Tuesday, 23 July 2024


SAN FRANCISCO – A federal judge in San Francisco ruled on Wednesday to bar the Bush administration from implementing a plan to prosecute businesses, including farms, for failing to fire workers and knowingly employing illegal immigrants if their Social Security numbers do not match government records within 90 days of notification.

The California Farm Bureau Federation said that the ruling should provide “breathing room” to family farmers and others so they can continue to press for federal immigration reform that would allow special visas to immigrants coming to the U.S. to work on farms.

Farmers around the state and here in Lake County expressed concerns late this summer about the proposed Department of Homeland Security reform that would require employers to fire workers within 90 days of receiving a “no-match” letter – a letter stating that the names and Social Security numbers do not match their records – which might cause them to lose legal workers because of a mistake by the government.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer told the San Francisco Chronicle that immigration officials wanted to reverse a long-standing government policy not to prosecute employers just because a workers’ Social Security number did not match their records, but did not provide adequate analysis to support the change.

In August, when the Homeland Security released the rule, California Farm Bureau President Doug Mosebar expressed concern about the impact of firing farm workers from California farms which rely heavily on immigrant labor.

“If that were to happen during harvest and [the farmer] couldn't quickly find replacements, he'd lose his crop and face financial ruin,” Mosebar said in a Farm Bureau statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose agency issued the rule, said the government would consider its options, including an appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, according to the Chronicle.

Until then, the Chronicle reports that Breyer’s order will remain in effect until sometime next year when it goes back to trial or a higher court intervenes.

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CLEARLAKE – City leaders got together Monday to use a little elbow grease to beautify Clearlake.

Nine people, including City Council members, Clearlake Planning Commissioners and members of the Chamber of Commerce, were out in force Monday morning, working on a cleanup project in Redbud Park.

Monday's cleanup effort, said Clearlake Mayor Judy Thein, was inspired by the Clearlake Vision Task Force report, presented to the City Council last month. The report highlighted volunteer participating in improving the city.

“The most effective way to introduce a volunteer program is to lead by example,” said Thein. “How could we ask our citizens to volunteer if we were not willing to volunteer ourselves?”

The volunteers cleaned the park, picked up litter, painted curbs and speed bumps and did anything else that needed to be done over about three and a half hours.

“We worked so well together as a team,” said Thein.

She called the results “awesome.” People who were at the park commented on how the group accomplished a lot, and how the painting improved the park's look, said Thein. One man even offered to help paint the park's gazebo.

“We felt this was something that we could do which would help 'free up' Public Works to work in other areas that are needed,” said Thein. “It is very rewarding as to how a team of volunteers could get together and accomplish a task that improved the appearance of our park.”

Thein said the group is talking about plans for a giant cleanup before Memorial Day next year to welcome visitors to the city.

As part of that effort they're discussing putting down striping for parking spaces, Thein said.


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UKIAH – A three-car crash on Saturday along Highway 20 at Potter Valley Road left three people, including a Kelseyville woman, with moderate injuries.

A report from the California Highway Patrol explained that the accident took place at 4:40 p.m. Oct. 6.

Maria Macias, 60, of Kelseyville was driving a 1993 Toyota van southbound on the east side of Potter Valley Road at the intersection with Highway 20, with 3-year-old Michael Graham in the car, according to the CHP.

For an unknown reason Macias' van didn't stop at the stop sign, but instead drove into the westbound lanes of Highway 20, where the CHP said it collided with a BMW driven by Kathren Babcock, 21, of Ukiah.

The collision pushed Babcock's vehicle into Highway 20's eastbound lanes, the CHP reported, where it collided with a 1999 Infiniti driven by Andrea Barcello, 41, of Ukiah. Barcello then hit a mailbox.

Macias was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment of moderate injuries, according to the CHP. Also transported to Santa Rosa was Babcock's passenger, 50-year-old Darren Linnett of Ukiah.

The rest of the passengers were taken by ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, the CHP reported.

Babcock suffered moderate injuries and her other passenger, 34-year-old Ukiah resident James Jones, had minor injuries. Barcello also had minor injuries, according to the CHP report. The 3-year-old who had ridden in Macias' van was not injured.

CHP said both lanes of Highway 20 were closed for approximately 30 minutes for Calstar and REACH helicopters to transport the crash victims to Santa Rosa.

All of the people involved in the collisions were wearing their safety belts.

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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake man has been sentenced for a murder he was found guilty of committing earlier this year.

Andre Lafayette Stevens, 43, was sentenced Friday to 52 years to life for the May 4 murder of John Rayford McCoy, 42, according to Deputy District Attorney John Langan.

A jury found Stevens guilty of first-degree murder on Sept. 12, as Lake County News previously reported.

Stevens was found guilty of stabbing McCoy multiple times in a jealous rage, thinking McCoy had had a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Police reportedly found Stevens at the Clearlake apartment complex where the stabbing occurred with the bloody knife still in his hands. Stevens later admitted during an interview with police that he stabbed McCoy.

The jury also had found true a special allegation against Stevens that he had a previous “strike” for a 1990 robbery in Santa Clara County, which doubled the basic sentence from 25 to 50 years to life, said Langan.

In addition, two more years were added to Stevens' sentence, said Langan; one for using a knife in the crime and one for having committed a crime within five years of being released from serving a state prison term.

Langan said Stevens' defense attorney, Jason Webster, filed a Romero motion to have the strike involving the 1990 robbery dismissed.

“Our office opposed that motion,” said Langan.

Judge Robert Crone denied the motion, Langan added.

A call to Webster's office for comment Wednesday was not returned.

Langan said sentencing guidelines gave Crone no discretion in sentencing, and so he handed down the 52 years to life sentence.

Stevens is expected to be sent to San Quentin State Prison to serve his sentence, said Langan.

Andre Stevens is the son of Israel Stevens, convicted in September 2004 of second-degree murder for the shooting of Ruben Plevney outside the Swinging Door Lounge in December 2002.

The elder Stevens had a confrontation with Plevney, who was working as a bouncer at the bar. Stevens left the bar, returned with a shotgun and killed Plevney.

Langan said Israel Stevens, who is now in his early 60s, is serving his sentence – which was a minimum of 15 years to life – at High Desert State Prison in Susanville.

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GLENHAVEN – The California Highway Patrol reported Tuesday night that a big rig had gone off of Highway 20 and into the lake.

The accident took place at 9:07 p.m. on eastbound Highway 20 just west of Bruner, according to the CHP.

Emergency personnel, tow trucks and Caltrans were called to the scene.

No further information was available Tuesday night from the CHP.

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LAKE COUNTY – Injuries resulted from two crashes on Monday, one in the afternoon and a second in the evening.

The first, at 4:38 p.m., occurred on Sulphur Bank Drive at North Drive in Clearlake Oaks, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Two vehicles collided head on, the CHP reported. At least one person had major injuries, while three others escaped uninjured. No information was available from the CHP on the names of the people involved.

One individual was reportedly being arrested for driving under the influence or drugs.

A second collision involving a solo vehicle occurred on Highway 29 just south of Twin Lakes near Lower Lake at 9:28 p.m., according to the CHP.

The CHP reported that a man drove a white SUV into the embankment, where the vehicle ended up against some trees just off the roadway.

An ambulance responded to the scene, where the male driver was reported to be covered in blood, according to the CHP.

No further information on that crash was available Monday evening.

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LAKE COUNTY – A night of steady rain brought some much-needed moisture to the county, along with some problems on the roadways.

The California Highway Patrol reported rock and mudslides are various points around the county, beginning Tuesday night and throughout the day Wednesday.

Small slides were reported on Highway 29, two miles south of Hofacker near Lower Lake, and along Highway 20 west of Paradise Cove, west of Blue Lakes and near Irwin Drive, CHP reported.

Rock also were reported in several spots along the Hopland Grade, according to the CHP incident logs.

With the ground filled with moisture, downed trees also were a concern. The CHP reported a falled tree, 24 inches in diameter, blocking the roadway on Spruce Grove Road Extension shortly before 6 a.m.

A commuter reportedly hit the tree, which the County Roads Department was called out to remove.

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CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man who failed to register as a sex offender has been sentenced to state prison.

On Oct. 5, Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentenced Albert Wilbur Charboneau, age 63, to four years in state prison for failing to register as a sex offender, according to Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine, who prosecuted the case.

Charboneau is required to register pursuant to penal code section 290 because he was convicted of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14, a felony, in violation of Penal Code section 288(a) in 1987, DeChaine said.

Charboneau was prosecuted for moving from his Clearlake address to a new residence in Lucerne without notifying law enforcement of his move, said DeChaine. Sex registrants are required to notify law enforcement within five working days of any change in address. The investigation revealed that Charboneau had been out of compliance for months.

On Aug. 24 Charboneau pleaded guilty to one felony count of failing to register as a sex offender, DeChaine said. The court sentenced Charboneau to three years in prison for failing to register.

However, Charboneau was required to admit that he previously served a prison sentence for a furnishing or transporting a controlled substance in violation of section 11379 of the Health and Safety Code, said DeChaine. The admission of the prior prison sentence served to increase his prison commitment from three years, the maximum sentence for failing to register, to a total of four years in prison.

Prior to being sentenced, Charboneau was held in custody with bail set in the amount of $30,000, said DeChaine.

DeChaine said Deputy Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, who also is a member of the Region II Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Task Force, investigated the case.


A woman veered into an ornamental rock area at the casino Monday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



NICE – A woman driving into Robinson Rancheria Bingo and Casino was not injured after she drove her minivan into an ornamental rock area.

The accident occurred at 1:39 p.m. according to the California Highway Patrol incident logs.

The CHP reported that the woman was 66-year-old Virginia Steiner of Nice.


She was driving westbound when she turned into the casino but missed the roadway and went into the rocks, high-centering the vehicle.


CHP Officer Adam Garcia said Steiner was not injured, but she was subsequently was arrested for DUI. 

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


This is the third installment of a series on the unsolved October 2002 murder of Barbara LaForge.

LAKE COUNTY – On a wall in the Jacksonville, Fla., home of Christine Jones hangs a pencil drawing of a covered bridge and a Model A, done by her adopted daughter, Barbara LaForge. {sidebar id=14}

It was in Jones' home, amongst her four biological children, that Barbara LaForge would find an emotional and spiritual anchor for a life that, had the Jones family not come along, could easily have gone astray.

Barbara LaForge, born in 1959, and Lisa Jones met in the sixth grade in Jacksonville, Fla., where both girls had been raised.

Not long before, Barbara LaForge's mother, Donna LaForge, had taken her two younger daughters and abandoned Barbara, the eldest of four children, and her brother Jack, according to Jones, who now goes by her married name, Lisa Hatcher.

Barbara and Jack's father, Jack LaForge, retired out of the military to take care of his children, said Hatcher. But Jack LaForge was a troubled man, and he committed suicide, an act his daughter Barbara witnessed. Hatcher believes Barbara was 11 when the suicide took place.

The two LaForge children were taken in by a cousin, a single woman who was their father's only surviving relative. Nearby lived Hatcher, her two sisters and brother, and their parents, Christine and Gerald Jones.

The LaForge children became friends with the Joneses, said Hatcher, and soon they were over at the family's home on an almost constant basis, attracted by the large and warm family.

The Jones family offered to take in Barbara and Jack, and at one time had legal guardianship, said Hatcher.

It was in the Jones' home, Hatcher said, that Barbara would learn about the Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion she would follow devotedly for the rest of her life.

For all intents and purposes, Barbara and Jack LaForge became part of the Jones family, said Hatcher.

While it seemed that Barbara and Jack LaForge had finally found a safe haven, it wasn't to be. Their family found out that they were being brought up as Jehovah's Witnesses, said Hatcher, and their cousin came back to take custody.

“She stepped in and she took both of those kids and moved them out of our home and promptly put them in an orphanage in Mobile, Alabama,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher's sister, Janeen Hawkins, said the family tried to stay in touch with the LaForges. Barbara LaForge, devoted to her new faith, was baptized a Jehovah's Witness at age 14 while still in the orphanage.

LaForge's cousin signed paperwork to keep the two children in the orphanage until they turned 21, said Hawkins. But Jack LaForge ran away, and when the cousin died, Barbara LaForge was left with no legal guardian. When she turned 18 that allowed her to leave the orphanage.

Hatcher said LaForge promptly returned home to Jacksonville, and to the home of Gerald and Christine Jones, her “pa” and “ma.”


LaForge enrolled in the local community college and began studying art, said Hatcher.

“She was drawing all the time,” said Hatcher.

LaForge also wrote constantly, filling journals with her observations on life, her poems and reviews of movies and concerts she attended, complete with the ticket stubs.

Christine Jones, in the mean time, helped Barbara LaForge and her brother find their mother, who was living in Southern California with Tom Gilliam, a World War II veteran she would eventually marry. Hatcher said Tom and Donna Gilliam visited the Joneses more than once in Florida, and in turn Barbara and Jack LaForge traveled to California to see them.

When she was in her 20s, Barbara LaForge decided to move west to Los Angeles to be near her biological mother, said Hawkins.

Later, LaForge moved to Seattle, where she lived for several years before moving back to California, to Lake County, where her mother and stepfather had moved.


In Lake County, Barbara LaForge came into the loving embrace of Tom Gilliam, her stepfather.

Tom Gilliam, born in 1919, was a decorated veteran of World War II and Korea.

He was a tough but generous fellow who raised four sons, says his son Tommy Gilliam, who lives in Lakeport.

Tom Gilliam had always wanted a daughter, said his son. When he married his second wife, Donna LaForge, he got the daughter he wanted in Barbara LaForge.

Gilliam was very generous with his stepdaughter, purchasing a trailer for LaForge in a mobile home park, said Tommy Gilliam.

It was there that LaForge met Dan Hamblin, working as a handyman at the trailer park, according to Hatcher.

Hatcher said LaForge was deeply in love with Hamblin, who she married on Oct. 20, 1996. It was his fourth marriage, her first.

“She had waited all her life to get married,” said Hatcher.

Hawkins said that LaForge was drawn to Hamblin, despite the fact they did not share the same faith. “She said it was the way he treated her, the way he looked at her."

LaForge was much more outgoing than her husband, said Hawkins. LaForge told Hawkins that Hamblin was a homebody, while LaForge herself “was always traveling,” said Hawkins.

That included taking a month-long backpacking trip in the Australian outback when a young woman, said Hawkins.

In 1997, the year following LaForge and Hamblin's marriage, Tom Gilliam purchased the Wild Wood Frame Shop from a previous owner and helped LaForge get set up in business. She originally opened the shop across the street from the gallery's current location.

Artist Gail Salituri said Tom Gilliam introduced her to LaForge. “The minute I met her, we were friends, right from the get-go,” said Salituri.

In 1997 LaForge approached Salituri about sharing space in the new location across the street, with Salituri's art gallery in the front and LaForge's frame shop in the back, which Salituri called “a perfect set up.”

The women rented the shop at 165 N. Main St. in October 1997, remodeled it and opened for business in January 1998.

“It was a very happy beginning,” said Salituri.


Barbara LaForge hadn't seen her adopted family in Florida in many years, said sister Lisa Hatcher.

But in January 2001 her nephew was to be baptized into the Jehovah's Witnesses church. Hatcher said the family was talking about how great it would be to have LaForge come and visit.

Hatcher and LaForge talked about it, and the two concocted a plan. Telling no one else, they arranged for LaForge to come out and arrive unannounced.

Then Hatcher drove LaForge to Christine Jones' drapery shop. Hatcher said her mother fell to pieces when she saw her adopted daughter appear in person.

“It was so awesome to have everybody all together again,” said Hatcher, who said LaForge spent time with all of her adopted family.

Despite the happiness of the occasion, LaForge's life had taken another heartbreaking twist.

“While she was there, Danny had left her for another woman,” said Hatcher.

Both Hatcher and her sister, Janeen Hawkins, said Hamblin had told LaForge he was going back to his first wife, with whom he had a child. He had told LaForge that he had “unfinished business” with his first wife, because he believed he as still in love with her.

So, with that heartache, she came to Florida. But, said Hatcher, “She didn't come dragging her feet.”

Hatcher added, “While she was here, she didn't make a big deal out of it.”

Hawkins said LaForge put on a brave face, saying she wanted Hamblin to be happy, and wouldn't hold him back.

During that visit to Florida, Hatcher and Hawkins said their adopted sister made a point of bringing up the topic of her will.

In 1978, when LaForge turned 18, Hatcher said Jones took LaForge to an attorney so she could work out some inheritance issues from her late father. At the same time, LaForge asked the attorney to create a will for her.

That will, a copy of which was obtained by Lake County News, names Jones as executor. Jones and her husband, Gerald, also were left half of LaForge's estate, with the other half left to her brother, Jack. She specifically did not provide an inheritance for her mother, Donna, or sisters Leilani or Laura.

In addition, LaForge stated that, in the case of her death, she wanted to be cremated, with her ashes sprinkled over the grave of her biological father, Jack LaForge, at Oaklawn Cemetery in Jacksonville, Fla.

During the January 2001 visit to Florida, LaForge told her family that the will was still in force. “She brought it up,” said Hatcher, who added the family didn't broach the subject.

Christine Jones said she believes LaForge didn't trust Hamblin, which was why she left her original will in effect.

Meanwhile, LaForge and Hamblin remained in contact during the visit, said Hatcher. A short time after Hamblin got to his first wife's home – the sisters could not remember if it was in Washington or Oregon – he called LaForge to tell her he had made a mistake.

Hatcher said LaForge immediately sent Hamblin money to go home, and bought him a new bed because of his bad back, hurt in an accident years before.

On that same visit, Hatcher said her mother vividly remembers going to a local bookstore with LaForge, who purchased a book on guns. LaForge told her family that Hamblin was “getting into guns” and wanted her to learn how to shoot with him. Hawkins said the family wasn't thrilled with the idea.

Soon, it was time to head back to Lake County, and LaForge took leave of her adopted family in Florida.

None of them dreamed it would be the last time they saw her alive.

In part four, Barbara LaForge's family and friends document the last years of her life.

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This is the second installment of a series on the unsolved October 2002 murder of Barbara LaForge.

LAKEPORT – It was about 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2002, when a customer going to Barbara LaForge's Wild Wood Frame Shop on Main Street to pick up an order found the business locked. Inside one of the shop's front windows a small dog could be seen, her leash trailing from her collar. {sidebar id=14}

The man went next door to a pizza restaurant run by Michael Stafford. Together, the two men began calling Gail Salituri – the artist whose gallery shared space with LaForge's frame shop – to find out where LaForge was.

The front door of the business was locked, but Stafford found the back door of the shop standing open, according to a previous police report. He looked inside and saw LaForge slumped down on the floor against a table, facing the back of the gallery.

A terrified Stafford called Salituri, screaming that he had found LaForge. Salituri told him to call 911, which she did also. The 911 operator tried to keep Salituri calm, telling her not to leave her home to go to the gallery but to stay put.

Retired Lakeport Police Chief Tom Engstrom said in an interview with Lake County News that when he arrived at the gallery between 11 a.m. and noon his police officers were on scene along with paramedics who were trying to resuscitate LaForge.

His first responsibility, he said, was to try to save LaForge's life.

Yet he wasn't sure she could be saved.

“I am convinced that Barbara was dead when I got there and the paramedics were working on her,” he said.

But he knew LaForge, as did most of his department. She had framed their department photograph; she wasn't just a stranger.

“There's a friend lying on the floor and nobody wants to make that call to say, 'Hey guys, quit working on her,'” Engstrom said. “We wanted to do everything we could to save her life. And so I was the one that gave them consent, they wanted to transport her and I said, 'By all means, do it,' even though I felt that she was probably dead the whole time that we were there, but they continued to try to work on her all the way out to the hospital and she was eventually pronounced dead there.”

Doctors at Sutter Lakeside gave LaForge atropine and epinephrine, drugs used to try to restart the heart from cardiac arrest, according to LaForge's probate documents. They also used a defibrillator to shock her heart, and performed pericardiocentesis, a technique that inserts a needle into the sac surrounding the heart to remove excess fluid.

None of the measures worked.

LaForge was declared dead at 1 p.m. in the Sutter Lakeside Emergency Room, according to her death certificate. The document states the cause of her death as "pending an investigation."

At 1:18 p.m., a Sutter Lakeside employee contacted the Lake County Sheriff's Office to report a death, according to sheriff's logs. A coroner's report was taken.

As of the fifth anniversary of her death, the results of her autopsy remain sealed, part of the documents protected in the police investigation.

Engstrom, however, stated publicly after the autopsy that LaForge had been shot four times, with at least one of the bullets striking her in the heart.


Engstrom said as soon as the emergency personnel took LaForge to the hospital that afternoon, police sealed the gallery.

From an investigative standpoint, Engstrom said the presence of so many people in the gallery had essentially “contaminated” the crime scene even before the investigation began.

In an effort to try to separate evidence from any disturbance, Engstrom said an officer was assigned to write down the names of everyone who came in – including Engstrom's. Police also had tried to keep activity confined in one space.

Later that night, crime scene investigators with the state Department of Justice arrived. Engstrom said they worked through the night, scouring the gallery for evidence.

In the weeks before the murder, police had investigated a series of commercial burglaries in downtown Lakeport. But Engstrom said he didn't believe the murder was connected, largely because there were no signs of forced entry and nothing in the gallery was stolen.

Engstrom said a task force of Lakeport Police detectives, then-Chief Deputy District Attorney Jon Hopkins and District Attorney's Office investigators met on a daily basis in the weeks immediately following the murder. The group included many investigators with homicide experience.

All told, about 12 people were working on the case at one point, said Engstrom, interviewing more than 200 individuals and sending investigators to Southern California to follow up on leads.

Leading the investigation from the Lakeport Police side was Dale Stoebe, a trained investigator who did not have any actual homicide experience, said Engstrom. That was because the last two murders in Lakeport were murder-suicides which quickly resolved themselves.

Brad Rasmussen, then a sergeant who has since been promoted to lieutenant, has been with the case since the beginning. Engstrom called Rasmussen an "excellent investigator" in whom he had a lot of confidence.

Later, Det. Norm Taylor, also with the department since the murder, was rotated into the lead investigator position in 2004, according to Kevin Burke, who succeeded Engstrom as police chief.


The evidence gathered from the gallery was taken by crime scene investigators and sent to a Department of Justice crime lab in Santa Rosa, where ballistics and fingerprint testing was conducted, according to original police statements.

But nearly a year later DNA evidence that should have been sent for testing at a Sacramento crime lab was still sitting in Santa Rosa. The evidence was finally sent to Sacramento, with results arriving back at about the time of the first anniversary of the murder.

Yet, to the frustration of police, the tests yielded no conclusive evidence.

"I was so comfortable with getting the state crime lab people up here, I just couldn't believe we didn't get anything out of that," said Engstrom.

He said he expected some piece of evidence – including fingerprints – to be found. "It just didn't happen."

Another piece of evidence believed to be crucial, a shoe print that didn't match those of rescue or police personnel in the gallery that day, didn't match any prints from the "persons of interest" in the case, said Engstrom.

Still, police didn't stop trying, said Engstrom. "We looked into every lead that came along," including those that seemed far-fetched. They ruled out no possibilities, and continued actively investigating the murder.

One of the items never recovered, said Engstrom, was the .22-caliber murder weapon.

Engstrom said dive teams searched certain areas of Clear Lake where they thought the gun might have been thrown. Search dogs scoured areas on the Hopland Grade; that search, Engstrom said, yielded a toy gun.

Engstrom said they also called on the help of psychics, some of whom donated their services.

One of the psychics was a dog psychic, said Engstrom, since the only witness outside of LaForge and her killer was LaForge's beloved whippet, Carmen.

The dog psychic had police send her a picture of Carmen, said Engstrom. "She claimed that she did not know anything about this case and she came up with some very interesting things that were very close to what we were getting from other people."

He added, "At that point in time I was willing to try anything."

They also used regular psychics, one of whom came and walked through the gallery with police, Engstrom explained.

"They confirmed a lot of our suspicions,” he said. “They were coming up with some of the same things that we had thought about, but you can't convict anybody on that. We were hoping that maybe, you know, it might point us in the right direction."

They also had veteran homicide investigator Carl Stein review the case, said Engstrom.

Retired from the sheriff's office and working part-time for Clearlake Police, Stein had more homicide experience than any investigator in the county, said Engstrom. At the time when he reviewed the case, Stein had more than 40 years of law enforcement experience.

"He thought that our guys had done a very good job," said Engstrom. "He had a couple of ideas they might want to follow up on."

Engstrom also secured a $50,000 reward from the governor's office – which remains in effect indefinitely – for information leading to a conviction in LaForge's murder.

Some leads initially resulted from the reward offer, said Engstrom, but none of the information brought forward proved conclusive.

As time went on the task force investigators met less frequently, going from daily to weekly meetings, then less frequently than that.

"We never got that one piece of evidence or that one piece of testimony that we could have gotten charges filed against somebody with," said Engstrom.

"We had a lot of circumstantial stuff and a lot of speculation, but never that concrete piece of evidence that we needed to get a complaint filed and to proceed with a trial or an arrest," he added.


Engstrom had vowed publicly that he would not retire until the case was solved and prosecuted.

Yet, in early 2005 his plans changed suddenly, not as a result of the case, which he had fully intended to see to its conclusion, he said, but as a result of an issue with an employee.

"I had just had enough. I was tired," he said. "I had a disciplinary action that I took before I retired that broke my heart. In a small department, you're like family, you know each other's spouses and children. I did what had to be done but I never wanted to do it again."

In May 2005, Engstrom stepped down after 11 years as Lakeport's police chief, and 25 years as a small town police chief around California. That length of service is believed to be one of the longest in the state.

Engstrom said he has had no official part in the investigation since his retirement, but he likes and respects Kevin Burke, the new chief hired in February 2006. He said he has felt that it's important to stay out of Burke's way and let him lead his department.

"They've got good people working there," he said.

He said in his 37 total years of law enforcement experience, this is the only unsolved murder he's had. Not solving the case, he said, is the one true regret he has in his career.

"I think about it every day, every time I go down Main Street, which is at least five times a week," he said. "When I pass that shop I think about it."

In part three: Barbara LaForge's story.

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Funny man Marc Yaffee in action on the stage. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

KELSEYVILLE – I have no doubt that just about everyone reading this has held at least one job that for whatever reason caused him or her to exclaim, “This job is a joke!”

Those of us who have made this claim did so out of frustration and anger and most found good reason to re-think our path to future prosperity. For one Lake County resident, a joke was just the beginning. In fact for him it was the beginning, the middle and may last right up to the end.

Driving-instructor-turned-comedian Marc Yaffee of Kelseyville is one person who chose to reevaluate his path to prosperity decades later than most. After spending several years with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Yaffee and his wife began a driver education/traffic school as well as a driving instruction school.

Both businesses did well and he was able to support his family, a wife and two daughters, horses and several purebred dogs. The Yaffees could afford to buy a home and were able to enjoy their share of the American dream, Lake County style.

Then for some strange reason, just three years before reaching the age of 40, Yaffee entered into the very competitive field of live, stand up comedy.

He didn’t jump in headfirst. He tested the waters at comedy competitions throughout the Bay Area and east to Sacramento. It went slowly at first, as he needed to develop an act.

Where does a driving instructor get the idea he may be funny at all?

“I remember my fifth grade teacher, she let us put on a little show ... I think we were about 10 or 11 years old, we lived in Van Nuys, California,” recalled Yaffee. “I never forgot the feelings inside when I made a bunch of grownups laugh, I think it’s still in me today.”

Where the DMV and driving schools didn’t take him comedy has: 100,000 miles a year in the sky and easily 30,000 in rental cars alone, reported Yaffee. He replaced his personal transportation – not the family car – every 18 months.

Bahrain, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore and the island of Guam are just a handful of the “out-of-town gigs” he hits each year since he went full-time as a stand up comedian two years ago. Toss in 130 nights in the USA and the frequent flier miles pile up quickly.

Is he doing well? “Well, enough to go full time,” said the former state employee with a Cheshire cat like grin.

But he quickly added that without the support and encouragement of his wife Lindsey for the past 18.8 years, his dream of headlining a big room in Las Vegas, which may not be that far off, would never had a chance.

Yaffee, a self-described comedian and court jester, just recently returned from the semifinals of the world renowned San Francisco Comedy Competition. He's awaiting the results of several of the other comics’ performances before he knows his eventual standing in the semifinals.

Initially, 300 amateur and touring comedians audition tapes were accepted out of thousands of entries. The field has been reduced through several levels of live performances held in various venues.

Yaffee waits for no single audience and promotes himself and a few of his fellow comics in various manners. The Trail of Laughs POW WOW Comedy Jam, a group of four, multi-ethnic comics tours upwards of 30 major Native American casinos each of the past two years.

His television credits include Comics Unleashed, Ci TVs Latino Festival, specials on Gala Vision’s Que Locos and coming in 2008 a special on PBS titled, “Crossing the Line,” a look at multi-ethnic comics working in America.

Yaffee wraps up his view of live comedy in America in these words: “In a world gone crazy, as it may be, the beauty of stand up comedy is that we can confront and comment on the most controversial topics, we can share with the audience our concerns in such a manner that at the end of the night only those to blame should feel insulted.”

Marc Yaffee’s Web site can be found at www.trailoflaughs.com.

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




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