Wednesday, 27 September 2023


LAKEPORT – A man found guilty last week of first-degree murder for killing his roommate was found on Tuesday to have been sane at the time of the murder, and as a result is likely facing life in prison.

On April 10 a jury convicted James Wade Roberts, 46, of the October 2006 murder of 63-year-old Ruth Donaldson at the Mullen Avenue home they shared in Clearlake, as Lake County News has reported.

Because Roberts had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges, the trial requested an additional sanity phase.

That sanity hearing started around 9 a.m. Tuesday, with testimony and closing arguments finished by noon, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

The jury was instructed that they could could consider all the evidence from the first phase of the trial, said Hopkins. After an hour of deliberation they came out with their verdict, which was handed down at about 2 p.m.

The jury found that Roberts was sane at the time of the murder, Hopkins reported.

Defense attorney Stephen Carter said that, after the jury's verdict last week that Roberts was guilty of first-degree murder, their finding that he was sane wasn't shocking.

Carter said there was competing evidence on the issue of sanity, and added that his client didn't cooperate with two of the three doctors appointed to examine him.

That definitely affected the evidence,” said Carter, and hurt Roberts in the case.

Hopkins said Robert is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. May 9 in front of Judge Richard Martin in Department Two of Lake County Superior Court.

Roberts has five previous strikes, according to Carter.

“Under the law he'll get life in prison,” Carter said Tuesday. “Because of his prior strikes, under any possible verdict, he would have gotten life.”

Hopkins estimated that Roberts is likely facing 86 years to life.

Carter said he's confident an appeal will be filed in the case, although that's something that he likely won't talk to Roberts about until closer to the sentencing date. In cases this serious appeals are standard procedure, he added.

He said he expects to file a notice of appeal, which in and of itself isn't an appeal, but is the first step in the process. An appellate attorney would then be appointed to take the case through the process, Carter said.

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Ricky Bush had some spectacular air time at Saturday's grand reopening event. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


CLEARLAKE – A blur of endless, youthful energy set against a backdrop of music and blue sky was the scene at Clearlake's skate park on Saturday.

The Andy Johnson Memorial Skate Park had its grand reopening Saturday, following its repairs late last year.

The park was packed with teens, smaller children, parents and even a few dogs who came along for the fun.

Michele Bush, a skate park committee member whose son Ricky spent a good part of the day airborne on his BMX bike, called the day's turnout “awesome.”

Although it's been reopened since late January, Saturday was the day to celebrate the effort by the skate park committee and community members to get the park repaired.

It also was a time to make official the park's new name, in honor of skateboarder and BMX rider Andy Johnson. The 18-year-old died April 14, 2006, while on the way from his home in Eureka to visit a skate park in Portland, Ore. The City Council approved the park naming in January.

Ken Savin, another adult member of the skate park committee, said BMX riders, skateboarders, scooter riders and inline skaters participated, some coming from Lakeport, Kelseyville, Middletown – even as far away as Ukiah – to take part.



Many riders from around the county and Ukiah came to enjoy the park. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Four City Council members – Curt Giambruno, Chuck Leonard, Joyce Overton and Judy Thein – came to the 11:15 a.m. dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

Giambruno and Leonard, who stayed until early afternoon to watch the action, remarked that they were glad to see more riders using helmets and safety equipment, which has been a concern because of possible liability.

Last Thursday, the council approved skate park safety enforcement rules to ensure that safety equipment is used and that bikes and skateboards use the park on alternative days, although the two groups were riding together Saturday.

According to the requirements, if the alternate day riding rules aren't followed or helmets and pads aren't being used it will result in closures of the park for a day per violation.

Savin said new signs were posted Friday morning at the park's entrance, clearly outlining the rules and consequences of not following them.

The event also featured a raffle and booth selling T-shirts and other gear to benefit the park. Anyone wishing to donate can call Michele or Ricky Bush at 295-5754. Visit the park's Web site at

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The new signs with Andy Johnson's name, as well as skate park rules, were posted late last week. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



KELSEYVILLE – A man was arrested early Friday morning following a brief, high-speed chase along Highway 29.

Jose Manuel Arroyo, 25, of Clearlake was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. Friday after he tried to escape from a California Highway Patrol officer following a traffic stop, according to CHP Officer Josh Dye.

CHP Officer Robert Hearn was driving southbound on Highway 29 when he stopped Arroyo's vehicle south of Kit's Corner at about 12:30 a.m., Dye explained.

Arroyo allegedly took off, heading south on Highway 29 at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour with Hearn in pursuit, said Dye.

Other CHP units went out to place a spike strip on the highway south of Kelseyville, according to Dye. However, Arroyo turned off into Kelseyville before reaching the spike strip and, at a lower speed, made his way to an apartment complex on Gaddy Lane.

There, Hearn quickly subdued Arroyo, who Dye said had been alone in the car. The chase was over before sheriff's deputies dispatched as backup could get there.

Arroyo, whose occupation was listed as a laborer, was booked into the Lake County Jail on charges of obstructing or resisting a peace officer, evading a peace officer and driving without a license, and a no-bail immigration hold.

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LAKE COUNTY – A 3.0 earthquake rattled The Geysers area of Lake county early Tuesday morning.

The quake occurred at 1:23 a.m. three miles northwest of The Geysers, seven miles west of Cobb and nine miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey. The quake was recorded at a depth of an eighth of a mile.

The US Geological Survey reported that 16 other smaller quakes followed during the course of the day in The Geysers and Anderson Springs areas.

The last quake measuring 3.0 or above was a 3.3 earthquake that hit The Geysers area on March 27, according to US Geological Survey records.

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KELSEYVILLE – The upcoming Heron Festival and Wildflower Brunch, on April 26 and 27, sponsored by the Redbud Audubon Society and the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association (CLSPIA) promises an array of fun and interested nature oriented activities, ranging from pontoon boat tours on Clear Lake to a live bird presentation.

Heron Festival is in its 14th year and since its founding, by the Redbud Audubon Society, the event has grown to become one of Northern California’s most popular nature festivals. The festival is held at the Clear Lake State Park on Soda Bay Road near Kelseyville. Pontoon boat tours on Clear Lake are a popular feature of the festival, but a huge variety of other activities and programs are offered.

Boat tours are held on both days and last for approximately 90 minutes. Advanced reservations are required for the boat tours. This may be accomplished by going to the Heron Festival website at Price for a boat ride is just $15 per person.

Other activities on Saturday include an Audubon Bird Walk starting at 8:30 a.m., the popular Wildflower Brunch from 9 a.m. until noon, a “Nature Fair,” which features exhibit booths highlighting education displays and information from nature-related government agencies, local environmental nonprofit groups, and nature-related artists and craftsmen.

Keynote speaker on Saturday is Philip Greene, an internationally know photographer of herons and egrets. His presentation will be presented at the Visitor Center Auditorium at the park. There will also be Visitor Center tours of the interpretive displays of Lake County’s natural and cultural resources.

Children’s activities will consist of a wide range of fun educational programs for children to learn about nature, including owl masks, peanut butter birdseed feeders to take home, and making a personalized bird journal. A family nature walk is also planned.

Pontoon boat tours continue on Sunday along with more bird walks, the nature fair, a presentation by Dr. Harry Lyons on Myths and Music of Clear Lake, and at 1 p.m. a live bird presentation, “Raptor Speak,” by Native Bird Connections, that will give visitors the opportunity to see raptor behavior up close.

All events except the pontoon boat tours and the Wildflower Brunch are free and open to the public. Registration for both the boat tours and the brunch are required and can be made by going to the festival website or by calling the Lake County Visitor Center1-800-525-3743. The Web site also features the full schedule of events for the two day Heron Festival at Clear Lake State Park.


MIDDLETOWN – A suspect reportedly has been taken into custody for a bomb threat called in to Middletown High School earlier this week.

On Thursday Principal Chris Heller sent a letter to parents, which also was released to the media, indicating an arrest had been made in the case.

On Tuesday, a message left at Middletown High School indicated a bomb had been planted in one of school's lockers, as Lake County News has reported.

Several hundred students, along with teachers and administrative staff, were evacuated while sheriff's deputies, Cal Fire and South Lake County Fire Protection District officials checked the school, officials reported.

The threat, according to officials, eventually was ruled to be a hoax.

Heller's letter, a copy of which was sent to Lake County News on Friday, stated: “In conjunction with the investigators from the Sheriff’s department, a suspect was taken into custody based on solid evidence. We will take appropriate action to insure that this type of situation is dealt with seriously.”

Heller praised students and staff for acting calm during “a potential crisis situation,” and added that student safety is the school's priority and added that Middletown High “will continue to provide a safe educational environment in the future.”

The Lake County Sheriff's Office had no information on the arrest of the suspect when contacted Friday.

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HIGH VALLEY – Monday's fierce winds turned a controlled burn into a small blaze.

Firefighters were dispatched to the out-of-control burn on High Valley Road at about 12:30 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Northshore Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jim Robbins said the permitted burn had included three small piles of materials, which had burned down when the winds became an issue.

“The wind really picked up and blew some embers out and caught some grass on fire,” said Robbins.

Green grass nearby actually caught fire, mostly because of the dry undergrowth, said Robbins.

The fire, he said, put up a lot of smoke but only burned about two acres.

Northshore Fire was assisted by two engines, a battalion chief, a dozer and three hand crews from Cal Fire, that agency reported.

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In this column I am going to review two different restaurants every month, one on each side of the lake. This will help you learn about the availability of food on your side of the lake and also what you can find on the other side of the lake but didn’t know about. I’ll discuss which restaurants are great, which ones are good and which ones you can just drive on past.

For my first review I will refer to “The Happy Garden.” But first, for the sake of complete honesty I will mention that many of the staff of “The Happy Garden” are neighbors of mine. I don’t see them around the neighborhood very much because they are at the restaurant most of the time, so it’s not like we’re close personal friends, but in the interest of integrity I thought that I should mention my passing acquaintance with them.

The Happy Garden is located in Clearlake Oaks, right on Highway 20. In all honesty, when it first opened I didn’t think it would be around very long. The Mexican restaurant that previously occupied the building was almost always empty and was in business for a very short time.

Here I am years later, very happy at being mistaken. The parking lot of the Happy Garden always has vehicles in it and at dinner times it over flows. The Happy Garden serves Chinese and Thai cuisine, and obviously I am not the only one who thinks the food is fantastic.

I almost always order from the Thai menu. If you aren’t familiar with Thai food, I plead with you to try it. It is like no other cuisine of Asia. Pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand and was created as a way to save the country’s rice supplies during wartime. It’s full of a little bit of everything, rice noodles, peanuts, vegetables, tofu, bean sprouts, and huge shrimp, just to name a few ingredients, and it’s something that I never get tired of.

That’s not to say that the Chinese side of the menu is lacking in any way. Mu Shu Pork is one of my favorite dishes of all time. You get several Chinese crepes (request an extra order of these “Chinese pancakes,” you’ll need them), the Mu Shu Pork filling (also available in vegetable, chicken, shrimp or beef varieties), and some Hoisin sauce (Hoisin sauce is best described as a Chinese barbecue sauce, dark and sweet, not spicy at all). You spread some of the filling and the sauce on the crepe, roll it up and eat like a taquito or taco.

If you don’t mind caffeine, you should try the “Thai Iced Tea.” I believe it’s made with a Lapsang Souchong type tea, a very dark, cola-colored, smoky-flavored tea which has a thick layer of half and half floating on top. I’m supposed to avoid caffeine by doctor’s orders, but I simply can’t pass up that tea!

I have never had a bad meal at The Happy Garden, although I have ordered things that were so spicy that they turned my blood to magma. One day while eating the “Chao Talay” Seafood Hot Pot, my face was sweating like Dick Cheney on his next quail hunting trip. My dinner companion asked if it was good, and I said, “I love it, but it would outright KILL you!” If you like spicy foods, this is the place to go.

The Happy Garden staff is always friendly and efficient. Errors in orders are so rare that I don’t even check through my order when I do take out. The food is quickly prepared so if I order over the phone it’s usually waiting for me by the time I get to the restaurant.

The owner of the Happy Garden also now owns The Harbor in Nice. That restaurant specializes in Chinese and American cuisine so that restaurant will be covered in a different review. The Happy Garden can easily claim to be one of the best places to eat in Lake County, and our community is richer for it being in the neighborhood.

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.


LAKEPORT On Thursday afternoon a jury found a Clearlake man guilty of first-degree murder for the October 2006 killing of his roommate but still to be decided is whether or not the man was sane.

After nearly two months of testimony, the seven-woman, five-man jury found James Wade Roberts, 46, guilty of murdering 63-year-old Ruth Donaldson – with a special allegation of using a deadly weapon – after less than a day's deliberation.

But the trial isn't over yet, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

That's because Roberts entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, which necessitates a sanity trial, said Hopkins.

"The poor jury was crestfallen when they were told they had to come back for more," Hopkins said.

The trial has lasted several weeks longer than originally anticipated. Hopkins said the trial began Feb. 13 but has encountered delays.

Roberts was alleged to have stabbed Donaldson once with a knife on Oct. 15, 2006, at the home they shared on Mullen Avenue in Clearlake. Hopkins alleged that as Roberts stabbed Donaldson he moved the knife around, damaging her heart and lungs and causing her to bleed to death.

Besides stabbing her, Roberts is alleged to have strangled Donaldson with a 3-foot-long cord, Hopkins added.

During closing arguments on Wednesday Stephen Carter, Roberts' defense attorney, argued that Roberts was delusional and mentally ill, claiming that God told him to kill Donaldson, statements Roberts also had made on the stand.

Roberts' delusions, according to Carter, also included a vast conspiracy theory involving Sept. 11, 2001, the Iraq War and Armageddon.

Carter's psychological expert, Dr. Albert Kastl, diagnosed Roberts with schizophrenic affective disorder, a mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Carter noted during closing arguments.

While Roberts spoke with Kastl, he did not speak with two doctors brought in by the prosecution, Carter said. Those doctors contradicted Kastl's diagnosis, with one suggesting that Roberts' actions were the result of psychosis induced by alcohol and methamphetamine.

Kastl's conclusion which Hopkins put under rigorous scrutiny on Tuesday, keeping Kastl on the stand the entire day was reportedly backed up by 18 out of 20 individuals who have evaluated Roberts, according to Carter.

While Carter argued that Roberts had a long history of mental illness and psychotic episodes, Hopkins asserted that Roberts was faking his mental illness or "malingering" in order to avoid another prison sentence.

Roberts had admitted to five previous strikes on his record, including a robbery and four counts of assault with a deadly weapon, said Carter.

Hopkins added that one of the four assault with a deadly weapon counts resulted in great bodily injury, which landed Roberts in Pelican Bay State Prison.

The trial's sanity phase will begin next Tuesday and possibly wind up by Wednesday, said Hopkins. “I expect it will be rather quick because we've already had all the psychological and psychiatric testimony and we don't have to repeat it all.”

Carter said Judge Richard Martin told the jury the sanity phase is likely to finish by Thursday, but added that it's always difficult to predict how long such proceedings might take.

If Roberts is found sane, he would face a minimum 51 years to life in prison, said Hopkins.

Added Carter, “He's looking at a life sentence under any scheme because of five strikes on his record.”

However, if found insane, Roberts would go instead to a state mental hospital, and could eventually be released on an outpatient basis, said Hopkins. "If he's found insane he won't go to prison."

Carter maintains that his client is mentally ill and that the insanity plea was appropriate for the case.

John Jensen contributed to this report.

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LAKE COUNTY – The Lake County Superior Court is seeking at least 30 applicants willing to serve as jurors and alternates on the 2008-2009 Lake County Grand Jury panel.

The 19-person grand jury is selected from the different supervisorial districts in proportion to the population of each district.

The Grand Jury serves as the public’s “watchdog” by investigating and reporting upon the affairs of local government.

The term of service runs from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, and may entail from 10 to 20 hours of work per week attending committee and general meetings, responding to citizens’ complaints, performing research, and investigating the operations of governmental agencies and allegations of wrongdoing by public officials or employees.

The Court is looking for applicants in good health who are interested in community affairs, are objective, and are able to work cooperatively with others. Experience in researching, interviewing, writing and editing, and/or auditing is desirable and having a general knowledge of the responsibilities and functions of governmental and other public entities is helpful.

A grand juror must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 or older, speak English, be a resident of California and Lake County for at least one year prior to selection, and not hold an elected office or have any felony convictions.

Applications may be obtained by mailing a letter with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Grand Jury Coordinator, 255 N. Forbes, Fourth Floor, Lakeport, CA 95453. Applications are also available at each Superior Court Clerk’s Office; located at 255 N. Forbes, 4th Floor, in Lakeport, or at 7000 A South Center Drive, in Clearlake.

Further information may be obtained by calling the Grand Jury Coordinator at 263-2282. Applications must be received by May 30. Personal interviews will be scheduled prior to final selection.

If you are interested, please apply. If you are not interested, but know someone who may be, please let them know of this opportunity.


NORTH COAST – A day after California's Chinook salmon season was canceled because of a crashing fish population, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill by North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins designating money for fisheries restoration.

SB 562, authored by Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), designates $5.3 million to the state Department of Fish and Game to aid coastal salmon and steelhead fisheries restoration projects. Schwarzenegger signed the bill Friday.

On Thursday the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council completely closed commercial and sport Chinook fisheries off California and most of Southern Oregon because of the Sacramento River fall Chinook's “unprecedented collapse,” and the exceptionally poor status of coho salmon populations from Oregon to Washington.

“This is a disaster for West Coast salmon fisheries, under any standard,” Council Chairman

Don Hansen said in a Thursday statement. “There will be a huge impact on the people who fish for a living, those who eat wild-caught king salmon, those who enjoy recreational fishing, and the businesses and coastal communities dependent on these fisheries.”


Schwarzenegger also declared a state of emergency on Thursday in reaction to the salmon crisis.

SB 562 is an urgency measure, and takes effect immediately, according to Wiggins' office. SB 562's urgency clause required a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature.

The nearly $5.3 million Wiggins' legislation allocates to help fish comes from Proposition 84 – the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act – approved by voters in 2006, according to the bill's language.

“I thank the governor for his prompt action on this bill, which will help protect California’s $100 million dollar salmon industry,” Wiggins said in a statement. “And that industry is not just about fishermen – it extends to tackle shops, processors, ice suppliers, restaurants, native tribes and tourism.”

Enactment of SB 562 will also allow the state to leverage up to $20 million federal dollars for salmon this spring, according to Wiggins' office.

Pacific Fishery Management Council reported Thursday the reasons for the Sacramento fall Chinook stock's sudden collapse aren't readily apparent, however overfishing is not blamed for the situation. Rather, several possible causes – from changing ocean temperatures to human-caused and natural factors are believed to be responsible.

The council has asked the National Marine Fisheries Service’s West Coast Science Centers to lead a multi-agency task force to research about 50 potential causative factors and report back to the council in September.

The California Fish and Game Commission reported that it took emergency action because of the salmon situation, which resulted last week in the closure of the April 5 sportfishing openers south of Point Arena to the U.S.-Mexico Border.

Salmon populations around California face challenges. In February, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network reported that endangered coho salmon populations in Marin County had plummeted. The group reported that coho have already gone extinct in 90 percent of California streams where they once were found.

In the Eel River watershed – the headwaters of which are above Lake Pillsbury in Lake County – coho salmon are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, according to the Eel River Salmon Restoration Project.

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KELSEYVILLE – Two drivers were injured Wednesday when their vehicles collided head-on along Soda Bay Road.

Judith Green, 55, was injured in the crash, which took place at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to Officer Adam Garcia of the California Highway Patrol's Clear Lake office.

Garcia reported that Green was driving her 2002 Lincoln westbound on Soda Bay Road/Highway 281 west of Inca Way when she drove over the double-yellow lines.

Green's vehicle collided head-on with a 2000 Nissan Xterra driven by 29-year-old Ame Bland of Clearlake, Garcia explained.

Garcia said Green sustained severe injuries and was transported by air ambulance to Sutter Hospital in

Santa Rosa. Bland, who was moderately injured, was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital. David Bland was a passenger in the Nissan Xterra and was not listed as injured.

Both of the vehicles involved sustained major front collision damage, Garcia said.

CHP continues to investigate why Green crossed over the double yellow lines, Garcia reported. CHP Officer Craig Van Housen is investigating the incident.

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Upcoming Calendar

09.27.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Town hall on homelessness
09.28.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
09.30.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Kelseyville Pear Festival
09.30.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.01.2023 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ron Green Memorial Benefit Concert
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

Mini Calendar



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