Monday, 15 July 2024


LAKEPORT – On Tuesday a former county correctional officer under investigation by local and federal officials was arrested on several charges including grand theft and embezzlement.

Russell Leslie “Rusty” Wright, 37, of Kelseyville was arrested without incident at about 1:30 p.m. in Lakeport, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies booked Wright into the Lake County Jail on felony charges of grand theft, embezzlement by a public officer, receiving stolen property and possession of dangerous fireworks, Bauman said.

Wright's bail was set at $15,000. Jail records showed that Wright posted bail and was released later Tuesday afternoon.

Bauman said an ongoing sheriff's office criminal investigation involving Wright resulted in the agency submitting a criminal complaint to the Lake County District Attorney on Monday morning. Judge Arthur Mann signed Wright's arrest warrant Tuesday morning.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff told Lake County News on Tuesday that Wright, who was terminated for serious misconduct earlier this month, is alleged to have taken items including a Taser, several sets of handcuffs, a belly chain and leg shackles.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell confirmed to Lake County News this week that Wright – a former sheriff's office rangemaster – also is the subject of an investigation regarding his alleged possession of assault weapons, parts of such weapons as well as a large amount of ammunition.

Some of those items were seized in a Jan. 16 search of Wright's home but he allegedly told investigators that he transported a .50 BMG caliber rifle and another assault weapon to a friend in Utah, as Lake County News has reported.

In addition, county documents indicate that sheriff's officials are investigating the disappearance of a trigger mechanism from an M16-A1 rifle that was one of 10 the sheriff's office received from a US military surplus program.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also is involved in the investigation and working with the sheriff's office, an official confirmed this week.

Wright's first appearance in court is tentatively scheduled for April 9, according to jail records.

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Back row from left, Mendocino College Foundation Board Member Leroy Chase, George Weger and Mendocino College Superintendent/President Kathryn G. Lehner; front row, from left, Mendocino College Foundation President Channing Cornell, Hulda Weger and Mendocino College Board of Trustees Member Joan Eriksen. Courtesy photo.


UKIAH – A retired elementary school teacher is making a contribution to benefit Mendocino College students for years to come.

Hulda Weger is donating $25,000 to be used for annual scholarships, the Mendocino College Foundation has announced.

Weger, 99, has always appreciated education.

She dedicated more than 30 years to teaching youngsters in Mendocino County, starting with a small school once located between Hopland and Cloverdale and continuing at Ukiah Grammar School.

Two of her former students are now associated with Mendocino College, one on the governing Board of Trustees and the other on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

The $25,000 gift will generate a permanent $1,000 per year scholarship to benefit Ukiah High School students who will be attending Mendocino College, Foundation officers stated.

The scholarship contribution is from Weger and her late husband Alfred, who are well known for their involvement in the Ukiah community.

Alfred Weger, who died in 1991, was the owner of the Redwood Tree Gas Station in town, and the Wegers owned and operated Orr Springs Resort until they sold it in 1972.

Weger now lives only a few blocks from Ukiah’s Civic Center, previously the site of the school where she taught elementary pupils.

Foundation President Channing Cornell and Mendocino College Superintendent/President Kathy Lehner visited Weger in her home recently to thank her for her contribution.

They were joined by Trustee Joan Eriksen and Foundation board member Leroy Chase, who had been students in Weger’s third- and fourth-grade classrooms, respectively. Weger’s son George, of Sebastopol, also attended the informal meeting.

Speaking with Cornell and Lehner, Weger said she wanted the scholarship funds to “go to individuals who are going to better themselves” and she especially wants to assist Ukiah High School graduates.

Weger said she and Alfred invested in stocks years ago upon the advice of a New Zealand woman who had visited the family’s resort.

Approximately 23 years ago, they switched brokers when a young man trying to start his own business knocked on their door. “Alfred said that anyone who went door-to-door like that deserved our business,” Weger said.

Weger started teaching in 1930 after finishing college at Humboldt State. She had started her studies at Marin Junior College, where she spent one year after graduating from Ukiah High School.

At that time, a young woman completing high school had a choice of only two professions, teaching or nursing, Weger said, “and my dad insisted I continue with school.” Only two years of higher education were needed to become a teacher.

Her first teaching job was at the Pine Mountain School, at Comminsky Station off Highway 101, where she would spend the week and return to her family home near Ukiah on weekends. She enjoyed traveling when each school year was over, and she remembers taking a trip to Europe by herself in 1932.

Following two years at the Comminsky school, Weger took a job as an instructor at Ukiah Grammar School. She said she was paid $100 a month when she began teaching and received a raise a few years later. (The other teachers were mad because she was the only one to get a salary increase, she told the group gathered at her home recently.)

After she married Alfred, in 1940, she would teach during the week and work at the family resort on the weekends. Weger retired from teaching in 1968.

Weger remembers teaching both Eriksen and Chase. She said Eriksen was a “very good student.” When asked if Chase also was a good student, she paused and replied, “They all were,” which brought laughter from the group visiting at her home.

Eriksen said Weger had made a point to praise her when she was appointed to the Board of Trustees 14 years ago. Eriksen told the group that Weger had said to her, “I just came to town to congratulate you for being picked for the board. It’s about time they picked someone local and who knows something.”

Third grade was Weger’s favorite with the opportunity to teach all subjects to her elementary students. She did teach high school “for one or two years,” she said, making a sour face and noting, “I didn’t like it.”

Making a general statement about students’ behavior, Weger said, “Years ago they minded better.”

However, she recalled a student sticking his tongue out at another teacher one day when Weger kept the youngster after school to complete his work. Weger swiftly scolded him for it. Mocking his answer, Weger said the student replied, “Can I help it if my tongue hangs out when I’m listening?”

Discussing Weger’s desires for distributing the scholarship money, Lehner and Cornell explained that she has the discretion to establish specific requirements and the intent of the fund disbursement.

“I don’t care as long as (the recipients) make something of themselves,” Weger responded, jokingly adding, “I’m not smarter than a fifth-grader.”

It was decided that the recipients should be Ukiah High School graduates attending Mendocino College.

The Mendocino College Foundation is beginning its 26th year of service to the college. The majority of funding for scholarships is derived from donations to the foundation and from fundraising events such as the annual Gala on the Green.

For information about the foundation and giving opportunities, visit the foundation’s Web site at or call the office at 707-467-1018.

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UKIAH – A Redwood Valley man was arrested late Friday for several charges including committing a hate crime after he allegedly assaulted two men and used racial slurs against them at a Ukiah convenience store.

Cody M. Cranford, 21, was arrested on charges of kidnapping, burglary, committing a hate crime, and assault and battery, according to Mendocino County Sheriff's Sgt. James VanHagen.

At 11 p.m. Friday Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to Jensen's Truck Stop, located at 1460 Lovers Lane in Ukiah, regarding an unwanted intoxicated subject causing a disturbance, VanHagen said.

When deputies arrived they contacted the victims – two store employees – and learned that Cranford had allegedly verbally and physically assaulted both employees while making racial slurs towards them, according to VanHagen's report.

VanHagen said the two victims also told deputies that Cranford had punched them in the face and head, and drug them outside the store while he continued to hit them.

After the alleged assaults Cranford fled the area, VanHagen said. Deputies searched the surrounding area and found Cranford near the bowling alley.

VanHagen said the victims identified Cranford, who then verbally identified himself.

Cranford was arrested without incident, and transported and booked in the Mendocino County Jail, with his bail set at $150,000, VanHagen said.

Earlier this month, another Redwood Valley man was arrested for allegedly committing a hate crime at the same truck stop, as Lake County News has reported.

In that incident 63-year-old Joseph Anthony Frank had entered the business, made comments about an employee's race and threatened to kill him.

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LAKE COUNTY – A Local Food Summit is scheduled for March 15 as a means to launch a grant award from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) designed to benefit Lake County residents and farmers.

The Health Leadership Network is coordinating the event and is asking all specialty crop farmers, restaurant owners, and other establishments/institutions that serve food, as well as grocery store

produce managers to save the date.

A.G. Kawamura, California’s Secretary of Agriculture, will give the opening remarks.

More details on the event will be announced in the near future, organizers said.

An exciting grant project, “A Growing Movement to Seed Healthy Eating,” was awarded to the Lake County Department of Public Health in coordination with the Health Leadership Network (HLN) to enable new and existing HLN partners to rally under a shared vision to build a vibrant local food system.

The grant focuses on the consumption and production of “specialty crops,” defined by the CDFA as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

Specialty crops do not include eggs, grains, or dairy, and does not distinguish between conventional and organic production methods.

The Local Food Summit will kick off the work plan the HLN will undertake for this grant.

Other components of the grant include marketing, education, expanding the farm-to-school/institution program, coordination to connect the “eat local” efforts within a food delivery system that works in tandem to optimize consumer nutrition, and expanding market opportunities for farmers including the creation of an online ordering system.

The HLN will continue to act as the coordinating hub for implementation of the project. It has been at the forefront of obesity prevention efforts with the launch of the farm-to-school program, school nutrition, and a countywide food assessment.

For more information contact Jackie Armstrong at 707-274-2459 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

UKIAH – Authorities have made three additional arrests in connection to a Ukiah home invasion robbery that occurred in January.

Shannon Diaz, 31, of Redwood Valley; Jerry Robinson Jr., 18, of Hopland; and Chris Fraser, 18, of Ukiah were arrested last week for allegedly being involved in the incident in the early hours of Jan. 17, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

There are alleged to have been among several suspects who forced their way into a home in the 3000 block of Eastside Calpella Road and assaulted a group of six adults while demanding money, as Lake County News has reported.

Michael Diaz, 35, and David Diaz, 37, both of Redwood Valley, were the first to be arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies and booked on charges of robbery, burglary, vandalism and assault with serious bodily injury on Jan. 29. The bail for each has been set at $750,000.

Diaz, Frasier and Robinson all are facing charges of robbery, making threats and conspiracy, with the bail for each set at $150,000, according to Smallcomb.

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Fog hovered above Clear Lake on Friday, January 29, 2010. The lake is enjoying healthier levels thanks to a series of recent rainstorms. Photo by Ron Keas.


NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – When it comes to water, things are definitely looking up in 2010 so far.

The California Department of Water Resource's second snow survey of the season, held Friday, showed a Sierra snowpack of 115 percent of normal statewide, compared to a snowpack at 61 percent of normal this time last year.

The Sierra snowpack is a critical water source for California, and it's closely monitored throughout the snow season.

The recent storms have helped bulk up the snowpack, which was at 85 percent of normal during the state's first snow survey of the season, which took place Dec. 30.

“Today’s snow survey offers us some cautious optimism as we continue to play catch-up with our statewide water supplies,” Department of Water Resources Chief Deputy Director Sue Sims said in a written statement.

But Sims cautioned, “We are still looking at the real possibility of a fourth dry year. Even if California is blessed with a healthy snowpack, we must learn to always conserve this finite resource so that we have enough water for homes, farms, and businesses in 2010 and in the future.”

The Department of Water Resources reported that Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project, is at 33 percent of capacity, and 50 percent of average storage for this time of year.

Lake Shasta, the principal storage reservoir for the federal Central Valley Project, is at 56 percent of capacity, and 82 percent of average for the date, according to a Friday report.

In Lake County, where water supply depends more on annual rainfall, parts of the county received more rain on Friday.

The rains that have continued in recent weeks have helped Clear Lake's level, which in early December was hovering in the area of 0.50 feet Rumsey, the measurement used for the lake, according to the US Geological Survey's gauge of the lake depth. A full lake is 7.56 feet Rumsey.

On Friday, Clear Lake was at 4.42 feet Rumsey, according to the latest gauge readings. That's up from 1.14 feet Rumsey at this time last year.

Indian Valley Reservoir also has shown marked improvement, with its water storage measured at 43,854 acre feet on Friday, up from 19,699 acre feet on Jan. 29, 2009, according to the Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, which built the reservoir to supply its customers.

Yolo Flood also owns the principal rights to Clear Lake.

Snow survey readings, updated daily, are available at .

For daily streamflow conditions in California, visit the US Geological Survey Web site at .

Yolo Flood water readings can be found at .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .



LAKEPORT – A former Lake County correctional officer is the focus of an investigation by local and federal officials regarding machine gun and assault weapon parts and ammunition found in his home earlier this month.

During the Jan. 16 service of a search warrant at his ranch on Wight Way in Kelseyville, Russell “Rusty” Wright, 37, was alleged to have been found in possession of hundreds of rounds of machine gun ammunition as well as parts of what appeared to be assault weapons, according to documents obtained by Lake County News.

“No, I don't have anything to say right now,” Wright said when contacted by Lake County News on Monday.

On Monday Sheriff Rod Mitchell said his department's investigation into the matter is still under way, and that they are coordinating with federal agencies – including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) – because Wright is alleged to have transported across state lines unregistered weapons that are illegal in California except when possessed by peace officers in the course of their duty.

“The rules apply to everybody,” Mitchell said.

Nina Delgadillo, a senior special agent with the ATF's San Francisco Field Division, confirmed late Monday that they were working with the sheriff's office “and currently reviewing the case for potential federal prosecution.”

She said that the ATF investigates violations or potential violations of federal firearms and explosives laws. When such a case comes across their radar screen or if a local agency asks them to investigate, they become involved.

“That's, in general terms, how it would work,” she said.

Although the local investigation remains “dynamic,” Mitchell added, “I can confirm that some aspects of what we found have been turned over to the district attorney for review.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who signed the search warrants in the case on behalf of the District Attorney's Office, said on Monday that he couldn't comment on the case at that time.

Any person found manufacturing or transferring into the state any assault weapon or .50 caliber machine gun can be convicted of a felony and face as much as eight years in state prison, according to California's Dangerous Weapons Control Law.

Mitchell, who said he has not seen any similar situation in his time in the department, said he and his command staff are implementing new policies to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

According to county documents, Wright – who started with the county as a correctional officer at the Lake County Jail in October 1995 – was terminated on Jan. 8, eight days before the search warrant service, following the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation that began Oct. 9.

Wright, was one of six rangemasters for the sheriff's office. Correctional officers who serve in that capacity receive 2.5 percent above their base pay, according to the memorandum of understanding between the Lake County Correctional Officer's Association and the county of Lake.

He also was a member of the California National Guard and deployed several times to active duty around the United States and overseas, according to documents supporting the investigation.

Wright was placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, which focused on “serious misconduct.”

Search warrant documents prepared by Sgt. Brian Martin of the sheriff's office explained that Wright “was terminated for conduct that will certainly prevent him from obtaining employment in law enforcement if it is discovered during a hiring process.”

The nature of the conduct for which Wright was fired was not specified and Mitchell could not address it because of personnel privacy rules.

However, he said that the search warrant service and the internal affairs were unconnected, and the investigation into the weapons allegations arose because of a separate audit of assault weapons conducted by the sheriff's office on Jan. 11.

On that day, Senior Rangemaster Sgt. Don McPherson conducted an audit of 10 M16-A1 rifles the sheriff's office obtained about two years ago from the US military through a program that allows local law enforcement agencies to obtain surplus military firearms.

Based on the requirements of the weapons grant program, the weapons must be inspected every 24 months, Mitchell said.

Rather than just looking at the serial numbers, McPherson went further and checked out each rifle more closely, and discovered that the trigger of one of them had been replaced with one from an AR-15, a weapon similar to an M16-A1.

“This was good, thorough work,” said Mitchell. “We interviewed everybody who has access to our armory.”

None of the other rangemasters, when questioned, said they knew anything about the replaced parts, according to Martin's search warrant narrative.

“I'm just very pleased that the audit was as detailed as it was so that we could get started toward assuring that all of the things that we're responsible for are in our proper care,” Mitchell said.

On Jan. 12, sheriff's officials discovered that when Wright had returned his keys to the sheriff's office when he was placed on administrative leave in October, the key to the armory – which he had held as part of his rangemaster duties – was missing. On that same day, the armory was rekeyed.

“We're committed to tracking our resources, protecting the things that we own,” said Mitchell. “I think it's going to hold accountable the person responsible.”

Questions and the search warrant service

Deputy Lucas Bingham, a sheriff's detective, told Capt. Cecil Brown, who was leading the investigation, that he believed Wright owned several assault weapons.

Bingham told investigators that he had seen Wright at the sheriff's firing range with a a .50-caliber BMG rifle in 2005 or 2006, shortly after Wright returned from a National Guard deployment in Utah. He said he believed Wright purchased the rifle while on deployment and brought it back to California.

One of the kinds of rifles referenced in the search warrant was the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, which ranges up to 57 inches in length, use large 6-inch rounds and have a firing range of up to 6,800 meters – or just over four miles, with a suggested safety range of five miles, according to specifications offered by the manufacturer, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. of Mufreesboro, Tenn.

On Jan. 14, another correctional officer, Chad Holland – also one of the department's rangemasters – disclosed that he had several assault weapons that were not legally registered, which he then turned over to the sheriff's office.

Mitchell said Holland's case was investigated and he faces no criminal allegations.

On Jan. 14 Brown and Capt. Rob Howe went to Wright's horse ranch and offered him the opportunity to surrender any unregistered assault weapons. Investigative documents said that Wright stated, “I don't have 'em any more.”

Wright told them that in October – the same month he had been placed on administrative leave – he had taken the weapons to Utah, where he gave them to a friend. At the same time, he denied knowing anything about the changes to the M16-A1 rifle.

At that point Brown also demanded back the armory key, which Wright said he thought he had returned earlier. He then went into his home and returned with a ring of keys for the armory and the sheriff's firing range at Highland Springs, according to the search warrant's supporting documents.

During previous encounters, Wright reportedly had to be admonished to return other department belongings, including other firearms and his badge.

The search warrant affidavit explained that Wright did not provide the sheriff's office with a dealer record of sale for the assault weapons and a search of the Automated Firearms System for firearms registered to Wright found only two weapons – both handguns.

Believing Wright might have a .50-caliber machine gun and a Bushmaster Model SX-15 .223 caliber assault rifle in his possession – both of which he could have lawfully purchased out of state – investigators filed an affidavit for a search warrant signed Jan. 16 by Judge Stephen Hedstrom and executed the same day.

Items seized during the search included 125 live .50 caliber rounds; 225 spent .50 caliber rounds; a box of what appeared to be assault rifle parts, including triggers, hammers, grips, barrels, pistol cylinders and more; 55 rounds of 7.62 millimeter by 39 millimeter live ammunition; 12 long AK-47 style magazines; seven shorter 7.62 mm by 39 mm magazines; three drum-shaped magazines capable of holding 100 rounds of 7.62 mm by 39 mm ammunition; one drum-shaped magazine that can hold up to 75 rounds of 7.62 mm by 39 mm ammunition; other items including staff sergeant military insignia and pins; six high capacity Glock handgun magazines, including two .40 caliber magazines that each have a 15-round capacity, and four .45 caliber magazines that each can hold up to 13 rounds and were stamped “Restricted LE/Govt only.”

Mitchell said his department issues .40 caliber magazines, but not .45 caliber magazines, so it's not believed the item marked “Restricted LE/Govt only” came from the sheriff's office.

The items were taken and stored in sheriff's evidence facilities, according to search warrant return documents.

The law and machine guns

California, which has more restrictive gun laws than some other states, prohibits the ownership of machine guns and assault weapons, including the .50-caliber Barrett rifle, for which Wright was found to have had hundreds of ammunition rounds, according to investigative documents. Those laws also prohibit possession of parts meant to convert a regular weapon into a machine gun.

Under the California Dangerous Weapons Control Law, peace officers may possess the weapons but they are not exempted from following registration requirements, which include written permission from their department head, in this case Mitchell. The investigation documents stated that Mitchell didn't authorize Wright's purchase of such weapons.

Mitchell said his department's interpretation is that such an exemption only applies to individuals employed as peace officers, who are certified under the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), and not correctional officers.

“Although they are listed as peace officers, the way the law is written, they do not quality for that,” he said.

The memoranda of understanding for the county's correctional officers and peace officers also differentiates between the two classifications.

In the investigation so far, the missing trigger mechanism from the county's M16-A1 rifle hasn't been accounted for, said Mitchell. Nor have they located the weapons Wright is believed to have had.

Investigators haven't yet disclosed where Wright got most of the materials found at his home, although they've stated in the search warrant affidavit that they believed he purchased them lawfully in other states.

The new policies the department is implementing in the wake of the investigation will include new signing procedures, and tightened restrictions on who can access the items and when, he said.

In addition, Mitchell said the frequency of inventories will be increased and spot audits will be conducted regularly.

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NORTH COAST – One of the “positive” effects of the recession is that communities are becoming aware of the need to support their local businesses.

Money that stays in the community strengthens the local economic landscape; making it more resilient to recession. In rural counties, supporting the large industry of equine activities is meaningful.

Under the umbrella of SAFER ( – a 501c3 nonprofit organization – the “Donate A Bale” program has been brought to Mendocino and Lake counties.

It does several things that are important to local citizens.

Folks can contribute any amount at the check out stand and a receipt for tax deduction is issued. In turn, the money collected is spent right at that feed store for hay that will feed displaced horses until new homes are found, or provide for Hay Assistance to others.

Those customers who choose can also leave their name and email to receive bulletins regarding emergency foreclosures or downsizing that is producing horses needing placement.

Feed store owners are in the direct line of fire as horse-keeping decreases. They provide jobs and resources that the local population needs. Contributing customers are making a statement that they care about their county’s horses. They care about the folks who are in transition and needing this service.

They also help keep their favorite feed store in business though the downturn. And they can take a tax deduction for an activity that is meaningful to them. All in the process of doing their regular shopping activity.

To maintain a healthy population of horses, SAFERHorse has a “Hay Assistance Program” that provides temporary feed. It targets the family with horses that still have the land to keep them on, but for whom feeding costs are becoming prohibitive.

SAFERHorse reported that it is a lot easier to keep the horse in a home where it is wanted than to try and find it a new home. Even humane euthanasia is out of reach financially for most owners and the horses are carted off by traders in the slaughter industry – who often arrive disguised and with stories of a “good home.”

To make a donation to the Mendocino – Lake County SAFERHorse “DONATE A BALE” program you can go to the Mendocino County Farm Supply in Ukiah or Rainbow Ag. in Ukiah and Lakeport.

Guidelines and application forms for the Hay Assistance Program can be found on the home page of , or you may contact Angie Herman at 707-459-3265 or Pam Respini at 707-485-7324 in Mendocino County or Susan Edwards at 707-279-8523 in Lake County.

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LAKEPORT – On Friday a local church's former youth group leader pleaded guilty to one count of sexual battery.

Christopher Andrew Puryear, 23, of Kelseyville, accepted a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to felony sexual battery on a 14-year-old girl, according to his defense attorney, Stephen Carter.

That puts Puryear on a fast track to sentencing, which Carter said is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, March 5.

In exchange for the guilty plea, Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg dropped felony charges of oral copulation and threatening a witness, and a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, Carter said.

Puryear previously was a youth group leader for Gateway Ministries in Finley, formerly Big Valley Community Church, as Lake County News has reported.

Last November, Lake County Sheriff's deputies responded to a report that Puryear was having “inappropriate relations” with one of the teenage girls in the youth group, according to a sheriff's office report.

On Nov. 25, Puryear allegedly asked a 14-year-old girl to go outside with him to talk during a church function, at which point he allegedly made physical and sexual advances towards her. Officials alleged that Puryear only stopped when he was interrupted by someone else exiting the church.

Puryear's attorney said the young man can expect to receive a five-year sentence, and will probably serve about half of that time due to credits including time served. He's remained in the Lake County Jail since his Dec. 19 arrest, with bail set at $250,000.

Without the plea deal, Puryear was facing eight years in prison, Carter said. The sexual battery charge is not a strike but it will require Puryear to register as a sex offender.

“Mr. Borg and I worked hard to work on a resolution that was acceptable to both sides,” said Carter, adding that he thought Borg “took a very good approach in the case.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT – The health of Clear Lake and its surrounding landscapes is a top priority on the county and community’s agenda alike, and those efforts were celebrated at an event last week.

Volunteers were awarded for their efforts with their local watershed groups at the eighth annual “Year-Review” meeting on Jan. 29 at the Scotts Valley Women’s Clubhouse in Lakeport.

The meeting included a milestone for all parties involved with the release of drafts of the Scotts, Middle and Kelsey Creek Watershed Assessments as well as the Clear Lake Integrated Watershed Management Plan.

The clubhouse filled up quickly and Greg Dills, district manager of the East and West Lake Resource Conservation Districts, began with a PowerPoint presentation filled with interesting facts and memorable photographs of both the beauty of Lake County’s landscapes, and the abuse of it.

The assessments and many other efforts were made possible thanks to a $400,000 grant from the CALFED Watershed Committee, funded by Proposition 50, and administered by California’s Department of Water Resources, said Dills.

On the clubhouse's back wall, there was a large green felt board covered in laminated pictures of some of the cleanup efforts of volunteers. Last year they removed a dumped Pepsi-Cola vending machine; this year’s big find was a Coca-Cola vending machine.

Chuck Morse, president of the West Lake Resource Conservation District, explained how the county helped keep this assessments project alive when there was a temporary stop on the work before they got an extension on the grant. He also wanted to stress the importance of the assessments.

“What these four documents do is mark an important turning point in the process of accomplishing resource conservation, habitat restoration as well as addressing a myriad of other water issues,” said Morse. “These documents are the basis of attaining those goals.”

The evening also included the presentation of Volunteer of the Year awards, which were sponsored by the Upper Cache Creek Watershed Alliance.

Although all volunteers were thanked for their efforts, a few specific people were awarded Volunteer of the Year awards. Recipients of the awards were Ron Yoder, Robert Stark, Tom Smythe, Harry Lyons, Morse and Dills.

Each was given a plaque, engraved with their names and the watershed group they worked with during the year. It also displayed a photograph of the beautiful landscape they are helping to preserve.

A surprised Dills was elated with the award from Scotts Creek Watershed Group. After resolving a technical issue with his PowerPoint system, he continued the presentation he began earlier in the evening, explaining the importance of the watershed assessment documents.

“Having these documents enable us to qualify for grants and funding,” said Dills.

The issues discussed in each of the watershed assessments include history, geology, soils, hydrology, hill slope and stream channel geomorphology, water quality, water supply, terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitats and species, invasive species, fire and fuel load management, social and economic setting, land use and current watershed management.

Erica Lundquist, writer and researcher on the assessment project, said there is a huge amount of information, which she is compiling and bringing to the public.

“It is a lot of detailed, broad-brush information, like sedimentation loads,” said Lundquist. “But, we don’t really know where it is coming from at a smaller level, aside from things like the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine.”

She also is concerned about invasive plant species and informing the public on how to get rid of them.

The well-known algal bloom in the summer of 2009 is only one of many invasive species affecting the health of Clear Lake. The integrated watershed management plan reports that sediment cores show that the lake could have existed for as long as 2.5 million years, it was reported during the meeting.

As of 1986, Clear Lake is on the Clean Water Act’s list of impaired water bodies due to mercury and nutrient contents.

The assessments are one of many steps that will need to be taken in order to restore Clear Lake to the state it was in before European influence, stated the integrated watershed management plan, officials reported.

The final versions of the assessments are expected to be finished sometime in the next two weeks.

One thing concerned citizens can do is join their local watershed groups. For general information and a list of other organizations involved, please visit

E-mail Tera deVroede at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .





Firehouse Pizza locations:

Clearlake Oaks: 12638 Foothill Blvd. at Highway 20 (across from the fire station); telephone: 707-998-1687.

Lucerne: 6232 E. Highway 20 (across from the park and harbor); telephone: 707-274-7117

Hours: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

I’ve been silent for so long now it's going to roar out of me like floodwaters: on days when I don’t feel like cooking I always go to Firehouse Pizza just a mile from my house.

The owner, Brian, I can only describe as insane. Totally cuckoo. He’s got to be!

Why do I say that? I typically order a medium-sized pizza for myself, and it has too much stuff on top.

I’ve tried the medium-sized gourmet garlic chicken and the flaming chicken pizza (among others), and they both must have at least an entire chicken breast worth of meat on them. How do you make a profit in business giving away that much food, on a medium pizza?

And that’s just the chicken; there are even more toppings on these varieties, and all of them are loaded on as generously. But then again, “If he’s crazy, what does that make you?”

While at most pizzerias the toppings are glued to the pizza with cheese, on a Firehouse pizza the toppings occasionally fall off because of the sheer weight of their numbers. It’s nuts, I tell ya!

Sarah, the young lady that takes the orders, is one major factor proving Brian isn’t completely crazy. She’s fantastically gorgeous, always quick to help, and I have always received exactly what I ordered. The first time we went into Firehouse and saw Sarah, I whispered in my daughter’s ear, “We can eat here as often as you like.” Of course being a typical teenage girl my daughter just rolled her eyes at me. She’s no Nurse Ratched!

I’ve tried many of Firehouse’s different pizzas; for example, the All Meat Pizza which has Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, Linquica (a Portuguese cured sausage, pronounced “lin-GWEE-sa”), pepperoni, and salami. This pizza could leave a grizzly bear sated! This pizza is so heavy with meat that I can’t eat more than a couple of slices at a time.

I’ve also had the Ba’Donga Pizza, which has Linquica and artichoke hearts with a creamy garlic sauce. The first time I ordered this pizza Brian came out from the kitchen to personally inform me that they were out of mushrooms at the moment and they were a vital part of the pizza. Following his advice, I waited for another day to have this pizza. It has now become one of my favorites.

There’s the flaming chicken pizza, which is very spicy, has huge chunks of chicken and a whole lot of other ingredients that complement the hot Cajun sauce. It’s not “brain burning,” but it’ll leave you

wanting for a drink.

There’s also the gourmet garlic chicken pizza, and it’s like no other pizza you’ve had before. Creamy garlic sauce, roasted chicken and bacon are the highlights of this pizza packed with plenty of other


And of course, there’s a vegetarian delight, consisting of the creamy garlic sauce, artichoke hearts, fresh broccoli, two types of onions, tomatoes and zucchini. OK, so your personal trainer is never going to say, “You need to eat more pizza!” but I do feel a little better about myself after eating this pizza, and it’s delicious too! The vegetables are perfectly cooked in the pizza oven. There is also a plain vegetarian pizza that is a little more traditional.

Those are just my favorites. That doesn’t include the buffalo chicken wings that I enjoy, or the pepperoni pizza that my wife and daughter order every time they go there. They don’t like to deviate too much from their favorite pizza, and I can’t really blame them when a pizza is as good as these are.

Pizza sizes available are small, 10 inches; medium, 12 inches; large, 14 inches; and extra large, 16 inches. Firehouse also offers a good variety of beer, sodas and a couple of wines. Although I’ve never tried them myself (yet!) they also have hot sandwiches and salads available.

Prices are right on average for what you expect in a pizza restaurant. Occasionally I have an event or meeting of some sort around dinnertime and since the Firehouse delivers for free in town, I can easily leave my daughter at home with a twenty dollar bill and she can have dinner delivered.

The dining room at Firehouse Pizza has ample seating in booths, a pool table and several video games. I’m no good at video games, but “At least I tried.”

Stop by Firehouse Pizza and enjoy a pizza or two before the owner comes to his senses and starts making pizza’s like everybody else’s.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .



THE GEYSERS – A 3.6-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers early Saturday morning.

The quake occurred at 1:32 a.m. and was centered two miles north of The Geysers, four miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey.

The survey reported that the earthquake was reported at a depth of 1.7 miles.

Among those making shake reports to the US Geological Survey were residents of Kelseyville, Middletown, Geyserville, Cloverdale and Calistoga. A report even came in from Cupertino, 180 miles away.

Cobb resident and Lake County News contributor Roger Kinney felt the quake and called it a “pretty good shaker,” which he said felt stronger and seemed to last longer than quakes in the area usually do.

The most recent earthquake measuring 3.0 in magnitude or above was reported Dec. 20. That quake, a 3.8, was recorded two miles east southeast of The Geysers, four miles southwest of Cobb and four miles west of Anderson Springs at a depth of 2.7 miles, as Lake County News has reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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