The basis of Hanlon's request is his allegation that the district attorney is refusing to file charges against Edmonds for trying to force Tyler, his common law wife since 2001, to take a pill overdose as part of a suicide attempt on Aug. 3.

Tyler told police that Edmonds divided up about 300 pills of various types – including Methadone and Seroquel – and forced her to take about half of them. She said he threatened that if she didn't take them “something else was going to happen.” Edmonds also made her write out a suicide note.

“It really reads like an attempted murder,” said Hanlon.

The two survived because Edmonds later drove himself and Tyler to Redbud Community Hospital's Emergency Room.

In an interview with police Tyler said that Edmonds has been increasingly angry and isolated. “He's pushed everybody so far away from us since the home invasion,” she said.

Tyler also told police that Edmonds has threatened her before, and once had used a gun to shoot out a door, which scared her older son so badly he stopped coming to see them.

She further stated to police that she wanted Edmonds prosecuted for the incident.

Edmonds told police the suicide attempt was Tyler's idea, although friends of the couple interviewed by police said Edmonds – not Tyler – had been talking about suicide.

On Aug. 20 Edmonds made a second suicide attempt, again with pills, according to court records.

A police report said Hopkins asked to review the police report prior to an arrest being made.

Hanlon said Hopkins isn't filing a case against Edmonds because he's trying to protect him, since he's a major witness in the Hughes trial.

“He has a lot of discretion but it can't be abused,” said Hanlon.

If he can get Hopkins removed from the case Hanlon said he plans to subpoena him as a witness on why Edmonds wasn't prosecuted.

Hanlon's motion also hints that he may seek a delay in the trial, saying he won't know until the hearing if he will have “sufficient time to gather evidence and investigate this matter so that I can proceed adequately prepared and competent to trial in October of this year.”

Hopkins dismissed Hanlon's motion as just another maneuver to stall the trial.

He said his office is investigating the case and no decision has yet been made, but he contradicted Hanlon's claims that he was dismissing the case.

“He's a little premature in arriving at his conclusion,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins didn't want to reveal his plans for arguing against Hanlon until court, and said he is in the process of filing a brief in response.

He said the Attorney General's Office also will file a brief in opposition to Hanlon's motion to have the District Attorney's Office removed.

“There's no legal basis for the motion at all,” said Hopkins.

The motion will be heard at 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in Department 3 at the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport.

Earlier this year Hanlon appealed to both the state First Appellate Court and the state Supreme Court to throw out Judge Arthur Mann's March 2 decision to take the trial out of Lake County. The appellate court upheld Mann's decision, and the Supreme Court would not hear the case.

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


WITTER SPRINGS – A portion of Witter Springs Road is closed because the condition of a single-lane bridge on that road has seriously deteriorated.

County Road Superintendent Steve Stangland said Thursday that during a recent road inspection a county road crew discovered a hole had developed in the deck of the bridge on Witter Springs Road, crossing Dayle Creek.

The small, single-lane bridge is a wooden structure, and is at least 55 years old, Stangland said.

As a result of discovering the hole, Public Works closed Witter Springs Road to all traffic two miles north of Highway 20 at the bridge, effective immediately.

Traffic will be detoured on East Road to Bachelor Valley Road and back to Witter Springs Road in order to avoid the bridge area, Stangland reported.

He said signs have been posted at the intersection of Witter Springs and East roads to warn drivers.

“We're trying to do everything we can so nobody gets caught off guard,” he added.

Stangland said the road around the bridge will be closed for quite a while as the roads department considers its options: fixing the bridge or completely replacing it.

Right now they're pricing repairs and will weigh those estimates against full replacement, he explained.

Part of the decision also will rest on the looking at hydrology reports, said Stangland. “It may be that the structure is undersized just for the creek channel.”

The road closure remains in effect until further notice, Public Works reported.

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


LOWER LAKE – A Lake County environmental leader will be among the honorees at an event to honor the achievements of North Coast women.

State Sen. Patricia Wiggins' eighth annual Women in the Wine Country dinner and fundraiser will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, a the Kendall Jackson Wine Center in Fulton.

Victoria Brandon, chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group since January 2005, will receive the event's environmental award.

“Personal recognition from such an extraordinarily dedicated and able legislator as Pat Wiggins is immensely gratifying, but the honor actually belongs to the Sierra Club Lake Group, and to the other local conservationists committed to making our community the greenest place in California,” Brandon said.

Brandon's duties with the Sierra Club keep her busy around the county, from monitoring development to writing letters to politicians on environmental policy matters.

She worked to garner support for the Congressman Mike Thompson's Wilderness Bill and supported the Cache Creek Wild & Scenic campaign.

A Lake County resident since 1981, she also is a board member of Tuleyome, a volunteer advocacy-oriented nonprofit organization founded in 2002 that is dedicated to protecting the Putah-Cache bioregion, which includes Lake County.

Brandon's other activities include participating in the Cache Creek Watershed Forum, secretary of the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch, membership in the Coalition for Responsible Agriculture and editor of the Lake County Peace Action newsletter.

Other honorees include: Arts – Hanya Popova Parker, Sonoma County artist; Health Care – Carol Mordhorst, Mendocino County Public Health director; Business – Jeannie Hamann, owner, Hamann Real Estate; Wine – Phyllis Zouzounis, owner and winemaker, Deux Amis Winery; Special Achievement – Elaine Honig, Creative Director, Honig Vineyard and Winery.

For more information about the event visit www.wiggins4senate.com/events.html.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Authorities say they have confirmed that a body found along Clear Lake's shoreline Thursday was that of a missing Windsor man.

A report from Chief Deputy Coroner Russell Perdock said that an autopsy conducted Friday confirmed that the man was 22-year-old Matthew Zanoni.

Zanoni went missing in the lake on Saturday while a passenger on a pontoon boat in the area of Shag Rock, located near Buckingham Point and east of Lakeport, as Lake County News previously reported.

His sister, Jennifer Zanoni, said he had come to Lake County that afternoon to attend BoardStock.

Perdock reported that the autopsy revealed no signs of trauma, injury or foul play.

The cause of Zanoni's death, said Perdock, was drowning.

Zanoni's body was discovered by a group of searchers that included his father, Mike Zanoni, Supervisor Rob Brown and Skip Simkins of Lake Countys' Lakebed Management division, as Lake County News reported Thursday.

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


UPPER LAKE – An open house to discuss the issue of emergency preparedness will take place in Upper Lake Saturday.

Supervisor Denise Rushing will host the event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the Odd Fellows Hall, 9480 Main St.

A similar event was held in Spring Valley in August, giving residents the chance to hear from the officials who will respond in times of disasters and emergencies.

Speakers on Saturday will include Kurt Herndon, Upper Lake Elementary superintendent; Rick Winer, Upper Lake Middle principal; Patrick Iaccino, Upper Lake High principal/superintendant; Chief Jim Robbins, Northshore Fire Protection District; Chris Rivera, Lake County Office of Emergency Services; Rachelle Henry, Upper Lake Water District; Betsy Cawn, Senior Support Services; Wolfgang Liebe, U.S. Forestry; and Pat Lynch, Upper Lake Flood Prevention.

Rushing also will speak about the Lake County Fire Plan.

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


LAKEPORT – On Tuesday a jury convicted a Clearlake man who, along with another man, was accused of the robbery last year of an elderly couple.

A report from Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said a jury on Tuesday found Craig Alvin Lemke, 45, guilty of the home invasion robbery, which took place in February 2006.

Hinchcliff prosecuted Lemke, whose trial began Sept. 12 in Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom's Department 4 courtroom.

Lemke was defended by attorney Jason Webster. Webster did not return a call placed to his office Wednesday.

According to Hinchcliff's report, at just after 8 p.m. Feb. 12, 2006, Lemke and Joe Moncivaiz Jr. went to the home of the elderly couple, who Lemke had previously known and with whom he had work-related contacts.


The men parked their vehicle three-tenths of a mile down the road from the victim’s residence, which Hinchcliff said was located on Highway 29 just south of Lower Lake.

According to testimony at trial, Lemke and Moncivaiz checked the location of the couple inside the residence through uncovered windows after dark, then approached the front door, knocked on it, and told the male victim they had run out of gas. The male victim was 89 years old and the female victim 70 years old, Hinchcliff reported.

When the male victim opened the door, Lemke pushed him onto the floor and bound his hands and feet with electrical tape, according to Hinchcliff's report. When the female victim came out of her bedroom to investigate the noise, she was tied up with zip ties and electrical tape. Both Lemke and Moncivaiz were wearing coverings on their faces and gloves to avoid identification and leaving fingerprints. Lemke was wearing a Halloween skeleton mask.

After ransacking the residence for about 15 minutes, the men fled with several guns, a large amount of ammunition, $2,100 in cash and other items, Hinchcliff reported.

Once they reached Highway 29 in front of the residence, they realized they could not carry the stolen property down Highway 29 to their car for fear of being seen by passing cars, and stashed the stolen items, Hinchcliff said.

While they were making their way back to the car, the male victim freed himself and called 911. Hinchcliff explained that before Lemke and Moncivaiz could return to retrieve the stolen property they had stashed, they realized their car would not start and heard approaching sirens of Lake County Sheriff’s deputies.

They fled into the surrounding hills until deputies left the area two hours later, then called a friend for a ride and returned home, said Hinchcliff. Meanwhile, the stolen property was found by sheriff’s deputies and returned to the victims.

The jury deliberated for two hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all charges, including two counts of first degree robbery, first degree burglary, elder theft, two counts of false imprisonment of an elderly person and grand theft of firearms, Hinchcliff reported.


In addition, several special allegations charged were submitted to Judge Hedstrom for a court trial after the jury convicted Lemke of the crimes charged, said Hinchcliff. Special allegations including two prior “strikes,” three prior prison terms, committing a felony while released on own recognizance and crimes against elders were found to be true.

Lemke had prior felony convictions and prison sentences between 1986 and 1995 for possession of a sawed off shotgun, transportation of methamphetamine, robbery, burglary and threatening a witness, said Hinchcliff.

When he is sentenced on Oct. 25, Lemke could face a maximum of 76 years to life in prison, according to Hinchcliff.

Hinchcliff added that Lemke's accomplice, Moncivaiz, previously admitted his participation and pleaded guilty to first degree burglary.



GLENHAVEN – A crash on Highway 20 near Glenhaven late Friday resulted in major injuries.

The California Highway Patrol incident logs reported that the accident took place around 9:28 p.m. on westbound Highway 20 at Cora Drive.

The CHP did not stipulate how many vehicles were involved.

However, they did report that emergency personnel transported one person by helicopter to Santa Rosa.

A blood test was conducted and no alcohol was found in the person's system, the CHP reported.

No other information was available Saturday night.

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WITTER SPRINGS – The Lake County Department of Public Works has issued an advisory announcing the partial closure of Witter Springs Road due to issues with a bridge structure.

The report – issued just after noon on Thursday – noted that, effective immediately, Witter Springs Road will be closed to all traffic two miles north of Highway 20 at the bridge due to bridge deck failure.

Traffic will be detoured on East Road to Bachelor Valley Road and back to Witter Springs Road in order to avoid the bridge area, according to the report. Signs are in place to alert drivers.

Public Works' report said the closure will remain in effect until further notice.

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


MIDDLETOWN – A motorcyclist sustained minor injuries in a Wednesday afternoon collision with a pickup, escaping serious injury thanks an evasive maneuver that took the rider and bike under the truck.

The accident occurred at about 2:44 p.m. according to the California Highway Patrol's incident logs.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia said late Wednesday that the crash took place on Highway 29 in Middletown near the junction with Highway 175.

Garcia said a preliminary investigation indicated that the collision occurred whn a 2002 Ford Ranger traveling southbound on Highway 29 began to make a left turn directly in front of a 2007 Honda motorcycle, which the pickup's driver failed to notice approaching.

The motorcycle rider took evasive action, Garcia said, and laid the motorcycle down onto its side and slid under the Ford.

Garcia said the motorcycle rider was transported to Redbud Hospital by ambulance with minor injuries.

He said the names of the drivers involded were not available Wednesday afternoon.

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