Thursday, 25 July 2024


LAKEPORT, Calif. – A Clearlake man charged with the murder of his wife will undergo an evaluation to determine his mental competence.

Eddie Lee Gillespie, 51, of Clearlake was due in Lake County Superior Court on Friday morning for a preliminary hearing in connection with the May 25 shooting death of his estranged wife, Tracey Gillespie, 52, of Clearlake Oaks.

Eddie Gillespie is charged with murder and a special allegation of using a gun, and a lesser included offense of assault with a firearm and special allegations of using a firearm and causing great bodily injury, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who is handling the case.

Gillespie faces a maximum of 50 years to life if convicted of all charges, Hinchcliff said.

The case began the day in Judge Andrew Blum's Department 3 courtroom, but an apparent backlog of cases prevented the case from being heard in the morning.

Blum arranged to have it transferred to Department 2 and Judge Richard Martin, who took up the case around 2 p.m., with friends and family of the defendant and the victim having followed the case from one courtroom to another.

When Martin took up the case, he asked, “Are both sides ready to go?”

Gillespie's attorney, Stephen Carter, indicated he was ready but he had a new concern.

That afternoon one of the correctional officers brought Carter information that caused him to question Gillespie's mental competence, or his ability to understand what is taking place in the court proceedings – a different matter altogether from sanity.

“It appears to me that he is deteriorating,” said Carter.

As a result, Carter said he had “a significant doubt” regarding Gillespie's competence, with the additional concern that Gillespie would be incapable of assisting in his own defense.

Martin asked if Gillespie had a different opinion. Carter say he may. Gillespie remained silent throughout the hearing.

Carter said he and Hinchcliff agreed to have two doctors evaluate Gillespie. Martin suggested they use the services of Dr. Chris Fischer, who lives in the county and whose thorough work has impressed the judge. Martin suggested they also go with Dr. Douglas Rosoff, who lives in close proximity to the county, which could help the evaluation be completed more quickly.

Martin temporarily suspended the criminal proceedings until the doctors can evaluate Gillespie's competency.

Noting that the general turnaround for such evaluations is three to four weeks, Martin added another few weeks for the prosecution and defense to review the doctors' findings. He scheduled the next hearing for a review of the findings at 9 a.m. Oct. 1 in Department 3 before Judge Blum.

Gillespie has remained in the Lake County Jail since his arrest on the day of his wife's shooting, with bail set at $1.5 million.

Martin said he was going to leave that bail amount in place until they can review the competency issues. If Gillespie is found incompetent, Martin said he might remove the bail possibility altogether.

Carter noted that it is Rosoff's habit to come to Lake County for evaluations, and emphasized that he doesn't want Gillespie to be transported out of the county.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – It's been a busy week of fire activity throughout the county, as temperatures have climbed over the century mark.

Over the last two days fires and downed power lines are among the hazards firefighters have faced, with fires reported near Clearlake Oaks, Clearlake and east toward Spring Valley on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday evening, firefighters responded to blazes along Old Long Valley Road and New Long Valley Road, as Lake County News has reported.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown said downed power lines and exploding dog pine trees challenged both local and state firefighters when they arrived at the “Valley Incident” on Old Long Valley Road and the Pomo Ranch shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Brown said the fire started when a tree fell into a power line, which tripped breakers and cut off power to the Spring Valley area.

The fire expanded into neighboring properties and had the potential to go further. He said additional equipment was requested and officials prepared for possible evacuation of neighboring residences. However, the fire was contained at a total of six acres, and none of the four structures threatened were damaged.

A second fire started from spotting from the first fire a quarter of a mile off the Pomo Ranch, and Brown said that fire, called the “Long Incident,” was quickly controlled at one acre of brush in steep terrain.

He said both fires were a unified command of Northshore Fire and Cal Fire.

Brown said Northshore Fire sent two battalion chiefs, two engines and a water tender out of the Clearlake Oaks station, one engine out of the Spring Valley station, one engine out of the Lucerne station, one engine and medic out of the Nice station and a water tender out of the Upper Lake station. Lake County Fire responded one engine under mutual aid. Total personnel responding was 21, he said.

Cal Fire also sent resources, with Brown noting that they had a full wildland response – totaling five engines – at one point.

Early Thursday evening a small fire that appeared to be a rekindle of the Old Long Valley Road fire was reported but quickly contained, according to reports from the scene.

Firefighters were on scene for several hours on Widgeon Way in Clearlake Oaks where a fire was reported burning just after 4 p.m. Power lines were down and residents in Clearlake Oaks and Spring Valley reported a power surge as a result.

Northshore Fire and Cal Fire responded, with the incident terminated at around 10:30 p.m., according to radio reports.

Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson Brandi Ehlers said the company didn't have reports of damaged equipment from the Wednesday night fires, although they had a report of issues resulting from the Thursday fire near Widgeon Way.

In other fire news around the county Thursday, shortly before 4:30 p.m. a 50-foot area of grass was reported on fire near Ogulin Canyon Road outside of Clearlake, and was later contained.

A small brush fire was reported on Burns Valley Road in Clearlake near the Redbud Library, but radio reports indicated the fire was quickly put out shortly after 6 p.m.

The week's biggest blaze, the Indian Fire at the north end of Indian Valley Reservoir, was contained Thursday after burning for two days, according to Cal Fire. The fire was limited to 363 acres.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT, Calif. – A Lakeport woman lost her home Wednesday due to a structure fire.

The fire, which occurred at U Wanna Camp on Scotts Creek Road outside of Lakeport, was reported at around 4:30 p.m., according to Lakeport Fire Protection Chief Ken Wells.

He said the campground has several permanent residents, and one of them was a woman living in a singlewide mobile home.

The woman was visiting a neighbor when someone pointed out that smoke was coming from her trailer, said Wells.

Wells responded along with two engines, a water tender and seven firefighters from Lakeport Fire, with Kelseyville Fire sending an engine and two firefighters and another four firefighters and an engine coming from Cal Fire, said Wells.

Because the fire was in the state responsibility area and there was a concern that the fire could get into nearby wildlands, Wells requested a full wildland dispatch consisting of five engines, but he said the fire was contained within about a half hour, and it didn't get out of the park.

The trailer was a total loss, although the woman was able to recover a few personal belongings, Wells said. The woman is staying with a neighbor temporarily.

Wells said the woman told firefighters that she had been having trouble with a window-mounted air conditioner.

“We think that's probably what the cause was,” he said.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – After two extremely hot days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees in many areas, a rapid cool-down is forecast for the weekend, bringing a return to below-normal daytime temperatures beginning today.

Like much of California, daytime temperatures were well above normal on Tuesday throughout Lake County, although no records were broken here.

Around the rest of the state numerous records tumbled down as the mercury shot up due to a strong high pressure system that stalled over much of California and continued to heat up Northern California, including Lake County, on Wednesday.

According to Bob Benjamin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the high heat will not last and will cool down considerably through Sunday. That's when a strong trough from the Gulf of Alaska is predicted to settle over Northern California, with some areas forecast to see a 40-degree temperature drop.

High daytime temperatures should only reach the mid- to upper-80s Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento, and will trend downward as the cold trough moves in to Lake County.

The weekend will feel almost cold by comparison when temperatures only reach the mid- to upper-70s throughout Lake County, and overnight lows dip in to the upper 40s.

Average temperatures for this time of year are in the low-90s, with overnight lows in the mid-50s.

As the cooler weather settles over Northern California, a slight chance of rain is possible in the northern mountains, but forecasters predict it will be mostly clear to partly cloudy in Lake County throughout the weekend.

For up-to-the-minute weather information, please visit the Lake County News homepage.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

UKIAH, Calif. – A Hopland man was convicted of murder on Friday for the fatal September 2008 stabbing of a fellow Hopland resident.

Following a six-day trial presided over by Judge Richard Henderson, a jury returned a guilty verdict on second degree murder against Timothy Slade Elliott, 38, who the jury also found used a knife in committing the murder, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

The District Attorney's Office reported that Elliott encountered the victim, Samuel Billy, during a party at Shanel Drive on the Hopland Rancheria during the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2008.

After an earlier fight involving Elliott and other subjects, Elliott and Billy engaged in an altercation during which Elliott was observed delivering a blow to Billy’s abdomen, the report explained. Billy staggered off a few feet and collapsed in the parking lot with an apparent stab wound.

Elliott fled the scene, going to the home of an acquaintance where he changed into some dirty clothes belonging to that individual, and leaving behind his own clothing and a knife, officials reported.

After police and medical personnel arrived Billy was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he died of the stab wound after emergency surgery, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Elliott will be sentenced on Oct. 8. He faces a sentence of 16 years to life.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Rayburn Killion, with attorney Linda Thompson representing Elliott.

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HOPLAND, Calif. – The case against eight people alleged to have been involved in embezzling from Hopland Sho-Kah-Wah Casino is moving forward, with the defendants making court appearances this week.

The California Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control, working with the Hopland Commissioned Police and Hopland Band of Pomo Indians' Tribal Gaming Agency, conducted an investigation beginning in November 2008 that resulted in the arrests, as Lake County News has reported.

The defendants are accused of embezzlement and grand theft for allegedly taking more than $102,000 from the casino, officials reported.

Those arrested included Joan Pickron of Ukiah, a former casino shift manager; Ukiah residents Alex Ralph Martin, John Steven Glass Jr. and Roberta Lynn Reeder; Thomas Jay Williams of Redwood Valley; Mary Ann Moore of Rohnert Park; Gloria Marie Nelson of Nice; and Teresa Marie Miller of Clearlake, the Department of Justice reported.

Assistant Mendocino County District Attorney Beth Norman said Reeder, Moore, Williams and Nelson turned themselves in and appeared in court on July 26 in response to a letter issued the previous month, telling them to appear.

The other four didn't show up on that date, and were picked up more recently on felony arrest warrants the county issued, Norman said.

The Mendocino County District Attorney's Office has filed complaints against the eight, she said.

The charges are filed chronologically, Norman said, depending on who was involved at what time during the course of the alleged embezzlement.

Norman explained that some of the defendants are facing more charges than others, with Pickron being the only defendant who allegedly was consistently involved throughout.


Brett Rhodes, chief of the tribe's police department, said the discovery of a possible internal theft came to light after the tribe's gaming commission began investigating a minor internal policy violation in October 2008.

He said the gaming commission conducted its own internal investigation, determining substantial theft had occurred and, as a result, it revoked Pickron’s gaming license.

Pickron is alleged to have used her position as a casino shift manager to create and authorize false jackpots in the casino's online accounting system. Rhodes said she is alleged to have paid out those false jackpots to known associates.

Rhodes said it was important to note that the gaming devices were in no way manipulated to create the false jackpots.

The investigation was turned over to Hopland’s Commissioned Police Department for criminal investigation. Rhodes said Lt. John Larsen diligently worked on the criminal investigation and involved the state Department of Justice's Gaming Division special agents when preparing several search warrants in connection with the case.

“These investigations and subsequent arrests on this case are an excellent example of law enforcement working in cooperative policing efforts at all levels to achieve positive outcomes,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said the casino has had minimal internal issues previously, like any other private business operation, but those usually are handled in-house. Due to the large scale and the networking of others, this was a case that he said was ripe for criminal investigation and prosecution.

Miller was in court on Wednesday and is due back Friday, Norman said, along with some of her other co-defendants. Miller has posted bail, as have Pickron, Martin and the others except for Glass, who is being held due to warrants in other cases.

Norman said her goal is to have everybody return to court on Sept. 20 so they can start setting future court dates.

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HOPLAND, Calif. – State officials have arrested seven individuals and are seeking an eighth in connection with an alleged embezzlement from Hopland Sho-Ka-Wah Casino.

The arrests resulted from an investigation begun in November 2008 by the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Gambling Control, according to a Tuesday report.

Joan Elizabeth Pickron, 42, of Ukiah, and seven associates were suspected of embezzling more than $102,000 from the casino, the Bureau of Gambling Control reported.

State agents from the bureau worked closely with the Hopland Commissioned Police and Hopland Band of Pomo Indians' Tribal Gaming Agency during the investigation, which they say revealed that Pickron and her co-conspirators had allegedly overridden jackpot slot machines to cheat the casino.

On June 26, Pickron and her seven co-conspirators were sent notices to appear in Mendocino County Court for embezzling the funds, the agency reported.

A month later, on July 26 four suspects – whose names were not immediately available late Tuesday – turned themselves in as ordered. However, the Bureau of Gambling Control reported that Pickron and three of the other suspects failed to appear in court. Based on their failure to appear, felony arrest warrants were issued.

On Aug. 19, Bureau of Gambling Control agents, Hopland Commissioned Police and Ukiah Police detectives located and arrested Pickron, along with fellow Ukiah residents John Steven Glass Jr., 38, and Alex Ralph Martin, 47, and booked them for embezzlement and grand theft.

Bail for all three arrestees was set at $15,000, according to Mendocino County Jail records. Glass also was charged with violating probation.

One suspect is still outstanding, although officials did not release that person's name.

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CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A man's threats to kill his ex-girlfriend led to an early morning appearance in Clearlake by the county's SWAT team.

Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain said that the domestic violence situation, which was under way after midnight on Thursday, was allegedly instigated by 23-year-old Ivan Vargas.

Vargas allegedly took a loaded firearm and went to his ex-girlfriend's home in the 15000 block of 42nd Avenue. McClain said Vargas' ex-girlfriend fled the home with family members but several children were still in the home with Vargas.

The woman called police believing Vargas was still in the house with the children, McClain said.

He explained that when police arrived no one at the home would respond to them. As a result, they called in the Lake County Sheriff's Office SWAT and hostage negotiation teams.

When the teams entered the residence, they found the firearm Vargas had allegedly had with him, along with six unharmed children, said McClain.

Authorities continue to look for Vargas, who is accused of making terrorist threats. McClain described Vargas as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 220 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

McClain said anyone with information should call the Clearlake Police Department, 707-994-8251.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

INDIAN VALLEY RESERVOIR, Calif. – A wildland fire burning near Indian Valley Reservoir is nearing full containment, state fire officials reported, while firefighters rushed to deal with other fires around the county late Wednesday.

Cal Fire said the Indian Fire, first reported Tuesday afternoon at the north end of the reservoir, had reached 363 acres on Wednesday, less acreage than the agency had indicated previously.

The fire was 80-percent contained shortly after 2:30 p.m., according to Cal Fire spokesperson Suzie Blankenship. The last update of the day on the fire, made at 7 p.m., had the fire still at that containment level.

Blankenship said one strike team of five engines, four division supervisors, three water tenders, an incident commander and three crew strike teams of 102 firefighters were on scene Wednesday.

She said there were three heat-related injuries reported among firefighters Wednesday. The injured firefighters received medical treatment, she added.

The Indian Fire's cause remains under investigation, Blankenship said. Cal Fire expects the fire to be fully contained on Thursday.

Late Wednesday evening, Cal Fire and Northshore Fire Protection District responded to two fires, one on Old Long Valley Road and one New Long Valley Road, reported at about 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. respectively, according to radio reports.

The Old Long Valley Road fire was reported contained at between four and six acres. A transformer had blown according to a California Highway Patrol report, with Pacific Gas & Electric called to the scene.

The second fire on New Long Valley Road was reported to have grown to about six acres in size shortly before 11:30 p.m. Firefighters at that point were expected to be committed to the scene for seveal more hours.

Elsewhere in the state, Cal Fire reported that the Curry Fire in Contra Costa County had reached 375 acres and was 90-percent contained, and the Post Fire in Kern County was 60-percent contained at 1,308 acres.

With the increased fire conditions and the drawdown of resources to other area fires, Cal Fire's planned burn at Lake Sonoma's dam had been posted to Aug. 30 and Sept. 1, officials reported.

Cal Fire urged the public to remain cautious due to the high fire danger resulting from hot, dry weather.

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Following several weeks of unseasonably cool weather, temperatures are on the rise again, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to urge Californians to take steps now to prepare for the heat.

Employers should also review their heat illness prevention programs and remind employees of the importance of protecting themselves.

“Though this summer has been unusually mild, temperatures in many areas of the state are predicted to rise over 100 degrees this week, and everyone should take proper precautions to avoid heat-related illness,” said Schwarzenegger. “With just a few simple steps, such as drinking an adequate amount of water, staying indoors during the hottest times of the day and pacing yourself when outside, we can all keep cool and safely enjoy the outdoors during hot weather.”

The National Weather Service has forecast above-normal temperatures affecting the state through Thursday, with the highest temperatures expected in the Central and Southern California valleys on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Though we’ve had lower temperatures recently, we cannot forget that it is summer in California and we must be prepared for hot weather,” said California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) Secretary Matthew Bettenhausen. “Taking time to review and update family emergency plans, restock emergency supply kits and drinking water supplies, learn first aid and CPR, are ways we can all reduce our risk and create a cooler environment to beat the heat.”

Because drinking fluids is essential to avoiding heat exhaustion, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses, officials strongly suggested that Californians include plenty of drinking water in their emergency supply kits.

Officials also recommend Californians consider the needs of family members and neighbors, who are elderly, have physical impairments and other unique needs.

“Infants, small children, the elderly, people with illnesses and those who are taking certain medications could be at additional risk to heat-related illnesses,” noted California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Horton. “If it hasn’t been done yet, now is the time to obtain extra medications and food, and to arrange for someone to check on those who are living alone or have special needs.”

Employers are also asked to take appropriate precautions.

The Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigations show that in 30 percent of cases in which suspected heat illness occurred, the employer did not have a heat illness prevention program. Heat illness is preventable. Preventing heat illness protects your workers and is good business. Health and safety problems and other health problems like heart attacks and falls may result from heat illness at the workplace.

In preparation for this week’s temperature increase, the following actions have been taken:

  • Cal EMA continues to conduct daily weather conference calls with the National Weather Service, state agencies, local responding agencies and private partners to coordinate response efforts;

  • State and local agencies continue monitoring the weather situation and providing updated information to employers and the public.


For summer heat resources, please visit Cal EMA at

Additional health tips can be found on the California Department of Public Health Web site at

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