Sunday, 14 July 2024



LAKE COUNTY – Local veterans groups will hold commemorations this weekend in honor of service men and women who have served the United States during peace time or in war.

Memorial ceremonies will begin with a 9 a.m. event on Saturday at Kelseyville Cemetery. Also on Saturday, the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team will participate in the Lakeport Memorial Day Parade, according to firing party commander Rich Feiro.

On Monday, Feiro reported that ceremonies will take place at all the county's cemeteries. At 7:45 a.m. the flag will be raised at Lakeport's Hartley Cemetery; and a 9 a.m. ceremony will take place at Lower Lake Cemetery followed by another ceremony at Veterans Bridge, also in Lower Lake.

An annual Memorial Day Wreath Ceremony with prayers and taps will be held at 9 a.m. at the Middletown Cemetery at 16357 Butts Canyon Road. David Neft will supply the music. Call 987-0511 for more information.

The Upper Lake Cemetery's services will start at 11 a.m. Monday, and the Hartley ceremony will take place at 1:30 p.m., according to Feiro. The day's final service, a retreat ceremony, will begin at 4:15 p.m. at Veterans Circle at Hartley Cemetery.

As part of the county's commemoration of its veterans, the Avenue of Flags will be flown at Hartley, Lower Lake and Upper Lake cemeteries on Memorial Day, according to Frank Parker of the United Veterans Council.

The Avenue of Flags Association officially formed in May 1976, according to information furnished by Parker. Its first flying took place on May 30, 1976, at Hartley Cemetery.

Parker said among the three participating cemeteries a total of 800 flags – which once decorated the caskets of veterans – will be flown. The avenue is flown twice a year – Memorial Day and Veterans Day – with veterans' families loaning the flags to the Avenue of Flags Association for the display.

The flags will go up at 7 a.m. and be taken down at 4 p.m., said Parker. Community members and groups are invited to take part.

“We'd like to have the public come out and give us a hand putting the flags up,” he said. “It's a lot of fun.”

An honor guard will stand by during the day to keep watch on the three avenues, Parker explained.

For more information or to volunteer contact the following Avenue of Flags organizers: Frank Parker, Upper Lake Cemetery, 274-9512; Dean Gotham, Hartley Cemetery, 350-1159; Joel Moore, Lower Lake Cemetery, 994-5342.

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




LAKEPORT – It likely will be next month before a Carmichael man will know if he's to stand trial in connection with a 2006 crash on the lake.

Just as the testimony of a key witness was getting under way in the preliminary hearing of 39-year-old Bismarck Dinius on Thursday afternoon, the judge called a halt to proceedings due to other scheduled business, which will result in a delay until June.

Judge Richard Martin and attorneys in the case had discussed earlier in the day the possibility that the hearing might need to be continued if it ran longer than scheduled.

Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, was called to the stand late in the day and gave testimony that appeared to contradict another sheriff's official before the hearing recessed.

Perdock's speedboat hit a sailboat Dinius was piloting on the night of April 29, 2006, which fatally injured 51-year-old Lynn Thornton of Willows, who died days later.

Dinius has been in court since Tuesday for the preliminary hearing to determine if he will stand trial for vehicle manslaughter involving a vessel and boating under the influence of alcohol relating to the crash.

Day three of testimony began with Lt. Charles Slabaugh of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office returning to the stand, where he had spent several hours on Wednesday.

During testimony Slabaugh indicated that Perdock had initially been considered a suspect in the case but soon after beginning his preliminary investigation Slabaugh determined that, despite not having interviewed Perdock, it was Dinius who was the responsible party, based on the information available to him.

Slabaugh testified that on June 13, 2006, he conducted his first and only face-to-face interview with Perdock, despite the fact that he had submitted a report of his conclusions on May 10 of the same year.

Under direct examination by Deputy District Attorney John Langan, Slabaugh indicated that after Wednesday's session he returned to his hotel and telephoned Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Lloyd Wells. Slabaugh said he asked Wells to examine the sailboat involved in the crash – the Beats Workin' II, owned by Mark Weber of Willows – which is still in the sheriff's possession.

Wells was asked to report on the number, location and mechanical condition of any and all interior cabin lights of Weber’s sailboat, Slabaugh explained.

Slabaugh testified that Wells reported a total of six cabin lights and described their locations. Slabaugh further indicated that Wells reported that all six light fixtures had individual on/off switches. Slabaugh said Wells did not test the current status of each light fixture's functionality.

This information was used Thursday in an effort to respond to questions regarding the position and functionality of switches located on the sailboat's control panel at the time of the collision, a topic discussed during Wednesday's testimony.

Defense attorney Victor Haltom asked Slabaugh why he had waited two years to examine the cabin light system, and why he hadn't done so during his initial investigation.

Slabaugh replied that he had initially determined that the status of the cabin lights had no bearing on the cause or possible prevention of the accident.

Following Slabaugh to the stand Thursday morning was sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, who testified that he was one of the first group of sheriff's deputies to arrive at the shoreline scene.

He and Sgt. Mike Morshed were on scene and controlling the gathering crowd, Beland explained. Both were aware that Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who supervises the sheriff's Boat Patrol division, was en route and would take charge of the situation upon his arrival.

Beland indicated that no unusual activity took place during his time on scene. He further testified that he had not spoken with Perdock beyond asking him, “Are you all right?”

At some point during the night of the crash Beland was directed to transport Perdock to Redbud Hospital for a blood draw to check for the presence of drugs or alcohol in his system.

Under questioning Beland indicated that no one from the the sheriff's office superior to himself had ordered him not to administer a field sobriety test to Perdock.

Despite Beland's suggestion to Ostini that Dinius may be intoxicated, he also was not administered a field sobriety test with a preliminary alcohol screening device.

Beland testified that he drove Perdock to Redbud Hospital. He was present during the blood draw and witnessed the phlebotomist place the vial in a certified Department of Justice envelope, which later was inserted into an evidence box and turned over to Beland.

During questioning by Haltom, Beland testified that he could not recall exactly where in his patrol car he placed the package containing the blood sample. He indicated that at no time was Perdock left alone in the vehicle unattended.

Beland testified that he and Perdock drove around for awhile and arrived at the sheriff's Lower Lake substation “about an hour” after leaving the hospital.

He was unable to recall or describe exactly where they drove nor why it took so long to travel such a short distance.

According to Beland there were no other persons in the patrol car and he had not generated a log indicating the time of arrival at Redbud nor a log of distance traveled before reaching the Lower Lake substation.

Beland testified that he had not discussed the incident with Perdock during the drive. He did indicate that he had driven Perdock somewhere for an extended period of time after depositing the blood sample at the Lower Lake substation but was unable to recall where or when he and Perdock parted company.

Following Beland's testimony the prosecution rested its case.

The witnesses Haltom called included Bill Chilcott, who examined the filaments on the boat's lights. He viewed both vessels three times, as well as the Department of Justice's reports, although he did not review the sheriff's reports, saying he did not want to be influenced.

He stated he microscopically examined three light structures from the sailboat given to him by the sheriff's office, with a District Attorney's Office representative present during the examination. The point was to determine if the lights were on at the time of failure. The question was, did the lights go out after the collision or had they been off previous to it?

By looking at the changes in the filament structure, he determined the bow was illuminated and the stern light was on. He did not testify about whether or not the mast lights were on.

Another defense witness, marine accident investigation consultant Wes Dodd, agreed with Chilcott's analysis of the lights. Dodd said he completely discounted photos of the boat's light breakers, which showed the switches on the “off” position, based on the condition of the light filaments.

Both Chilcott and Dodd pointed to the speed and velocity of Perdock's boat as being the cause of the crash. Dodd said he was amazed that Dinius was charged and Perdock was not, because he concluded that Perdock had violated numerous boating rules, including safe speed, not having a lookout and operating a vessel in a negligent manner.

Haltom called Perdock to the stand at the end of the day Thursday.

Statements Perdock made during his brief initial appearance on the stand contradicted Beland's testimony.

One of the contradictions involved statements Beland made about driving Perdock around for about an hour after leaving the hospital at 1:30 a.m. April 30, 2006.

Perdock acknowledged that Beland transported him to the hospital but did not mention being driven around for the hour or so Beland had testified to earlier in the day.

Haltom asked Perdock if he had discussed the case with Beland that night, and Perdock said he had not. Haltom then produced statements Perdock made in a previous disposition in which he had said he and Beland had discussed the incident.

Perdock's testimony had been under way for approximately six minutes before Judge Martin halted the hearing due to the courtroom being needed for other scheduled court business.

The case is due to return to court at 9 a.m. June 10.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – Clearlake Oaks' new Nylander Park will be celebrated at a special grand opening event later this month.

Public Services Director Kim K. Clymire announced Tuesday that the public is invited to the grand opening for the new park on Saturday, May 31, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Music will be provided by the Konocti Fiddle Club from 9:30 a.m. and until 10:30 a.m. and the dedication program will be from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Refreshments will be served.

Clymire expressed his sincere appreciation to everyone involved in this exciting, community grass roots project, who made it possible.

Improvements for this park – which is Lake County’s newest, measuring one acre in size – that have been completed to date include: playground equipment, sidewalks, 40,000 square feet of lawn area, benches, tables, barbecues, trash cans, bike rack, approximately 40 trees measuring 15 to 20 feet tall that include fruitless flowering pears and plums, valley and red oaks, gingkos, magnolias, chinese pistache, maples, crape myrtles, and raywood ash, plus annual and perennial plants and shrubs.

In addition, the county purchased a building adjacent to the park and plans to turn it into a restroom and Visitor Information Center and that work will start soon. A bid for the perimeter sidewalk, curb, gutter and parking lot will be released soon.


LAKE COUNTY – California's fire season already has begun, and firefighters from the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit are on their way to help fight a blaze raging in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Summit Fire began early Thursday morning and already has burned 3,000 acres, according to Cal Fire officials. Its cause is under investigation.

Cal Fire reported Thursday that a strike team consisting of 16 personnel and five engines, three strike teams of crews totaling 37 people, and a strike team of two bulldozers and three personnel were dispatched from the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit to the fire, which is located in both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

A retinue of red Cal Fire trucks and personnel could be seen driving along Highway 20 toward Williams at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Santa Cruz County spokesperson Dinah Phillips reported that as of Thursday night the Summit Fire had resulted in 336 mandatory and 1,400 voluntary evacuations, closed numerous roads, and resulted in downed trees and widespread power outages.

The fire, which Phillips said is moving toward the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, caused area schools to be closed Friday due to air quality concerns.

About a dozen people and 200 horses were being sheltered at area fairgrounds, Phillips added.

Santa Cruz County issued a proclamation of existence of a local emergency, with the proclamation sent to the governor and to the state Office of Emergency Services Thursday morning, according to Phillips.

Cal Fire reports that the fire is 15-percent contained. Phillips added that two smaller fires nearby were contained earlier.

Firefighting resources working to contain the scene include more than 500 firefighters, four fire crews, 65 engines, seven air tankers, three helicopters, 15 bulldozers and nine water tenders, according to Cal Fire. Approximately 500 homes and 20 businesses are currently threatened.

According to Cal Fire, its resources are coordinated on a statewide basis and can be moved at a moment’s notice to locations across the state.

In an initial response to an emergency, the agency reported that it uses the closest resources and backfills by moving personnel and equipment from unaffected areas of the state (move up and cover).

Cal Fire reported that, in anticipation of an early start to the fire season, the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit made the decision to bring resources to match fuel and weather conditions. This includes seasonal employees such as firefighters to staff engines and staff the Sonoma Air Attack Base.

Since opening on May 14, Cal Fire reported that its aircraft have responded to local fires (Geysers and the “Tar” off St. Helena Road) as well as fire activity in neighboring counties.

The Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit currently has nine engines, four bulldozers and three fire crews available locally, and has placed orders for additional equipment, Cal Fire reported. The Sonoma Air Attack Base is currently reloading air tankers in support of the Summit Fire and others.

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


The preliminary hearing in the case of Bismarck Dinius continued Wednesday and will resume Thursday at the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – The second day of a preliminary hearing to determine if a Carmichael man will face trial for vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence relating to a fatal 2006 boating collision continued in Lake County Superior Court Wednesday.

The testimony revealed some surprises, including one investigator's admission that he had based his conclusions largely on statements made by a sheriff's official involved in the crash and not on actual interviews with other witnesses.

Bismarck Dinius, 39, is facing the possibility of trial in connection with the April 29, 2006 boating collision involving a boat he was steering and a speedboat driven by Lake County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Russell Perdock. Lynn Thornton, 51, of Willows died as a result of the collision.

The hearing's second day began with defense attorney Victor Haltom's cross-examination of Sgt. Dennis Ostini, who supervises the sheriff's office Boat Patrol division and was on duty the night of the crash. Ostini spent several hours on the stand on Tuesday.

During the morning court session Ostini testified to details regarding the transport of both of the vessels involved in the April 2006 collision.

Ostini indicated that civilians who had responded to the crash scene brought both boats to shore. Perdock's powerboat, after being brought to the docks at Bayshore Marina, was transported via the owner’s trailer to the sheriff's boat barn located near Buckingham. Ostini indicated that Perdock's boat was under his observation from the time it was trailered and secured at the sheriff’s boat facility.

Under cross-examination Ostini answered questions that explained why he did not arrest either Perdock or Dinius at the shoreline scene despite a suggestion from Sgt. James Beland, who felt that Dinius was under the influence of alcohol. Ostini testified that he felt it better to rely on blood tests taken at the hospital and have the District Attorney's Office act on those results.

Other testimony during the day revealed that at the dockside the sailboat's owner, Mark Weber of Willows, pointed at Perdock and yelled that he was the one who should be arrested.

Prosecutor John Langan's main witness for the day was Lt. Charles Slabaugh, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Marine Services Unit investigator, who was brought in to work on the investigation.

Purported to be an authority on marine collision investigations and brought in at the request of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Slabaugh testified that he had more than 27 years experience in law enforcement but had only investigated five boating collision cases and had reviewed a total of 20 to 25 other boating-related incidents.

Slabaugh offered testimony to the condition of both vessels. He had observed and described in detail the damage to each, which was detailed in his preliminary findings and in a followup report previously submitted into evidence.

He spent several hours on the stand before Haltom began questioning his recollection of specific details of reports allegedly provided to him by other local sheriff's officials as well as from at least two outside investigators.

When Haltom pressed him on details of his investigation, Slabaugh indicated that his understanding of the situation was that he was called on to investigate and provide a studied recreation of the collision, and submit a report and recommendation to the District Attorney's Office.

He also indicated that he was told by an unidentified individual within the Lake County Sheriff's Office that the agency would handle the personal interviews of those involved and the he should concentrate on the physical aspects of the investigation.

Haltom challenged Slabaugh on his expertise as a boating and waterway investigator before questioning him regarding the speed of Perdock's power boat and the status of the navigation lights on the sailboat just prior to the collision.

He also queried Slabaugh on specific details from Ostini’s preliminary report that included Perdock's initial declaration of the readouts of his dashboard gauges just moments before the crash.

Perdock told Ostini that his gauges were pointing straight up. Based on that statement, Slabaugh had estimated Perdock was traveling at about 40 miles per hour. However, pictures of the gauges supplied by the defense showed that if the gauges were pointing straight up the boat would have been traveling at about 60 miles per hour.

Slabaugh stated that the conclusions made in his reports to the District Attorney's Office and in earlier testimony were based on an interview with Russ Perdock. His conclusions didn't take into account any direct information from anyone on shore or in boats in the near vicinity of the collision, nor those aboard the sailboat. Slabbaugh also indicated that he made no effort to interview several of these potential witnesses.

He did, however, testify to receiving a copy of the reports made by Ostini and other sources but indicated that he did not consider all the information included within those reports while making his final conclusions.

A key point of contention in the case, and a reason cited for charging Dinius, is that the boat's lights reportedly were not on. During cross-examination Slabaugh indicated that a cabin light toggle switch was in the “on” position. When Haltom asked him if he brought this to the attention of the sheriff's office or investigated it further, Slabaugh said no. When asked why he didn't pursue the matter, Slabaugh said he couldn't recall.

Slabaugh returns to the stand for further examination by the defense at 9 a.m. Thursday, with Haltom planning on calling other defense witnesses as well.

Lawyers from both sides hope to conclude the preliminary examination Thursday afternoon. If they don't, the case may not return to court until as early as June 10.

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


LAKEPORT – On Monday a Lucerne man who was found insane when he attempted to kill his grandmother nearly three years ago received an eight-year sentence.

Jason Kaluna Fugit, 36, will go to the Napa State Hospital where he will receive treatment for his mental illness, said his defense attorney, Stephen Carter of the law offices of Carter and Carter.

Fugit, who worked as an equipment operator, was charged in 2005 with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery for the attack on his 78-year-old grandmother at her Lucerne home, said Carter.

According to Carter, Fugit tried to kill his grandmother because he thought she was involved in treasonous acts along with the government, which he believed was persecuting him.

Fugit was diagnosed as psychotic by three different doctors, said Carter, with the mental illness stemming directly from severe sexual abuse that took place several years before the incident. He'd had some “not very serious” previous run-ins with the law.

The charges could have brought life in prison. However, Carter said Fugit entered a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to elder abuse. A court trial was held on the manner of his sanity, and the court found that Fugit was insane at the time of the crime.

The case took time to work its way through the courts, said Carter. Because Fugit was found both insane and incompetent to stand trial, he was sent to a Southern California mental health facility where he spent 224 days in treatment before returning to the Lake County Jail.

While in Southern California, Fugit's treatment included adjusting his medications, said Carter, which resulted in a major improvement in his behavior. Fugit's mother told Carter that she felt like she had her son back, thanks to the treatment.

Carter himself said he saw a major change in Fugit, who went from “desperate mental illness” to a quiet demeanor.

Once back from treatment, Fugit went through a restoration of competency hearing and proceedings continued, said Carter.

Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who prosecuted the case, argued for the upper term of 11 years, disagreeing with a proposal for a lesser term put forward by Lake County Probation, said District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

“We agreed that he was insane,” Hopkins said.

Arguing before Judge Arthur Mann on Monday, Carter made the case that the law recognizes that the early plea and the mental illness were mitigating factors that should reduce the sentence. He also argued for some of the sentence to run concurrently.

Mann sentenced Fugit to eight years. Because of his mental health issues, Fugit is being sent to Napa State Hospital, where his family can visit him. Because there is usually a waiting list for the Napa hospital, Carter said Fugit will remain at the Lake County Jail until there is an opening.

According to the California Department of Mental Health, Napa State Hospital is a low- to moderate-security facility located on 138 acres, with bed capacity that allows for treatment of as many as 1,362 adults. All of the individuals treated there arrive through civil or court commitments, with the most frequent diagnoses including schizophrenic, mood, anxiety and personality disorders.

Carter said Fugit's mother, father and grandmother were in court on Monday, and appeared pleased with the outcome. Fugit's grandmother, said Carter, understood her grandson was ill, loved him dearly and and wanted him to get healthy.

“There was a nice closure today,” he said.

According to the law, Fugit is being sent to Napa for treatment and rehabilitation, and sanity hearings could resume during that time, said Hopkins.

Fugit can only be held at the hospital for the maximum amount of time he would have served on the sentence, said Hopkins, unless when the time for release comes he's found to still be a danger.

If that were to be the case, Hopkins said the prosecution can file a petition to have Fugit kept at the hospital as long as he's considered dangerous.

That means that we approved a plea bargain that can keep him in the state hospital for the rest of his life,” he said. “Based on the brutality he demonstrated in the attack on his grandmother, that is a real possibility.”

Carter said that some people never get out of the mental hospital once committed. However, he added, “That's the exception rather than the rule.”

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


LAKE COUNTY – Memorial Day weekend will see events around Lake County, as community members come out to celebrate in honor veterans.

Parades are planned in Lakeport on Saturday and Lower Lake on Sunday.

Lakeport’s Annual Memorial Day Parade will commence at 11 a.m. sharp on Main Street on Saturday, May 24.

The very warm and familiar voice of Paul Reading will be heard as parade announcer, according to Chamber President Kenny Parlet. Judges this year are Ted Mandrones, Piedmont Lumber Marketing Director; Chuck Holder, owner of Holder Ford Mercury; and Leslie Firth, owner of The Kitchen Gallery in Lakeport and president of the Lakeport Main Street Association.

Entering Main at Martin Street and traveling north to Clear Lake Avenue, the parade is anticipated to have more than 60 entries reflecting the theme “Celebrate America’s Heroes.” The 2008 winners of the Stars of Lake County Community Awards have been invited to be the grand marshals for the parade.

The parade is sanctioned by the California State Horsemen’s Association, which presents an opportunity for equestrians to earn points for the CSHA annual award. Kim Cipro of Hidden Valley Lake is the sanctioned CSHA judge for the parade.

The event is sponsored by Westamerica Bank, Holder Ford Mercury and the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce and Piedmont Lumber and Nursery, who once again is providing the Judges Stage in front of the Lake County Museum as they have done for over 15 years.

The chamber requests members of the public honor the “No Parking” signs, which will be posted on Main Street from First Street to Fourth Street, calling for no parking during the hours of 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. This area will allow unobstructed views of the parade for spectators.

The annual 4-H Pancake Breakfast at Natural High School on Main Street will be hosted again this year from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday by the Lakeport Kiwanis who also sponsor a two-day craft faire at the same location. Also at Natural High, the Early Lake Lions will have their hamburger barbecue.

On Sunday May 25th, the Lake County Corvette Club will have a Corvette Only Show on Park and 2nd Streets between 1st and 3rd Streets, next to Library Park.

Lower Lake holds its Lower Lake Daze Parade on beginning at noon on Sunday, May 25. Activities will take place in town all afternoon, ending at 4 p.m.

The Lower Lake Community Action Committee's plans include a petting zoo, food and craft vendors, face painting, kids games, pony rides, a barbecue, music during the afternoon and a raffle. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit community projects.

Following the parade, all activities are in the park behind the new firehouse. Call Lonne Sloan at 995-2515 for more information on the Lower Lake activities, or the Lakeport Chamber at 263-5092 for more on Saturday's events.


Students head toward a sheriff's SWAT van and a Lakeport Fire ladder truck. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKEPORT – One hundred and fifty six fifth graders at Terrace Heights School spent part of Wednesday afternoon visiting with law enforcement and fire officials as part of a program that emphasizes staying free of drugs. {sidebar id=73}

The event, organized by the Lakeport Police Department in conjunction with Lakeport Unified School District, marked the students' graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program – known as DARE.

Taught by Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman, school resource officer for Lakeport Unified School District who is completing his first year in the job, the 10-week course emphasizes creating a healthy life through healthy choices, including resisting peer pressure when it comes to drug use and violence.

Reaching middle school students with the anti-drug message is critical, said Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke. The DARE program, he added, has a great track record of helping young people stay out of trouble.

“It's OK to be just a good kid,” he told the children.

“We hope you guys realize you are a special group of kids by finishing this program,” Burke added.


He invited the children to visit the police department, and told them they could do any public safety job – fire, police, sheriff, highway patrol – that they wanted.

That's one of the program's added values, he told Lake County News: Introducing children to law enforcement, and helping them form constructive relationships with authorities.

Leishman handed out awards, including the honor of best class to Mrs. Martinez's fifth graders.

As part of the course, students write an essay. Destinee Jones won for her report on methamphetamine. (See accompanying story.)

Each student received a t-shirt, water bottle and some ice cream, which they enjoyed while sitting in the sunshine on a grassy area behind the school.

But the real treat was the chance to see local public safety officers up close and personal.

Lakeport Fire Protection District brought a ladder truck, Lakeport Sheriff's Office deputies brought a SWAT van, California Highway Patrol Officer Erica Coddington visited with the children and several Lakeport Police officers talked about their duties while police volunteers handed out goodies.

But stealing the afternoon's show was Max, Lakeport Police's K-9, an 8-year-old Malinois from the Netherlands who works with Officer Jim Bell.

Bell shared with the students about his day-to-day life working with Max, to whom he speaks in Dutch.

The eager K-9 cost the department $8,000, plus another $10,000 to train Bell to work with him. “He's a very expensive tool for the police department,” Bell said.

Max made quick work of sniffing out a plastic gun replica hidden under a rock under Bell's direction.

But more exciting for the students was when Bell set Max on fellow Officer Dale Stoebe, who was decked out in a large, padded suit. Despite the padding, officers who help with bite training still usually come away with some bruises, said Burke.

Leishman said the DARE program has been taught at Lakeport Unified for a total of six years.

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



Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke talks to students Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Part of the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun, enjoying ice cream. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Max practices his attack on Lakeport Police Officer Dale Stoebe. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





A contractor works on repairing a water main break along Country Club Drive in Lucerne on Monday. Photo by Lenny Matthews.


LUCERNE – Lucerne's water system suffered two line breaks on Monday.

A main break occurred along Country Club Drive, with another leak reported on Alta Vista Way, said Gay Guidotti, California Water Service Co.'s customer service representative for Lucerne.

The breaks were reported Monday, said Guidotti.

A contractor was being sent to both locations to repair the breaks, Guidotti said.

She estimated that repairs would be completed Monday. About 6:30 p.m. men were still making repairs along Country Club.

About 12 homes lost water services as a result of the problem on Country Club, according to Guidotti.

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


CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake resident has been sentenced to prison for failure to register as a sex offender.

On Wednesday, James Doyle Henson, 52, received a sentence of eight years in state prison from Judge Steven Hedstrom for failing to register as a sex offender, according to a report from Deputy District Attorney John DeChaine, who prosecuted the case.

In 1987, Henson was convicted in Sacramento County of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14, requiring him to register, DeChaine reported. Prior to his sentencing date, Henson was held in custody on bail set in the amount of $100,000.

State authorities were not aware that Henson was residing in Lake County until April 2007, when he was discovered living in Clearlake, according to DeChaine. State law requires that certain convicted sex offenders, including Henson, register within five working days of changing residences.

DeChaine said that, despite Henson’s initial denials, the investigation – led by Detective Martin Snyder of the Clearlake Police Department – revealed that Henson was residing in Lake County since approximately December 2006 without having properly notified authorities. The investigation further revealed that Henson was not registered anywhere in California.

Henson’s failure to register is, according to DeChaine, arguably the most serious type of registration violation because his failure to comply with the law prohibited law enforcement from monitoring his whereabouts, a key safety component of the law.

On March 21 Henson pleaded no contest to failing to register as a sex offender, and he admitted that he had suffered a prior strike conviction and two prior prison terms, DeChaine reported. One prior prison term resulted from Henson’s 1997 felony conviction in Yolo County for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The second prior prison term arose from the 1987 felony conviction in Sacramento County that is the basis for his registration requirement.

Judge Hedstrom sentenced Henson to the maximum term of three years in prison for failing to register. However, because Henson admitted the prior strike conviction, his prison sentence of three years doubled to six years, DeChaine explained. Furthermore, because he admitted to suffering two prior prison terms, his six-year sentence was enhanced to a total of eight years.

The admission of the prior strike conviction also mandates that Henson will not be eligible for parole until he serves at least 80 percent of his eight-year prison commitment, DeChaine said. Had Henson not been required to admit a prior strike conviction, he would have been eligible for parole after serving only 50 percent of his time.


Bismarck Dinius takes a break outside of the courtroom on the first day of his preliminary hearing in Lake County Superior Court on Tuesday, May 20. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – A Carmichael man will likely know this week if he'll face trial in connection with the death of a woman that resulted from a 2006 boating collision.

The preliminary hearing for Bismarck Dinius, 39, got under way Tuesday in Lake County Superior Court Judge Richard Martin's courtroom.

The proceedings will determine if there is enough evidence to try Dinius on charges of vehicular manslaughter involving a vessel and misdemeanor boating under the influence of alcohol.

On the night of April 29, 2006, Dinius was steering a sailboat belonging to Mark Weber of Willows, when a speed boat driven by Russell Perdock, a chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, collided with the sailboat.

Weber's fiancee, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured and died May 2, 2006, at UC Davis Medical Center.

Dinius was charged because authorities alleged that the sailboat's lights weren't on, and both Dinius and Weber allegedly had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.

Perdock was not charged, although investigative reports indicated he had violated the “safe speed” rule, which requires that a boat operator at all times maintain a speed that allows them to stop the vessel “within half the distance of forward visibility.”

On Tuesday, Prosecutor John Langan called four people to the stand in the first day of testimony, including Perdock, Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Hoffman, Deputy John Gregore and Boat Patrol Sgt. Dennis Ostini.

Along with the testimony, Langan entered more than a dozen items into evidence, including photographs of Perdock's boat and Weber's sailboat, Beats Workin' II; a large aerial photograph of the region; and several documents and reports from law enforcement and investigating agencies.

Ostini, who oversees the sheriff's Boat Patrol program, was the officer in charge the night the boat crash occurred, according to testimony given in court Tuesday.

He spent more than three hours on the witness stand, answering Langan's questions and being cross-examined by Dinius' defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento.

Testimony in the case resumes Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., when Haltom is expected to continue his cross examination of Ostini.

The case has given rise to accusations against local authorities that they were attempting to protect Perdock.

A review of the case completed last December by the California Attorney General's Office found the Lake County Sheriff's Office had handled the matter properly, especially in bringing in outside agencies to help with the investigation. However, at the time, Haltom dismissed the review, saying it addressed none of the case's important issues.

Last summer, Haltom also attempted to have the District Attorney's Office removed from the case, but the state Attorney General's Office assisted in arguing against the motion, which a judge denied, as Lake County News reported.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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


CLEARLAKE – Officials plan to conduct a checkpoint to look for people driving under the influence this Friday, as the Memorial Day weekend gets under way.

Chief Deputy James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that the Lake County “Avoid the Three” DUI Task Force will conduct a the DUI and driver's license checkpoint during the evening hours of Friday, May 23, in the city of Clearlake.

The “Avoid” Task Force is a multi-agency effort led by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to remove DUI drivers from the roads and highways, said Bauman. Participating agencies include Lakeport and Clearlake Police Departments.

In order to optimize the efforts of the Task Force to reduce incidents of driving under the influence, the specific location and hours of operation of the checkpoint will not be disclosed prior to the checkpoint, Bauman said.

Motorists entering the checkpoint can expect to see traffic control patterns, warning signs, and officers on the roadway contacting drivers and screening for signs of intoxication or impairment, and checking driver’s licenses as traffic permits, he noted.

Drivers will be detained for the minimum amount of time possible at the checkpoint, said Bauman.

In addition to the DUI checkpoint on Friday evening, Bauman reported that special enforcement units also will be on DUI Saturation Patrol in and around the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake during the coming Memorial Day weekend looking for intoxicated or impaired drivers.

Funding for this program is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


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