Saturday, 13 July 2024


Firefighters work on the small grass fire Saturday evening near Hill Road. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Firefighters were able to quickly contain a small grass fire that broke out Saturday evening along Lakeshore Boulevard.

The fire was reported shortly before 6 p.m. near trees and power lines in the vicinity of Hill Road.

Lakeport Fire Protection District responded and was able to contain the fire to only a very few acres, with a helicopter summoned to the scene canceled.

Two Lake County Sheriff's deputies questioned a subject at the scene about the fire but no one was detained.

Although the fire was under power lines none of the lines appeared to have been damaged and none were down.

Firefighters said they were not sure of what caused the fire.

Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.

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Firefighters were able to quickly contain the fire to, at most, a few acres. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – Firefighters have prevented the Soda Complex from burning any more acreage, with the complex remaining at 95-percent containment while other fires on National Forests around Northern California continue to burn huge areas.

The Soda Complex has burned a total of 8,652 acres, with 3,043 acres burned by the Mill Fire, which is 93-percent contained, and is the last – and the largest – of the complex' fires to continue burning, according to US Forest Service spokesman Marc Peebles.

Officials expect the complex, located to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, to be fully contained Saturday, Peebles said. There are 782 personnel assigned to the fire, a number slightly down from the previous day.

Firefighters on the Mill Fire made good progress holding and performing mop up procedures on containment lines even though hampered by poor visibility due to smoky conditions, Peebles reported. The fire continued to hold with no further advancement into the steep terrain in the southeast portion of the fire.

He said fire suppression repair work continues on numerous portions of the fireline.

Aircraft – used to patrol controlled fire areas and make water drops on the Mill fire – couldn't operate Thursday afternoon due to poor visibility, Peebles reported.

Peebles said excess crews and equipment will begin to be released to assist in other firefighting efforts in California.

Wildfires continue to rage on Forest Service lands in California.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported Friday that there are 15 fire complexes statewide – the Soda Complex among them – burning statewide. Approximately 671,939 acres have been burned in those fires.

On Friday, officials reported that 18-year-old National Park Service firefighter Andrew Palmer, working on the Iron Complex of fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Redding, died of injuries suffered on the southwest flank of the Eagle Fire late Friday afternoon.

Also late Friday, officials reported that the Yolla Bolly Complex – part of which is on the Mendocino National Forest – has been separated out from the Lime Complex and is once again being managed separately.

Dave Larson’s Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team took over management of the complex, which consists of four fires that have burned 64,658 acres. The complex is 15-percent contained.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell will visit Redding on Saturday where she'll meet with Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore and Shasta-Trinity National Forest Supervisor Sharon Heywood to discuss the wildfire situation in Northern California, the Forest Service reported Friday.

During the visit, Kimbell will meet with firefighters and thank them for their work and discuss rehabilitation of federal lands, along with the effective coordination of resources between local, state and federal partners during this wildfire siege, according to the Forest Service statement.

Air conditions in Lake County Friday continued to be smoky in some areas on Friday, with winds helping to clear away some of the smoke in the late afternoon.

Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart said the smoke in the air basin continues to come from the Soda Complex, as well as the Lime Complex farther north, brought here by north to northwest winds.

He said air conditions – trending toward the unhealthy range on Friday – are expected to improve slightly for Saturday and into Sunday, with west to northwest winds developing. Unhealthy air quality conditions may develop and persist should winds shift to a more northerly flow.

For more information about the forest fires visit Forest Service Web site at or For information about other fires around the state, visit

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Kelly Mather is accepting a new position with Sutter Health in which she'll promote the wellness model throughout Northern California. Courtesy photo.


LAKEPORT – Sutter Lakeside Hospital chief executive officer Kelly Mather says she's leaving the position for a new job in the Sutter Health organization.

Mather, who has led the hospital since 2001, will leave Sutter Lakeside Sept. 2.

“This was a very difficult decision for my family and me as my time at Sutter Lakeside has been richly rewarding,” Mather said in a statement. “Sutter Lakeside is a 'healing hospital' pioneer and I look forward to sharing its successes with other health care organizations.”

In her new job she'll be heading Sutter Health’s efforts to promote the wellness model of health care and improve community health programs throughout Northern California.

The Sutter Lakeside Board of Directors has begun the process of hiring a successor to Mather and will rely on existing local and regional leadership to oversee hospital operations while the search unfolds.

Bill Kearney, Sutter Lakeside’s Board chairman, praised Mather's efforts. “Kelly has led the hospital with passion and insight and has gained the respect and admiration of the hospital staff, physicians and the Board of Directors,” he said in a written statement.

Mather served as the chief executive officer of San Leandro Hospital from 1996 to 2001, prior to taking the helm at Sutter Lakeside.

Since 2001, the hospital's capital improvements have included expanding its Emergency Department, adding a surgical pavilion and most recently the Don Pifer Medical Imaging Service, a $10 million dollar renovation to the medical imaging department featuring the latest diagnostic technology and patient conveniences.

In addition, the hospital campus has undergone a major face lift and its Wellness Center has expanded.

Mather has focused on a “healing hospital” model that combines wellness and illness care. She's worked with a Rural Health Partnership model to better address the community health needs of Lake County, and also has helped develop several innovative community benefit programs such as the “Healthy Kids are Contagious” school site program, which provides a health and wellness curriculum to students of Lake County schools.

Sutter Lakeside reported that, under Mather's leadership, the hospital has been one of the few financially stable rural hospitals in California.

However, decreased Medicare reimbursement forced hospital leadership to seek federal assistance, resulting in Sutter Lakeside converting to a Critical Access Hospital in March. That federal designation is meant to provide increased Medicare funding to certain rural hospitals that meet specific criteria.

Mather said she's grateful to all the employees, physicians, community leaders and Lake County residents who have supported the hospital and its over the past seven years.


MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The last fire on the Soda Complex was nearing full containment on Saturday, as firefighters continued strengthening firelines in the remote wildland area where the fire is located.

The Soda Complex was listed as 97-percent contained Saturday, with burned acres remaining at 8,652, according to the US Forest Service.

The four-fire complex, located 15 miles northwest of Upper Lake on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District, had 655 personnel assigned to it on Saturday, the Forest Service reported.

Officials said the last remaining fire in the complex – the Mill, which is 95-percent contained at 3,043 acres – was primarily burning in 6-foot chaparral, oak woodlands, grass, timber and mixed conifer.

Fire crews continued on Saturday to conduct mop up operations and fire suppression work. The Forest Service reported that the firefighters' work time was prolonged due to the steep terrain and the area's difficulty to access.

The Yolla Bolly Complex has burned 64,658 acres and is 15-percent contained, according to forest officials. One of that complex's fires, the Vinegar, is at 35,238 burned acres with 10 percent containment. More than one-third of that fire's acreage is located on the Mendocino National Forest.

The fires have had a heavy impact on Lake County's air, but blue skies were visible again Saturday.

County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported that good to moderate air quality is expected to continue through Sunday as long as winds continue to keep smoke from the Yolla Bolly and Lime complexes away from the air basin.

Reynolds said the smoke from Northern California wildfires is presently dispersing to a higher height and diluting more as it's transported than it did late last week.

For more information about the forest fires visit Forest Service Web site at or For information about other fires around the state, visit

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LAKEPORT – A Lakeport man was tasered Tuesday night after leading deputies on a foot chase.

David Wayne Howard, 19, was tasered during the incident, according to Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said a training team of two deputies in a patrol car was dispatched to the Robin Hill area on the report of a party in a field late Tuesday night.

The deputies located an intoxicated male adult walking down the middle of the road toward the patrol car, said Bauman.

When they attempted to stop and detain him, Bauman said Howard turned and ran.

“One deputy chased him down and ultimately had to tase him to get him to stop running,” said Bauman.

Lakeport Fire responded to check Howard over before he was taken to the jail, Bauman added.

Howard was arrested on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and being drunk in public, and two misdemeanor bench warrants, according to jail records.

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Tule boat making is a traditional Pomo skill. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


BIG VALLEY – It's summertime, which also means it's tule boat racing time at Big Valley Rancheria.

The rancheria's seventh annual Tule Boat Festival, which began Wednesday, will culminate on Friday in the annual tule boat races.

The races will be held on Clear Lake offshore of Big Valley Rancheria, located on Mission Rancheria Road.

The event is a chance for tribal members from around the county to practice the traditional Pomo craft of building sturdy boats from native tules.

Dance groups, activities for youth and environmental demonstrations also are a part of the annual festival.



The boats are made from local tules and, when built properly, are watertight. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



The annual event is being held at Big Valley Rancheria on Mission Rancheria Road. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




I’ve mentioned before about having a well stocked pantry and it’s a fantastic thing to have. Since I am not a wealthy person it has taken me years to get it to where I’m pleased with it, and I want to encourage everyone to do it. Not only does it help you save money but in case of a disaster you have plenty of food and supplies to fall back on.

The first step to starting up a pantry is to find a space that is out of the way. My pantry is in the laundry room just off the kitchen, but if you have room you could place yours right in your kitchen, or in a spare bedroom or out in the garage.

I bought some sturdy stainless steel shelving from a restaurant supply place online, but any really sturdy shelving will do. Then I started the slow process of filling the shelves up.

First of all start with things that you know you are going to need, like spices, dried pasta, muffin mix, sugar, flour, hot sauces, apple sauce and some of those whatchamajigits that you like to snack on. You don’t have to buy all of them at once, so don’t panic about the huge grocery bill. Just remember the next time you go to the grocery store to get one of these kinds of items, pick up two.

When I go to the store I may know that I don’t need vinegar right now, but I’ll pick up a new flavor anyway and throw it in the pantry. If I notice the market is having a special on Valerian root powder, great! I pick up an extra.

Eventually after a couple of years of doing this, you’ll stop one day and look at your pantry and realize that you could feed your family for a long time with just what you have in stock. I love it when I start to think about cooking dinner and I look in the pantry and realize, “I have everything we need to make lentil soup!” PANTRY RAID!

My daughter came to me one day and said she would like it if we had emergency supplies. Smart idea, so I told her that we could start collecting some in the pantry. On my shopping list once a month is “Disaster food,” and it reminds me to pick up one or two items of shelf-stable food. That includes canned ravioli, chili, tuna, ready-to-serve soups (none that have to have water or milk added since in an emergency those two items will be too valuable elsewhere or not available), heat-and-serve, vacuum-packed meals, and don’t forget big jugs of drinking water.

Once a month we buy one or two of these ready-to-eat type meals and every once in a while someone in the family will eat one on a fend-for-yourself night, but I just replace it at the next shopping run.

I’ve organized my pantry into categories. On one shelf is dried beans, rice and pastas, one shelf has baking equipment and ingredients plus things for dessert, one area for home brewing supplies, one shelf for the microwave and toaster ovens (it frees up kitchen counter space), one section for appliances like the food processor, blender, etc. (it frees up cupboard space and makes them much more accessible), one shelf for disaster food, and one for everyday cooking supplies.

On the floor underneath the shelves are half a dozen jugs of spring water. I also have a section that you may call “kid food” so when my daughter has friends over there is enough food for them on a moment's notice. Sodas, chips, dip, smoked oysters (don’t ask me, it’s what they requested) and maraschino cherries for sundaes, just to name a few. Other places in the house have the stocks of paper towels, toilet paper, etc.

I’m a big fan of buying in bulk, I’m the guy you see in the grocery buying 20 pounds of sugar and 18 rolls of paper towels. Following this practice has saved me hundreds of dollars every year just by getting a better price on something that doesn’t spoil or that I’m going to be using soon anyway. It all just gets tucked into the pantry and out of the way.

Something I will warn you about: when storing food in bulk, some food storage containers may look airtight but they really aren’t. For example, I’ve lost a lot of flour and rice to little worms and moths. To solve this, I tend to put everything in a gallon-sized zip-top bag before I put it into storage containers.

Now there are times that I look at my pantry and say, “Why in the world do I have a jar of pickled grape leaves?” And there may come a day when you look into your pantry and ask, “Why do I have a jar of hearts of palm?” When you’ve reached that place, you can feel comfortable that you are ready for any emergency.

We here in Lake County have mild earthquakes practically on a daily basis which keep us relatively safe from the build up of seismic energy, so we don’t have to worry about a massive earthquake. The fact that we live on top of a mountain keeps us pretty safe from disastrous flooding, too, so other than fire danger, and largemouth bass bent on revenge, we’re relatively safe from major catastrophes.

But researchers have predicted with a great deal of certainty that someday (likely very soon) San Francisco is going to shake itself right into the sea. Reports from the 1906 Great Quake tell that during that quake effects were felt even here in Lake County. Things on shelves were rattled off and there were some buildings damaged around the county, so it’s logical to assume that with the mega quake they’re predicting that we will feel its effects here as well, so it’s good to be prepared.

And even if I don’t suffer any damage from the mega quake or aren’t seriously damaged by it, much of my pantry can be sent to people in the Bay Area who will need it (I wonder if this makes my pantry a tax deduction?).

So even if no great disaster strikes you or your family, having a pantry with emergency supplies can be a benefit to someone.

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.


Elliott Thomas Bracket, seen here clothed in a recent Lake County Jail mug shot, is currently being sought by sheriff's deputies after he allegedly was interrupted committing a burglary.


UPPER LAKE – Lake County Sheriff's deputies are seeking a man who allegedly attempted to break into an Upper Lake home this morning and was last seen fleeing law enforcement – in the nude.

Elliott Thomas Brackett, 52, was interrupted Friday morning just before 9 a.m. while allegedly attempting to break into a home in the area of Highway 29 and Highway 20 in Upper Lake, according to a report from Lt. Dave Garzoli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Garzoli reported that deputies found Brackett on the scene – still clothed at that point – and, after a brief struggle, he fled on foot, heading toward the area of Bridge Arbor North and Bridge Arbor South.


There, deputies found Brackett in the water, completely nude, said Garzoli.

Brackett then swam away from detectives, swimming south down the water channel, Garzoli reported.

Officials have continued searching for him since, Garzoli said, but have yet to locate him.

Garzoli said Brackett is considered a danger to the public, and if someone spots him they should contact 911 immediately and report his location.

Chief Deputy James Bauman said the sheriff's department conducted a special phone notification Friday of 2,735 Upper Lake residents, warning them that Brackett was on the loose in the area.

Brackett is described as 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds. He is bald and was last seen in the nude.

He was arrested earlier this month by a Lake County Sheriff's deputy on a charge of possessing burglary tools.

That followed his arrest last month by Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies on charges in connection with his alleged involvement in a string of burglaries in Ukiah, as Lake County News has reported.

When Lakeport Police and Mendocino County officials located Brackett – who has been listed as a transient – on June 7 in a tent on 11th Street in Lakeport, he was allegedly found in possession of stolen property that matched items taken during the Ukiah burglaries.

Brackett also was arrested in July of 2007 on suspicion of trying to sell methamphetamine in the parking lot at Hopland Sho-Kah-Wa Casino.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Soda Complex remains on track to be fully contained by Saturday, according to the US Forest Service.

The four-fire complex was sparked to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury by a dry lightning storm on June 21. It's located on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District.

Forest Service spokesman Marc Peebles reported Thursday that the complex is still expected to be fully contained on Saturday.

That's when the last and largest of the complex's fires, the Mill Fire, also will be contained. It's burned 3,043 acres and was at 93-percent containment Thursday.

Overall, the complex had burned approximately 8,652 acres, according to Peebles. There are 810 fire personnel, 22 crews, 29 engines, three dozers, 10 water tenders and three helicopters assigned to the complex.

Peebles said the Southern California Incident Management Team No. 3 – which is headquartered at Upper Lake High School – will remain in unified command with Cal Fire to manage the Soda Complex through Friday at 8 a.m.

Peebles said firefighters have made excellent progress on the fire, improving, holding and performing mop up procedures on containment lines throughout the fire perimeter. He said fire suppression repair work has begun and is being coordinated with district resource advisors.

At the same time, multiple aircraft continue to support firefighters on the ground with water drops, and the area of the complex's contained fires – the Monkey Rock, the Big and the Back – will continue to be patrolled by air, Peebles reported.

Specific figures on the Vinegar Fire on the Mendocino National Forest, which is now managed as part of the Lime Complex, were not available Thursday.

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The small grass fire moved close to a barn, burning up some debris. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – Weed mowing is believed to be the cause of a small fire that was sparked Friday morning.

The fire was reported at 9:57 a.m. in the 3700 block of Highway 175, said Lakeport Fire Protection District Chief Ken Wells.

“There was a gentlemen out there mowing weeds and it started a grass fire,” Wells said.

The six-acre fire went through an orchard and burned debris around a barn, but no structures were lost, said Wells. The person living at the address reported there were no losses, he added.

Three engines and six firefighters from Lakeport Fire responded, along with an engine from Kelseyville Fire and three firefighters, said Wells.

Wells said Cal Fire also sent two engines, a hand crew and a helicopter, the latter used to make water drops.

The fire was contained at approximately 10:10 a.m., Wells said.

Wells said it was hard to know how exactly how the fire started, although he didn't attribute any fault to the man mowing the weeds with a tractor.

“We tell people not to cut grass after 10 a.m. because the humidity comes down at the temperature goes up,” he said.

The mowing, he added, was taking place right at that cutoff time. Wells added that the fire didn't appear to have been sparked by the mower hitting a rock.

With the season's extreme fire danger, the conditions were just right to start a fire, which could even have been caused by the hot tractor exhaust hitting the very dry grass, he said.

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Firefighters from Lakeport, Kelseyville and Cal Fire responded. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



Lakeport Fire Chief Ken Wells (fourth from left in yellow turnout jacket) directed the firefighting effort. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



A Cal Fire helicopter made several water drops. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The closing arguments took place in Judge Barbara Zuniga's Department 2 courtroom in the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez on Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


MARTINEZ – The number of bullets in a handgun used to shoot two men fleeing from the Clearlake Park home. An orange jacket and a fourth suspect alleged to have worn it. The lack of blood on a shotgun and a hammer not discovered at a crime scene until a followup investigation.

What all of those things have in common is they're key points of contention between the prosecution and defense in Renato Hughes Jr.'s double murder trial.

Closing arguments in the trial began Thursday in Judge Barbara Zuniga's Martinez courtroom, where the trial was moved after a change of venue was granted.

Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon spent the day arguing the merits of their theories about what happened in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005, in the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds.

One of the irrefutable facts of the case is that Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, were killed that morning as they ran from Edmonds' house.

Edmonds admitted to shooting them as they fled and, in testimony during the trial, stated he shot Foster once in the back while Foster was down, a statement that would play a key part in Hanlon's arguments Thursday.

Hughes, 23, who wore a light gray suit and sat quietly through the day's proceedings, is being tried for his friends' deaths because the three of them are alleged to have set out to rob Edmonds of his medical marijuana, Hopkins argued.

That opens the door for the provocative act theory, which holds a person responsible for any deaths that result during the commission of a crime – such as an armed robbery – that could result in a lethal response.

Hopkins said Thursday that Hughes also is facing an assault charge because Edmonds was struck with a shotgun, plus an attempted murder charge in the near-fatal beating of 17-year-old Dale Lafferty, the son of Edmonds' girlfriend, Lori Tyler.

The boy was hit in the head repeatedly with a metal bat, which eventually required doctors to perform a procedure similar to a frontal lobotomy to reduce the swelling on his brain, Hopkins said. Lafferty has suffered permanent brain injury.

The other thing the two seasoned attorneys could agree upon is the sad nature of the case.

"There's clearly one thing in this case where there's absolutely no doubt. This case is a tragedy," Hopkins said as he led off closing arguments.

"Anyone involved in this case will never be the same," he added.

Both he and Hanlon would remind the 12-woman jury during the day that their's was a solemn, crucial task – the end of which was justice, not trying to make things right for those involved.

Crucial to achieving a conviction, as Hopkins would explain in a review of legal principles, is the need for jurors to come away from looking at the evidence with an abiding convicting of Hughes' guilt.

That includes showing Hughes was aware that his friends were allegedly intending to commit the robbery, and that in doing so he was aiding and abetting them – resulting in a provocative act.

"In this case there is a great difficulty in determining the facts of the case because of the circumstances surrounding the event," which Hopkins described as a "melee" that affected the perceptions of many of the witnesses.

Edmonds has said he saw two shotguns during the alleged attack by the three men on his family, although only one shotgun was recovered. "That's doesn't mean he's making it up," said Hopkins.

It does, however, require careful analysis of all witnesses and their credibility, based on the circumstances under which their recollections were created, Hopkins said.

Hopkins alleged that Hughes, Foster and Williams were part of a "crime team" that went into the house with the intent to confront someone and steal marijuana, and it ended in a deadly confrontation.

They allegedly broke a sliding glass door to gain entry to the house at 4 a.m., an act not done "for some legal purpose," Hopkins said.

He said the men began screaming and yelling and demanding "weed." They rushed into the home's master bedroom, where Foster allegedly struggled with, and assaulted, Edmonds.

Hughes, meanwhile, allegedly punched Tyler repeatedly in the face, Hopkins asserted. He said Hughes was wearing an orange jacket, a seemingly small detail mentioned in Tyler's 911 call that would have greater import as the two attorneys' arguments developed throughout the day.

Lafferty and his friend, 16-year-old Justin Sutch, got in the fight, with Lafferty originally wielding the bat that Hopkins said wound up in the hands of Williams, who beat Lafferty with it.

Lafferty wasn't doing anything to anybody when he was assaulted, said Hopkins. "He (Williams) just hauls off and creams him at that point."

Hopkins alleged that any reasonable person would know that hitting a person several times in the head with a metal bat will kill, so he asserted that Williams meant to kill the teenager.

The desperate struggle, said Hopkins, could be heard on the audio of a surveillance camera.

During the fray, Edmonds had "some adrenaline rush or something," said Hopkins, after he saw Lafferty's assault.

He said Edmonds threw the men off of him and someone – possible Sutch – held the bedroom door closed while Edmonds retrieved his pistol from a gun safe.

"The physical evidence show that 10 shots were fired," said Hopkins, all of which can be heard on the surveillance tape.

Although Edmonds thought he first shot the pistol in the hallway, it was in the living room where three shell casings were found. He was firing at Foster and Williams as they tried to get out the broken sliding glass door. Edmonds fired another round outside that was found in a pickup tire.

"And he fires three more and three more, in fairly rapid succession," Hopkins said.

When Edmonds later shows the pistol to police, there is one bullet remaining in the chamber and thee more in the magazine, which – in additional to the 10 shots fired – makes for a total of 14 bullets in the pistol, another point that would be argued when Hanlon's turn came.

Hopkins said Edmonds' state of mind can be inferred from the surveillance tape, on which he can be heard screaming. "It was clearly in response to the provocative acts that were happening in his bedroom."

He attacked the testimony Hughes gave during the trial, in which Hughes said he and his friends were at Edmonds' home to buy marijuana.

Hopkins questioned why, if they were buying marijuana at 4 a.m., they had a getaway car with its doors and trunk propped open, and why the car was parked down the street rather than being parked at Edmonds' home.

He also challenged the idea that a fourth person, who Hughes said was with them, could have squeezed into the back seat of Foster's Honda, which had clothes and his college book bag stacked on one of the seats.

If it were an attempt to buy marijuana, Hopkins asked why they broke the window, which experts agreed was shattered from the outside in. They also would have needed more than the $10 found on Williams to buy the drug, Hopkins suggested.

And then there's the matter of the weapons.

"They want us to believe there's no shotgun," said Hopkins. "It takes 47 days to locate a shotgun that could be involved."

That gun – a long-barreled, 12-gauge pump action shotgun with a wooden stock – was found in a field of wild parsley on 14th Street in Clearlake Park. The shirt Hughes wore at the crime scene was found covered with wild parsley burrs, Hopkins added.

In his testimony on the stand last week, Hughes said a fourth man – who he knew only as "Dre" – had been with he and his two friends that night. While Hughes said he had remained in the car outside, only rushing in when he heard a commotion, he said Dre was in the house with Williams and Foster.

"There is no 'Dre,'" said Hopkins. "Mr. Hughes does not make a credible case for his existence."

Sutch had recalled seeing a taller, skinnier man who didn't match Hughes' description and who was wearing the orange jacket. But Hopkins dismissed that testimony, saying Sutch also had stated at one point that a large white man had been involved in the alleged attack as well.

Defense attacks 'gaping holes' in prosecution theory

Hopkins' remarks lasted about two hours. The remainder of the day belonged to Hanlon, who, for more than three and a half hours, argued against Hopkins' statements, pointing to holes big enough to drive a truck through, he said.

Hanlon began by reminding the jurors of the importance of their part in determining Hughes' innocence or guilt. "Other than voting, this is the most intense and important public service you can do."

He emphasized that the law allows people charged with crimes to be cloaked with a presumption of innocence until the prosecution makes a case that leaves jurors with an abiding conviction of the truth of the charges.

"It's clear no one really knows what happened here," said Hanlon.

Hughes, he said, didn't shoot or hurt anyone, and had a minimal role in the incident.

He questioned why blood wasn't found anywhere on the shotgun if Hughes – who had a cut, bleeding hand – had truly carried it from the crime scene to the field where it was found. Just leaving the gun exposed to the elements wouldn't have cleaned away the traces of proteins, said Hanlon.

A woman also reported seeing Hughes run by her home – "running like the devil was chasing him" – but didn't see him carrying a shotgun, Hanlon said.

He agreed with Hopkins that the case was complex, but he accused the district attorney of attempting to shift blame onto Hughes and fit the evidence to fit the provocative act theory.

Merely being at the scene didn't mean Hughes was involved, said Hanlon. "The real issue in this case is, did by client aid and abet?"

The answer, in Hanlon's opinion, was no.

And then there was the issue of the fourth suspect, Dre. "There was always a fourth person there," said Hanlon. "It was clear."

Yet he faulted Clearlake Police investigators for making up their minds early in the investigation that it was a simple home invasion robbery. "That's all they wanted to see and they don't look at the whole picture, which could lead them other places."

Hopkins, he added, was part of forming that initial theory.

Hanlon questioned why witness testimony changed and enlarged over time, with the description of the taller man in the orange jacket beginning to match Hughes over time. He also asked jurors to consider why the clothes of Tyler, Edmonds and the others at the scene weren't tested for DNA evidence.

"You can't do what the police did," he told the jury, as they prepare to decide the case. "They solved it in the first miserable day."

A hammer found at the scene that had a microscopic spot of blood matching Hughes' DNA is another piece of questionable evidence, said Hanlon, because it wasn't discovered during the initial investigation, leaving its validity open to doubt.

Hanlon's defense of his client included a rigorous attack on Edmonds, who he called a drug dealer – who uses children to sell drugs – and a murderer, who shot Foster again while he was on the ground.

"He gets to do whatever he wants," Hanlon said of Edmonds. "Think about it: Is that someone you believe?"

Hanlon also challenged Hopkins' statements about the 14 bullets in Edmonds' pistol. Pulling the pistol out of evidence to show the jury, Hanlon said it could only have held 13 bullets.

On the surveillance tape an 11th shot can be heard, which led Hanlon to assert that Edmonds reloaded the pistol to continue shooting at the fleeing Williams and Foster.

"What you have here is cold-blooded murder by Shannon Edmonds," he said.

Doctors confirmed that one of the four shots that hit Foster in the back was fired while he was face down on the ground, Hanlon said. The bullet entered Foster's back and exited through his shoulder.

"He made a decision – 'I can be the executioner,'" Hanlon said of Edmonds, who he also suggested planted evidence on Foster and Williams to make it appear as if a robbery had taken place.

A key piece of information in Hughes' favor, said Hanlon, is that he wasn't picked out of a photo lineup by the witnesses at the scene.

Even if Hughes aided and abetted in a robbery, Hanlon said it doesn't fit the provocative act charges.

He said Hughes – a graduate of a Catholic high school, who had passed a violence prevention program and was preparing to return to school at San Jose State University – wasn't likely to have committed the crimes of which he stands accused.

Hanlon asked jurors to carefully question the rebuttal arguments that Hopkins will offer. "You cannot convict my client on these types of facts."

Zuniga told jurors that court will resume at 9 a.m. Friday, at which time Hopkins will give his rebuttal to Hanlon's arguments.

The judge will then give jury instructions, with the jury adjourning for the day at 1 p.m. due to a scheduling conflict for one of the jurors.

Jury deliberations to reach a verdict will begin next week.

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


This vehicle rolled off Highway 175/The Hopland Grade Thursday but the two occupants escaped with only minor injuries. Photo by John Jensen.


HOPLAND GRADE – Two people escaped serious injury Thursday afternoon when the vehicle they were riding in went off the roadway and flipped over.

A gold SUV was reported as having gone off the Hopland Grade at 3:53 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officials at the scene reported that the vehicle had flipped over more than once, but that the two occupants had survived and walked away with minor injuries.

The driver may have had a problem due to a medical condition, the CHP reported.

The roadway was closed for at least an hour and a half while emergency personnel assisted the crash victims and removed the totaled vehicle from the scene.

No further information, including names of the vehicle's occupants, was available late Thursday.

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


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