Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – A man sent to prison for committing a murder in Clearlake nearly two decades ago has been denied parole.

At a Jan. 16 parole hearing at California State Prison, Solano – located in Vacaville – the Board of Parole Hearings denied 67-year-old Oreno Baddie parole for the third time, according to Lake County's Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

On May 14, 1989, Baddie shot and killed Cesario P. Martinez in Clearlake, Hinchcliff reported.

Investigation reports by the Clearlake Police Department revealed that two days prior to the murder, Martinez obtained a stereo from Baddie that resulted in a disagreement over ownership of the stereo, and Baddie began threatening to kill Martinez, according to Hinchcliff's report.

Martinez, who was warned of the threats by an officer, did not take the threats seriously and attempted to contact Baddie to resolve the dispute and calm him down, said Hinchcliff.

When Martinez knocked on Baddie’s door to speak to him, Baddie retrieved a gun and confronted Martinez who was standing outside and was unarmed, Hinchcliff reported.

Baddie told Martinez he was under citizen’s arrest and ordered him to lie on the ground, Hinchcliff explained. When Martinez refused to lie down, Baddie shot him five times in the chest, lower back, thigh, forearm and wrist. Martinez died that day at the hospital.

According to Hinchcliff, Baddie later told investigators that he shot Martinez because he was afraid he would get away. It was reported that Baddie had been heavily using drugs and alcohol in the days preceding the shooting.

Baddie was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder and personal use of a firearm on Jan. 8, 1990, and on Oct. 26, 1990 was sentenced by Superior Court Judge John J. Golden to a term of 17 years to life.

The Jan. 16 hearing was the third for Baddie, who Hinchcliff had previously been denied parole at hearings in 2001 and 2004.

Hinchcliff has appeared before the Parole Board at all of Baddie's hearings to argue against his release.

On Jan. 16 Hinchcliff traveled to Vacaville for the hour-and-a-half-long “lifer hearing.”

He said he asked the Parole Board of Hearing commissioners to once again deny Baddie parole because he had not attended any drug and alcohol rehabilitation classes during his 17 years in prison, and still presented an unreasonable danger to the public if released on parole.

The commissioners agreed and denied Baddie parole, stating that the crime was committed for a trivial reason, was committed in a callous manner, that Baddie had not made sufficient programming efforts in prison and that he still presented a danger to the public if released at this time, said Hinchcliff.

Baddie’s next parole hearing will be in 2010, Hinchcliff said.


LAKEPORT – A pedestrian and a motorcycle rider both sustained injuries after a Friday collision on Highway 20.

Jes Shoaf, 36, of Lucerne and Grant Murray, 73, of Upper Lake were hurt in the crash, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia.

Garcia said that Shoaf was walking from south to north across Highway 20 at the intersection with the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff at 5:49 p.m. when he was hit by a 2002 Harley Davidson motorcycle driven by Murray, who was traveling westbound.

Murray – who was ejected from the motorcycle and sustained moderate injuries – was transported to Sutter Lakeside Hospital by Northshore Fire Protection District's Nice ambulance, Garcia reported.

Northshore Fire personnel also transported Shoaf to Sutter Lakeside, said Garcia. Shoaf sustained major injuries.

Garcia said Shoaf is believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of collision.

Officer Mark Barnes is investigating the incident, Garcia reported.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Voting by mail for California's Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" primary election has begun.

The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, Jan. 22, 15 days before the Feb. 5 election, and the last day to request a vote by mail ballot is Jan. 29.

Voter registration forms are available at all post offices, county library branches, and other county, state and federal government offices, Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security office, EDD and Adult Services.

Forms must be mailed right away in order to get to the County Registrar's office in time.

People may also go directly to the Registrar of Voters office on the second floor of the Lake County Courthouse and register there.

Anyone who has moved to a new physical address, changed their name or wishes to change party affiliation, must re-register.

Signing up to vote by mail is strongly encouraged, for ease and convenience.

If you are unsure of your registration status contact the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office, 255 N. Forbes St., Lakeport, CA 95453, telephone 707-263-2372.

For more information, see


LAKE COUNTY – The United Way is looking for Lake County organizations to fund in several important service areas.

Fritz Ward, marketing director for United Way of Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake, said the organization is seeking funding proposals for projects in four “focused funding” areas from nonprofits in its three service counties.

Those focus areas include after-school and summer programs focused on youth in grades four through eight; parenting and social-skills training for parents; emergency food and shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing programs; and senior food and mental-health programs, according to Chanda Zirkelbach, vice president of the agency's Community Impact division.

Ward said United Way wants to find the best partner agencies doing the best work in their communities.

A volunteer group reviews applications and conducts site visits, he said.

The selection process, Ward added, is based strictly on merit.

“There's almost always more need than money,” he added.

Those groups who do receive funding have their performance monitored, Ward said.

Last year, Catholic Charities-Lake County Rural Food Project received $14,000 and the Redwood Coast Seniors-Meals on Wheels/Mental Health Outreach program received $90,000, Zirkelbach reported.

Ward said the United Way believes it's more important to give more money to one program that is doing great work than break that funding up to try to cover many smaller efforts.

Applications became available Jan. 15, with the submission deadline set for Feb. 25.

For information on how to apply or to learn how to access United Way's online application, contact Zirkelbach at 707-528-4485, Extension 110, or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There will be an applicant orientation Feb. 1 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Transit Department Training Room 103, located at 45 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing invites the community to the first Northshore town hall meeting for 2008, planned for early next week.

The Clearlake Oaks Community Town Hall meeting will take place beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20 (near the intersection of Highway 20 and 53).

County staff will provide updates on the redevelopment process; local projects, including The Plaza, community parks, Clark's Island and progress on the trail system; and other issues.

The agenda includes an open forum to discuss issues of interest to the community of Clearlake Oaks.

Rushing also will deliver the a “State of the County” report for District 3.

Free tables will be set up for local groups, businesses or organizations wishing to distribute informational literature.

Parking at the Moose lodge is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.

Many thanks to the moose lodge for donating the space for this community meeting!

Upcoming town halls along the Northshore are scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at Pine Acres Resort in Blue Lakes; and 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center.

For more information contact District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, telephone 263-2368 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Clear Lake State Park is included on a list of 48 state parks proposed for closure. State Parks Department photo.




LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's only two state parks face closure as part of the governor's stringent budget plan for the coming fiscal year. {sidebar id=50}

Anderson Marsh State Park in Lower Lake and Clear Lake State Park in Kelseyville are among the 48 state parks slated for closure in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2008-09 draft budget, which he sent to the state Legislature on Thursday.

Schwarzenegger had warned during his State of the State Address Tuesday that he planned a “difficult” budget to meet the state's $14.5 billion deficit.

The budget document he produced this week contains 10-percent, across-the-board reductions in state departments in order to begin closing the budget gap. Some of the cuts, according to budget documents, go into effect as early as the fourth quarter of the 2007-08 budget.

Schwarzenegger proposes to cut the state Department of Parks and Recreation's budget by $1 million in the last quarter of 2007-08 and another $13.3 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to a budget summary.

In all, the parks system would lose 129.2 positions, close 48 of 278 state parks and reduce seasonal lifeguards by a minimum 50 percent at state beaches in Orange, San Diego and Santa Cruz counties, the budget summary reports.

Besides Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake State Park, other North Coast parks proposed for closure are Del Norte Redwoods in Del Norte County; Manchester State Beach in Mendocino County; Grizzly Creek Redwoods in Humboldt County; and Austin Creek State Recreation Area and Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve in Sonoma County.


The California State Parks Foundation reports that Clear Lake State Park has 100,166 visitors annually, with revenue of $332,782. Anderson Marsh is visited by 43,499 people each year, generating $2,060 in revenue.

All seven of the parks listed above are located within Assemblywoman Patty Berg's First Assembly District. In total, their closures would mean the loss of more than 1.3 million visits annually, with revenue losses totaling approximately $742,274.


All seven of the parks listed above are located within Assemblywoman Patty Berg's First Assembly District.

Maria Aliferis-Gjerde, a spokesperson for Berg's office, said Friday that only Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee's 33rd Assembly District – which includes parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz counties – is facing so many closures.

Berg joined other state and local leaders in decrying the severity of the cuts.

“It is a sad and pessimistic view of the future that says we need to give up our parks,” Berg said in a statement issued to Lake County News Friday. “It’s short-sighted and wrong and people won’t go for it.”

Berg said Schwarzenegger's plans will damage everything from parks and schools to college and public safety. “Republicans always say ‘cut, cut, cut,’ and this is just one example of how that mindset damages our California lifestyle,” she said. “Closing parks is not a good solution to solving our long-term budget problems. Californians deserve better from their governor. We need creativity and vision to solve this budget.”

State Senator Pat Wiggins said Schwarzenegger's proposal would erode the state's quality of life.

“The governor said that he had an open mind when it came to fixing the budget, but shutting down beaches and parks, which draw millions of visitors and millions of tourists’ dollars each year, and cutting game wardens is both short-sighted and irresponsible,” Wiggins said in a Friday statement.

She added, “A commitment to reduced spending for schools, for kids, for our parks and for our natural resources is a commitment to mediocrity.”

Lake County News could not reach state or local Department of Parks and Recreation officials on Friday for comment on the fiscal impact of closing the local parks.

Supervisor Ed Robey said that many officials were in Sacramento on Friday to attend meetings to learn more about the fiscal crisis.

Among them was County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox. Robey said he expected Cox to return with a clearer sense of what impacts Lake County could expect, which extend well beyond the parks issue to include possible delays in gas tax payments and other much-needed state funding.

Robey said small rural counties like Lake stand to be hurt the most by cutbacks in services and funding. He challenged the notion that closing the small local state parks would save much money.

Local groups watch, wait for news

For the local organizations who support the county's two state parks, the news was shocking.

“Parks are for people,” said Clearlake Oaks resident Leona Butts, a director of the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association. “Where do they go for safe, outdoor experiences?”

Clear Lake State Park doesn't just offer great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors; Butts said it also has an economic impact locally, thanks in part to its 147 camp sites.

Madelene Lyon, Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association president, said the group found out about the possible park closures at a Thursday board meeting.

Such severe measures have been threatened in the past, said Lyon, who added that she's afraid they might actually occur now. Lyon added, however, that the group doesn't know what might happen.

The interpretive association has been working hard on a plan to build a new education pavilion at the site, said Lyon. Regarding that plan, she said, “We are in sort of a limbo right at the moment.”

Similarly, members of the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association also found out about the proposed cuts Thursday, and were just as worried.

Roberta Lyons, president of the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association, said the threat of the park's closure comes at a time when Anderson Marsh is the focus of increased community interest and support.

“A lot of people are starting to get really excited about Anderson Marsh, and now they're saying they're going to close it,” said Lyons.

She added, “We can't live with closing the park.”

Robert Riggs, another Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association member, said the park is undergoing a revitalization with the help of businesses, schools and local cultural contributors. The progress has been manifested in the Old Time Bluegrass Festival which has been extremely popular and successful the last two years, he said.

The group has generated seed money from the festival to begin work on park improvements, said Riggs. Those plans include a discovery center, said Anna McAtee, the park association's treasurer.

“While we understand that the state is facing a severe budget shortage which has resulted in a proposal to close many parks, not just Anderson Marsh, the Anderson Marsh State Historical Park is an extremely cost effective facility that operates with low overhead,” said Riggs.

Riggs said the interpretive association's board considers the threatened closure a grave issue. At the group's Thursday meeting they resolved to work with the state parks department to find a way to keep the park open.

McAtee said Anderson Marsh already has struggled with reduced funding and resources over the last several years.

That includes a reduction down to part-time staff and no permanent ranger, which has resulted in the park only being open Tuesday through Saturday. Tours of the ranch itself also haven't taken place in some time due to staffing, McAtee added.

Tom Nixon had worked as a ranger at the park, said McAtee, as well as Clear Lake State Park, but Nixon and wife Val, also a park staffer, recently retired.

If the park closed, McAtee said, “The gates will be closed, the public won't be allowed to go into the park.”

She added, though, that the group is in a “wait and see” mode. “What happens, really and truly, is anyone's guess.”

What seems certain is that if the two parks closed, the events that they host each year would be lost as well, or at the very least forced to find new venues.

In the case of Clear Lake State Park, it hosts the annual Heron Festival and Wildflower Brunch, as well as regular bird and nature hikes, said Butts.

Anderson Marsh's Old Time Bluegrass Festival – now in its third year has supported a local history program for third graders in the Konocti Unified School District and a science camp for the Children's Museum of Arts and Science, which is a partner in the discovery center project, said McAtee.

She surmised that the bluegrass festival, the annual Christmas at Anderson Marsh, and trail hikes and birding could all be lost if the park closed.

Butts also pointed out that both parks offer environmental education opportunities for schools and school children, with summer Junior Ranger programs available to both visitors and residents.

Robey, who this year will mark 28 years in public service, said he's “never seen anything like this,” when it comes to proposed state budget cuts.

He suggested that state government got into its current situation for a variety of reasons. For one, when times were good and the economy was strong, the state expanded programs which continued to grow when tougher times arrived.

The state also has continued to use bonds and other methods of trying to deal with their debt issues, said Robey. “They've used up all of their other methods. That's what I think is going on. They're desperate.”

That, said Robey, leaves them with one solution – to cut back. But the bailout is likely to come at the expense of local governments, “where the rubber hits the road.”

One avenue of cutbacks Robey pointed to isn't being taken. He noted that there is no suggestion that legislators should cut their salaries after giving themselves a raise last year.

In May the actual budget should begin to solidify, said Robey. “Right now, it's all just talk. But it's going to have major impacts on us.”

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


Lake County and Sacramento fans poured in to support Faded At Four Sunday night during the Bodog Battle of the Bands at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Pictured is lead singer Jon Foutch. Audience votes determine if they move on to the finals. The top prize is $1 million and a recording contract. Photo by Suzette Cook-Mankins.


LAKE COUNTY – For an intrepid band of Lake County musicians, stardom could be just around the corner.

For the last seven months, Faded At Four has been among thousands of bands across the United States, Canada and Europe battling to win a $1 million recording contract.

Band members include guitarists Brian Kenner of Lakeport and Chris Murphy of Kelseyville, bass guitarist Martin Scheel of Lower Lake, drummer Chris “Pencil” Sanders of Clearlake, and lead singer and Upper Lake native Jon Foutch.

Foutch said the band got into the Bodog Battle of the Bands last June, a competition that he said started with 4,500 bands.

Faded At Four submitted a profile, a picture and a single to join the competition, much of which has taken place through Internet voting, he explained.

In the San Francisco region, where Faded At Four is competing, Internet voting quickly took the band to a No. 1 ranking.

“We were absolutely floored,” said Foutch.

The band, which has an “aggressive” rock/metal sound, soon finished third nationwide in the online voting, said Foutch.

The competition then moved into live performances. During the third round of the competition, held Sunday at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall for the western region, Faded At Four placed second overall, said Foutch.

The performance was witnessed by three busloads of fans who made the trip to San Francisco, said Foutch.

“The energy level was through the roof,” he said.

It's been a year of hard work and success for Faded At Four, whose original members joined forces five years ago, said Foutch. The band in its current form has been together for two years.

Foutch, who attended American River College and Sonoma State, met Scheel while in college.

Eventually, they decided that they wanted to form a band.

“I'd figured out at some point after I'd gotten out of school that I could sing,” said Foutch, who was born and raised in Lake County and works as the facility administrator of the local dialysis clinic.

Besides singing he played drums for the band in the beginning. “It wasn't pretty,” he laughed.

Then the band met up at a party with Sanders, who joined as their drummer.

Last summer, opportunities began coming together for Faded At Four, which had been playing at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, said Foutch.

After regular appearances at the resort – playing in its clubs, showroom and amphitheater – Faded At Four was asked to open for Kid Rock during X.S. Weekend, an important accomplishment for the band, Foutch said.

Faded At Four is one of 48 U.S. bands now poised for the next round in the Bodog Battle of the Bands competition, which Foutch said will be televised on the Fuse Network.

On March 12, the band is set to compete with other 11 West Coast bands at The Avalon Club in Hollywood, said Foutch. From that performance, one winning band will emerge.

The West Coast winner will then advance to a final round of 10 bands – one from each of the four U.S. regions – based in San Francisco, Oklahoma, Denver and New York – plus five bands chosen from Europe and Canada.

There also will be one wild card spot. The 44 U.S. bands that are left after the top four are chosen will compete for that spot through online voting, said Foutch.

The competition – which he said has been likened to “Survivor” for bands – will then move into a reality television format.

“It's getting unbelievably competitive,” he said, adding that there are many great bands in the competition.

Faded At Four's members practice individually all the time, and get together twice a week to practice together, Foutch said.

Besides the hard work and talent, the band credits its network of fans and supporters for helping it advance this far.

“The fans have been so important to us,” said Foutch.

They're hoping to organize a trip for fans to Hollywood for March's phase of the competition, he said.

The farther along they advance, the more real it all gets, said Foutch. “This can really, really happen.”

Winning, he added, isn't necessary to benefit from the competition. The visibility it generates brings with it other chances. “It affords us a really, really good opportunity.”

Most of the band members have wives and children, and Foutch – a dad himself – said the decision to compete and take a shot at fame wasn't made lightly.

Ultimately, he said, they want to offer better lives for their families.

Foutch said friends of the band are joking about someday being able to say they “knew them when.” But for Foutch, Lake County will always be home.

“There's no place that I'd rather live than I live right now,” said Foutch, who lives in a home built by his ancestors.

If fame comes his way, Foutch said, “You take anybody and everyone you love with you.”

To learn more about Faded At Four, how to support the group in the Bodog Battle of the Bands or to hear the band's music, visit You can also visit the band's MySpace page at

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


Bass guitarist Martin Scheel during the Sunday performance in San Francisco. Photo by Suzette Cook-Mankins.




Kim Clymire (left) receives the Partner of the Year Award from Chuck Morse, president of the West Lake RCD Board of Directors. Photo by Terre Logsdon.

KELSEYVILLE – It was a night to celebrate accomplishments and a night to honor the dedicated volunteers who help make our watersheds – and all of Lake County – a healthier place for all to live

The sixth annual Watershed Year in Review was sponsored by the East Lake and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance and hosted by the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch.

Kim Clymire, director of Lake County Public Services – believing he was attending a Kelseyville Business Association meeting to make a presentation on Skate Parks – was surprised to learn that was being honored with the Partner of the Year Award.

“Kim has expressed a philosophy and belief of support for this volunteer effort and has been a major supporter of what we do,” said Chuck Morse, president of the West Lake RCD Board of Directors, who presented the award to Clymire.

“I feel blessed and lucky to be part of the team,” Clymire said.

Both Peter Windrem, chair of the Chi Council, and Ronda Mottlow, water resource manager for Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, gave separate presentations on the state of the Clear Lake Hitch – a species of fish unique to Clear Lake whose numbers have plummeted in the past 50 years.

The exact reasons for their decline is unknown, but both Robinson Rancheria and the Chi Council are monitoring their habitat, which includes the tributaries to Clear Lake as well as the lake itself.

Not only are the hitch important to Pomo culture – the fish has been a staple part of the Pomo diet for thousands of years – but “hitch are important to the economy [in Lake County],” said Mottlow. That's because the largemouth bass, which are abundant in Clear Lake and bring fisherman and tournaments from around the world to our county, feed on the hitch.

The Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance honored six outstanding and dedicated volunteers with awards that were designed by Carle High School students.

Linda Juntunen, Project Coordinator for the East and West Lake RCDs, presented awards to Kevin Ingram, Big Valley Watershed Council; Robert Geary, Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch; Fran Ransley, Lower Lake Watershed Council; Joe Dias, Middle Creek Coordinated Resource Management and Planning; Jim Bridges, Nice Watershed Group; and Patty Patten, Scotts Creek Watershed Council.

Greg Dills, watershed coordinator for the East and West Lake RCDs, gave an overview of the year’s activities and Korinn Smith, district conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, gave a presentation on how they've assisted landowners during the previous year.

If you would like to participate in counting hitch during their annual migrations upstream to spawn, the Chi Council for the Clear Lake Hitch is always looking for more volunteers.

Visit for more information.

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


MIDDLETOWN – A Middletown woman was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence Friday after she crashed her car along Highway 29.

A report from California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia explained that Rebecca Mary Eickhoff, 47, was arrested following the collision, which took place at approximately 1:25 p.m.

Eickhoff was driving her 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser southbound on Highway 29 south of Spruce Grove Road North near Lower Lake when she failed to negotiate a curve in the road, said Garcia.

Garcia said Eickhoff's car struck the embankment, with the collision causing her vehicle to roll over.

The car came to rest on its left side, blocking northbound traffic, said Garcia.

Eickhoff sustained minor injuries which did not require an ambulance transport, according to Garcia's report.

One-way traffic control was in effect for approximately an hour before the road could be fully reopened, said Garcia.

CHP Officer Nick Powell arrested Eickhoff, a businesswoman, for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to jail records.

Garcia said Powell is investigating the incident.


LAKE COUNTY – A new state report shows that Lake County Victim-Witness' efforts to get restitution for victims of crime has resulted in a near doubling of funds over the last two fiscal years.

The California Victim Compensation Board and Government Claims Board has released its annual report compiling various statistics regarding victims throughout California.

Also contained in the report is a tally of claims submitted by all 58 counties regarding victims of violent crime.

Lake County ranks 28th of all 58 counties for applications received from the District Attorney's Victim-Witness Division, which submitted 358 for fiscal year 2006-07, according to the report.

Napa ranked 26th, submitting 223; Mendocino ranked 41st with 136 applications; and Sonoma was listed at 14th, with 860 applications, the report noted.

Claims are submitted through local Victim-Witness centers for crimes including child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence, drunk driving with injuries and any crime committed against a person.

Applicants submit claims to receive reimbursement from the Restitution Fund that defendants are ordered to pay into upon any conviction.

“Restitution fines are ordered for all defendants upon conviction of a misdemeanor or felony and vary in amount – the limit being $10,000 for felonies, $1,000 for misdemeanors,” explained Lake County Victim-Witness Director Sam Laird in a statement from his office. “This is not ‘taxpayers' dollars’ in the traditional sense of the word.”

Reimbursements to victims include costs associated with medical/dental bills, mental health therapy and relocation, Laird explained.

“I know our staff is doing everything possible to make sure that all victims are offered compensation through the board, some counties are just not as active as Lake because of lack of funding or staff,” said Laird. “The support we receive from our District Attorney and all members of the DA’s Office and local law enforcement makes this possible.”

The number is just a small fraction of the new victims that Lake County Victim-Witness helps, said Laird.

Laird says the office helps between 1,000 and 1,300 new victims annually. When Laird joined Victim-Witness in 2001, he said the office was serving between 800 and 1,000 victims annually.

Not all victims qualify for the program and some decline to apply, he added.

In the 2006-07 fiscal year, $299,026 was reimbursed to people who were victimized in Lake County, Laird reported. In comparison, victim reimbursement was $186,282 in 2005-06; $93,614 for2004-05; and $181,813 for 2003-04.

“I am very pleased with the report,” said District Attorney Jon Hopkins. “Our Victim-Witness Division is so active, doing everything possible to ensure that victims are not left behind or fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system, and our entire office is organized to maximize the benefits to the victims.”

For more information about the Victim Compensation Board and Government Claims Board visit

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


MIDDLETOWN – District 1 Supervisor Ed Robey will present his annual “State of the District” message this week.

Robey will give his report to the Middletown Luncheon Club beginning at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 16.

The Middletown Luncheon Club is a nonprofit, tax-exempt California corporation and is not affiliated with the Middletown Community Methodist Church.


The group meets at the Middletown Methodist Church's social hall, 15833 Armstrong St.

Lunch is $4 per person; reservations are not required.

For more information, contact Helen Whitney, 928-9812.


LAKEPORT – The District Attorney's Office on Thursday requested that Lake County Superior Court dismiss murder and arson charges against a Lucerne man held since March of 2006 for the death of his girlfriend.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins explained that his office was dropping its prosecution of Charlton Alexander Bruff, who turns 53 on Friday, for the death of Lucerne resident and nurse Julie Gilbertson.

Bruff, a landscaper originally form Jamaica, was to have gone on trial Jan. 15.

New evidence in the case presented by defense attorneys Stephen and Angela Carter on Jan. 8 caused prosecutors to conclude that they couldn't convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Bruff was responsible, Hopkins said.

However, Hopkins intimated that his office may re-file charges in the future.

The specifics about the evidence in question was not being released, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who had prosecuted the case. “We still need to treat this like a pending case,” he said, adding that he was not at liberty to discuss the facts.

Stephen Carter said in a Thursday statement that he was confident of beating the case that the District Attorney had planned.

“We were ready for trial and we were ready to win,” he said. “We had a team of experts, all of whom believed that Mr. Bruff was wrongly accused and all of whom have been working on fighting every detail of this case from day one.”

Bruff was accused of setting fire to the home he and girlfriend Julie Gilbertson shared at 6804 Frontage Road in Lucerne in the early morning hours of March 1, 2006. Also living in the home were Gilberton's daughter and the daughter's boyfriend, according to the District Attorney's Office.

A report from Hopkins' office said the fire took three hours to extinguish.

Gilbertson, who was trapped in the fire but later rescued, died March 4, 2006, at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco as a result of the smoke inhalation, according to the report.

Following a five-day investigation arson – which included investigators from the Lake County Arson Task Force, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and a private insurance investigator – it was determined that the fire had been intentionally set, according to the District Attorney's Office.

However, Angela Carter disputed those findings. “Our fire experts are definitive that this was not arson. There were not multiple sources to this fire. This was an accidental fire. All of the physical evidence confirms this.”

She added that there was a “rush to judgment,” and that Bruff – a Jamaican and resident alien with speech issues and learning disabilities, who was “emotional, afraid and fully cooperative” – was an easy target.

Angela Carter contended that the house fire resulted from a condition called “flashover,” or a firestorm, because the house “had an unusually high level of contents,” which amounted to fuel. She said defense experts found no presence of accelerants which an arson dog had allegedly detected in the original investigation.

Stephen Carter said Bruff left the home wearing only a pair of sweat pants, leaving his wallet, dentures and other belongings inside. Carter said the prosecution contended that Bruff was a “vanity fire setter,” who set the fire in order to be a hero, a contention Carter called “nonsense.”

Hopkins, however, responded by saying that his office's decision not to prosecute had nothing to do with the facts of the case, which he maintained upheld the idea of Bruff's responsibility.

Rather, the decision centered on whether certain evidence – in the form of witness testimony – would prove Bruff's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. “Our view at this point is that it would not,” said Hopkins.

The central facts remain the same, said Hopkins.

“We did not arrive at a conclusion that an arson did not take place, and we have no doubt about the way the fire progressed,” he said.

He also dismissed the Carters' claims that Bruff did not make incriminating statements during the investigation. “We have no doubts about the defendant's statements, because we have a tape recording and can understand what he says.”

The Carters said that Bruff speaks a Jamaican creole dialect known as Patois. That, coupled with the fact that Bruff lost his dentures in the fire, led investigators to misunderstand his statements and take them out of context, the Carters alleged.

“Our speech expert did away with the idea that any sort of admission took place,” said Angela Carter.

Hopkins said the Carters divulged their information just days before the trial, although they had the information since last year. “Our view is that justice is not a game,” he said.

Angela Carter responded that the District Attorney's Office “was well aware of who their witnesses were from the beginning.”

She said the defense team wasn't going to tip its entire hand before the trial, because they didn't want to risk him going to jail for the rest of his life. “We don’t rely on the good will and good judgment of the very people who are responsible for prosecuting an innocent man.”

By dismissing the charges now, Hopkins said that he can refile later if new evidence supports it. If they had gone forward with a prosecution and the jury returned a not guilty verdict, it would have permanently barred Hopkins' office from retrying the case.

On Thursday evening Bruff was released from the Lake County Jail, where he has been held since March 13, 2006. Stephen Carter picked up Bruff from jail, Angela Carter reported.

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


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