Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – This week Congressman Mike Thompson launched the 14th annual Toys for Kids Drive in Lake County.

“The generosity of Lake County residents and businesses the past 13 years has been heartwarming,” said Thompson, who kicked off the drive on Monday.

The effort has provided thousands of children in the community with Christmas gifts, Thompson said.

He credited the ongoing success of the Toys for Kids Drive to hundreds of individuals and businesses who contribute toys, money, and time to wrap and distribute gifts.

This year, Toys for Kids is partnering with a number of local businesses and public agencies in the annual Christmas toy drive.

Partner groups include Lake Transit Authority, Lake Family Resource Center, Lake County Office of Education-Healthy Family and Healthy Start programs, Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District, Wal-Mart of Clearlake and Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Toy donations may be dropped off at the following locations:

  • Clearlake: Best Western El Grande Inn, 15135 Lakeshore Drive;

  • Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake: Hidden Valley Lake Community Services District Office, 19400 Hartmann Road;

  • Lakeport: Lake County Office of Education, 1152 S. Main St.

Monetary donations can be sent to Toys for Kids, c/o Brad Onorato, P.O. Box 6742, Napa, CA 94581. Nonprofit tax identification numbers are: state of California ID No. 2456994, federal No. 30-0142588.

Toys for Kids is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors composed of county residents.

Board members include Mel Aust and Tami Ipsen, Hidden Valley Lake; Anna Ocon, Clearlake; Peggy McCloud, Lakeport; Bob Minenna, Lower Lake; Margaret Walker-Stimmel, Kelseyville; Dorrie Walker, Lower Lake.

For more information call 707-695-4670.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY – Officials in Mendocino County are investigating the death of a jail inmate which occurred over the weekend.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that William Haley, 50, of Ukiah died while being booked into the county jail on Sunday morning.

Haley, who had been stabbed in an incident Saturday, was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a Ukiah Police Department officer who was investigating the stabbing incident, according to the report.

Following the stabbing, Haley was taken to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment of the stab wound to his arm and was medically cleared before being transported to the Mendocino County Jail.

Haley, who sheriff's officials reported was intoxicated, was cared for throughout the night by jail medical staff for the stab wound.

On Sunday morning shortly before 9 a.m., Haley became unresponsive while going through the booking process.

Corrections personnel and jail medical staff assessed Haley, summoned the Ukiah Fire Department and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Fire department personnel arrived and transported Haley to Ukiah Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

The incident is being investigated by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office-Detectives Unit, Mendocino County Sheriff's Coroner and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

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NORTH COAST – On the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 9, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) will host a live town hall meeting via telephone and he is inviting every resident of the 1st Congressional District to join him.

The call will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Participants can ask him questions about the issues that are important to them, and the Congressman will respond live for everyone to hear.

“As the year comes to a close, it’s important that we talk about the things that are important to our district,” said Thompson. “I look forward to responding to your questions and listening to your concerns. Please take this opportunity to make your voice heard by calling in to participate.”

To join the call, dial 877-269-7289 and enter the passcode 13293.

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WILLITS – Authorities arrested a Willits man Monday on a variety of charges after he allegedly was spotted brandishing a fake gun at motorists, which resulted in a temporary shutdown of Highway 101.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies arrested Jeremiah Daniel Heilig Monday afternoon, according to a report from sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.

At about 4 p.m. Monday deputies and Willits Police officer responded to the area of Highway 101 and Holland's Lane, where Smallcomb said a motorist had reported that a man dressed in camouflage was standing in a roadside ditch pointing a handgun at passing motorists.

When the deputies arrived on the scene they saw Heilig alongside the highway, allegedly holding an object which appeared to be a handgun, Smallcomb said. Heilig allegedly refused to comply with deputies commands to remain still and leave his hands in view.

After a brief struggle Heilig was taken into custody, Smallcomb said.

Highway 101 was closed for several minutes until it was confirmed that the suspect did not possess an operational firearm. Smallcomb said the gun Heilig had pointed at passing motorists was found to be made of plastic.

Heilig appeared to be confused and offered no explanation for pointing the imitation firearm at motorists, according to Smallcomb's reported. Deputies also found allegedly found Heilig in possession of an illegal "shank" type stabbing device.

Smallcomb said Heilig was arrested for possession of a dirk or dagger, which is a felony, and also was also charged with violation of probation and resisting arrest, and brandishing an imitation firearm. He was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on the charges.

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MIDDLETOWN – Federal officials have released a preliminary report outlining the circumstances in a fatal midair collision on Nov. 28 that claimed the life of two area pilots.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the findings late Friday.

The crash, at Crazy Creek Air Adventures in Middletown, killed Hidden Valley Lake pilot Robert Sean Boylan, 44, and Harold Harvey Chouinard, 63, of Cotati, as Lake County News has reported.

The report, completed last week by aviation accident investigator Eliott Simpson, explained that Chouinard's Schleicher ASW-27 glider and the Piper PA-25-235 tow plane piloted by Boylan collided at about 11:15 a.m. Nov. 28 during the landing approach at the Crazy Creek gliderport.

The two aircraft had departed to begin their flights only about 10 minutes before the crash, with Boylan towing Chouinard, Simpson's report stated.

Witnesses at the scene observed Boylan release Chouinard's glider about six miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 3,000 feet, the report explained.

After the release, Boylan turned back toward the airport, with Chouinard flying north along an adjacent ridgeline before turning southeast toward the airport, the report said.

“According to witnesses, both aircraft entered the downwind leg of the northwest runway about the same time, with the glider on the right downwind and the airplane on the left downwind,” the report stated. “The witnesses observed both aircraft continue on the downwind, and turn onto their respective base legs about the same time. As the aircraft simultaneously turned to final they collided.”

The report added, “The witnesses reported that neither aircraft performed any abrupt or evasive maneuvers prior to the collision.”

The wind at the site was reported to be between 25 and 35 knots from the north, Simpson noted.

Simpson's investigation – which had run close to two days at the crash site – found that both the glider and plane came to rest about 1,300 feet east of the approach end of the runway.

The report said that the airplane was located 40 feet north of the runway centerline, with the glider located 400 feet to the southwest. The debris path consisted of outboard sections of the glider’s right wing, and a three-foot section of the airplane's right wing tip.

A 2-foot-long section of the glider’s right wing tip was located with the main wreckage of the airplane, adjacent to the right wing leading edge, Simpson reported.

Simpson told Lake County News last week that it could take several months for the National Transportation Safety Board to issue a final report on the crash's probable cause.

According to NTSB records, there have been 20 fatal air crashes in Lake County since 1962.

In those 20 crashes, 40 people have died. Four crashes in the Lakeport area accounted for a total of 14 deaths, the most of any area in the county.

The worst crash in terms of loss of life occurred on Sept. 29, 1990, near Lakeport, when a Lockheed PV-2 nose-dived into Clear Lake after a low pass – estimated at about 50 feet over the lake – over a gathering of seaplanes.

The plane stalled and went into the lake, killing the pilot and seven passengers.

The board's final ruling on that crash's probable cause was that the pilot failed to maintain air speed while pulling up from the low pass.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .




I’ll admit upfront that I have all of the “Resident Evil” movies on DVD and my daughter and I play the zombie based video game “Left 4 Dead” regularly. So I’ll also say up front that while the facts in this column about food safety are true, the conclusions I make are just for fun and only because I have a lot of zombie references in the forefront of my mind.

Food safety is very important, and we here in the U.S. have some of the safest, healthiest food on the planet thanks to the regulations set by the Food & Drug Administration.

In recent years though, we have seen some odd illnesses crop up that are foodborne. I don’t want to scare people about their food, I just want them to understand more about it.

To make it topical, the H1N1 virus, or “Swine flu,” is an adaptation of a known swine flu virus and a bird flu virus that mutated together to affect humans. While H1N1 is an airborne illness, these types of mutations and adaptations happen all of the time to food-borne viruses too, so I think we have to start worrying about ... that’s right, the Zombie Apocalypse!

Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE), more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease, could be the thing that brings the Zombiepocalypse down upon us all (hey, if "unfriend" can be a real word in the dictionary so can "Zombiepocalypse").

Most people aren’t aware of this, but the most common way that cows contract BSE is by eating the brains of a cow that is already infected. I can hear you now, “Whoa, Whoa, WHOA! Cows eating cow brains? How does that happen? Are they zombie cows?” No, not zombie cows … not yet at least.

In an attempt to boost the protein in the cows’ feed to bulk up the cow and get more meat and also to stretch the expensive feed further, the waste parts of slaughtered cows (brains, spinal cord and any non-marketable bones) are cooked, ground and mixed in with regular cow feed and fed to the remaining herd. Since the incubation period for BSE is typically four years it’s very difficult to tell if you are accidentally feeding a diseased animal to a healthy herd.

Luckily in North American cattle ranches this isn’t a common practice and the extra protein in the cows’ diet is usually provided through the use of soy meal. However in Europe where soybeans don’t grow as well these cooked cow floor sweepings are the usual supplement, which is why BSE is more common in Europe. Soy meal is expensive there and dead cow parts are not.

Another reason the BSE outbreaks happened so often there is that the U.K. lowered the required sterilization temperature of the cow meal, possibly making it easier for the infectious agent (technically a prion) to survive the sanitation process. By lowering the safety standards they put the public at risk.

Vegetarianism is looking better, isn’t it?

Food safety regulations are constantly being changed. One president and Congress lowers standards in order to influence trade, while the next president and Congress will raise the standards for public safety. President Obama has stated that, as a father, our nation’s food safety is a primary concern to him. Right at this moment, Senate bill S510, the Food Safety Modernization Act is being discussed. This bill, while being a good step towards some much needed revisions, is unfortunately being written by people who don’t work in the field.

While it does give the FDA more authority to inspect food processing facilities and order recalls, one big problem in the FSMA is that it applies a single package of regulations to the food safety problem that could put small and midsize sustainable farmers, not the huge food manufacturers that are responsible for most food recalls, out of business.

Smaller producers usually have smaller risk of contamination of their produce or infection of their stock, and therefore should not be treated the same as large production facilities. They also generally don’t have the large financial base to make what are expensive and unnecessary food tracking modifications to their operations that may be required of them should this bill pass and be signed into law.

Currently the FDA can only recommend a producer enact a recall when a food safety problem arises, while this law will allow the FDA to enact one on their own authority. Food producers will pay for this increase in FDA enforcement with a special annual fee.

Somebody better at reading government bills could probably explain this all better than I can. There is much more to this bill, but I just want to give you enough information to get you involved.

In general, it is safer to purchase food from local growers and producers. Great resources are farmer’s markets and locally owned grocery stores that purchase from local suppliers. Ask questions about the origins of your food. Be sure to wash all your produce thoroughly. These are some positive steps you can personally take to ensure the safety of your food.

In another science fiction-like twist to the story, a biotechnology company in South Dakota claims to have genetically engineered cattle that are immune to BSE, so they can still be fed the cow-brain feed. Better living through science!

Here’s my pitch to George Romero – well maybe not Mr. Romero, more likely the SyFy Channel:

We open in the British countryside ...

“Genetically engineered cows that are now immune to BSE contract it, and due to their unique genetics actually develop an addiction to brains. Since it takes so long for the symptoms to develop nobody suspects anything until it’s too late and some of the cows have already gone to slaughter!

Now, not only does our hero have to retrieve the tainted meat from the consumer before it’s too late, but due to lower food tracking safety rules he won’t make it in time. Meanwhile, on page 34 of your script, the cattle that didn’t go to slaughter are now in a craze for more brains. They have eaten the rancher, his family, and all the ranch hands, and are now wandering the countryside looking for more. We can add some dark humor to the situation by having the cows come across a group of vegetarians who are quickly consumed by the manic beasts.

Then, at the White House (go to page 67 of your script), the government will claim that plenty of the anti-virus is in production, they will be inoculating everyone soon and there will be nothing to worry about” Panting, excuse me while I catch my breath for a moment. “Of course we know that this is completely untrue, and that because of the lax food safety tracking they haven’t even figured out how this happened yet. People are infected, animals are infected, and both are out searching for more brains. Eventually infected people fly out of the UK, animals make their way through the Chunnel, and the world is doomed to the Zombie Apocalypse.”

What do you think? I can have some storyboards drawn up in a couple of days ...

Okay, maybe that scenario is pretty far-fetched, but the truth is we have outbreaks of E. coli and BSE and salmonella and H1N1, all because we keep raising and lowering our food safety standards to meet the needs of some large food processors that donate to a political campaign, then we encourage countries with lower food safety standards to send their food here.

I encourage you to be aware of the changes in food safety regulations, and to contact your government representatives with your opinions. Only you can stop the zombie apocalypse!

Barbara Boxer

112 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510



Dianne Feinstein

331 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510



You can also contact you local House member. For Lake County residents:

Congressman Mike Thompson

231 Cannon Office Building

Washington, DC 20515



My pantry is currently full, so all I need is a source for concertina wire and I’ll be ready for the hoards of zombies. OK, maybe my daughter and I have been playing too much “Left 4 Dead.” and now we have “Left 4 Dead 2.”

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, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .

LAKEPORT – On Monday a judge ruled that a Hidden Valley Lake man will stand trial for one charge in connection with an alleged July rape, but two other significant charges were dropped.

Judge Richard Martin ruled that 26-year-old John Wesley Dunn Jr. would be tried for a charge of rape while using alcohol to prevent resisting.

However, Martin found there wasn't sufficient evidence to warrant Dunn's prosecution on two other counts – kidnap with the intent to rape and assault with the intent to commit a crime.

The kidnap charge alone carried a maximum life sentence, said Dunn's defense attorney, Stephen Carter. The remaining charge carries a maximum eight-year prison sentence.

“I'm very optimistic about the way the case is progressing and we're very eager to get the case to jury trial,” Carter said Monday.

Dunn, who has no previous criminal history, was arrested in August for allegedly raping a 25-year-old female acquaintance who he had driven home following a night of dancing and drinking.

He had been held in the Lake County Jail for three weeks on $350,000 bail before a lengthy bail hearing during which Carter put on more than 15 witnesses who attested to Dunn's character. Judge Arthur Mann ordered Dunn released on his own recognizance at the end of the hearing, as Lake County News has reported.

Dunn's preliminary hearing began late Friday morning and ran the remainder of the day, forcing the court to reschedule for this Friday the preliminary hearing for Joshua Wandry and Deborah James in the beating, shooting and hogtying of Ronald Greiner in October. The need for rescheduling resulted from Carter representing both Dunn and Wandry.

The hearing continued for nearly two more hours Monday morning, with Carter and prosecutor Ed Borg arguing the points of the case before Martin's ruling.

On Friday, Borg had called sheriff's Det. Mike Curran, who interviewed the alleged victim.

The woman, who had been told by a doctor to reduce her alcohol consumption due to an ulcer, said she had a total of five drinks that night.

She went with family and friends to Twin Pine Casino, something they commonly did on Fridays, for drinks and dancing.

While she was there the woman saw Dunn, with whom she was acquainted. She told investigators he was interested in her romantically, but she wasn't interested as she dating someone else.

She told investigators that Dunn bought her and a friend some drinks, and she asked him to dance with her, which he did several times.

According to Curran's testimony, the young woman didn't remember leaving the casino or much else about the latter part of the evening – including the fact that she had trouble walking and had fallen down – only that she woke up the next morning and discovered that she was missing her underwear and had physical discomfort.

Sheriff's Det. John Drewrey, who worked the case with Curran, presented information from the sexual assault exam performed on the victim by a St. Helena Hospital Clearlake doctor.

The doctor observed multiple bruises over the woman's body, including her right thigh, groin, foot and ankle, with superficial scratches found sporadically over her body. The bruises were found to be consistent with the time frame of the events the woman gave investigators.

Drewrey said the doctor stated that he couldn't give a definitive answer about what caused the injuries, but that they were consistent with sexual assault.

The victim, using Drewrey's cell phone, made two “pretext” calls to Dunn to ask him about the evening.

During the first call, the woman asked Dunn if they had sex, which he confirmed that they did. In a second call, he said they had sex in his car after he pulled off the road while driving her home.

Drewrey also reported speaking with a friend of the alleged victim who said she was “falling down drunk” and had slurred speed at the end of the evening.

Dunn told Drewrey during an interview that the woman had come up to him at the bar, grabbed him by the shirt and asked him to drive her home. He asked if she was sure that she wanted to go, she said yes, and they left.

Surveillance video of the two – which Borg showed at the end of the day Friday – showed them walking out of the casino with their arms around each other. Dunn had told detectives that he was trying to help her walk, and at one point picked her up while helping her to his car.

Dunn told detectives that, on the drive home in his 1998 Ford Mustang, the young woman tried to get on top of him. He pulled over behind a former restaurant location and they had sex in the vehicle there.

Afterward, he took her back to her home, where her sister was babysitting the woman's young daughter, whose birthday it had been that night. The young woman vomited when the got to her house, and then Dunn helped put her on the couch before leaving.

Borg said Dunn is set for arraignment on the single charge on Jan. 19. 2010.

“It will not go to trial very soon,” Borg told Lake County News on Monday.

He estimated that, due to the number of cases currently on the court calendar, the case won't come to trial until April or May at the earliest.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



Some of you know that my pre-formative years were spent growing up in a mildly astonishing suburban enclave known as Kelly Hill, nestled then in an unincorporated portion of Hayward in southern Alameda County.

There were a couple of venues in the vicinity of my neighborhood that were actually teenager friendly. One was the I.D.E.S. Hall in downtown Hayward. Amazingly, promoters were able to book some fairly big names for our teenaged concert going pleasure. The house band at the I.D.E.S. Hall was a very funky assemblage of cats who called themselves the Spyders.

The cool thing about them was, if the radio played a new James Brown release on Tuesday, the Spyders had it down by the I.D.E.S. Hall gig on Saturday. They were that good. My memory tells me that somehow they evolved into Tower Of Power. Actually they were a prime influence on Tower Of Power as evidenced by a lingering Internet page devoted to the memory of the Spyders which is referenced here:

The "Spyders"

Bill Oxford, Vance Johnson's uncle, brought the "Spyders" to the Bay Area all the way from Harrison, Ark., early in 1964. Vance joined the band as their first Bay Area drummer, and later, lead singer and front man. The "Spyders" were at first a top 40 cover band during the "British Invasion," and later became a pure "Soul" band, gaining some recognition as a "Tower of Power" influence

Both Vance and his uncle left the "Spyders" late in 1965, and moved to Spokane, Wash., where they started new musical pursuits. The "Spyders" quickly replaced them and got very "funky." The band went on to record and tour successfully for another three years, until the draft decimated the group, and they dissolved late in 1968. (End of reference).

My fellowettes, fellows and I saw and even met some cool folks at the I.D.E.S. I remember a handbill that advertised “Bob & Earl.” They were an R&B duo that had a smash dance hit entitled Harlem Shuffle. Also on the bill was another dance groover, one Jackie Lee who had a hit dance single called The Duck. In the week before the concert, we were like, wow, two acts for the price of one. I think the price of admission was somewhere around three or four bucks. Imagine our chagrin when we found out that Earl and Jackie Lee were the same guy performing under two different names since he was contracted to two different record labels. Do the math. It was one and a half for the price of two!

It was still exciting. We saw Bob fall off the stage during the performance of Harlem Shuffle. In my first witnessing of the age old adage, the show must go on, the valiant Spyders kept on jammin’, didn’t miss a beat. Earl (or Jackie Lee as it were) was heard to implore to Bob, “Come on Bobby, get up!” Get up he did, they performance was completed, musicians, singers and crowd nonplussed.

Afterwards, somehow a few of us ended up being invited backstage to meet Bob, Earl and Jackie. They were nice guys. I was privileged also to peer into Jackie’s travel kit. I was proud to learn that we both used the same stiff pomade which for noncommercial purposes will not be revealed here. (Begins with an M).

The legendary Mississippi born bluesman Muddy Waters also appeared at the I.D.E.S hall. Didn’t get to meet him, but I do remember he let a pre-hippy harmonica player from my high school sit in with the band, thus cementing for all time evidence that the blues was all right.

One of my homeys from Kelly Hill was/is a handsome fellow who was always high on the chicks' to do list. We called him JB. His popularity even extended into the show biz realm.

I remember when the legendary Shirelles came to the I.D.E.S. Hall, somebody smuggled him backstage and a kiss was stolen. Either he stole a kiss from a Shirelle or vice versa. I was so envious. The first record I ever bought was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles, written by Carole King.

Another artist named Little Helen (who was to eventually evolve into the Gospel artist Helen Baylor), had a hit entitled “The Richest Girl In The World,” also played the I.D.E.S. Hall. Again JB busted slob with a star. He still holds the Kelly Hill record. Scratch that, now that I think about it, the Kelly Hill record holder is Larry Graham of Sly & The Family Stone and Graham Central Station!

Bumping up a notch on the concert Richter scale was the legendary night club, Frenchy’s. It stayed open until 6 a.m.

Through some weird loophole in the law, it was actually legal for 16-year-olds to attend. Something to do with the fact that they served free breakfast from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m.

We saw many great acts there as well B.B. King, Tower Of Power, Cold Blood, Leon’s Creation, The Loading Zone. Sly & The Family Stone played there many weekends on end. This was when Sly was razor-sharp hungry, melding sanctified elements from the Church Of God In Christ with funky Jazz and Pop stylings. Pure genius.

Some of you may remember a hit song by the Soul Survivors entitled Expressway To Your Heart. The song started out with the sounds of real car horns. Something like, “bahh bah bah bah bah, daww daw daw daw daw.” Well, Sly recreated those car horns with his horn section of Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.

Just to give you an idea of how sharp that was, I recently read a review of a reformed Soul Survivors show, written by my colleague Bob Davis of www.Soul-Patrol.com . Bob Gave the Soul Survivors a superior review. I couldn’t resist emailing him the trick question, “So did they use real horns for the car horn part on 'Expressway To Your Heart'?”

His response was, “what are you talking about? They used real car horns on the original record.” I then told him, “yeah, but 40 years ago Sly took that song to another level!”

Well my CyberSoulFolks, the clock on the wall tells me that the deadline approacheth. Join me in a later excursion where I promise to reveal more excursions of the CyberSoulKind.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz .


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SANTA ROSA – The tragic story of a car crash that ultimately claimed five lives last weekend had an unexpected footnote added to it this week.

Late Friday, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Golden State Donor Services issued a joint statement on behalf of the family of 19-year-old Steven Culbertson of Lakeport, who died Nov. 29.

“Nineteen-year-old Steven Culbertson’s organ donation provided the gift of life to others waiting for a life-saving transplant,” the statement read.

Culbertson died the morning after he allegedly ran a red light in his Mini Cooper on Lakeville Highway in Sonoma County, triggering a four-car collision.

During that fatal crash, Culbertson is alleged to have broadsided a Nissan Quest in which John and Susan Maloney and their young children, Aiden and Grace, were riding. The family died at the scene, as Lake County News has reported.

The story has gained nationwide attention, as the deaths of so many people was compounded by a burglary of the Maloney family's home and speculation about speed and possible other contributing factors to the crash – including a report that Culbertson was spotted drinking at a bar before the crash.

However, news of the organ donations brings to the fore another story – the need for organ donors around California and across the nation.

There are 105,000 people who are waiting nationwide to receive organ transplants, according to Tracy Bryan, spokesperson for Golden State Donor Services. Of those, 21,000 are in California, the state with the most overall need.

The Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry's Web site, www.donatelifecalifornia.org , reportedly on Friday that there are more than 5.8 million people statewide who are signed up to become donors.

However, less than 1 percent of of all hospital deaths qualify for organ donation, said Bryan. Usually, the situations that qualify involve a traumatic head injury leading to brain death.

“We really need people to think about it and sign up,” Bryan said, noting they can sign up directly at www.donatelifecalifornia.org .

She said that only about 8,000 organ donations take place nationwide each year. Of those, between 50 and 70 take place within Golden State Donors Services' service area.

Information about the specifics of Culbertson's donation are private, but Bryan explained the donation process in a late Friday interview.

Bryan said that when a potential donor is identified, the hospital is mandated by federal law to call a donor procurement organization. Golden State Donor Services is the donor procurement organization that serves Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, as well as the Sacramento area and 10 surrounding counties.

Once the donor is identified, the process must move rapidly. Bryan said organs only can be preserved a short time – four to six hours for a heart or up to 72 hours for kidneys, which can be flown cross-country to be given to a person with a perfect tissue match.

Golden State Donor Services sends out a family care coordinator to work with the family, and they being working through the approval process, including accessing a large donor database to see if the person has given consent.

If they haven't signed up, “then we seek consent from the next of kin,” said Bryan.

Next come blood and tissue samples and a search for matching recipients through the United Network for Organ Sharing, Bryan said.

The United Network for Organ Sharing reported that it is under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Services & Resources Administration, and maintains a centralized computer network – available around the clock – linking all organ procurement organizations and transplant centers.

Bryan said recipients are prioritized by need – the sickest patients are taken first – tissue and blood matches with the donor as well as geographic proximity, which is crucial because of the short time organs can be kept. For the most part, organs generally stay within a general region.

Up to eight organs that can be recovered, said Bryan – the two kidneys, both lungs, the heart, liver, the pancreas and intestines. Donate Life California reported that they also take tissue donations for eyes, heart valves, bones and skin grafts.

The donors' families receive general information afterward about who received the organs, Bryan said.

She said they believe that people who become donors “become heroes in every sense of the word.”

Bryan urged people to sign up to give “the gift of life.”

“In many cases,” said Bryan, “families are comforted by something good coming out of something tragic.”

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE OAKS – An aggressive effort by firefighters saved a large home from destruction in a fire that occurred over the weekend.

Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown reported that district firefighters responded to an out-of-control fire in a fireplace at an Old Long Valley Road home at 2:50 p.m. Saturday.

Brown said the first unit on scene reported heavy smoke showing from a two story home with exterior flames from the roof and chimney. Dispatch was increased to a full structure dispatch.

With smoke down to the floor of the second floor and flames from two walls on the first floor, Brown said firefighters began an interior fire attack. They pulled ceilings and walls while multiple chain saws opened up the exterior of walls and roof area.

Northshore Fire resources sent to the scene included one battalion chief, three engines and the newly acquired water tender, Brown said.. Mutual aid was requested from Lake County fire with one engine and one water tender responding. A total of 16 personnel fought the blaze.

Brown said firefighters placed salvage covers in the living room and kitchen area. The exterior wood chimney had to be pulled from the roof which also was done by crews from Northshore and Lake County firefighters.

He estimated total damage to the large home was $40,000.

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LAKEPORT – A Cobb man was sentenced to six months in jail for setting fire to his home in September.

Judge Richard Martin sentenced Richard David Blount, 58, to 180 days in jail and ordered that he pay $1,000 in restitution.

Blount will receive 135 days of credit for time served and good behavior since his September arrest. Martin waived a fine of $12,341 due to financial hardship.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Blount on Sept. 4 after he was found attempting to set a fire and trying to obstruct firefighters who arrived at the scene to fight the fire, which burned a residence and an acre of wildland in the area of Observation Road and Loch Lomond Road, as Lake County News has reported.

Blount, allegedly found trying to light matches at the fire line, struggled with deputies and also allegedly threatened to kill one of them, according to the original sheriff's report.

At the time of his arrest, officials hadn't determined Blount's role in the fire, but he eventually was charged with burning down the residence in which he lived, owned by his father, it was reported in court on Friday.

Court records showed that Blount was charged in September with three felony counts – unlawfully and recklessly setting fire to a structure, unlawfully and maliciously setting fire to a structure and attempting by threat to deter an officer from performing their duty. He pleaded guilty to the first charge, and the second two were dismissed last month.

On Friday, Blount's attorney, David Markham, argued that the remaining charge against Blount is a wobbler – an offense that can be charged either as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

Saying the charge was more appropriate as a misdemeanor, Markham filed a 17b motion to have the charge reduced.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said if the charge was reduced they wouldn't be able to work with Blount on his mental health issues.

Markham argued that Blount had no history of setting fires. The home belonged to Blount's father and his own dog died in the blaze.

“I think there were some mental health issues that contributed to this,” said Markham.

He also didn't think 180 days in jail was necessary, although Hinchcliff called that sentence “appropriate.”

Judge Martin said that, while reducing the charge may be appropriate based on Blount's lack of a prior record, he wasn't comfortable with making it a misdemeanor until Blount successfully completely his probation.

Martin said Blount was making bizarre statements at the scene and attempting to light fires behind the firefighters.

“It could have cost someone their life, so I see this as a highly dangerous situation,” he said.

Cobb Mountain is a wooded area, and the fire could have endangered others. “The consequences went far beyond the burning down of his dad's house,” said Martin, who considered probation also appropriate due to Blount's lack of a prior record.

He said that Blount has had mental health issues, but he's working on them – including using medication – and is a different person now.

Martin then gave him the 180-day sentence with credit for time served and good behavior. He said the sentence is meant to send a message to Blount about the importance of maintaining his treatment and medications.

Hinchcliff said Blount faces a potential prison sentence of four years if he violates his felony probation.

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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – A series of storms may bring much-needed rain to Lake County beginning Sunday, but they'll also bring an 80-percent chance of snow showers, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

Rain showers are forecast to move in to Lake County on Sunday afternoon with low daytime temperatures only reaching in to the 40s with gusty winds increasing throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service.

After 10 p.m. on Sunday, winds will decrease and chances for snow showers will increase throughout the night, with snow expected down to lake level, based on the National Weather Service forecast.

On Monday daytime highs will be in the low 40s with a 70 percent chance of snow that will continue until late afternoon, when the National Weather Services forecasts snow showers will change to rain mixed with snow, tapering off before 10 p.m.

Tuesday is on tap to be cold and sunny, with highs in 40s, before a warmer system moves through Tuesday night, bringing with it heavier amounts of precipitation and lows overnight will drop in to the upper 20s, the National Weather Service reported.

Wednesday through Friday will continue the wet weather pattern, the National Weather Service predicted, with daytime highs only reaching into the mid-40s all week and overnight lows near freezing.

There remains a fair amount of uncertainty for the exact track and timing of these storms, so the National Weather Service suggested monitoring the weather closely.

Please visit the home page of Lake County News (www.lakeconews.com) for up-to-date weather information.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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