Tuesday, 27 February 2024

News

CLEARLAKE – An 18-year-old man will find out next month when he'll stand trial for a fatal May stabbing.


Erik Michael McPherson is charged with murder in the stabbing death of 40-year-old Nicolai Chukreeff on the night of May 4.


McPherson was in court on Monday, where he was arraigned in preparation for a Sept. 15 court date, at which time his trial date will be set, said Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine.


On July 31 a preliminary hearing was held, and the judge ruled that McPherson would stand trial for Chukreeff's death, DeChaine said.


DeChaine said McPherson also is facing a special allegation of use of a weapon, in this case a knife.


McPherson is alleged to have stabbed Chukreeff, who was having drinks with friends at the Harbor Lite Resort, following an argument, according to initial police reports. Both of the men were in construction and may have known each other.


An autopsy report found that Chukreeff died of a single stab wound to the chest, as Lake County News has reported.


Police initially arrested McPherson on May 7 for a separate grand theft charge, which DeChaine said also is being prosecuted and will be set for a hearing on Sept. 15. A preliminary hearing hasn't yet been held on that charge, he added.


McPherson remains in the Lake County Jail, with total bail set at $510,000, according to jail records.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – Although a smoky haze has returned to Lake County's skies, officials report that air quality actually remains good.


Lake County’s air has remained in the good classification with healthful air and blue skies for more than two weeks, Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart reported Wednesday.


Although hazy, the air quality is expected to be in the good to moderate range for the next couple days, said Gearhart, with the normal blue skies expected to return by Friday.


Gearhart said the Air Quality Index on Tuesday was 80; an AQI above 50 would be in the moderate range.


On Wednesday the the AQI was trending moderate, but improving. The AQI for particulate is expected to remain well below 101 where an unhealthy alert is given.


Some residual smoke is returning to the Lake County Air Basin from many uncontrolled fires burning in the north part of the state, Gearhart reported. Progress is being made on wildfires burning on federal land but much of the complexes are in rugged and remote areas.


Winds are expected to be variable from the west northwest Thursday, switching back to a more westerly pattern, ranging from southwest to northwest by Friday, according to Gearhart. The northerly winds are contributing to smoke intrusions in the Lake County Air Basin from these ongoing uncontained large wildfires.


Residual smoke can be expected to remain throughout areas of Northern California on occasion, including Lake County, though at a much reduced level, until the lightning Complex wildfires are contained, Gearhart said.


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LAKE COUNTY – Some new garbage trucks making their way around the county have been causing some confusion for local residents, according to a report from Lake County's Waste Management division.


Lake County’s residential curbside customers have been used to seeing three separate trucks collect garbage, recyclables and greenwaste. Just recently, some customers began calling to report that their garbage and recyclables are being dumped into the same garbage truck.


Jackie Armstrong of Waste Management explained that, what they can’t see, is that there’s a blade inside these new split-body trucks that the driver moves from one side to the other to keep the recycling separate from the garbage.


The garbage companies began looking at split-body trucks a couple of years ago when the state set new low emission standards requiring modification or replacement of older trucks in their fleets, Armstrong said. Last fall, spiraling fuel costs made the split-body trucks even more practical.


Another advantage of the split-body trucks is that there is one less truck on each route each week which reduces wear and tear on roadways, Armstrong reported.


The split-body trucks are in use on most, but not all, routes and the types of materials collected may vary from one route to the next, she added.


If you have questions about these new trucks of other waste management programs, please call the Recycling Hotline at 263-1980 or visit the county’s waste management Web site at www.recycling.co.lake.ca.us.


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CLEARLAKE OAKS – Citing a budget crunch and the need for capital improvements on equipment, the Clearlake Oaks County Water District plans to ask its customers to consider several rate hike options at a meeting this week.


The district is planning a hearing at the Eastlake Grange, 13010 E. Highway 20, at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 to present choices to the community and receive input from ratepayers.


Darin McCosker, general manager and chief water plant operator, said he's going to propose three options to his board and the 1,715 water customers and 1,630 sewer customers.


Those options include a 39.4-percent increase on sewer and water, which was the proposal the Saturday meeting originally was called to consider, along with 25-percent and 10-percent hikes.


The originally proposed 39.4-percent increase on both sewer and water would raise the base monthly single-family dwelling water rates from $23.79 to $28.59, and sewer rates from $31.83 to $44.19.


All of the proposals would do away with the current rule allowing water users to have a 200 cubic foot allowance included in the base rate, McCosker said.


In addition, he's proposing to adjust the rate structure for single-family mobile homes with no meter and have district employees contribute more to their health benefits.


McCosker also will suggest to the board that, next July, they should review their financial situation and if it's stabilized they can look at rolling back the rates.


The decision, said McCosker, is ultimately up to the board.


But the district is behind in audits for two years, an issue that has both community members and board member Frank Toney saying they want to see the district get its financial house in order before raising rates.


Clearlake Oaks residents Judy Barnes and Judy Heeszel, who have attended meetings to find out more about the situation, told Lake County News they felt audits needed to be completed before new rate were passed.


“There's a lot of unanswered questions about the budget,” Barnes said, with the lack of audits raising a red flag for her.


Putting in place a permanent rate increase without having a new budget ready doesn't make sense to Barnes, who has personally visited with McCosker to question him about the district's situation.


Heeszel, a retired teacher's aide, questioned some district hires at what she felt were extremely high wages and advocated for a thorough financial examination before taking action.


She said she's concerned about the impacts of climbing rates on the community's elderly members, living on small incomes.

 

New board confronted by budget problems 


McCosker took over in January as general manager from Ellen Pearson, who worked as auditor/secretary until the district let her go in March.


Along with a new district manager, three of the district's five-member board were newly elected last fall. Board President Helen Locke, Vice President Mike Anisman and Frank Toney joined directors Pat Shaver and Harry Chase.


The new members had sought board seats because they were concerned either about customer service or certain district rules.


Locke credits McCosker for doing away with the “voice mail hell” that customers used to encounter when calling in, which has since been replaced by district staff answering calls and returning calls quickly. Anisman said hundreds of calls previously had gone unanswered.


Anisman, Locke and Toney said they weren't prepared to find out the district was running deep in the red. Anisman said the last three to four budgets the district has produced have been in the negative.


“It's an awful situation,” Locke told Lake County News.


The district's current financial condition has been attributed to what McCosker called in one district meeting a “plethora of reasons” – from poor management to lack of communication.


Bigger issues for the district is crumbling, outdated infrastructure, and rates that haven't kept up with the needs for maintenance and an increasing list of state and federal regulations, board members and McCosker said.


Since taking over, McCosker has been trying to play catch up, a task that has left him clearly frustrated. However, he said he's determined to streamline costs – including a spending freeze he instituted – and make the financial operations of the district more transparent.


“I honestly was completely overwhelmed and didn't know how we would dig ourselves out of this hole,” McCosker said.


Pearson said the district was making ends meet when she was there, although she had asked the district board since June of 2005 for a rate increase, which didn't happen.


McCosker has brought bookkeeper Jana Saccato on board at the district. He said she's been trying to catch up on the district's ledger entries, which the previous bookkeeper wasn't making. Saccato's work, he said, has helped stabilize the financial picture.


Pearson said the district hadn't had an auditor/bookeeper since May of 2006, after a woman who held the position for six months and made a mess of the books left.


Poor budget management also resulted in more than $4,600 in overdraft charges on the district's accounts in 2007 and $6,200 in penalties from the Internal Revenue Service for not following procedures, said McCosker.


Anisman said the issue with the IRS was “the final straw” for him when it came to Pearson's job with the district.


He said Pearson went on vacation and a few days after she left the board received word from the bank that they had no money. They then found out the IRS was putting a lien on the checking account for failure to pay back taxes – taxes which the district is still working to pay.


“She never told anybody,” he said. “She left and went on vacation without telling anybody.”


Pearson said she did tell Shaver – the only board member who would talk to her – about the situation before leaving on vacation.


Those overdrafts and penalties were as a result of having no auditor/bookkeeper. She added that state water code prevents the general manager from also auditing the district's books.


McCosker said the district's finances are behind in audits which has resulted in fines. At its most recently meeting on July 16, the district board gave McCosker direction to come back with three bids from audit firms to complete the necessary audits. He'll take those bids to the board's Aug. 20 meeting.


It's hoped those audits also will give the district a clue to the source of its financial stresses. Board members like Toney also hope it will tell them what happened to $65,000 of $78,000 the Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the district for several projects. Pearson said that money was still in a district account when she left.


Looking at the district's finances over the last 10 years, McCosker said in 1998 the board decided to reduce rates 6.7 percent, then raise rates 0 percent on water for five years before a rate increase was enacted.


Pearson disputes that there were no rate increases in those years, saying that they were just very small, only about 2 to 3 percent.


In 1998, the district had $1.3 million in reserves, but negative budgets and borrowing against reserves did away with that cushion, McCosker said.


The rates that did follow were too small to help; McCosker said from 2002 to 2004 the district spent about $1.2 million on new canal crossings for sewer, a 200,000 gallon clearwell at the water plant, cleaned and inspected 17,000 feet of sewer mains, and repaired many leaks in the sewer system.


Before McCosker took over the district's management in January, the district's reserves were down to $13,000.


A small, 3-percent rate increase that was approved four years ago went into effect July 1, McCosker said.


But the most pressing issues facing the district is the budget shortfall, which McCosker said he can't do anything about unless rates go up.


“We are barely keeping our head above water right now,” he said, which is why the district needs at least a 10-percent increase, which will help pay for the expensive auditing process.


Views on solutions differ


While the board is in agreement that they're facing financial difficulties, the question of what to do next seems to have brought them to no consensus.


Toney said he wants to see the results of the audits, which are needed so the district can start the work of building a new budget. That needs to happen before going to a rate hike, he said.


He said of a hike, “I'm not for that, because we need to start cutting costs internally before we start laying this on the ratepayers.”


During a June meeting month Toney suggested a hiring freeze as well as a temporary halt on pay increases for the district's 15 employees, but received no support from fellow board members. He also said the district's benefit and salary packages are “overdone” and should be scaled back.


In making the original proposal for a 39.4-percent rate increase, McCosker was concerned about overcoming an estimated $250,000 deficit, a number which since has been reduced by about $100,000. However, McCosker cautions that without audits it's hard to know the district's true financial picture.


That original proposal also would fund a $450,000 capital improvement plan to update the system, said McCosker.


“We have $14 million worth of stuff that is getting older as we speak,” he said at a recent meeting.


Among the equipment concerns is the need to replace pipes and tanks, including the district's redwood storage tanks located in High Valley, which hold 200,000 gallons of water and could cost as much as $750,000 to replace. There also are needs for a water plant and capital improvements at the wastewater plant, said McCosker.


Toney said he believes the district should hold off on capital improvements and tank replacement projects until it gets its financial house in order. He also suggested the district pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, such as selling treated wastewater to farmers rather than having it pumped to The Geysers steamfield.


Anisman said he believes the rate hike is needed in order to do the significant upgrades the district needs – from new tanks to maintenance – which he compared to making the jump from DOS to a Vista computer operating system.


“The people I have heard from personally have all said, 'We need a raise',” said Anisman.


The rate hikes are necessary, and not a luxury item, said Anisman. If the ratepayers don't shoot the proposal down Aug. 16, it will likely go forward.


McCosker said Supervisor Denise Rushing helped get the district some budgetary relief by securing an agreement with the county to make an early, $80,000 payment from property taxes to the district, which Rushing urged instead of taking a loan. She's also suggested the district ask the county to pay its water bill to the district early.


“Denise Rushing has come through on her promise and moved mountains to get early payments,” he said.


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


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Lance Corporal Ivan Wilson will be honored in services planned this week. Courtesy photo.

 

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED.


CLEARLAKE – Services for a Clearlake Marine killed in Afghanistan late last month will be held this week.


Lance Corporal Ivan Wilson died July 21 in southern Afghanistan, as Lake County News has reported.


His mother, Denise Wilson, said funeral services for him will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Clearlake, to be followed by burial at Lower Lake Cemetery.


Jones and Lewis Mortuary in Lower Lake reported it will hold a closed casket visitation for Wilson on Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Wilson's body is being brought from Dover, Delaware on Thursday, according to his family.


A motorcade will move through Clearlake at about 3 p.m. on Thursday, said California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Humble.


Two CHP cruisers, six Patriot Guard motorcycle riders, family members and several Marine vehicles will take part in the procession, said Humble.


Clearlake Police Lt. Craig Clausen said a special public tribute area has been set up at Austin Park, at Lakeshore Boulevard and Olympic Drive.


The public is being asked to park at Haverty Field next to Austin Park, where they can gather to watch the procession as it slowly passes, Clausen said.


“We're trying to keep it safe,” he said.


Humble said some roads around Austin Park will be closed to accommodate the motorcade's movement.


For the Saturday funeral, Humble said CHP and Lake County Sheriff's deputies will conduct traffic control on Highway 53 to allow the motorcade through as it passes from the mortuary to the church and then, finally, to the cemetery. Five CHP units have been assigned to the event.


Clausen said Clearlake Police will handle traffic control within the city limits.


Humble said law enforcement planning for the motorcade and funeral has been taking place over the last two weeks, with a final briefing planned for Thursday morning.


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


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The jury in a high profile murder case could not reach a decision on the last of six charges decided on Monday.


Renato Hughes, 23, of San Francisco, was acquitted last Friday by an all-woman jury, who found he was not responsible for the deaths of friends Christian Foster, 22, and Rashad Williams, 21, on Dec. 7, 2005.


On Monday, Hughes' Martinez jury returned to complete deliberations on a charge of assault causing great bodily injury, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.


The jury had apparently nearly decided last week to find Hughes guilty of the charge until one juror changed her mind overnight, said Hopkins. That juror remained unconvinced and so the jury was declared hung on the charge, 11-1.


Defense attorneys Stuart Hanlon and Sara Rief couldn't be reached for comment late Monday.


Hughes and his friends allegedly had broken into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds to steal medical marijuana.


As a result, Hughes had been charged with the deaths of his friends under the provocative act – which allows people who allegedly participate in violent crimes that can result in a lethal response to be charged with murder for any deaths that occur – even though it was homeowner Shannon Edmonds who shot the two men. Edmonds has not been charged in the case.


Last week Hughes also was acquitted of robbery and attempted murder, as Lake County News has reported. He was, however, found guilty of burglary and assault for a firearm.


The trial – which began June 11 – was moved to Contra Costa County earlier this year following a decision by a judge last November to grant Hanlon's change of venue motion.


Hopkins said Hughes will return to Judge Barbara Zuniga's courtroom at 11 a.m. Sept. 9 for sentencing.


Hughes faces a maximum of eight years in prison, with the burglary counted as a strike, said Hopkins.


By the time he is sentenced, Hughes will have spent two years and nine months in jail, said Hopkins.


Based on the formula for time served, which takes the time actually spent in jail and adds 50 percent, Hughes will have credit for just over four years against his sentence, Hopkins said.


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


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HOPLAND – Now in its 13th year, "The Greenest Show on Earth" returns once again this weekend to the Solar Living Institute in Hopland as SolFest, the world's premier two-day celebration of renewable energy and sustainable living.


The event takes place Saturday, Aug. 16 and Sunday, Aug. 17 just over the Hopland grade from Lakeport.


Since its inception in 1996, more than 100,000 people have learned how to change the world while having fun at SolFest.


Each summer SolFest transforms the rural hamlet of Hopland, in Mendocino County, into the global epicenter of green living.


The main stage, family stage, and six workshop tents are filled with world-renowned speakers, musicians and artists, offering keynotes, panels, performances, and more than 50 one-hour workshops.


The leading developers and distributors of green products and services will be available, sponsoring and exhibiting in hundreds of booths and displays that fill the beautifully landscaped grounds for two days.


Workshops include: Beyond the Defensible Space-Fire & Earthquake Resistant Green Building Techniques and Materials, Convert Your Motorcycle to Electric, How Any Business Can Make Money Being Green, How To Bring Local Clean Energy To Your City – and these are offered in just the first three hours of the event. With six workshop areas running concurrently, there is a workshop for everyone each hour of the event.


In addition to the workshops, there are three stages, with speakers and performers also running concurrently. Luckily, they provide handouts and a map so you can plan your route beforehand.


The highlights of this year's event includes a talk by Derrick Jensen, author and winner of this years' Eric Hoffer award for his book "Thought to Exist in the Wild," and winner of the Press Action Person of the Year in 2006 for his two books, “Endgame,” Volume I and Volume II.


Preceding Jensen on the same stage will be Maria Muldaur, who recently wowed the crowed at the Blue Wing Blues Festival in Upper Lake. Both will be performing Saturday afternoon.


Congressman Mike Thompson will be speaking on Sunday afternoon, preceding a panel discussion on global warming led by Richard Heinberg, who has written extensively about peak oil, including in a recent book titled "Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines."


Tickets for SolFest are $45 for the entire weekend or $30 for Saturday and $25 for Sunday. Admission is free for volunteers, and volunteer opportunities are still available.


Contact the Solar Living Institute at 744-2017 or www.solarliving.org.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – While the defense for a San Francisco man has greeted his acquittal of the shooting deaths of two friends with relief, they also say the homeowner who fatally shot the two men as they ran from his home should be charged and tried.


Sara Rief worked with Stuart Hanlon to defend 23-year-old Renato Hughes Jr., who was charged with the deaths of friends Rashad Williams and Christian Foster on Dec. 7, 2005, allegedly because the three were part of a violent break-in.


District Attorney Jon Hopkins alleged that the three men were part of a “crime team” whose violent actions during an attempt to steal medical marijuana from homeowner Shannon Edmonds resulted in death.


Even though it was Edmonds who pulled the trigger, Hughes' alleged participation in the break-in triggered prosecution under the provocative act theory for the deaths which, the theory holds, he allegedly helped cause.


Last Friday, Hughes was acquitted of the murder charges, as well as robbery and attempted murder, although he also was found guilty of burglary and assault with a firearm because the jury considered him to be aiding and abetting the crime. Another charge relating to assault causing great bodily injury resulted in a hung jury.


“We obviously are ecstatic at the outcome,” said Rief.


Hughes, she added, has been waiting a long time for the not guilty verdict.


Had be been convicted of the two homicides, Hughes was facing life without possibility of parole, said Rief.


District Attorney Jon Hopkins said Monday that Hughes was looking at about eight years in prison plus a strike for the burglary based on the convictions.


Sentencing in the case will take place on Sept. 9 in Martinez in Judge Barbara Zuniga's courtroom, where the trial was moved after a judge granted a change of venue motion.


Hughes already has served more than two and a half years in jail since being arrested following the deaths. If Zuniga gives him the maximum eight-year sentence he's only looking at a year and a half in prison at most, said Rief.


However, Rief noted that according to sentencing guidelines the judge would have to cite extraordinary circumstances to sentence Hughes to the maximum term.


Rief said Hughes is ready to appeal the two charges of which he was convicted.


Hopkins had said Monday that he considered the two guilty verdicts on the more minor charges a rejection by the jury of Hughes' claim that he wasn't involved in the crime.


To an extent, Rief agreed, although she said the jury “obviously thought his involvement was very minimal.”


In questioning jurors for about an hour Monday, Rief said they had some trouble with Hughes' comments on the stand, and found some of his answers somewhat evasive.


“The convictions do show that they did not believe the entirety of what he said,” she noted.


The jury, she said, did a very good job with a very confusing case. She said the provocative act law has been around since the mid 1960s, but there isn't a lot of case law on it. Nevertheless, the all-female jury worked diligently to move through the difficult trial.


“Listening to them, they were really careful in their deliberations,” she said.


She said Hopkins indicated to the jury on Monday that he did not think he would attempt to retry Hughes on the lesser charge. If convicted it would only mean another year and a half in prison, said Rief.


With Hughes' trial over, attention has been turning to Edmonds, who shot Williams and Foster as they ran from his home. Rief said the National Association for the Advance of Colored People is looking at ways to get a case filed against Edmonds.


Likewise, she and Hanlon have felt from the beginning that Edmonds should be considered for charges. She cited his chasing after the men and shooting Foster while he was on the ground, and said by doing so he was taking justice into his own hands.


“We do feel that the wrong person was charged in this case,” she said.


Seeing Edmonds charged in Lake County isn't likely, said Hopkins.


Hopkins said he and the defense had a tremendous disagreement about what the evidence showed with regard to Edmonds' actions and the shots fired.


Hopkins said the jury agreed with his interpretation of the physical evidence that the fatal shot to Christian Foster came while he was ducking down to go out a sliding glass door.


When Hopkins' predecessor, Gary Luck, was still district attorney, he carefully considered whether or not to charge Edmonds.


“His conclusion that I agree with is that we would not be able to get a unanimous jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Shannon Edmonds did not fear for his safety and the safety of his family,” said Hopkins.


He explained that just before the shootings occurred, Dale Lafferty, the then-17-year-old son of Edmonds' girlfriend Lori Tyler, had just been viciously beaten by a baseball bat, an act that left him with permanent brain damage. Seeing the teen so badly hurt caused Edmonds to “lose it,” Hopkins said.


Edmonds himself also had been hit in the face with a shotgun. “The shotgun was out in the dark with these guys, getting away,” said Hopkins, with Edmonds not knowing if they would attack again.


“Somebody tell me how I'm going to convince a jury to convict him,” said Hopkins.


While many people have tried to cast the case in terms of race, Hopkins said he's heard from many others who believe Edmonds was defending his home and family.


“It's a convenient way to try and avoid the real issue in the case,” Hopkins said.


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


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LOWER LAKE – A Ukiah woman walking along Highway 29 late Sunday night died after she was struck by a vehicle.


The incident happened at about 10:40 p.m. Sunday south of Doten Road near the Konocti Conservation Camp, the California Highway Patrol reported.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said the 34-year-old woman, whose name was not released pending family notification, was walking northbound on the east shoulder adjacent to the northbound lane.


Eric Nelson, 50, of Kelseyville was driving a 2006 Kia SUV northbound towards Kelseyville when his vehicle struck the woman. Garcia said the woman suffered fatal injuries.


Garcia said Nelson and his passengers were not reported as being injured.


The cause of the collision is under investigation by Officer Randy Forslund, Garcia reported.


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The driver and passenger of the car involved in the single-vehicle collision on Wednesday, August 13, 2008, were not seriously hurt. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 


LAKEPORT – There were no serious injuries in a single-vehicle crash that occurred on Highway 29 Wednesday afternoon.


The crash happened around 2 p.m. north of Mockingbird Lane.


Witnesses at the scene said the car, driven by a young woman with a male passenger, was traveling south on Highway 29 when, on a soft curve, it crossed over into the northbound lane, narrowly missing a northbound car.


The female driver tried to correct the vehicle's path but lost control and spun, hitting the embankment and going up into the air and nearly overturning.


Fire personnel and California Highway Patrol responded to the scene.


The air bags in the vehicle did not deploy but neither the driver nor passenger were reported at the scene to be seriously injured.


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


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LOWER LAKE – Officials on Tuesday identified a Ukiah woman who died as the result of being hit by a vehicle on Sunday night.


Delia Smith, 34, died after being hit at about 10:40 p.m. Sunday as she walked along Highway 29 south of Doten Road near the Konocti Conservation Camp, the California Highway Patrol reported.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said that it appears that Smith stepped into the traffic lane just before she was hit by a Kia SUV driving northbound.


He said CHP is trying to determine if Smith's moving into the traffic lane was intentional. Garcia added that a toxicology report also is pending.


Officer Randy Forslund is investigating the incident, Garcia said.


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


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JAGO BAY – Investigators are working to discover the reasons for an Orangevale man's death this weekend.


A man's body had been discovered Saturday morning on the Jago Bay community beach, as Lake County News reported Sunday.


Captain Jim Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office on Monday identified the man as 52-year-old Joel Christian Hansen.


The cause of Hansen's death, he added, does not appear to be due to foul play.


Bauman reported that sheriff's deputies and Lake County Fire Protection District rescue personnel were dispatched to the Jago Bay beach area, off of Anderson Road in Lower Lake, at about 11 a.m. Saturday on a reported drowning. Deputies responded from both land and water.


When deputies arrived at the scene, they were led to the beach where Hansen's body was lying at the water's edge. By that time, fire personnel had already arrived and determined Hansen to be deceased, Bauman said.


Bauman said Hansen’s fiancée, Stephanie Dressler of Orangedale, told deputies she and Hansen had gone to the beach the previous day at about 1 p.m.


When Dressler left the beach two hours later, she could not find Hansen but was not concerned as she assumed he had gone out on a boat with a friend, said Bauman. The following morning, she awoke and Hansen had still not returned to their summer home.


Dressler started asking friends and relatives in the area if they had seen Hansen but she soon learned she had apparently been the last one to see him alive the previous day, Bauman reported. They began looking for Hansen and when a relative went down to check the beach, she found Hansen face down in the water.


Hansen was pulled ashore by the relative and when others responded to her yells for help, the call to 911 was made, Bauman said.


A friend of Hansen’s from the east Bay Area told deputies that he and the Hansen family were longtime owners of the vacation homes along the Jago Bay beach. Bauman said the man told deputies that friends and family of the Hansens' were “partying heavily” the previous night.


Bauman said the man went on to tell deputies that in the morning, he heard friends and relatives calling for Hansen and a short time later, he heard Hansen’s cousin yelling for help from the beach. He responded to the beach and helped the cousin pull Hansen from the water.


Due to the obscure circumstances of Hansen’s death, sheriff’s detectives were called to the scene. Bauman said the exact cause of death is pending further investigation.


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