Friday, 19 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – With more visitors coming into the Mendocino National Forest during the summer months, forest officials are advising people to be on the lookout for illegal marijuana gardens and the people who guard them.

Nearly half a million illegal marijuana plants were seized on the Mendocino National Forest last year and the prime growing period is now underway, prompting national forest officials to advise the public to be especially vigilant when visiting the forest.

“We want the public to be aware that this is going on and know what to do if they encounter marijuana gardens on the forest,” said Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras.

Illegal marijuana growing is an increasing problem on public lands in California. National Forest System lands are becoming increasingly used for growing and harvesting illegal marijuana gardens and these operations can potentially present a safety hazard to forest visitors and employees.

Most of the marijuana gardens are in very remote locations. The national forest has vast and mostly uninhabited lands with many areas of rich, fertile soil and a climate that provides the necessary conditions for growing marijuana. Plants are put into the ground between May and June and harvested in late September through November.

“If a private citizen comes upon something suspicious, don’t enter the area; just leave and notify local law enforcement authorities immediately,” Dennis Cullen, Forest Service Law Enforcement Patrol Captain, advised. “Do not enter any garden area.”

In 2006 the MNF law enforcement team spent over 300 days eradicating 405,399 marijuana plants from 55 illegal marijuana sites on the Mendocino National Forest. More marijuana was taken by this team than any other group in the Forest Service in 2006.

In addition to the criminal nature of the marijuana gardens, there is substantial environmental degradation caused by the illegal growers. Herbicides and pesticides used to remove competing vegetation and gnawing rodents (which are a food source for the northern spotted owls), human waste and garbage, all end up in rivers after winter rains. Also, the irrigation systems dewater small streams needed by fish, and compacts the soil in the gardens, leading to erosion.

The typical marijuana garden has changed from the late 1980s and early 90s. During that time the typical operation had 100 to 1,000 plants. These days, operations are far larger, ranging in size from 1,000 to 30,000 plants, or more. The larger growing operations often have armed individuals tending the gardens, Cullen said.

“Most of the increase can be attributed to the proliferation of foreign Drug Trafficking Organizations,” Cullen said.

Forest Service law enforcement officers work with county sheriff’s departments and Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) teams. Headed by the Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, CAMP teams were created in 1983 for the primary purpose of eradicating illegal marijuana from public lands in California.

Growers can live in the forest near these sites for months at a time. Officers have come across camps with exercise facilities, tree houses, barbed wire fences and numerous firearms, Cullen said.

These camps often contain cooking and sleeping areas which are within view of the cultivation site. Some camps have tents, hammocks and sleeping bags on the ground and have been found with large overhanging tarps as cover for the entire campsite.

There are some things to watch for which may indicate marijuana is being grown in an area. They can include:

  • Isolated tents in the forest where no recreational activity is present.

  • The utilization of trailers with no evidence of recreational activities.

  • A pattern of vehicular traffic or a particular vehicle seen in the same isolated area on a regular basis.

  • Unusual structures located in remote forested areas, with buckets, garden tools, fertilizer bags, etc.

  • Signs of cultivation or soil disturbance in unlikely areas.

  • Black piping and trash scattered in forested areas.


For additional information or to notify law enforcement authorities of a suspected garden area in the Mendocino National Forest, persons can contact Forest Service Law Enforcement at (530) 934-3316.


LAKE COUNTY – While there was a lot of activity going on in the county over the past weekend, leading up through the Fourth of July, overall it appears to have been a safe holiday, with no fatalities on the roads and few driving-under-the-influence arrests.

Officer Adam Garcia of the Clear Lake California Highway Patrol office said Thursday that, as far as safety and arrests, it was a good Fourth.

CHP's DUI checkpoint, held Monday on Highway 20 at Lake Street in Clearlake Oaks, actually yielded no DUI arrests, said Garcia. Officers did give seven driver's license-related citations, and made one arrest for possession of a controlled substance.

Over the entire holiday weekend, CHP logged only two DUI arrests, said Garcia.

In addition, there were zero fatalities, Garcia reported. “That's the big number there.”

Officers didn't notice a more-than-normal number of collisions either, he said.

Jaime Coffee, spokesperson for the CHP's Sacramento headquarters, said that 18 people died in accidents around the state during the CHP's maximum enforcement period, which because of the way the holiday fell this year lasted just over two days, from 6:01 p.m. July 2 to 11:59 p.m. July 4.

Last year's maximum enforcement period stretched over four days, said Coffee. The last time the Fourth of July fell in the middle of the week and there was a maximum enforcement period of the same length was 2001, said Coffee. That year, CHP recorded eight fatalities statewide. This year's numbers, said Coffee, illustrate a significant increase.

DUI arrests across the state totaled 568, with 34 in the CHP's Northern Division, which includes the Clear Lake office, said Coffee.

Of this Fourth of July's 18 fatalities, 13 were within CHP jurisdiction and five were within city jurisdictions, said Coffee. The CHP's Northern Division had a total of two traffic deaths.

In looking at those statistics, Coffee said one thing stood out: use of seat belts.

The 13 fatalities in CHP jurisdiction included two motorcycle deaths and 11 deaths in vehicle accidents, Coffee reported. Of those 11 vehicle fatalities, eight – or 73 percent – of those who died were not wearing seat belts, said Coffee.

“Had they taken that one second to buckle their seat belt, they may have saved their own life,” Coffee said.

She added, “It's a good habit to get in, and it can mean the difference between life and death.”

A more quiet year around rest of county

Lakeport and Clearlake Police and the Lake County Sheriff's Office noted a busy Fourth, that, overall, was quieter than previous years.

LCSO's arrest logs for July 3, 4 and 5 showed no arrests for DUI or any serious assaults.

Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department said there was one serious gang-related assault in Lakeport on Wednesday, and some other arrests.

“If we're talking about the celebration in Library Park, that portion of it was pretty quiet,” said Rasmussen, a lot quieter than previous years, he added.

There were a lot of fireworks-related calls, said Rasmussen, with calls for service on the street showing an increase.

In Clearlake, the city's busiest day was Saturday, when it held its Fourth of July festivities, said Lt. Mike Hermann of Clearlake Police.

On Saturday, “We made numerous arrests during the day,” said Hermann.

A rap concert that night yielded only one minor fight between two young women, he added.

The city was relatively quiet on Wednesday, said Hermann, with one traffic collision. Clearlake Police made no DUI arrests over the Fourth of July holiday, he added.

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


LAKEPORT – Officials have reported that an inquest into the death of a Nice man has found he was the victim of a homicide.

Paul “Joe” Womachka, 39, of Nice was found in his submerged Hey Taxi minivan in the Konocti Vista Casino marina last Friday afternoon. He'd been reported missing two days earlier when he didn't return from an early morning taxi run to Robinson Rancheria Bingo & Casino.

Lake County Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed earlier this week that his office was investigating Womachka's death as a homicide, even before the results of Tuesday's autopsy were made public.

Lt. Cecil Brown, the sheriff's office press officer, said earlier Tuesday that three sheriff's detectives were to be present for the autopsy in order to report back immediately on the findings.

Late Tuesday, an official sheriff's office statement on the autopsy results that was to be released to all area media was, inexplicably, not made available to Lake County News or posted on the sheriff's Web site for public viewing.

As of Wednesday night, Lake County News had still not seen the release, and the sheriff's office was unable to explain the oversight.

However, Mitchell was contacted Wednesday morning, and he confirmed the homicide conclusion.

“We are confirming the manner of death as homicide but we are not yet releasing the cause of death,” Mitchell said.

“We are better able to prioritize investigative leads when those leads contain information consistent with what we know but have not yet made public,” he said.

“We are actively working many different leads and seeking out additional sources of information,” Mitchell added.

The man Womachka was called to give a ride to early Wednesday, Morgan Matthew Jack, 30, is in the Lake County Jail on a parole violation. He was arrested June 29 by Det. Corey Paulich, one of the sheriff's office's key homicide investigators, just hours after Womachka's body was found.

One of many questions in the case is why Womachka took Jack to Lakeport in the first place.

The sheriff's office reported this week that Womachka had been called to give Jack a ride to his home at Big Valley Rancheria in Lakeport from Robinson Rancheria.

However, on his booking sheet, Jack's home is listed as Nice. When asked about this discrepancy, Brown said the Nice address would have come from information Jack gave to officials at the jail during his booking.

Jack remains in jail on a no-bail parole hold. Officials said he has been interviewed as part of the homicide investigation.

Brown said Jack was known to sheriff's officials, having spent time in the jail on and off over the last few years.

Mitchell urged anyone with information to call the sheriff's office at 262-4200 and ask to speak to Det. Corey Paulich or Det. Brian Kenner.

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


If you frequent the Restaurant at the New Riviera Hills you may have noticed that some changes are being made to the dining area.

First, it is in the process of being expanded to accommodate a larger crowd. Additionally the ninth fairway is being used for a leech field for the new and upgraded restrooms.

“It’s a refreshing change,” said longtime patron Mary Miles Ryan. “The restaurant did need a face lift; it will be a much more enjoyable place to visit in the future.”


Since the Gilberts bought the troubled club in January 2006, they have been attempting to make the facility a profitable business and have succeeded to some degree. The food and service at the restaurant have greatly improved and the pool has been upgraded at a considerable expense so it can be open on a regular bases.

The biggest expense in operating the facility is the maintenance of the golf course. The cost of keeping the greens watered is a major drain on the operating budget so there are plans to shorten up some of the fairways and planting grapes and olive trees on part of the area.

“I wouldn’t mind grapes because they have a low profile,” said Kathleen Quick, who lives on Sunset Ridge on the second fairway. “But if they were to plant olive trees where they will block our view, I would be very upset. We bought the home for the view and because it was on the golf course. Blocking our view would definitely affect our property value.”

In checking with the county there have been permits pulled to plant grapes but not olive trees at this time.

“They do own their land and have a right to make it viable,” said Alan Siegel, president of Clear Lake Riviera Home Owners Association. “We need to look at if they plan on spraying pesticides of any kind at any time.”

“One thing for sure, change is in the air,” said Ryan. “Let's hope that it’s change for the better.”

Visit Ray Perry's Web site at


NORTHSHORE – A San Francisco man lost in a remote area of the county was found Wednesday afternoon by a California Highway Patrol pilot.

A report from CHP Officer Adam Garcia of the Clear Lake CHP office explained that the agency received a request for assistance at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday from the Lake County Sheriff's Office, who were searching for a man reported lost in the Clearlake Oaks area.

Anton Oenning of San Francisco was riding his BMW motorcycle somewhere northwest of High Valley Road and east of Bartlett Springs Road when he became stuck in a ditch, Garcia reported.

Oenning had run out of water, Garcia reported, was disoriented from the heat and was unsure of his location.

CHP deployed one of its fixed-wing airplanes from the Redding office, piloted by Officer B. Singleton along with Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, according to Garcia.

Pilot Officer Singleton was able to locate Oenning at approximately 4:30 p.m., Garcia said.

A CHP helicopter piloted by Officer G. Bakker with flight paramedic Officer T. Stanley was deployed and transported Oenning to Sutter Lakeside Hospital where he was treated.


Congressman Mike Thompson (left) and George Miller at the Monday hearing in Vallejo. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


VALLEJO – A U.S. Fish & Wildlife official told a congressional panel on Monday that an investigation is under way into whether a Department of Interior official used political influence to manipulate scientific evidence that forms the basis of the Bay-Delta's management.

Steve Thompson, manager of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's California/Nevada Operations Office  – which is part of the US Department of the Interior – gave that testimony during a hearing by the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water and Power.


During a question-and-answer session, Rep. Mike Thompson – who was invited to sit as a guest member of the subcommittee – asked Steve Thompson several pointed questions about political influence on the science used to make policy decisions regarding endangered species.

In the Bay-Delta, the delta smelt has become a focus of concern. Considered a species that is an indicator of the delta's overall health, during the past two years the smelt's population has begun to crash.

Thompson and 35 other members of Congress from California and Oregon last week called for hearings into Vice President Dick Cheney's part in an illegal water diversion that killed an estimated 70,000 salmon in the Klamath River.

Referencing the Klamath investigation, Mike Thompson asked Steve Thompson if his agency had been similarly pressured to change science based on politics.

The exchange went like this.

Mike Thompson: Have there been any communications between the White House and interior on the issue of science in the delta and water flows?

Steve Thompson: Between the White House and Interior? Not that I'm aware of.

Mike Thompson: That sounds like you're trying to split hairs. Has there been some political influence that has been focused towards you folks and what we should be doing there?

Steve Thompson: I get political influence from everyone, Congressman. If you're asking …

Mike Thompson: Steve, we go back a long time, OK?

Steve Thompson: Yes.

Mike Thompson: You know what I'm getting at, and you know what happened in the Klamath and you know the direct influence that the White house exerted in order to get their water policy put in place. Has there been anything similar to that in regard to the delta?

Steve Thompson: Not similar to Klamath but we have had interests from the assistant secretary's office on a regular basis on delta smelt.

Mike Thompson: And what sort of influence is that? Has there been a direction that they want, an outcome that they want to see and they're hoping to influence scientific decisions, or even, not just scientific maybe avoidance of the law as it pertains to the endangered species act?

Steve Thompson: That currently is under an active IG (Inspector General) investigation and it would be inappropriate to talk about it at this time.

Mike Thompson: I yield to Mr. Miller.

Rep. George Miller (also sitting on the committee): The assistant secretary there, you're referring to whom?

Steve Thompson: Deputy assistant secretary who is no longer there would be Julie MacDonald.

At that statement, an audible gasp rippled through the gallery of about 100 environmentalists, government officials, interested members of the public and media.

A Bush appointee, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald resigned April 30 after an Inspector General's investigation found that she had terrorized and bullied Fish & Wildlife staff, interfered with science and violated the Endangered Species Act, according to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity, which helped unearth some of MacDonald's activities.

A second Inspector General's investigation is under way into MacDonald's role in the delta, Steve Thompson said, a fact which prevented him from further discussing the matter.

Miller asked Steve Thompson how they could guarantee that more science wouldn't be compromised in favor of politics in the future.

Steve Thompson told the panel that he's working with his project leaders to identify areas of political interference, and had assured his staff that they can move ahead without fear of further political influence.

"This is exactly the type of situation we are trying to avoid," Congressman Thompson said after the hearing. "We learned the hard way how political manipulation can impact an ecosystem on the Klamath River; when politics trumped science and 80,000 salmon were killed, closing down the entire commercial salmon fishing season to California and Oregon last year."

Last month, eight members of Congress from the Bay Area – including Reps. Mike Thompson and George Miller (D-Martinez) – called for the hearing to explore issues with the Bay-Delta, which has become a crisis point in the state's water supply.

Subcommittee Chair Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk) responded and in three weeks put together the hearing, which was titled "Extinction is not a Sustainable Water Policy: The Bay-Delta Crisis and the Implications for California Water Management."

Napolitano said no "colleagues from the minority" – i.e., the Republicans – participated in the hearing, despite her calls to Republican members. She said the Republicans aren't happy about the hearing, and said later in the meeting that they had accused her of holding a "dog and pony show."

"We were hoping they would be able to join us and work with us on this issue,” she said at the hearing's beginning.

What the Bay-Delta means to Lake County

In case you're wondering just what the Bay-Delta has to do with Lake County, you might be surprised to find out that it's actually closely linked.

The San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta, also known as the Bay-Delta, is an expansive inland river delta in Northern California. It is formed at the western edge of the Central Valley by the Sacramento River at its confluence with the San Joaquin River just east of where the river enters Suisun Bay.

The Bay Delta is the largest estuary on the West Coast, covering 738,000 acres of land interlaced with hundreds of miles of waterways. Much of the land is below sea level and relies on more than 1,000 miles of levees for protection against flooding.

Clear Lake drains into Cache Creek. Both Cache and Putah creeks drain into the Yolo Bypass basin in the Sacramento Valley, which in turn drains into the Bay-Delta. A 2002 report on the Cache Creek Watershed states, “Mercury from Cache Creek Watershed appears to be a major source of mercury entering the Delta.”

The state's Department of Water Resources reports that 25 million Californians – from the south Bay Area to Southern California – get water from the Bay-Delta, for drinking water and other household uses, and for agriculture.

Since World War II, water exports from the Bay-Delta have continued to expand to meet the needs of California's growing population, said former state Assemblyman Phil Isenberg, who now chair's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, at the Monday hearing in Vallejo.

Water is exported from the Bay-Delta by the State Water Project, operated by the Department of Water Resources, and the Central Valley Project, operated by the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Those projects' pumping stations have been held responsible by many environmental groups for the collapse of delta smelt populations.

The delta smelt is found only in the Bay-Delta. This spring, biologists began noting record low levels of juvenile smelt. Thousands have been killed in the pumps, which have led to lawsuits against both federal and state agencies.

On May 31, the Department of Water Resources shut down their pumping for a 10-day stretch because juvenile delta smelt coming into the delta for the first time were being killed in the pumps. The Bureau of Reclamation also curtailed pumping, although both have now returned to more normal pumping levels.

Of the original 29 indigenous fish species in the Bay-Delta, 12 have either been entirely eliminated or are currently threatened with extinction, according to a report by Congressman Mike Thompson's office. Once one of the most common and abundant of the pelagic, or oceanic, fishes in the delta, the delta smelt population is estimated to have declined approximately 90 percent in the last 20 years.

"If there really is an Inspector General's investigation going on, it calls into question the data being used for future delta management," said Thompson. "As a government, we need to work together to fix the Delta's deteriorating levees, recover its endangered species and provide safe drinking water.”

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


KELSEYVILLE – The quick action of three men is being credited with saving additional homes from a fire that destroyed a mobile home Thursday afternoon.

The Walnut Estates Senior Mobile Park on Fifth Street in Kelseyville was the scene of the fire.

Dorothy Pinson, the park's manager, said the fire broke out about 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the home of Norman Wykes, who lived next door to Pinson in space 26.

Wykes was at a neighbor's home when the fire started, said neighbor Lynne Quartarolo.

Pinson said Wykes lost everything but “the clothes on his back,” with the fire killing his two cats as well.

Both Pinson and Quartarolo lauded the neighbors Jon Hanley, Conrad Boehm and Robert Potter for jumping into action and keeping the fire from spreading before Kelseyville Fire arrived.

Hanley, said Pinson, ran out barefoot, grabbed a hose and began watering down the home on the other side of Wykes' mobile, where the wind was starting to blow the fire.

“It was pretty hot,” said Pinson.

So hot, that it cracked the neighboring home's double-pained windows, said Pinson, who added that Hanley's actions helped prevent the mobile from catching fire.

Boehm stood in Pinson's yard with a hose, putting water on Wykes' burning mobile.

“These guys, in my estimation are real heroes,” said Quartarolo.

Kelseyville Fire came on scene and contained the fire. Medical personnel took Hanley to the hospital, where his feet were treated, said Pinson. Other than blistered feet, he's OK.

The Red Cross gave Wykes three nights of lodging at the Skylark Shores Resort in Lakeport, along with vouchers for food at Grocery Outlet and clothes at Kmart. Pinson added that one park resident also is offering Wykes a place to stay.

On Monday, Pinson said she's supposed to pick up a report on the fire's cause. She said authorities indicated there was a 99-percent chance it was accidental, with Wykes believing it may have been caused by a fan he was using.

Pinson said the park had a fire about seven years ago in which a man died. The cause of that fire was believed to be a cigarette, she said.

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


Lakeport -- The Fourth of July fireworks as seen from the Clear Lake Queen are presented in video for your viewing pleasure. Please note that some Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) may have issues displaying the video so if you use IE7 you may prefer to download the file here. 


NICE – Fireworks – both the professional and safe and sane kinds – caused two separate, small fires at Robinson Rancheria Monday night.

Robinson Rancheria was putting on its annual fireworks display Monday at dusk, with the fireworks provided by a pyrotechnic company.

Northshore Fire Protection Chief Jim Robbins said Tuesday that the fireworks were shot off from a green, marshy area across the highway from the casino, beginning at about 9:30 p.m.

“Everything was fine until about a third of the way through the show,” said Robbins.

At that point, which Robbins estimated was about 9:45 p.m., the wind shifted, and started coming from the west.

The result was that a small fire ignited on a hilltop to the east of where the fireworks were being ignited. Robbins said it burned about an acre and a half.

Getting the three fire units to the blaze was a difficulty, said Robbins, with hundreds of cars blocking the way.

The fire, said Robbins, spread and scared people, many of whom are thinking still of the recent Tahoe fire. “It looked worse that what it was,” Robbins said of Robinson's fire.

Afterward, with additional units on scene, an estimated 1,000 people waiting for a show and $16,000 in unused fireworks, Robbins said he made the decision to let the show go on.

He reported that the professional fireworks technician said he had worked with fireworks for 27 years and had never had anything like this happen before.

Robbins said he intends to work with the rancheria next year to come up with some additional plans to avoid fire, including mowing down grass in the area. “I'd rather work with hem and mitigate the problem,” he said.

Another, separate fire broke out about 1 a.m. in a manzanita tree on Flicker Circle near Pomo Way, at the rancheria entrance, said Robbins.

That fire burned only a small patch of ground, less than 10 feet by 10 feet, said Robbins. Firefighters found the cause at the scene – burned safe and sane fireworks.

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


LAKEPORT – A Wednesday evening assault that police are calling gang-related left a 14-year-old male seriously injured and another 16-year-old male in jail.

Lt. Brad Rasmussen of the Lakeport Police Department said Thursday that officers were dispatched to the area of 11th and Pool Street at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on the call of an injured male subject.

At the scene, officers found a 14-year-old male – whose name authorities did not release because he is a minor – with a serious head injury, said Rasmussen. Lakeport Fire Department medical units responded and transported the victim to Sutter Lakeside Hospital for treatment.

Investigators established that five to six male subjects – among them a 16-year-old male who is a documented Nortenos street gang member – approached the victim while he was walking down 11th with his brother and some others, said Rasmussen.

The victim and his brother were both wearing blue pants and hats, a color associated with the rival Surenos gang, said Rasmussen.

The group of males, said Rasmussen, suspected the 14-year-old was a gang member and attacked him, hitting him over the head with a large rock.

Lakeport Police went to the residence of the 16-year-old gang member, who Rasmussen said is well known to local law enforcement. “The suspect has an extensive history of gang-related activity in both Sonoma and Lake County,” he added.

Because the teen is currently on probation, officers were able to conduct a search of his home. They arrested him for assault with a deadly weapon, resisting/delaying and obstructing a peace officer, criminal street gang enhancements and violation of probation.

The victim said he didn't know his attackers, Rasmussen reported. The teen isn't a gang member and hadn't had previous contacts with police.

The boy's brother, who police also hadn't had contact with, did admit to being associated with the Angelino Heights gang, a subset of the Surenos, said Rasmussen.

The investigation is continuing, said Rasmussen. “We've got some leads on some other suspects and they are known to us.”

He added, if police can put together a case on anyone else, they will make additional arrests.

Lakeport Police submitted a report on the 16-year-old arrested in the attack to the Juvenile Probation Department Thursday morning, said Rasmussen. That department will then review the case and decide whether to send it to the District Attorney's Office.

“I would suspect that this will be sent to the DA,” said Rasmussen.

Anyone with information regarding the Lakeport assault is asked to contact Officers Jarvis Leishman or Destry Henderson at 263-5491.

Gang assaults look similar

Wednesday's gang-related assault looks strikingly similar to a March assault that took place in Library Park, in front of TNT on the Lake restaurant, said Rasmussen.

In that March 16 incident, 19-year-old Alex Larranaga of Clearlake Oaks was allegedly attacked and stabbed outside of the restaurant by five Lakeport teens, among them known Surenos gang members. Larranaga survived the assault.

Both assaults involved multiple subjects attacking one victim, said Rasmussen.

“The only difference here,” Rasmussen said of Wednesday's assault, “is that they used a rock instead of a knife.”

Police don't believe the similarities translate into the two attacks being related, Rasmussen said.

The Nortenos and Surenos are the two leading gangs in the Lakeport area, said Rasmussen, and are most responsible for gang-related problems.

He added that there are more Surenos than Nortenos around Lakeport.

Rasmussen said that although there have been more gang-related incidents in recent months, police don't believe there are actually more gang members, but that current gang members are becoming more brazen.

“It just shows that they don't have any fear of carrying out their assaults on people, because they'll do it right on a public street or in front of a restaurant,” said Rasmussen.

In the Larranaga case, four of the five suspects – including two teenagers who will stand trial as adults – are due in court for their preliminary hearings later this month, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

Ricardo Tapia Muniz, 18; Elias Hernandez, 19; Mathew Domeier, 16; and Juan Yepez, 17, all will be in Superior Court's Department 2 on July 24 to face charges of attempted murder with gang enhancements and aggravated mayhem, which is a lesser charge related to attempted murder, said Hinchcliff. Hernandez and Yepez also face conspiracy charges.

A fifth suspect, a 14-year-old male, faces conspiracy and attempted murder charges with the gang enhancement as well, but isn't being tried as an adult, officials previously reported.

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


Crews work to fix a broken water main along Country Club at 15th Avenue in Lucerne. Photo by Lenny Matthews.


LUCERNE – Lucerne's aging water system sprang another leak over the Fourth of July holiday.

Residents noticed a huge main break at 15th Avenue and Country Club on Wednesday afternoon.

Lenny Matthews said her home was without water for at least a half hour. She called Cal Water's toll-free number to report the emergency but was told no emergency crews were available to respond.

She then drove down to Cal Water's Lucerne office on Highway 20, which was closed. From there she went to the Northshore Fire Protection District main office in Lucerne, where Chief Jim Robbins had already made calls to Cal Water about the pipe break.

Robbins had better luck than Matthews, with crews from Cal Water and Epidendio Construction on scene late Wednesday afternoon to repair the break.

The crews had to dig a trench about 5 feet deep in the dirt alongside Country Club to get down to the broken pipe.

Matthews said her water was back on later in the afternoon.

Cal Water customers began receiving letters this week from the company, thanking them for conservation efforts so far this spring.

However, the letter informed customers that that continued conservation was needed to prevent water outages, especially over the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays.

Among the company's suggestions to save water: stop outdoor irrigation and fix leaking pipes.

There's no word yet on the amount of water lost in the Lucerne water break.

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


Morgan Jack remains in the Lake County Jail on a parole violation. He got a ride from Paul Womachka early Wednesday morning, according to sheriff's investigators. Lake County Jail photo.




LAKEPORT – A Tuesday morning report from sheriff's officials sheds more light on the case of a Nice man found dead in his taxi last week, and notes that one of the people who last saw Womachka alive is now in jail on a parole violation.

Lt. Cecil Brown of the Lake County Sheriff's Office issued a report that stated that the death of Paul “Joe” Womachka, 39, of Nice, is being treated as a “criminal homicide.”

Womachka's ex-wife and business partner, Erica Womachka, reported him missing last Wednesday after he didn't return from a run for their Hey Taxi business, as Lake County News previously reported.

Brown's report explained that Womachka had received a call from Robinson Rancheria at about midnight early on Wednesday morning to drive Morgan Matthew Jack, 30, to his home at Big Valley Rancheria in Lakeport.

Two days later, at 3 p.m. Friday, sheriff's deputies received a call about a vehicle under water in the Big Valley Rancheria marina, Brown reported. Divers from the North Shore Dive Team responded to the scene, where they recovered the van and discovered Womachka's body inside.

Brown said sheriff's investigators have interviewed Jack about his contact with Womachka early on Wednesday as part of the homicide investigation.

Sheriff's Det. Corey Paulich arrested Jack, who works as a handyman, for a felony parole violation Friday evening, just hours after Womachka's body was found, according to jail records. He remains in jail on a no-bail hold.


Jack was known to sheriff's officials, said Brown, and had been in and out of the Lake County Jail in recent years.


A call to the California Department of Corrections office in Ukiah to ask about Jack's parole was not returned Tuesday. 

Sheriff Rod Mitchell reported on Monday that Womachka's autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday. There's no word yet on when the results of the inquest will be ready.

Anyone with information regarding the Womachka case is asked to call Det. Nicole Costanza, 262-4236.

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


Upcoming Calendar

07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.