Monday, 22 July 2024


Judge Richard Martin handed down the decision to try Dinius on Wednesday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A judge has ruled that a Carmichael man will stand trial for manslaughter for a fatal April 2006 boating collision.

At the end of a preliminary hearing that wrapped up Wednesday, Judge Richard Martin ruled there was enough evidence to try Bismarck Dinius, 39, for vehicle manslaughter involving a vessel and boating under the influence of alcohol.

On the night of April 29, 2006, Dinius was steering the Beats Workin' II, a 27-foot sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber, when the sailboat was hit by a 24-foot-long speedboat driven by Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Weber's fiancee, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows, was fatally injured and died days later.

The prosecution has alleged that the sailboat was under way without lights, which was reportedly a reason for charging Dinius with manslaughter.

The decision to try Dinius was based on evidence presented during a four-day preliminary hearing, which ran May 20 through May 22, and then was continued Wednesday.

During the May portion of the hearing, Dinius' attorney, Victor Haltom, presented experts who testified that the lights had been on, and who further alleged that Perdock was operating his speedboat at around 60 miles per hour.

Perdock was not charged in connection with the crash, resulting in considerable outrage in the sailing community, members of which have contacted Lake County News from around the globe to express their concerns about the case.

During the May 22 portion of the hearing, Perdock was on the stand for several minutes before proceedings were continued due to other business scheduled to take place in court that day.

On Wednesday defense attorney Victor Haltom of Sacramento picked up where he left off in his line of questioning, asking Perdock about his contact with sheriff's Sgt. James Beland on the night of the collision.

Last month, Beland had testified he transported Perdock to Redbud Community Hospital for a blood draw and later drove around with him for some time, but he couldn't remember where they went.

Haltom questioned Perdock on what they spoke about, with Perdock responding that he could not recall specific details, but adding he didn't believe it was about the crash.

Perdock also contradicted testimony given last month by Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, who was called in to lead the investigation because of Perdock's position within the local sheriff's office.

Slabaugh had testified that Perdock said his tachometer and speedometer were in a 12 o'clock position, which the defense had calculated put the boat's speed in the range of about 60 miles per hour.

Perdock suggested Slabaugh's memory was confused, saying he had made no such statements about the gauges' readings, which were closer to 9 o'clock positioning. He said the discrepancy might be explained by a simple typographical error in the report.

He also answered defense questions regarding his knowledge of the rules and regulations of Harbor and Navigation Regulations.

Regarding his speed, Perdock testified that while he could see two miles across the open water he was only able to see 10 feet directly in front of his boat. When asked if he felt he would have been able to stop his boat in such a short distance while going at the speed he claimed he was traveling, he responded, “No.”

Shortly afterward, Perdock concluded his testimony, and the defense moved on to call boat and marine service business owner Doug Jones and boat builder Malcolm Davey of Kelseyville.

Haltom also recalled Sheriff's Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who testified to the location of where and how both boats had been stored soon after the incident.

In his closing statements, Deputy District Attorney John Langan argued that Dinius should be held for trial based on the specifics of law; he also said that Dinius had a previous DUI conviction within a seven-year period.

Dinius, an experienced sailor, should have been aware of the possible outcome of operating a vessel at night without required navigational lights, said Langan.

In his response to Langan's argument, Haltom asserted that Dinius was not the person ultimately at fault in the crash, and that “gross negligence belongs on the shoulders of Chief Deputy Russ Perdock.”

Pointing to Dinius, Haltom said, “The wrong man is sitting at this table.”

In handing down his decision to send Dinius to trial, Judge Martin agreed with Langan's argument that, based on his boating experience, Dinius was negligent in operating the boat without the lights off.

He also found the past DUI conviction relevant, because Dinius, he said, went boating after drinking “excessively.” Dinius allegedly had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 the night of the crash.

“I'm disappointed obviously,” Haltom said afterward. “We will let the evidence speak for itself at the trial. I think that at trial Bismarck will be acquitted and the jury will do the right thing.”



Defense attorney Victor Haltom was disappointed after the hearing. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


Dinius said he was very surprised that the case had led to this point, but he was prepared to move forward with the worst-case scenario of going to trial.

Martin scheduled Dinius to return to court for arraignment on the morning of July 28 in front of Judge Arthur Mann. At that point, a trial date may be set, possibly for the fall.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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Bismarck Dinius said he's prepared to face trial later this year. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



COBB – An overturned water truck resulted in no injuries and a minor traffic slowdown on Monday morning.

The Epidendio water truck was reported overturned on Highway 175 heading westbound toward Cobb at about 8:30 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol and an eyewitness, Cobb resident Roger Kinney.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia said the truck had a flat tire. The driver pulled over, getting too close to the ditch, and the truck tipped over.

There was no injuries, said Garcia.

Kinney said as he passed through the area at around 10:15 a.m., traffic control was in effect, with about 10-minute delays, and the truck was being uprighted.

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On Saturday, as Sen. Hillary Clinton announced she would concede in the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for president and endorse Sen. Barack Obama, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson reported he would give Obama his support.

In January, Thompson told Lake County News he was endorsing Clinton's historic presidential bid, citing her strength on issues important to the First Congressional District, such as agriculture and the environment.

However, he had said at the time that he felt either Clinton or Obama would make “a great president.”

A statement issued from Thompson's Washington, D.C. office Saturday afternoon said the congressman was giving his support to the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“Sen. Obama’s nomination is an historic achievement for our country,” Thompson said in the written statement. “As I said from the beginning, this process would be finished long before the convention. I will do everything in my power to help make him our nation’s next president.”

Thompson called Obama “an electrifying candidate who ran a flawless campaign.”

“He has struck a vibrant chord with the American people and motivated millions of new voters to make their voices heard,” Thompson said. “From improving access to health care to protecting our environment to rebuilding our economy to ending the war in Iraq, I strongly support Senator Obama’s vision for America and believe it is directly aligned with the needs of our Congressional District.”

Thompson has had occasion to work with Obama; the two of them partnered to present legislation in both the House and Senate last year to bring home US troops from Iraq and institute an international diplomatic strategy for peace, as Lake County News reported last year.

“I look forward to working on many more important initiatives once he’s elected president of the United States,” Thompson said.

Thompson praised Clinton, who he called “a powerful leader who also energizes and inspires voters.”

He added, “I know she’ll continue her tireless efforts and help us elect Sen. Obama, change the direction of our nation, end the war, and restore our standing around the world.”

Thompson is one of more than 60 superdelegates representing California, about half of which had declared their support for Clinton this spring.

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A pickup allegedly stolen out of Napa County was abandoned on Martin Street after a high speed pursuit Tuesday night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – Officials were searching for a subject who led the California Highway Patrol, Lakeport Police and sheriff's deputies on a high-speed chase through downtown Lakeport Tuesday night.

The chase reached speeds of as high as 120 miles per hour, according to a CHP officer at the scene.

It ended on Martin Street when a woman and at least one other person – possibly another female – ditched a stolen pickup truck they were driving.

At about 9:30 p.m. the CHP was in pursuit of the woman on Highway 29 heading northbound toward Upper Lake. The pickup was speeding, which the CHP reported was the reason for trying to pull it over initially.

The woman reportedly was driving a late model white Dodge Ram pickup that had a First Choice Abbey Carpet sign on it, but did not belong to that company. CHP reported the vehicle was stolen out of Napa, and had license plates stolen out of Vallejo.

The pursuing CHP officer at one point reported objects were being thrown from the vehicle, and that the driver appeared to be preparing to veer into oncoming traffic on the highway. The officer put a request out to other law enforcement in the area to attempt to find the items thrown on the highway.

The pickup then got off of the highway and onto Park Way, and headed back into Lakeport along Lakeshore Boulevard. A call was put out for spike strips to be put out on Lakeshore at Rainbow, but the pursuit moved through the area too quickly.

The high-speed pursuit continued through downtown Lakeport and along Main Street, with Lakeport Police and Lake County Sheriff's deputies joining CHP in the attempt to stop the vehicle.

The chase ended on Martin Street near the car wash, where the pickup was abandoned and the pickup's occupants escaped on foot, officials reported.

The pickup was left with both front doors open, and had nearly hit a tree at the corner of Martin and Forbes, but was undamaged.

Officials were examining at least three women's handbags found in the pickup.

CHP was joined by Lakeport Police and Lake County Sheriff's deputies, who continued looking for the suspects late into the night.

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From right to left, Rose Lynch, MegAnn Brierly, Krystina Riccio, Jennifer Harte, Cheyanne Horvath, Rachel Sutton, Jamie Ridgeay, Karen Castellanos, Raphael Roy-Labelle, Jacob Gill, Maddie Kucer and Nika Gibbs at the Hidden Valley Lake Country Club for a fundraising dinner and silent auction on Saturday, May 17. Photo by Terre Logsdon.



HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The first stamp in their new US passports may be from Japan, but for many of these Middletown Middle School students, this will be the first of many worldwide adventures.

Twelve Middletown Middle School students will leave in August as part of an ongoing exchange program with their sister city, Naka-cho – which means “Middletown” – and fly to Japan for eight days to gain a better understanding of a very different culture.

"The benefits of this program are numerous," said former Middletown Middle School Principal JoAnn Rodriguez. “This trip will open up their horizons … and whet their appetites for learning about other cultures.”

Rodriguez, now retired, received written correspondence from Naka-cho asking for a cultural exchange. After several years of writing back and forth, in 1994, the first delegation from Middletown Middle School was sent to Japan.

The next year, students and parents from Naka-cho came to Middletown – and they have alternated every year since.

“It gives the students a desire to learn and appreciate other cultures,” Rodriguez said, who explained that some students host a family from Japan one year – then stay with that same family the following year when they go.

In May, the Japan Club at Middletown Middle School hosted a dinner and silent auction at the Hidden Valley Lake Country Club to raise money for the trip.

Dan Morgan, Middletown Middle School current principal, explained that each of the students go through a very rigorous screening process in order to participate in the program. In the process they must demonstrate citizenship, and show they are maintaining a high grade point average and receiving recommendations from their teachers.

“This is an amazing group of kids and parents,” said Morgan. “They're all working very hard to make this happen.”

If you would like to assist the students in the Japan Club, please contact Kris Davis at 987-4160.

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


I’ve been trying to create a unique spaghetti sauce for my Italian wife. During the process I wondered, “What is the difference between all these spaghetti sauces that you see on the grocery store shelves, and what does it mean?”

Marinara started out being the most confusing sauce. There are so many versions, all with different lists of ingredients, which made it hard for me to figure out what made marinara, well, marinara.

After a bit of studying I found that, literally translated, a marinara is a tomato-based sauce that contains seafood, sometimes clams but more typically anchovies. The “Mari” in Marinara means marine, but its history can be traced to a light sauce created by fisherman that could be made on board a boat quickly, since the availability of wood at sea was scarce and fires on a ship were hazardous so the fisherman would want them burning long.

Characteristically, in addition to the anchovies, a marinara also contains tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and spices. It’s only in America that we have distorted marinara into a nondescript, one-size-fits-all spaghetti sauce.

Ragu essentially means “Italian meat sauce,” so almost all spaghetti sauces in America are ragus. Tucco is the Tuscan name for a ragu, and Sugo, loosely translated to “sauce” or “juice”, is typically called a “light” tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and basil.

The problem with finding the true name of Italian sauces is that every Italian immigrant family called sauces something different, depending on the region they came from or just their own family influences.

It’s like asking an American, “What are the ingredients in barbecue?” Texans will start with “Beef with a tomato-based sauce,” while North Carolinians will begin with, “Pork and a vinegar-based sauce.”

Kansas City residents will just confuse the issue more. So many recipes may say “Ragu ala Bolognese,” but “Sugo ala Bolognese” or “Salsa ala Bolognese” would still be correct.

A Bolognese sauce originates from the landlocked Bologne (pronounced bo-LOHN) region of Italy which is not far from Parma (where the cheese Parmesan comes from). Their recipes favor beef or veal as the meat in their ragu, with the inclusion of tomatoes and wine. So a meat sauce from this area would be called “Ragu ala bolognese” (Rah-GOO AH-la bo-lohn-AYHS).

Naples is a seaside city of Italy, and they are credited for being the first Italians to actually eat and cook with tomatoes. Originally in Europe, tomatoes were grown only for ornamental value and as a curiosity, since they are related to the deadly nightshade plant and they were considered poisonous. A famine in the seventeenth century was enough to push people over the edge and attempt to eat the deadly tomato. That was the birth of the tomato into Italian cuisine.

The people of Naples tend to prefer pear-shaped tomato varieties because they are sweeter and less acidic. “Neapolitan gravy” is a basic tomato sauce from Naples that they use as a base to build on. They tend to favor pork in their ragus. On the other hand, brains, chicken, duck, duck liver, kidneys, sweetbreads (culinary code for “thyroid glands”), and rabbit can all found in various sauces throughout Italy.

Pasta ala Puttanesca is a dish with an intense tomato sauce that allegedly originated with the prostitutes of Naples. The name translates to “Harlots’ pasta” or “Pasta in the style of whores.” Wow! Who thought a food column could turn so blue? Many stories claim the origin of the sauce but the two most believable go like this ...

Brothels were called “closed houses” because by law the shutters were required to stay closed at all times to keep from offending the neighbors but the strong smell of the sauce was the lure for customers to enter their establishment. Now I may not be Italian but luring a potential customer with tomato sauce and feeding him pasta doesn’t sound like a brothel priority so the story that I find more believable is ...

At the end of the evening as the restaurants were shutting down, local streetwalkers would go begging for any leftovers before the restaurant was locked up for the night. The restaurant owners would throw any remaining tomato sauce, olives, capers, anchovies and hot peppers (the five classic ingredients that signify it as a puttanesca sauce) into a pot, pour it over some pasta and serve it to the unfortunate girls before going home. That story sounds a little more plausible to me. (My wife just told me that she, understanding Italian men better than I do, thinks the first version is more likely. “The way to a man’s heart, or wallet, is through his stomach.” OK, we agree to disagree.)

Arrabbiata sauce is traditionally served over penne pasta but spaghetti is sometimes also used “All’arrabbiata” translates to “angry style” since it is a very piquant and spicy sauce. The unique thing about Arrabbiata is that it is classically NOT served with meat in it.

Vodka sauce is also reserved for penne pasta and short cut pastas. A number of stories have it being created in 1970s Bologne, but some say it was invented by Frank Sinatra. What we do know is that it first appeared publicly during the 1980s and is considered part of nuova cucina, or Italian “New cuisine.”

It usually contains vodka, tomatoes, heavy cream, onions, garlic, prosciutto or ham, olives and parmesan cheese. Some early recipes contained rice, caviar, sour cream and strawberries. The meat preferred with this sauce is most frequently salmon.

Why make a sauce with vodka? Many ingredients, including tomatoes, contain flavor compounds that can only be released in the presence of alcohol. Vodka, being a “flavorless and colorless” alcohol, won’t clash with cream like wine in a sauce would.

Finally, sauce “All’Amatriciana,” or “Lovers sauce,” originates in the town of Amatrice, an agricultural area near Rome. The people from the area are so well renowned as good cooks that the Vatican prefers their cooks to come from Amatrice. With a name like Lovers Sauce, everybody wants to claim the recipe for their own, which makes the ingredients list difficult to nail down.

The known origins are that the sauce was adapted from a recipe made by shepherds, was first called La Gricia, and is always based on pork. The common components are tomatoes, guanciale (salt cured pork cheek, but pancetta is a frequent substitute), and chili peppers. Cooks in Rome include onions, but cooks in Amatrice don’t. Amatrice serves it on bucatini (spaghetti with a hole down the middle), while Rome uses rigatoni.

Now this brings me back to the sauce I am trying to create for my wife. How do I classify it? It doesn’t include anchovies so technically it’s not a marinara; no pork so it's not “All Amatriciana”; no capers or olives, so it’s not a Puttanesca; no vodka, but a hint of sour and spicy so maybe its an Arrabbiata ... That would make sense, she’s frequently angry at me! But it has meat in it so ... aw crud, this is going to take a while... Well anyway, here is the sauce recipe I created for my wife.

Salsa Arriabbiata della moglie (angry wife sauce)

Since my wife loves lavender, I wanted to create a sauce for her based around Herbs de Provence (an herb mixture that includes lavender). Sure, using fresh tomatoes and herbs is great, but for this sauce I wanted something that could be created in no time with items straight from the pantry. It can be made with your favorite ground meat (beef, pork, Italian sausage, or turkey), or the meat can be left out for a hearty vegan sauce.

1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

1 large onion diced

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

½ cup white wine

½ cup olive oil

1/8 cup sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch red pepper flakes

Dash nutmeg

Blend everything except onions in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in oil until browned. Stir caramelized onions into sauce and leave on the heat for at least half an hour until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Add browned, cooked meat at this point if desired and serve over pasta of your choice.

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.


The Pine Fire near Cloverdale was clearly visible in Lake County Tuesday. Photo by G. Morgan.


LAKE COUNTY – Smoky skies in parts of Lake County Tuesday resulted from a wildland fire burning in Sonoma County.

Smoke from the Pine Fire, burning along Geysers Road east of Cloverdale, was being carried over the mountains and into Lake County Tuesday by strong winds, according to Cal Fire officials.

Those same winds, Cal Fire reported, had whipped the fire out of control after it started Tuesday morning, shortly after 10 a.m.

Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit was fighting the fire, which had reached 700 acres by Tuesday night, and was reported to be 50-percent contained.

The Pine Fire was one of five active fires Cal Fire was working to contain around the state on Tuesday.

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LAKE COUNTY – A bill signed Friday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger officially makes home winemaking competitions legal.

With the governor's signature, SB 607, an urgency measure introduced in May by North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins, goes into immediate effect.

Thanks to SB 607, individuals may now manufacture up to 200 gallons per household per calendar year for personal or family use without the need for a license or permit.

Wiggins introduced the bill after a state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control official said a provision in the state's business and professions code made it illegal for home winemakers to share their products with others – even at county fairs or at similar events that been held for decades, according to a statement from her office.

“Even though the provision banning home winemaker competitions had not been widely enforced in practice, the growing legions of home winemakers did not deserve to have an arcane section of state law hanging over them,” Wiggins, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on California’s Wine Industry, said in a written statement.

The bill's signing resolves the issue in time for the peak season of county fairs, Wiggins said, and in advance of what she called the “big daddy of home winemaker competitions,” the California State Fair.

Lake County is home to its own home winemakers festival, which will return for his sixth year this June 28 in downtown Kelseyville. The annual event is a benefit for Clear Lake Performing Arts.

Organizers had indicated they were continuing forward with plans for this year's festival, hoping Wiggins' bill would be in force before the event, which in fact came true.

Connel Murray of CLPA said the home winemakers festival is his group's largest annual fundraiser, attracting participants and visitors from all over Northern California.

The Lake County Fair, he said, also has a home winemaking competition, with no public tasting component, as the CLPA event does.

The event has grown each year, he said. Last year's event netted about $7,000, and they're hoping that this year's will break the $10,000 mark.

Proceeds go to such CLPA efforts as supporting its symphony orchestra.

Before Wiggins' bill adjusted the law to make the festivals legal, state law had defined a “winegrower” as “any person who has the facilities and equipment for the conversion of fruit into wine and is engaged in the production of wine, except for those persons who produce less than 200 gallons of wine per year for their personal consumption.” SB 607 expands the definition of a winegrower by removing that exception, her office reported.

The law also had allowed homemade beer to be entered into competitions without the need for a licesen or permit, according to Wiggins' office.

Stephen Chambers, executive director of the Western Fairs Association, said in a written statement that more than 50 fairs host home winemaker competitions.

“We realize that amateur wine competitions are a small piece of the puzzle, but they are, nonetheless, a piece that completes the picture for many fairs throughout the state,” Chambers said.

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MIDDLETOWN – The sixth-annual EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk, a five-month exhibit of sculptures "in dialog with nature," will hold an opening reception for the 2008 installation on Sunday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk, is a five-month exhibit of sculptures at the 107-acre Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve County Park, 21435 Dry Creek Cutoff/Hwy 175, in Middletown.

Works of art by local, Bay Area, and national artists, who have given their time and material to create a public art installation, will be on display from June through October.

The park is open from dawn to dusk every day and admission is free. EcoArts of Lake County also offers free docent-guided tours of the art installation to schools and youth organizations by reservation.

EcoArts of Lake County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting visual art, visual art education, and ecologic stewardship to the public and visitors of Lake County.

Karen Turcotte, executive director of EcoArts of Lake County said that since the program's inception in 2003, the exhibit has developed a reputation among curators, sculptors and art lovers throughout Lake County and the Bay Area as an impressive cultural event.

Nationally renowned fiber artist Sheila O'Hara is participating in the program this year. According to Turcotte, O'Hara and her students have created a work that is both beautiful and poignant. Lake County educational groups and schools participating this year include Middletown High School, Coyote Valley Elementary, and Redwood Children's Services.

The central trail at Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve County Park has been designated for EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk. This trail is approximately 3/8th mile long and meanders to a picnic area with large oaks shading half a dozen tables. Temperatures can be quite warm in the summer, so visitors are advised to dress accordingly and pack water as no water is available at the preserve. Tall, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

For visitor information, contact the Lake County Visitor Information Center at (800) 525-3743 or


LAKEPORT – A local man was arrested over the weekend on charges that he was responsible for several Mendocino County burglaries.

Elliott Thomas Brackett, 52, a transient from Upper Lake, was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly was found in possession of stolen property.

A report from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said the agency has been investigating a series of burglaries occurring at the Carousel Industrial Park storage sheds on N. State Street in Ukiah.

On June 6, Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies received information that Brackett had sold to a Ukiah music store some stolen property related to those burglaries, according to a report from Lt. Kurt Smallcomb.

Deputy Tom Davis reopened some unsolved cases and coordinated with Lake County law enforcement agencies in locating Brackett, Smallcomb reported.

Early on Saturday, Lakeport Police and Lake County Sheriff's deputies found Brackett in a tent on 11th Street, according to Smallcomb.

Davis responded to the location and a subsequent search of the tent found that Brackett allegedly was in possession of stolen property that is believed to be connected to the Carousel Industrial Park burglaries, the report stated.

Mendocino deputies arrested Brackett for two counts of possession stolen property and two counts of burglary, and is being held on $15,000 bail, according to booking records.

Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke said his department has had a few contacts with Brackett, including an arrest for possession of marijuana and another for having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Last July Mendocino County deputies arrested Brackett and another man on suspicion of trying to sell methamphetamine in the parking lot at Hopland Sho-Kah-Wa Casino, as Lake County News has reported.

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Lake County Skies on June 15, 2008 at 9 p.m.


LAKE COUNTY – June is the month when the relatively sedate stars of spring slowly give way to the brilliance of the summer skies. But we still have several weeks to wait before summer is upon us. In the meantime, we can enjoy what’s left of spring including the celestial show.


Directly overhead is a constellation named Bootes someone tried to write a song about this constellation and wanted to name it “Shake Your Bootes,” until she learned that wasn’t the correct pronunciation. Bootes is pronounced “Boo-aw-tis.”

In Greek and Roman mythology, Bootes is associated with agriculture, and is most commonly referred to as a herdsman. But there is a lesser known, but somewhat amusing story that has him cast as a grape grower and winemaker.

Bacchus, the god of wine and parties, introduced Bootes to the art of winemaking. So impressed was Bootes with the taste of wine that he invited his friends over for a taste of his new discovery.

Unfortunately, his friends drank far too much, and woke up the following morning with terrible hangovers. They were so sick they thought Bootes had tried to poison them!



Bootes courtesy of


Bootes is shaped like a kite, with the bright star Arcturus at its base. Arcturus is the third brightest star in the sky, and compared to our sun, it is huge!



Arcturus courtesy of Wikipedia.




Accompanying our celestial winemaker to the east is the strongman Hercules. Hercules is a faint constellation that requires clear, dark skies to see – and we have an abundance of skies like that in Lake County!

In Greek and Roman mythology, Hercules was the son of Zeus, king of all the gods. Hercules was born with tremendous strength. He managed to get himself into some serious trouble, and to exonerate himself, had to perform 12 labors.

One of these labors was to subdue Hydra, a nine-headed, dog-like monster that had breath that could kill (no dog-breath jokes, please!).



Hercules subduing Hydra by Antonio Del Pollaiolo.


Hercules has one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky – an object that can only be seen through a telescope. This object is a cluster of stars called “The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules.” It is also labeled “M13” in the Messier catalog of deep sky objects. This is a cluster of several hundred thousand stars. Through a telescope, it looks like a miniature Christmas ornament.



M13 courtesy of Michael Richmann.



For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory website at

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.


LOWER LAKE – A day after a stabbing claimed the life of one of its students and resulted in the arrest of another, Carlé High School's students and staff gathered to show support for the girls' families and each other, and begin the long healing process. {sidebar id=85}

Heather Valdez, 17, died Thursday afternoon after she was stabbed near her home in the area of Austin Drive near Mullen Avenue in Clearlake.

A short time later, Clearlake Police arrested 18-year-old Gabrielle Rachel Varney, who is being held in the Lake County Jail on a murder charge.

Both girls were juniors, completing their first year at Carlé High School in Lower Lake, a model continuation school which Principal Bill MacDougall called “a place of absolute peace.”

But that peace was shattered by Valdez's death Thursday.

“There's apparently been some type of feud between them for a couple of months,” said Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said of Valdez and Varney.

Both of the teens lived in the area where the incident is alleged to have taken place, said Hermann.

Hermann said Valdez and Varney got into an altercation. Varney allegedly had a knife on her and she pulled it out during the fight. She allegedly admitted to police that she stabbed Valdez.

People in the area saw bits and pieces of the incident, said Hermann. He said no one so far has claimed to have seen Valdez being stabbed, but they saw the fight and then saw her bleeding.

More students were interviewed Friday, and Hermann estimated the investigation shouldn't take long to complete.

Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Louise Nan said a four-member district grief crisis response team was deployed on Friday morning to work with students.

“We're working through the day,” said Nan, who added that it will be “quite a process” ahead for students and staff.

MacDougall, who next month will succeed Nan as the district's superintendent, said, “This is a tragedy not only for Carlé, our school district and our community, but it's absolutely devastated two families.”


Valdez and Varney had been friends, he said. “They were girlfriends, so there was that young girl tension that came on and off, but there was nothing that was way out of the ordinary that we could see.”

He added, “If there was anything physical, I never saw it.”

Students, however, have been bringing up incidents that they say took place between the girls as they open up to teachers and peers, he said.

MacDougall said many of his 10 staffers were on their way home when they got the news Thursday afternoon. The stabbing, according to police, took place just after 2 p.m.

All of the teachers came back to the school, where they assembled in MacDougall's office. He said at 6 p.m. he put out an automated call to notify students and their families of the tragedy. The staff remained together until about 7 p.m.

He said the first focus was to stop the rumors and get out the truth to students; the next step was to facilitate healing.

The school's annual field day had been planned for Friday, but that was canceled, MacDougall said.

Instead, when students arrived for school, they filled the school's central quad area with rose petals from the school rose bushes, and the 80 students, 10 staffers and the school's custodian came together – as a family – in a big circle, instinctively holding hands, to begin the healing process, MacDougall.

They shared stories of Valdez, who was a talented artist, said MacDougall.

Varney also is a good artist, and a member of the school's cadre of designers, said MacDougall.

They then shared a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi – which includes the words, “Make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon ...”

The school then moved into the rest of its day, said MacDougall, with the school psychologist taking some of the teens to the county park, and other students doing “the usual Carlé thing” – playing music and moving about their activities, but the air was much more somber.

MacDougall had to go to district negotiations, and when he came back after lunch, he could see the students had begun the process of healing and working through their understanding of what happened. But they still must move through the long grieving process.

The tragedy comes less than a week before Carlé High's graduation is scheduled to take place. MacDougall said commencement ceremonies will be held as scheduled beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 11.

As a community, the imperative is to bring happiness into the lives of its children, he explained.

The sense from the Carlé community, he added, is that “we have to make sure this never happens again.”

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


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