Sunday, 21 July 2024


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LAKEPORT – On Wednesday a criminalist told the jury in a fatal sailboat crash case that he believed the sailboat's stern light wasn't on when it was hit by a powerboat in April of 2006.

Criminalist Toby Baxter, a crash investigator, along with friends of the people involved in the April 29, 2006, crash made their way to the witness stand on day six of 41-year-old Bismarck Dinius' trial.

The Carmichael man is being tried for felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury in connection with the crash. He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber when it was hit at night by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's deputy, Russell Perdock, who was not charged.

Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, sustained injures that she died from three days after the crash. The lights on the sailboat allegedly were not on when the crash occurred.

The day started with Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office back on the stand under cross-examination by defense attorney Victor Haltom.

Slabaugh, who was asked to come in to lead the crash investigation, has so far spent nearly half a day on the stand in the trial, which was in its sixth day on Wednesday.

Under Haltom's questioning, Slabaugh said the crash involving Dinius and Perdock was the sixth he had investigated.

Slabaugh made findings, but the entirety of his report hasn't been revealed in the trial so far.

“Did you make a decision not to share with the jury your findings in this case?” Haltom asked. Slabaugh said no.

During direct questioning by District Attorney Jon Hopkins, Slabaugh was asked if he agreed with conclusions offered by Richard Snyder, a retired engineer who had testified about the crash and the powerboat on Tuesday. Haltom objected and Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained it. When Hopkins attempted to ask the question another way, Haltom lodged another successful objection by challenging the question's relevance.

Both Hopkins and Haltom closely questioned Slabaugh about inland waterway rules. Slabaugh teaches classes on the rules, and also holds a Coast Guard captain's license.

Hopkins asked Slabaugh if he had made a conclusion about the collision's dynamics. Slabaugh said he concluded that the Baja powerboat struck the sailboat's right stern quarter and continued over it.

Would the powerboat's operator have been able to see the sailboat's stern light if it were on? Hopkins asked. Slabaugh said he believed so.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh knew how far cabin light illumination would be visible. Slabaugh said he didn't.

The defense attorney then began questioning Slabaugh about his report's conclusions. Hopkins objected, but Byrne said, “We have to know where they hit.”

Haltom said Slabaugh didn't write in his report that this was a rear-end accident. “You allocated responsibility amongst the people involved in the accident, correct?” he asked.

Slabaugh said yes. Had he told the jury about that allocation? No, said Slabaugh.

The cabin lights, in Slabaugh's opinion, were on, based on eyewitness statements and the position of a switch on the lighting panel. Slabaugh had previously testified that the panel's toggles noted the running lights were off.

“Have you seen high velocity impacts that caused toggle switches to change position?” Haltom asked. Slabaugh said he hadn't.

Slabaugh recounted that Perdock told him he didn't seen any lights on the water that night. Perdock also reported that the crash occurred about a minute after he came around Fraser Point – the northernmost point that denotes the boundary of Konocti Bay – heading south toward Richmond Park Bar & Grill.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh agreed with the assessment Snyder gave on the stand Tuesday that Perdock was traveling between 40 and 50 miles per hour a the time of the collision with the sailboat. Slabaugh said yes.

Slabaugh said he used Perdock's speed and the amount of time he was under way to try to determine the crash location. On May 2, 2006, he and Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini went out on the lake during daylight hours to try to come to a conclusion about where the crash took place. When Haltom asked the location of where he believed the crash occurred, Hopkins objected, saying it was irrelevant, and Byrne sustained.

Under the rules of navigation, whose responsibility is it to turn on the stern light? Haltom asked. Slabaugh said it can be one of several people – the person operating the boat, crew members, the master or others on board.

Hopkins asked Slabaugh if there were rules in which a sailing vessel needed to stay out of the way of other vessels. Slabaugh said yes. Do cabin lights satisfy a sailing vessel's legal lighting requirements? No, Slabaugh said.

During his investigation, Slabaugh found wires leading from the running light switch which were frayed after having been pulled out of a clip holding them in place. Haltom asked if that was a result of the crash, and Slabaugh said yes.

Haltom asked Slabaugh about rule 19 of the inland navigation rules, which addresses conduct of vessels in restricted visibility. Part of the rule Haltom quoted states, “A power driven vessel shall have her engines ready for immediate maneuver.”

Hopkins asked Slabaugh about example of restricted visibility. Slabaugh said fog, mist, rain and sand storms are examples. Haltom asked if night was a restricted visibility situation. Slabaugh said not in his opinion.

Criminalist details findings about light bulbs

Most of the day's testimony came from California Department of Justice criminalist Toby Baxter, who spent close to three and a half hours detailing his conclusion that the sailboat's stern light was off at the time of the collision, based on a forensic examination of the light bulbs and filaments.

Baxter, with the DOJ since 1985, is stationed in the Eureka office. Head lamp analysis has been one of his work areas since 1999.

This was the first case he's investigated which involved a boat light, but Baxter said boats use lights that are similar to those in automobiles.

Before Hopkins' questioning of Baxter got very far, Haltom received Byrne's permission to question Baxter's qualifications. Baxter had one formal three-day DOJ course on headlight analysis in 1999, has done his own research and read literature in the field. Haltom objected to his qualifications but Byrne overruled, saying there was reason to admit his testimony.

Baxter explained how incandescent light bulbs work. They're outfitted with tungsten filaments that can withstand the extremely high temperatures – between 2,200 and 2,500 degrees centigrade (or about 4,000 to 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit)– used to light the bulbs. Tungsten has high tensile strength and is able to maintain its shape for a considerable amount of time compared to other metals.

Baxter received three lights – the sailboat's mast, stern and bow lights. The stern and bow lights were the focus of his testing, which included looking at the broken filaments in the stern light.

Hopkins asked what can happen if a tungsten filament is subjected to a sharp impact. Baxter explained that tungsten is not prone to break as much as it it to stretch and deform. When it cools it can become more brittle and can break, but that “cold break” looks different than it would when the filament is hot when the breakage occurs.

There are ways to determine if the filament was on when it broke, said Baxter. That includes finding tungsten oxide, a white or yellow powder that forms as a reaction when oxygen hits the tungsten.

If deformation and alignment of the coil structure inside the bulb resulted from whipping of the support posts, Baxter said the filament would likely remain shiny but would look distorted or, as Hopkins suggested, like a stretched Slinky.

A collision could cause a hot or cold break, said Baxter. He noted that a filament wouldn't break as easily when it's warmer and ductile.

The light bulbs Baxter evaluated in this case were cylindrical festoon bulbs, which he said are frequently used for auto dome lights.

Baxter examined the stern light bulb's filament to determine what kind of breakage occurred. He said the broken areas were angular and grainy in appearance, “which is consistent with a cold break.”

In a cold break, the filament will resemble the uneven edges of a green stick when it's broken, said Baxter.

He used stereo and comparison microscopes to look closely at the filament, and concluded the stern light wasn't on when it was broken.

Hopkins asked if a a cold break could look like a hot break if the posts inside the bulb whip and break the filament. Yes, said Baxter, but he said the filament in that case would be more likely to break than to stretch when it's cold and brittle.

Reviewing a series of pictures of the lights, Baxter noted that the stern light, the cover of which was missing with pieces broken out and a whole light bulb with a broken filament, “did receive some fair amount of damage.”

Some of the pictures, which Hopkins showed to the court on a projector, were taken by Baxter on a comparison microscope, and showed the twisted and broken stern light filament and the unbroken bow light filament side by side. He also compared the bulbs with brand new bulbs.

Several of the photos also showed filaments of bulbs used in an experiment that Baxter conducted to see what would happen if power to the lights was cut a second or a second and a half before an impact. The bulbs were affixed to a lamp structure in a two by four board that Baxter than slammed on the floor.

One of the photos of a filament that had the power cut a second and a half before impact had some stretching but could be a “close call” because it had attributes of both a hot and cold break, said Baxter.

A filament with the power cut a second before an impact had a bowed coil “more consistent with hot shock,” he said, with the filaments not completely cooled.

Filaments of the size used in these bulbs can take from two to four seconds to cool down before passing the transition phase and becoming brittle, said Baxter.

“My conclusion is there is no evidence of hot shock or warm shock that I could observe,” said Baxter, adding that he he wouldn't have an opinion about when the filament break occurred.

Haltom asked if Baxter had reached a conclusion about whether the unbroken bow light had been on or off at the time of impact. Baxter said he hadn't.

Pointing to a picture of the broken stern light filament, which had a wave shape, Haltom asked if that could be indicative of hot shock. Baxter said it could be but other factors would have to be considered.

Baxter, who began working on the lights in April of 2007, couldn't answer questions about direct current and alternating current as it would have pertained to the bulb's operation. He said that, based on his reading of the investigative literature, it's never been an issue.

Haltom presented Baxter with a copy of a report he wrote this past April. The report listed a victim and a suspect. When Haltom questioned him on who those subjects were, Hopkins objected, saying it was irrelevant.

The report, the second Baxter had prepared, was in reaction to documents from a defense experted that needed to be addressed.

Baxter said he received the transcript of the preliminary hearing testimony of Dr. William Chilcott. After seeing that report Baxter conducted the experiments.

Haltom wanted to know if it would be possible to have an event where there is one crash with multiple impacts, with the stern light suffering different shocks. Baxter said he's not an expert on boat accident reconstruction and couldn't offer an informed opinion.

After the jury was allowed to leave for lunch, Haltom asked Byrne to let him question Baxter about the “victim” and “suspect” notations on his report.

He said the report listed Dinius as the suspect and Perdock as the victim. “That's clearly relevant to a central theme of this case, that this is a slanted investigation designed to deflect blame away from Russell Perdock,” Haltom said, adding that it's absurd to list Perdock as the victim when it's Thornton who died.

Hopkins said in other places of the report a victim and suspect aren't listed. He argued that the issue wasn't relevant. Byrne said he would allow Haltom to ask the question but it needed the relevant foundation.

Experiment had variables that are hard to duplicate

After court reconvened following lunch, Haltom questioned Baxter closely on whether or not his experiments could be exactly replicated. Baxter said there were several variables that couldn't be duplicated in another set of tests, such as the amount of force he used to slam the two by four.

Haltom then returned to the issue of the victim and suspect notations. Baxter said he wasn't sure why it was listed the way it was. “I'd have to say that was a typo on my part.”

Hopkins objected to the questioning, but Byrne overruled him, and allowed the jury to hear that Perdock had been listed as the victim and Dinius the suspect.

When Haltom asked if the wave shape in the broken filament could have resulted from one impact, with a second impact breaking it, Baxter said he saw no evidence to support that hypothesis. In that case there would still be evidence of a hot break, which Baxter said isn't in evidence.

Haltom raised statements Baxter had made during a previous deposition, in which he had stated that he couldn't rule out the possibility that the stern light was on when the crash occurred. Baxter didn't recall making that statement, and after reading over the transcript called the document confusing.

Based on his examination of the broken ends of the stern light bulb's filament, Baxter believed the light wasn't on. “I don't believe I offered a conclusion as to when that filament was actually broken and I don't believe I can.”

He added, “The only thing I'm willing to say with any real conviction here is the lamp was not on when it broke.”

The wave shape of the broken light could be a result of the manufacturing process, but Baxter said he didn't contact any bulb manufacturers. He doubted they would discuss their manufacturing processes based on the desire to protect proprietary information.

Afternoon witnesses fill in variety of details

A group of witnesses followed Baxter to the stand Wednesday afternoon, some of them testifying for only a matter of minutes.

Wes Frey, a retired deputy sheriff currently working as a part-time sheriff's welfare fraud investigator, said in April 2006 he was working on detective sergeant overseeing the sheriff's welfare unit.

He said he had heard about the crash and opened up a supplemental report filed on the incident by then-Sgt. James Beland. Last week, Beland testified that his reports on the crash had been changed, but when questioned by Hopkins Beland said he had been directed to make some of the changes by a superior officer.

The RIMS software the sheriff's office uses shows an audit trail, and Frey's name appeared on the audit report, however, he said he didn't change anything.

Jeff Holdener, who owns property on the lakeshore on Soda Bay Road, followed Frey to the stand.

Two young women who testified in the trial last week, Jennifer Patterson and Gina Seago, were visiting with Holdener's family on April 29, 2006, when they witnessed the crash and came running in to tell Holdener, who was playing cards with family.

Holdener, his brother-in-law and nephew got in Holdener's wakeboard board with a light bar and went out to offer help at the crash scene, being careful for fear people were in the water.

“The first thing we saw was the sailboat,” he said, noting the smell of fiberglass in the air.

Another boat towed the sailboat to Boren Bega, which Holdener said was on a straight course from the crash scene.

“The sailboat was just chaos,” he said. “There was a lot of people hurt. There was a lot of people bleeding.”

Men from the nearby Young Scandinavians Club had come out to help as well, with two of them doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Thornton, Holdener said.

Stephanie Green, a friend of both Weber and Thornton's, recalled meeting them for dinner at Richmond Park Bar and Grill at around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., several hours before the crash.

Weber had competed in the Konocti Cup earlier that day and had won, and she recalled Weber and Thornton as being very excited.

Green said she and her husband, Rob, were with Weber and Thornton, and they were drinking beer and wine with dinner. A large group was at the restaurant, where there was barbecuing and karaoke.

That night she met Dinius for the first time, recalling he was “having fun like everyone else.”

Weber and Thornton invited the Greens to joint them for the cruise. “My husband talked me out of going,” Stephanie Green said, acknowledging that she can't swim.

She said she was probably upset with her husband, but agreed not to go.

Green recalled saying goodbye to Thornton, who she said she adored. Waving goodbye as the sailboat pulled out using its motor, Green recalled seeing its lights on.

Hopkins asked her if she had a chance to see Weber's state of intoxication. Green, who was a police officer for 15 years, said he was “highly intoxicated.” She said she had told Haltom's investigator that Weber was, to use the more colorful term, “s***-faced.”

Green said she couldn't assess Dinius' condition. “We were all drinking.”

Last on the stand Wednesday was Craig Scovel, a friend of Perdock's since high school, who responded to the crash scene that night and towed Perdock's damaged powerboat back to the sheriff's boat barn.

On the evening of the crash, Scovel took his own powerboat over to Konocti Harbor for a beer and a hamburger, and testified there were few people at the resort that night. He didn't see Perdock; if he had, Scovel said he would have talked to him.

Later, as he was heading home after dark, Scovel said he heard a helicopter. When he was almost home he got a call from Perdock's mother who said Perdock had been in a crash.

Scovel and two friends went back across to Bayshore Resort where they found Perdock on shore. Perdock asked Scovel to go back to Lily Cove and get his pickup and boat trailer, which Scovel did. He found the truck and trailer parked near the dock of the homeowners association where Perdock lives. Scovel said he hadn't seen the truck and trailer there when he left on his trip to Konocti at around 7 p.m.

Scovel's testimony provided some confusion, as he repeatedly said he believed it was a Friday night when he went to the resort. However, Haltom pointed out during his cross-examination that April 29, 2006, was a Saturday. Scovel said he couldn't remember for sure if it was a Friday, but he knew it was the same night as the crash.

Haltom said the whole point of the testimony that it was a Friday was to establish that not many people were there that night. Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained. “I think we probably figured it out,” said Byrne.

Would there have been more people at the resort on a Saturday than a Friday? Haltom asked. “Not necessarily,” said Scovel, pointing out it was April at the time, not the busier summer season.

Haltom asked if Scovel had made different statements previously.

He then asked Scovel if his goal on the stand is to give “Mr. Hopkins what he wants” through the testimony. “I'm not sure what he wants,” said Scovel.

Perdock himself is expected to come to the stand Thursday, when testimony resumes.

Witnesses so far, in order

Day one (following opening statements): James Ziebell, sailor, helped skipper Beats Workin' II in Konocti Cup; Doug Jones, past commodore of local sailing club; Anthony Esposti*, fisherman; Colin Johnson*, fisherman.

Day two: Lake County Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Andrea Estep*, phlebotomist, St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake (formerly Redbud Community Hospital); former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland; LaDonna Hartman, phlebotomist, Sutter Lakeside Hospital; retired sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman; California Department of Justice criminalist Gregory Priebe, Santa Rosa lab; California Department of Justice criminalist Gary Davis, Sacramento toxicology lab.

Day three: Jennifer Patterson, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Gina Seago, witnessed crash from Holdener property on lakeshore; Jordin Walker, passenger on Russell Perdock's powerboat; James Walker*, high school friend of Perdock's and passenger on his powerboat; sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed*; sheriff's communications operator Kimberly Erickson; sheriff's Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells*.

Day four: Craig Woodworth, the District Attorney's Office's acting chief investigator; John Yount, criminalist with the California Department of Justice's Santa Rosa lab; sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann; Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day five: Richard Snyder, retired Mercury Marine engineer; Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office.

Day six: Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office; California Department of Justice criminalist Toby Baxter; retired Sgt. Wes Frey, Lake County Sheriff's Office; Jeff Holdener, who responded to the crash scene via boat; Stephanie Green, friend of Weber and Thornton, who saw them leave in the sailboat a few hours before the crash; Craig Scovel, friend of Perdock's who assisted in taking his boat and trailer to the sheriff's Boat Patrol building.*

* = Indicates a witness subject to recall at the request of the defense.

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

LAKE COUNTY – A Lucerne man has been sentenced for an animal cruelty case involving an injured dog first reported last year.

Paul Jon Westergren pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 597(b), subjecting an animal to needless suffering or cruelty, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff. Deputy District Attorney Dan Moffatt prosecuted the case.

Dixie the pit bull was rescued from Westergren's home last summer, as Lake County News first reported last year.

Just 6 months old at the time, Dixie had been hit by a semi truck two days earlier and been left to cry in pain in Westergren's yard for two days while she suffered from a crushed pelvis and broken leg. She also had internal nerve damage and injuries to her bowel and urinary tracts.

Animal Care and Control received a call about the dog on June 27, 2008, and Officer Eric Wood went to Westergren's home, found Dixie and saw that Westergren had not sought medical care for her, as is required by law. The dog was injured so badly she hadn't been able to urinate in two days.

Dixie was taken to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport where she underwent several surgeries to repair her shattered hip and repair the nerve damage.

Eventually, her right back leg had to be amputated because the leg did not heal right and was dragging the ground, causing sores on her foot and creating the possibility of infection.

Dixie has since gone to a new home out of county, where she lives with a loving new owner and several canine friends.

However, Animal Care and Control Deputy Director Bill Davidson said she has had continued health problems because of infections, and her situation is “touch and go.”

Hinchcliff said Westergren was prosecuted for not getting the dog prompt medical attention for two days and allowing her to suffer.

Judge Richard Martin sentenced Westergren to three years probation, 80 hours work service, search condition for residence, and a term and condition is he possess no pets for three years, Hinchcliff said.

In addition, Hinchcliff said Westergren will be ordered to pay restitution for vet bills for the animal and fined $100.

Hinchcliff said he thinks the sentence is a fairly typical one, if there is such a thing in animal cruelty cases.

He said if Westergren had caused the broken hip through abuse, he likely would have been charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor, leading to a more severe sentence.

Westergren is looking at hefty restitution for Dixie's vet bills. Davidson told Lake County News last week that Dixie's care amounted to about $7,000, covering the surgeries and a rare internal bacterial infection she contracted.

Davidson said Westergren's overall sentence differed slightly from that of a woman convicted of neglect in the case of Hero, a German shepherd impounded in the summer of 2006 after he was found to be severely emaciated, with bleeding feet filled with foxtails.

Martin sentenced Donna Mae Heath to 180 days in the county jail for animal neglect and failure to provide medical care. She also was required to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution for the dog's vet bills, couldn't own an animal for three years and received three years formal probation.

The case involving “Luke,” a 10-year-old German shepherd rescued from a home in July 2008, also went to the District Attorney's Office for prosecution, said Davidson, but there has been no resolution in that case yet.

Luke, who was found unable to stand, with no food or water in the hot sun, had hair matted with foxtails and stickers and open wounds filled with maggots. He eventually had to be put down because he couldn't be rehabilitated, as Lake County News has reported.

Another case involving a dog named “Nellie,” found severely emaciated at her Lower Lake home last August, has gone to the District Attorney's Office. Davidson said she was adopted out to a new home but was put down recently due to continuing health problems.

Two other dog abuse cases from last year, those of Teiya, a pit bull whose owner beat her until her leg was broken, and a puppy named Sugar, whose juvenile owner picked her up and threw her, breaking her front elbow, didn't end up being prosecuted, Davidson said.

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

Smokey Robinson had the crowd singing with him at his concert at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa on Friday, July 31, 2009. Photo by Gail Salituri.


KELSEYVILLE – “I am the Negro Hip-Hop Opera Singer,” intoned the unrated comedian who opened for Smokey Robinson at Konocti Harbor Spa & Resort Friday night. He was bad and I don’t mean good.

Good, I thought, the show can only get better from here. There was a 30-minute delay between the new-material-needin’ comic and the star of the show.

As fate would have it, I was sitting next to guitarist Robert Bowle’s wife, Izumi, who filled me in on the departure of the legendary Marv Tauplin who was Smokey Robinson & The Miracles' original guitarist from 1959 until last year. It is the sweet strains of Tauplin’s arpeggios you can still hear on the original recorded versions of “Tracks Of My Tears” and so many others.

As I chatted with Izumi, the band, background singers and dancers assembled on stage. Everyone was dressed in white and the six-piece band somehow seems immediately in tune. The crowd had already forgotten the comedian.

At 8:45 p.m. the stage lights shifted and suddenly the thunderous roto-tommed intro to “Going To A Go Go” filled the air. A very svelte Smokey Robinson kinda cha-cha-cha’d on stage singing. He is, as we used to say when he first became my favorite artist, “tabbed down.” The suit, though stage attire, was a resplendent champagne in color and I coveted it immediately.

Well there a brand new place I’ve found

Where people go for miles around ...”

After an abbreviated version of the opening song the band segues into “Second That Emotion” and the crowd singing along, is changed. We become the Miracles and stayed that way the whole show.

Smokey acknowledged us at the end of the number and noted, “We’ve got some singers out there. You sound good. Let’s sing another one.”

“You Really Got A Hold On Me,” though simply constructed with its single note piano intro and hook-laden lyrics, still resonated powerfully with the adolescent psyche of the baby boomers in attendance. For me, the song brought back memories of how we learned the notes to that song in band class in junior high school when we were supposed to be learning “March To Aida.”

Soft and warm, a quiet storm

Quiet as when flowers talk at break of dawn, break of dawn …”

“Quiet Storm” was a song released by Smokey Robinson after he left the Miracles. Another powerful gem from Smokey’s pen, “Quiet Storm” actually became a radio format, typifying the slow jam R&B nuanced sets of some stations across the country. It was performed beautifully and augmented by a breathtaking flute solo by Kenny Geoffrey who tripled on alto and tenor saxes.

Up next was another slow grinder, the classic “Ohh Baby Baby.” I need to point out that all the material performed by Smokey and his bandmates were fresh new arrangements that recalled the original studio recordings yet added significant, unique interpretations to the material. We ate it up. Even though we had morphed into the Miracles, we gave the folks onstage a standing ovation.

“Well, I guess that’s it,” Smokey cracked. “We should’a played that one first and went home!”

Smokey kept us entertained in between song patter. “Sound check wasn’t the same without you.”

He reminisced about the early days with Motown. Fifty one nighters in a row. Driving to all the gigs. When they did the Motortown Review featuring acts including Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, Little Stevie Wonder, Martha & The Vandellas, The Temptations, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, The Contours and the Miracles, they would do five shows a day. Whew!

He talked about the genesis of the song “The Way You Do The Things You Do.”

On the road with the Miracles, Smokey was driving. The lyrics came to him as a defense against boredom. It became The Temptations' first international hit. Robinson then performed Temptations hits that he wrote including “Get Ready” and “My Girl.”

The Smokey Robinson Band is a talented cast of players. In addition to the aforementioned Robert “Boogie” Bowles on guitar, the band included Larry Ball on bass, Syvan on keyboards, musical director Demetrius on keyboards and Tony Lewis on drums. The backing vocalists were Syreena, Aman and Kerry. The sexy dancers who must’ve gone through half a dozen costume changes were Tracy and Linda. Don’t forget the near-capacity Konocti crowd who filled in for the Miracles.

One more amusing anecdote that Smokey told was how at a Motown party, Stevie Wonder, upon arriving, walks up to Robinson and says something to the effect of, “Smoke, as the flowers kiss the dawn of the cosmos and the infinite Author of Creation finally bestows peace upon all living things, there is a great possibility that all people will be free.” According to Robinson, that’s how Stevie says hello.

Robinson then relates how Wonder gave him the music which evolved into the hit song “Tears Of A Clown” for which Smokey wrote the lyrics.

Somehow, almost unnoticed, the band broke down and became a trio while Smokey bantered with the audience. Smokey disappeared when the trio started to riff and Smokey reappeared in a black tux and swings very credible versions of “Fly Me To The Moon,” “I Love Your Face” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” The ladies in the first row appeared to be getting heated. The backing vocalists took center stage while the band reformed. Kenny tagged it out with a way out tenor solo.

The dancers reappeared and did an interlude until Mr. Robinson rejoined us. Smokey was now dressed in gold leather slacks and a white mesh shirt. We were well into the second hour of the show. Smokey sang hypnotic versions of “The Tracks Of My Tears,” “Just To See Her” and “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage.” He built and released tension with long dramatic pauses.

Smokey’s new album, “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun,” will be released Aug. 25. He sang “Don’t Know Why” his magnificent cover of the song made famous by Norah Jones, which will be on his new release.

For the finale, Robinson & company did an extended version of “Cruisin’” – complete with an audience participation feel good contest. Pitting one side of the amphitheater against the other, Smokey encouraged the singers in all of us to come all the way out. Finally, it was determined that Group I and Group II were equal versions of The Miracles.

It was very emotional and many folks were near tears at the end. Let’s see now. That was the fourth time I’ve seen Smokey in this life. He gets better each time. Oh, I forgot to mention he did a meet and greet with scores of people after the concert. What stamina! What a charmed life!

This just in: “I’m in it strictly for the Music … BLUES Music that is. I’ll be playing somethin’ old … somethin’ new … but whatever I play, it’ll be straight up from The Roots & Soul of our great original American Musical heritage … THE BLUES. We gonna have a natural ball, y’all. Have mercy!” – Barry Big B Brenner

And from Mighty Mike Schermer: I guess the biggest news I have right now is a new live CD which we will be featuring at the Blue Wing … and in mid-September I am relocating to Austin, Texas, and joining Marcia Ball's Band after 25 years on the West Coast.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

The Fargo Brothers, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 3. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St. Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233, .

Barry Brenner, Mighty Mike Schermer and Lara Price, Wednesday, Aug. 5. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, .

Barry Brenner and The Chris Cain Band, Thursday, Aug. 6. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, .

Barry Brenner, Bettie Mae Fikes and The Levi Lloyd Band, Friday, Aug. 7. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, .

Tom Rigney & Flambeau, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Bottle Rock Blues & Rhythm Band, Paul Steward & Twice As Good with Curtis Lawson, Saturday, Aug. 8. Blue Wing Blues Festival, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Doors open at 5 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, .

Eareverence performs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Sunday Brunch, Aug. 8, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Information: 707-275-2233, .

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



Robinson's crew included his backup dancers, Tracy and Linda. Photo by Gail Salituri.

LAKE COUNTY – Smelly, yes. Sewage, no.

That's the word from local officials who are continuing to respond to concerns about the algae plaguing the lake this summer.

Huge mats of the blue-green algae lyngbya have been causing headaches for resort owners and residents over the last few months.

Reasons for the algae's appearance this year have been attributed to a variety of factors, including Clear Lake being at one of the lowest levels in a few decades, allowing sunlight to get through and support algae growth.

Some spots appear to be clearing, such as one area along the lakeshore in north Lakeport where residents previously reported thick mats.

Another town hall to discuss the local response to the problem is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Clearlake City Hall, 14050 Olympic Drive.

Lake County News has continued receiving reports from concerned residents and visitors who, in some areas around the lake, insist that they're seeing sewage, not algae.

A few such reports came in earlier this week in the Clearlake Keys.

However, Darin McCosker, general manager of the Clearlake Oaks County Water District, said they've continued responding to such reports but haven't found any sewage.

“We've been chasing down reports and Environmental Health has been chasing down reports,” he said.

McCosker said his staff also has been yelled at by angry individuals insisting that the district is allowing sewage to go out into the lake.

“We've gone out of our way to investigate everything,” McCosker said. “Every time something is alleged we go out and check manholes.”

He said repeated tests have shown that the problem isn't fecal matter, but algae.

Ray Ruminski, director of the county's Environmental Health agency, said they've done repeated tests around the lake for bacteria, finding that bacteria levels are higher in algae but don't rise to the level that would be present in a sewage spill.

There's been so much testing, Ruminski added, “We kinda busted our budget for lab samples already.”

His staff hasn't done specific testing in the Clearlake Keys areas in a few weeks, but they did respond to a complaint there on July 31.

Environmental Health staff encountered no human sewage but found “a big scummy algae mass,” Ruminski said.

There is a possibility, said Ruminski, that leach fields of properties around the lake are feeding nutrients into the lake that is encouraging algae growth. But he said local officials are convinced there isn't a sewage spill floating around the lake.

However, he added, “It smells like sewage. There's a very real connection in peoples' minds.”

He said the last time the algae was this bad was around 1991.

Most of the complaints were coming from the Clearlake Highlands area in June and early July, said Ruminski.

During the last week of July, the most complaints were coming from Clearlake Oaks, he said.

Ruminski suggested wind patterns are responsible for moving the algae mats around, but that the winds aren't strong enough to break up the mats.

Some residents are offering their own fixes.

Anthony Sperling, who live near Baylis Point, said he saw a huge mat – which he estimated to be 300 feet by 50 feet – coming toward his property on Tuesday evening.

He said if that mat had settled on the shoreline the stench and the algae itself would have pretty much put a halt to his family's enjoyment of their property and the lake for the rest of the summer.

So Sperling tried a low-tech solution – he drove his pontoon boat through it repeatedly. After about 50 to 60 passes through it, the mat was pretty well dispersed.

A similar solution was suggested at a previous algae town hall meeting held last month in Clearlake.

Sperling said it's not a “silver bullet” solution, but he said it's one way to chip away at the problem.

In the mean time, Ruminski said a health advisory about the algae issued June 12 is still in effect.

“Caution is advised but not panic, and that's different,” Ruminski said.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Law enforcement officials are investigating three rapes that are alleged to have taken place late last week.

Two of the rapes were reported on Saturday, said Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said the two rapes – one in Middletown, one in Kelseyville – were reported within an hour of each other by women from Hidden Valley Lake, and both incidents were alleged to have occurred on Friday.

In the first case, a 25-year-old woman went to Twin Pine Casino where she met with her family and friends and had some drinks.

The woman woke up the next day at home to find she was missing her underwear. Bauman said it's believed that a male subject who is an acquaintance of the woman, and who was seen at the casino that night, had sex with her while she was under the influence of alcohol.

In the second case, Bauman said deputies responded to Sutter Lakeside Hospital on Saturday night.

There they found an 18-year-old woman who reported she had been raped the previous night in Kelseyville. Bauman had few other details, as the report still is being written in that case.

A third rape was reported to have taken place Saturday night in Lakeport, according to Lt. Brad Rasmussen of Lakeport Police.

Rasmussen said an 18-year-old Lakeport woman attended a concert at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Martin Street Saturday night.

At the event she met a security guard who let her in for free, Rasmussen said.

The two exchange phone numbers, and Rasmussen said later that night the guard sent her a text message and got her outside of the concert.

There the male subject asked the woman for sex. When the woman refused, the male physically assaulted her, Rasmussen said. The rape was reported early Sunday morning.

Rasmussen said police have received forensic evidence in the case and are still investigating.

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

A star chart of the annual Perseids meteor shower. Courtesy of NASA.



LAKE COUNTY – The arrival of August means it's once again time for the Perseid meteor shower.

Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower, and although the shower won't peak until Aug. 11 and 12, the show is already getting under way, according to NASA.

Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office says that although meteors are visible in the nighttime skies now.

“We're just in the outskirts of the debris stream now. If you go out at night and stare at the sky, you'll probably only see a few Perseids per hour,” he said, but this will change, however, as August unfolds, according to NASA.

The moon is currently waxing and will be full on Wednesday, Aug. 5, rising at 8:11 p.m. in Lake County, the Old Farmers' Almanac reports.

The full moon in August is called the Sturgeon Moon according to the Old Farmers' Almanac, because some Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon; others called it the Green Corn Moon or the Grain Moon.

"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on August 12th," Cooke states in a recent NASA release, and dozens of meteors per hour can be viewed.

For sky watchers in Lake County, NASA recommends to begin watching after nightfall on Aug. 11 through sunrise on Aug. 12 for maximum viewing.

Veteran observers suggest unfolding a blanket on a flat patch of ground (NASA notes the middle of your street is not a good choice), and lie down and look up.

Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower's radiant in the constellation Perseus, NASA said.

There is one light you cannot escape on Aug. 12, according to NASA – that's the 55-percent gibbous moon which will brightly shine from the constellation Aries beside the meteor shower's radiant in Perseus. So avoid looking at the moon, as bright moonlight will ruin night vision and prevent you from viewing faint Perseids in that part of the sky.

With the dark nighttime skies in Lake County, there are many locations ideal for viewing this annual nighttime show – but even your backyard or out on a dock is better than most city-dwellers will find in a 50-mile radius of their home.

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

LAKE COUNTY – The National Weather Service has issued a red flag fire warning for Thursday based on the potential for lightning over interior Northern California, including Lake County.

The agency reported that a red flag warning will be in effect from 1 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.

In Lake County, the warning specifically relates to elevations from 1,000 to 3,000 feet.

Within a few hours of the warning, about three lightning strikes were reported in the county between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The concerns arise from an unseasonably strong low pressure system off the coast that are expected to move through Northern California on Thursday, the National Weather Service reported. The threat of thunderstorms is expected to increase as a result.

With the potential for rain comes concerns about lightning strikes, combined with dry fuels and gusty winds, the agency reported.

The National Weather Service reported that thunderstorms and gusty wind will diminish Thursday evening as the low pressure system moves east of the area.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The California Highway Patrol on Monday released details about the fatal Saturday crash that claimed the life of a Hidden Valley Lake couple.

Eugene Klebe, 80, and his wife, Pauline, 73, of Hidden Valley Lake died at the scene of the collision, which occurred on Highway 29 at Spruce Grove Road Extension, across from the Hidden Valley Lake main gate, according to CHP Officer Steve Tanguay.

At 10:20 a.m. Saturday the Klebes were sitting in their 2008 Lincoln MKZ sedan at the stop sign on Spruce Grove Road Extension across from the main gate, said Tanguay.

Tanguay said Eugene Klebe then pulled out into the path of a 2001 Dodge Durango driven by Jon Johnson, 52, of Hidden Valley Lake, who was heading southbound on Highway 29.

Johnson was unable to avoid the collision, Tanguay said, and his Durango collided with the Lincoln's left side.

Tanguay said the Klebes' Lincoln came to rest blocking the northbound lane of traffic and the Dodge came to rest blocking the southbound lane of traffic.

The Klebes both sustained fatal injuries, said Tanguay.

Johnson was transported to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake where he was treated and released for minor injuries. His son, Jason Johnson, reported over the weekend that his father was doing all right.

Tanguay said traffic was diverted around the crash and onto Spruce Grove Road Extension. Reports from the scene indicated that the roadway wasn't fully reopened for two hours.

This collision is still under investigation by Officer Steve Curtis, Tanguay said.

He added that alcohol and drugs are not considered to be factors in this collision.

The Klebes' death was greeted with sadness by community members and neighbors, who left messages on Lake County News over the weekend as well as sending in e-mails.

Michelle Forney, who had been the Klebes' neighbor on Spyglass in Hidden Valley Lake at one time, called the news “devastating.”

She said the couple had gotten together in recent years after his previous wife died in 2003.

Eugene Klebe was a smiling, joking, charismatic man, who walked around the neighborhood and talked to people, and liked to frequent all the yard sales on Saturdays with his wife – not to buy anything but just to visit, Forney said. He'd also enjoyed taking trips in his RV.

Forney said she had just seen Eugene Klebe the Saturday before the fatal crash.

“They were both adorable. It's so sad,” she said.

Forney added that she also knows the Johnsons, who she also described as wonderful people.

“My heart just was broken,” she said.

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

MIDDLETOWN – New details from eyewitnesses are filling in the picture of what led to a double fatality in a Saturday morning crash near Hidden Valley Lake.

The crash, which involved two vehicles, occurred shortly before 10:30 a.m. on Highway 29 at Spruce Grove Road Extension, as Lake County News has reported. The roadway wasn't fully reopened until nearly two hours later.

Jon Johnson, 52, was driving toward Middletown on Highway 29 shortly before 10:30 a.m. Saturday in a 2001 Dodge Durango, according to his son, Jason Johnson.

Witnesses said Jon Johnson was driving at the 55 mile per hour speed limit when, a short ways from Spruce Grove Road Extension, a Lincoln sedan pulled out into his path. Johnson swerved but wasn't able to miss the sedan, which it hit squarely on the driver's side.

An off-duty firefighter reported the first fatality, according to reports at the scene, within minutes of the collision.

That victim, the sedan's driver, was identified as Eugene Klebe, 80, of Hidden Valley Lake to Johnson's family, according to Jason Johnson. Other community members also have identified Klebe as one of the fatalities.

Klebe died at the scene, according to witnesses. Rescue personnel spent a long time at the scene attempting to resuscitate an elderly female passenger in Klebe's car, who died a short time later.

Jason Johnson said his father had to climb out the back of his Durango because the doors were locked. Jon Johnson went to the hospital as a precaution where he was x-rayed, and is otherwise OK, his son said.

Specifics about the crash investigation haven't been released to the public by the CHP.

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

LAKEPORT – A jury on Tuesday heard testimony from an engineer and a lead investigator who discussed speed and the conditions of two boats following a fatal April 2006 boat crash.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins called the two witnesses as he continued to build his case against Bismarck Dinius, 41, of Carmichael.

Dinius is charged with felony boating under the influence with great bodily injury. The prosecution alleges that Dinius, while steering a sailboat owned by Willows Mark Weber, was under way without navigation lights and also was alleged to have had a blood alcohol of 0.12 on the night of April 29, 2006.

The sailboat was hit by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock, who was not charged in the case. Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, 51, died in the crash.

The day's testimony began close to 9:15 a.m.. Shortly before that, Judge J. Michael Byrne scolded both Hopkins and defense attorney Victor Haltom about not being ready to go at 9 a.m. He said he had suggested both be in court by 8:45 a.m. in order to be ready to go.

However, Haltom said Hopkins had just handed him new discovery, specifically, a CD of photos that Haltom said he needed to be able to see them before testimony began. Hopkins also appeared to be running behind at the start of the day as he prepared to begin calling witnesses.

At the start of court Tuesday, Hopkins changed witness order. Although on Friday Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office had been on the stand land and was expected to continue testimony, Hopkins wanted to bring on another expert due to scheduling issues, which the court approved.

Hopkins' first witness of the day was Richard Snyder, a retired engineer with Mercury Marine, the company that built the engine on Perdock's 24-foot Baja Outlaw powerboat.

Snyder, who worked with Mercury Marine from February of 1959 until his 2001 retirement, has remained a consultant with the company. While actively working for Mercury Marine, he was an expert in propellers, gear cases and products testing, and was director of product safety. He also was on a small team that designed the company's first stern drive in 1961.

In his career Snyder has amassed 11 patents, testified in 41 trials and given 107 depositions, he told the court Tuesday.

On Monday, Snyder went to the sheriff's Boat Patrol facility at Braito's Marina on Buckingham to look at the sailboat and powerboat involved in the crash. He was accompanied by several people including Hopkins, Slabaugh, Boat Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Dennis Ostini and District Attorney's Investigator Craig Woodworth as he looked over the boats.

Snyder said he's been working on boating safety for many years. He worked closely with Mercury Marine's legal department in responding to civil lawsuits. He's also worked with national boating organizations on safety and regulations.

“I am always trying to find ways to reduce accidents and reduce injuries,” he said.

He also was involved with conducting a series of impact tests in 1999 to look at the resulting damage in crashes at 20, 25 and 30 miles per hour. Most of the crashes involved one boat going over another.

At 20 miles per hour, a boat would hit and drag its gear case over the other boat. At 25 miles per hour, the gear case might clear and not leave any marks. “Thirty was just way more of the same,” Snyder said, noting the “bullet” boat – the one hitting – would pass completely over the target boat.

They didn't look at collisions at speeds above 30 miles per hour, Snyder said. “They start all looking the same after that.”

Snyder said that the Baja's stern drive is powered by an inboard engine originally made by Chevrolet.

During the tests they found that the stern drive's gimbal ring shattered and the gear case fell off if there was a 45 mile per hour or more differential between the speed of the two boats involved, Snyder said.

If there had been more than a 45 mile per hour differential when Perdock's power boat hit the sailboat, Snyder estimated the stern drive should have broken off.

By hitting near the starboard stern of the sailboat and going diagonally over, the Baja had a longer way to travel, Snyder explained.

At the time of impact the Baja appeared to be on a slight left turn, Snyder said. During impact, the Baja's propeller left a number of marks on the sailboat's mast.

Hopkins asked if the stern drive broke during the collision. Snyder said there didn't appear to be breakage.

At Hopkins' request, Snyder then calculated the powerboat's speed at 3,000 revolutions per minute, arriving at roughly 35 miles per hour, Snyder said.

Snyder said you can't estimate boat speed based on the propeller marks on the mast without knows the engine's RPMs. He could only look at the circumstances and make an educated guess unless the boat had an engine black box, one of Snyder's patents, that would keep a running memory of the RPMs.

Doing another set of calculations, Snyder estimated that the Baja could have been going 25 miles per hour when its propeller marked up the sailboat's mast, which already had been knocked over by the impact with the powerboat.

Snyder estimated that the impact could have slowed the Baja 10 to 15 miles per hour, putting it in the 40 to 50 mile per hour range at impact.

Could the boat have been going 35? Hopkins asked. Snyder said he believed that was unlikely given that the powerboat sailed over and didn't rip off the sailboat's stanchions – which are upright posts which hold lifelines.

Hopkins had Snyder explain a series of pictures put on an overhead projector, including several of the Baja and the sailboat, both with damage. The Baja had a black smear from the sailboat's stern light's plastic housing extending down its bow side. The sailboat had significant damage along its starboard rear.

Snyder said the Baja wasn't going perfectly straight, and that something caused the boat to rotate slightly, possibly Perdock pulling the wheel down, instinctively or not, as the powerboat started to go over the sailboat.

Another picture showed ropes wound tightly around the Baja's prop. “This would have been dead in the water at this point,” said Snyder.

If the Baja was traveling between 20 and 25 miles per hour, what would Snyder have expected to see? Hopkins asked.

Snyder said the sailboat's stanchions would have been taken off. “It would have been significantly different from the way it turned out.”

Was the impact enough to cause serious injury to a person sitting at the right rear corner of the boat? Hopkins asked. “Without question,” Snyder said.

During cross-examination, Haltom asked Snyder when he was first contacted by the District Attorney's Office. About a month ago, Snyder said.

Haltom asked if Snyder knew what part of the sailboat was embedded in the Baja's bow. Snyder said he didn't know. Snyder also couldn't say for sure which boat would have sat higher in the water.

Using a projector, Haltom showed a picture of the sailboat's broken mast with seven propeller marks on it. Snyder said the distance between the marks could be affected by whether or not the mast had been rigidly fixed. “There's some dynamic things happening here.”

Haltom noted there was some material between the strike marks. Could it have been the gel coat from the bottom of the Baja? Snyder didn't know.

Snyder emphasized, however, that the mast would have had to have been lying parallel to the path of the Baja for the propeller to make the marks. He didn't appear to think the marks could have been made afterward, by an officer towing the boat.

Haltom asked about the Baja turning. Snyder said it didn't necessarily have to have happened at impact. Would the boat's side have risen up if someone turned, say, in response to a fisherman flashing a light at the operator? Haltom asked. Snyder said it could have risen up.

The longer the boat vaults over another boat, the faster it was going, right? Haltom asked. Yes, said Snyder. Haltom asked if Snyder had heard that the Baja had landed on the other side of the sailboat and bounced. Snyder said that's not uncommon and wouldn't affect his speed analysis.

Haltom asked if the Baja was going between 40 and 50 miles per hour at impact? Snyder replied yes.

At Haltom's request, Snyder then did calculations of RPMs at 50 miles per hour, estimating 4,300 RPMs.

Haltom questioned Snyder about visibility standards he had mentioned earlier relating to the American Boat and Yacht Council. Snyder said that group's H1 visibility standard, which requires a minimum of four boat lengths of visibility in front of the boat's bow to pass a standards of visibility.

“Day or night?” asked Haltom.

“It has to be seeable,” said Snyder, explaining that, during daylight, nothing – the bow or anything else – should block the driver's view.

Snyder said at a 45-mile-per-hour differential between the speed of the two boats, he would expect the gimbal ring to fail. If the sailboat was going 5 miles per hour, that would put the powerboat's speed at a maximum of 50 miles per hour.

He explained that a side impact on the stern drive can cause more damage than a direct hit, although that has not been tested.

However, adding in side load Snyder said, “If it has any effect at all I think it would lower the speed.”

Snyder said if the Baja had been going 55 miles per hour he would have expected gimbal failure.

“That's why my top-end estimate was 50, because it didn't break,” he said.

After court reconvened for the afternoon, Hopkins asked about what it would take for the powerboat to make a sharp left turn and still hit the sailboat. Snyder said it would have had to have come across the back of the sailboat, and making such a turn would have dipped the side of the boat, making a stern light more visible.

Would traveling at 40 to 50 miles per hour create any bow visibility problems with seeing the stern light, asked Hopkins. Snyder said there would be no issues. The Baja has some of the best visibility possible.

Haltom asked Snyder about the impacts of shore lights on nighttime boating.

“That issue is a major issue with nighttime boating and it's been talked about for years and years by the people I work with,” said Snyder, adding it's conceivable that you can confuse a white boat light and a white shore light.

Haltom asked if that confusion would be enhanced if a person who is supposed to wear prescription glasses wasn't wearing them. Hopkins objected; Byrne suggested Haltom ask it different. He asked if not wearing glasses would create visibility problems. Snyder said he couldn't answer that, because he also has glasses nighttime driving but doesn't notice a very large difference.

Snyder said he frequently drives a powerboat at night, sometimes as fast as 60 miles per hour, on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, where he lives. Driving that fast, he noted, doesn't bother him. He said he couldn't put a universal maximum speed on nighttime boating.

Under Hopkins' questioning Snyder said shore lights wouldn't be a problem for navigating if the lights were a mile or a half-mile away and another boat was 100 yards away. In those cases, there shouldn't be a problem differentiating between a boat and the shore.

Slabaugh returns to the stand; discusses investigation

Following Snyder, Hopkins recalled Lt. Charles Slabaugh to the stand. Slabaugh was brought in from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office to assist in the original investigation.

He explained beginning his investigation and assessing the damage to the boat. The sailboat had its railings ripped off, a damaged hatch, a knocked down back bulkhead, debris in the cabin and on the deck, propeller marks and other destruction. When the powerboat went over the sailboat it struck the sailboat's Honda outboard engine, which left marks on the powerboat.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh was at the boat barn on Monday with Snyder. He said yes. Haltom asked if they had any disagreements. They didn't, said Slabaugh.

When Haltom tried asking Slabaugh a series of questions about his time out on Clear Lake on the night of May 2, 2006, and his estimate of the location of the crash, he ran into repeated and successful objections from Hopkins.

Slabaugh went out that day on the lake with Ostini twice – once during the daytime and again at about 9 p.m., close to the time the crash took place days before.

“It got dark relatively quickly,” he said, recounting there was a crescent moon as they came around Fraser Point.

“There was quite a bit of lighting on the shoreline from Fraser Point as it circles around to some of the resorts on the other side,” he said.

Slabaugh, who helped cover BoardStock, said he'd seen many boat travel at high speeds at night on the lake. At a great distance it could take a moment or two to distinguish navigation lights from shore lights.

On the night he was out with Ostini, they saw a bow light about 300 yards away from their boat; the other boat was about 150 yards offshore, he estimated.

Under Hopkins' questioning, Slabaugh confirmed that when he worked on the case he consulted with Wes Dodd, his friend and instructor in boating investigations. Dodd now is working with Dinius' defense team.

Slabaugh asked Dodd to look at his original report and sent it to him, asking for his feedback. They talked afterward on the phone.

Hopkins asked Slabaugh if Dodd read his report. Haltom objected, saying there had been an in limine motion to exclude that information; Hopkins said the two things weren't related. The judge had them approach the bench to discuss it and afterward allowed Hopkins to ask the question.

The prosecutor then handed to Slabaugh a two-page fax from Dodd, sent to Slabaugh on May 11, 2006. Hopkins asked Slabaugh if, based on that fax – the contents of which weren't stated in court – Slabaugh changed his report. No, Slabaugh replied.

In further cross-examination of Slabaugh, Haltom asked him if he had examined the sailboat's cabin lights. He hadn't but at the time of the preliminary hearing last summer he had one of the local investigators look at them. When Haltom asked why that step was taken two years after the crash, Hopkins objected, saying it was irrelevant and Byrne sustained.

Was Slabaugh aware that people had seen the cabin lights? Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained. Haltom approached the bench to offer proof of the value of the questioning.

He was allowed to continue his questioning, and asked if the cabin lights were on at the time of the crash could they been seen from a distance? Hopkins objected, saying it was hypothetical. When Haltom tried to ask the question in another way, Hopkins again objected, saying there were too many hypothetical aspects to his question. At that point, Byrne overruled.

Haltom asked if cabin lights provide illumination; yes, inside a vessel, said Slabaugh. On a dark light is that illumination detectable? He asked. Hopkins objected, saying it was again hypothetical.

Had Slabaugh ever seen a cabin light illuminate a sail? No, he replied. When Haltom asked Slabaugh how much sailboat experience he had, he said very little.

Haltom asked Slabaugh the scope of his investigation. He said he did the reconstruction of the crash scene and investigation. At first he thought he would do the interviews, but as the investigation went on and took more time, and since Slabaugh had his own unit to oversee in Sacramento, he asked the Lake County Sheriff's Office to continue to do the interviews because it turned out “there were a few more than they had originally taken.”

Slabaugh did conduct a few interviews, including a face-to-face interview with Perdock and phone interviews for Hans Peter Elmer and Karen Elmer.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh was brought in due to concerns about the appearance of impropriety due to the sheriff's office investigating one of its own. Slabaugh said yes.

He was asked if he stated, “It was their investigation,” referring to the sheriff's office. Slabaugh said yes. Reading to him from a deposition in the civil case, Haltom quoted Slabaugh as saying he had to trust the local officers.

Slabaugh attempted to pinpoint a location for the crash, but when Haltom questioned him about it Hopkins objected repeatedly, saying it was based on hearsay. Byrne sustained, questioning Slabaugh's expertise in answering the question.

Haltom asked if Slabaugh had training in crash reconstructions. Yes, he said. “Were you trying to determine the location of the accident in this case?” Yes, Slabaugh said.

Slabaugh also acknowledged receiving information about the speed of Perdock's boat, with estimates ranging between 40 and 45 and 50 and 55 miles per hour. He used 40 miles per hour as his baseline.

Perdock told Slabaugh that the crash happened about a minute after he rounded Fraser Point. What was the distance of the crash from Fraser Point? Haltom asked. Hopkins objected, saying it was a speculative question.

Slabaugh spoke to Sheriff Rod Mitchell during the investigation. He said Mitchell thanked him for taking the time to do the work.

When Haltom asked about the light on May 2, 2006, compared to the night of the crash, Hopkins objected. Byrne instructed Haltom to ask the question as a hypothetical, so Haltom asked if there would be more moonlight with a bigger moon. Hopkins objected once again, pointing to there being a different phase of the moon when Slabaugh was out.

Hopkins also objected when Haltom attempted to get Slabaugh to state a safe speed for traveling on the lake the night we was out with Ostini. Slabaugh said that it was very difficult to see.

The day ended with Haltom asking Slabaugh a series of questions about navigation rules, including the rule for responsibility of a vessel.

“Who is the master of the boat?” he asked.

Slabaugh responded that, in maritime law, the master can be an absent owner or person who is on board directing the crew but who doesn't have actual help control. Haltom asked if the owner is usually the master. Yes, Slabaugh replied.

They also briefly discussed lookout and safe speed rules, and assessing risk of collision before court adjourned at about 4:10 p.m.

Once the jury was dismissed, Byrne and the attorneys discussed the objections to Haltom's questions, which Byrne said was an issue of “bringing things in that are beyond the scope.”

Explaining his issues, Hopkins said, “Since when are you entitled to take a witness from the prosecution and make it your own witness during the people's case when it's not within the scope of what that witness has testified to?”

During the discussion, Haltom also wanted to be able to ask the jury if they were willing to take a trip out on the lake at night to get a sense of conditions and to take part in the “jury view.” Hopkins said he didn't want to even pose the question until they determined there was adequate foundation in the case to justify taking the trip.

Testimony continues on Wednesday.

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

LAKE COUNTY – If Monday’s high temperatures in the mid-80s felt a little cooler, get ready for even lower temperatures – and the possibility of rain, thunderstorms and lightening-induced wildfires – as the week progresses in Lake County and much of Northern California, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS) has issued a fire weather watch beginning Wednesday afternoon through Thursday evening as a very strong and unusual (for this time of year) low pressure system moves inland.

As the system moves closer to the coastline on Wednesday, chances for thunderstorms along the coastal range of mountains will increase, bringing with it the possibility of lightening-induced wildfires.

On Tuesday, high temperatures are forecast to reach the low- to mid-80s, with temperatures overnight in the low 50s according to the NWS.

As Wednesday progresses and the low pressure system moves inland and past the Coastal mountain range, clouds will increase in Lake County along with the chance for thunderstorms and dry lightening strikes – but chances of precipitation are more likely in higher elevations according to the NWS.

A 20- to 30-percent chance of thunderstorm activity begins Wednesday evening and lasts throughout Thursday in Lake County, according to the NWS, with lesser chances for rain in Lower Lake and Middletown, as lower and middle elevations will have an increased possibility of dry lightening strikes and less chance of precipitation.

High daytime temperatures are forecast to top off around 80 degrees Wednesday through Friday, the NWS states, well below the average August temperatures for Lake County, which should be in the mid- to upper-90s.

A fire weather watch means that critical fire weather conditions are possible per the NWS, which recommends listening for later forecasts that could adjust the timing of the weather event and for possible red flag warnings.

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

Mike Rogers, Calpine's senior vice president, accepted the award from Director Bridgett Luther, Department of Conservation, on Thursday, July 30, 2009. Courtesy photo.

MIDDLETOWN – For the eighth year in a row, Calpine’s geothermal operations at The Geysers is the winner of the California Department of Conservation (DOC) award for its ongoing commitment to safety and the environment and its excellence in lease maintenance.

“Renewable energy is vital to California’s future, and it is encouraging that Calpine, the nation’s largest geothermal producer, consistently maintains its facility at The Geysers in an environmentally sound manner. The Department of Conservation is pleased to recognize companies that manage their facilities in a responsible way and congratulates Calpine on its eighth consecutive lease award,” said DOC Director Bridgett Luther.

Mike Rogers, Calpine’s Senior vice president, geothermal region, accepted the award on behalf of Calpine from Ms. Luther.

“We are very pleased that for the eighth year in a row The Geysers has been recognized for exemplary performance in maintaining leases that are environmentally clean and safe,” Rogers said. “We take seriously our responsibilities to put forth our best efforts to protect the environment and act as good neighbors in the community. This award is a testament to the team spirit and effort by our employees at The Geysers.”

District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock appeared to offer a congratulatory speech and Calpine received a Joint Certificate of Special Recognition from Assemblymember Noreen Evans and Senator Patricia Wiggins.

Calpine currently owns and operates 15 geothermal plants at The Geysers, providing approximately 725 megawatts of generating capacity to northern California’s power grid.

Calpine is the largest producer of electricity from geothermal resources in the United States. Its operation at The Geysers accounts for about 20 percent of the renewable power produced in California.

To learn more about The Geysers and about geothermal energy, The Geysers Visitor Center is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, at 15500 Central Park Road, Middletown. Call 1-866-GEYSERS for more information. Visit them on the Web at .

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