Saturday, 20 July 2024


LAKEPORT – Passengers in a powerboat that hit a sailboat in April of 2006 and a sheriff's deputy who stated that breathalyzers being used for drunk driving arrests weren't properly calibrated were among the seven witnesses who testified in day three of Bismarck Dinius' trial on Thursday.

Dinius, 41, of Carmichael is on trial for felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury.

He was at the tiller of a sailboat belonging to Willows resident Mark Weber on April 29, 2006, when it was hit by off-duty sheriff's deputy, Russell Perdock. A sailboat passenger, Lynn Thornton, 51, died three days after the crash of her injuries.

The prosecution alleges that Dinius had a 0.12 blood alcohol level at the time of the crash and that he was piloting the boat, the Beats Workin' II, without its navigation lights on.

The defense is arguing that Dinius was not in charge of piloting the boat and that Perdock – who witnesses on Thursday estimated was traveling between 35 and 40 miles per hour on that dark April night – was responsible and should have been charged.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins called witnesses on Thursday including teenagers Jennifer Patterson and Gina Seago, who were at the Holdener home on Soda Bay Road next to the lake the day of the crash.

Patterson said she was sitting cross-legged on a trampoline looking out at the lake, while Seago said she was sitting down on the dock talking with another friend at the time of the crash.

Seago said the night was “pitch black,” with no moon.

Both said they saw no other lighted boats that evening but Perdock's, the navigation lights of which they watched traveling south across Konocti Bay shortly after 9 p.m. They could also hear the boat.

“It was really loud, like, unusually loud, and it was going pretty fast,” said Seago. She also stated during her testimony that the boat “looked like it was going faster than it should probably.”

Seago said she saw the sailboat's sails light up when the speedboat's navigations lights hit it, about two seconds before the collision.

Then the crash occurred.

“At impact it was pretty loud,” said Patterson. It was silent for a second, then she said she heard people laughing, “and then it turned into screaming very quickly.”

Patterson said she could see sparks when the power boat struck the sailboat's mast as it flew over it following the initial collision.

Seago also saw sparks and heard two really loud snaps during the crash. She said it looked liked the powerboat was suspended in the air as it went up the sailboat's mast before coming down on the other side.

Members of the Holdener family got in a wakeboard boat and went out to offer help to the two boats in the crash.

Walkers give perspective from powerboat

James Walker and his daughter, Jordin, 18, also were on the stand Thursday.

The Walkers were riding with Perdock in his powerboat when it hit the Beats Workin' II.

James Walker, a high school friend of Perdock's, was visiting from out of county and staying in another friend's cabin at Lily Cove outside of the city of Clearlake and across the lake from Konocti Bay.

That night between 8:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Perdock came by and asked them if they wanted to go for a ride.

The Walkers, who had been getting ready to turn in for the night – Jordin Walker was in her pajamas – agreed and got in the boat for what they estimated was between a five- and 10-minute ride to Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. There, Perdock drove by the dock to show Walker another friend's boat before heading for Richmond Park Bar & Grill in Konocti Bay to get gas.

“It was one of those beautiful Clear Lake nights,” James Walker said, noting the temperature was about 80 degrees.

He said Perdock had just put his boat into the water for the summer and wanted to make sure it was in proper working order, so both men were paying attention to its instrumentation panel.

As they were coming around Fraser Point – which, along with Wheeler Point farther to the south, denotes the boundaries of Konocti Bay – Walker said he noted that Perdock's speedometer was moving between 35 and 40 miles per hour. “It was staying right in that range.”

In their turns on the stand, Jordin and James Walker both said they saw no other boats with lights on the water that night, and it wasn't until immediately before the collision – when Perdock's navigation lights fell on the sailboat – that they saw it.

Jordin Walker said she saw “just a pole and a white sail” about two seconds before impact. Her father said he saw a “white blur.”

Jordin Walker, who was sitting in the passenger seat on the lefthand side, was thrown forward in the boat and suffered an injured back and leg. James Walker, who was standing between his daughter and Perdock, said he was afraid the speedboat was going to flip over. Perdock suffered cuts to his head, he added.

During testimony, Jordin Walker dabbed her eyes with a tissue as she recounted the crash, and described hearing people screaming in the sailboat.

After the crash, “I was in shock,” she said, adding that she doesn't remember the powerboat going over the sailboat or some of the other details involved with the incident.

James Walker didn't know if the powerboat was taking on water, and feared his daughter might drown, so he pulled her out of where she was pinned between a seat and the front of the boat.

“It took a long time to get her out of there because I thought she had a broken back,” he said.

Afterward, he held her as they were towed to shore by fishermen Anthony Esposti and Colin Johnson.

At the shore paramedics placed Jordin Walker on a stretcher and transported her, her father and Dinius by ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

Deputy recounts scene; says breathalyzers not calibrated

Sheriff's Deputy Mike Morshed, who was the sergeant in charge of detectives in April of 2006, took the stand Thursday afternoon.

He was one of the first sheriff's personnel to respond to 9130 Soda Bay Road, where the boats were being towed. There, he and Sgt. Mark Hoffman tried to help control and organize the situation.

“The scene was chaos,” Morshed said.

He saw the powerboat being towed in, with Perdock standing on the bow with blood coming from his forehead. Before that, Morshed said he didn't know Perdock was involved.

When Perdock was on shore, Morshed spoke with him, and said he smelled no alcohol and saw no signs indicating Perdock was intoxicated.

A short time later Sgt. Dennis Ostini of the sheriff's Boat Patrol arrived and took over charge of the scene, Morshed said.

Morshed said he witnessed then-Sgt. James Beland offer to conduct a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test on Perdock.

“I remember Sgt. Ostini, Sgt. Beland and myself having a three-way discussing about using the PAS,” said Morshed.

He said they concluded that they didn't detect any odor of alcohol on Perdock, who had agreed to go to the hospital for a blood draw. Morshed added that the PAS had not been calibrated for a long period of time so there was no point in using it.

“It's kind of a useless tool to us,” he said.

He later assisted Deputy Lloyd Wells tow the sailboat to the sheriff's Boat Patrol barn at Braito's Marina on Buckingham Point.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Victor Haltom asked Morshed what he thought was a safe speed on the lake at night. Hopkins objected, saying Morshed's opinion was irrelevant. Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained the objection.

At one point on the shoreline, Morshed said there was yelling back and forth between the sailboat and powerboat occupants. He said the people from the sailboat were yelling at Perdock, who yelled back that they didn't have their lights on.

“We were trying to keep the two sides separate,” he said.

Morshed said Sheriff Rod Mitchell arrived later that night, and he saw Mitchell speaking with Ostini and Perdock.

Haltom asked Morshed more questions about the PAS tests.

Morshed explained that, at the time of the crash, the program for the PAS units was “not being calibrated like it should have been calibrated,” which meant the readings probably weren't accurate.

Were the tests still being used to arrest people for driving under the influence, Haltom asked? Morshed said they were.

“Even though they were inaccurate?” Haltom asked.

“Yes,” Morshed replied.

In April of 2006, Det. Jerry Pfann, who testified about handling the blood evidence on Wednesday, was one of Morshed's subordinates.

Under Haltom's cross-examination, Morshed explained that he had evidence lockers added at some point to the Lower Lake Substation and the sheriff's main office so deputies could secure evidence without having to drive it immediately to the main evidence facility in Lakeport. He said he couldn't remember if that had been done by the time of the crash.

The individuals with access to the main evidence facility, Morshed said, were Pfann, Perdock and Ilona Parker, Pfann's assistance. Morshed said he didn't have a key.

During his testimony on Wednesday, Beland said Ostini said no to the PAS test, and that he understood Ostini's direction not to administer the test as an order, which would have resulted in him being written up if he had pressed it.

But when Haltom questioned Morshed about the PAS test on Thursday, Morshed stated, “In my opinion there was no order given either way.”

That conflicts with a statement Morshed gave to District Attorney Investigator John Flynn this past April 29, in which he said he ordered Beland not to give the test. In that statement Morshed said the PAS units hadn't been calibrated in more than a year.

During his testimony Thursday, Morshed said he didn't get on either boat before helping tow the sailboat to the boat barn. “The sailboat was just destroyed. You almost couldn't tell what it was.”

During an afternoon break, the judge spoke with Hopkins and Haltom out of the jury's hearing, at which time Hopkins said that he heard from one of his staff that Dinius had arrived at court that morning accompanied by women holding signs about the case, which jurors had to walk by to get to the courtroom.

“I'm getting concerned that we're going to have jurors who are influenced,” he said.

Hopkins said he also had heard an outburst from people in the audience who were wearing t-shirts with Thornton's picture when Morshed was testifying.

“I think we need to maintain decorum in the courtroom,” he said, arguing that such behavior can backfire and affect the jury.

Haltom said Dinius wasn't involved with signs or t-shirts, and he referred to a US Supreme Court case that allowed people to wear buttons to court.

Carol Stambuk, Thornton's friend, stood up and showed off the black t-shirt she wore, which had pictures of Thornton and her brothers.

“Those are a little more than buttons,” said Hopkins.

Byrne said it's part of peoples' right to expression. But he warned that if it appears orchestrated, it can backfire.

“This case has plenty of serious issues in it,” Byrne said.

Hopkins also was concerned that the jury and spectators might be mingling at times in the courthouse building.

“This is a good argument for the state budget to pay for a new courthouse in Lake County, that's for sure,” said Byrne.

Morshed reports on speed

After that exchange Morshed returned to the stand, where Haltom continued cross-examination.

Morshed said he discussed the crash with Perdock.

“Did he tell you how fast he was going?” asked Haltom.

“He told me he was going 40 miles per hour,” Morshed said.

Morshed asked Perdock how he knew his speed. He said Perdock responded that he knew his boat well, and that the tachometer was straight up and down, which means 40 miles per hour.

Recalling other statements Perdock made, Morshed said, “He kept saying the lights on the sailboat were off.”

Under continued questions from Hopkins, Morshed explained that PAS tests are used as part of field sobriety tests when making a determination in a driving under the influence case.

Hopkins asked if the PAS is used to confirm that alcohol is present. Morshed said it can be, although a deputy doing a DUI investigation already is assuming there is alcohol due to odor.

“When the PAS devices were not calibrated, was it your understanding that the result they showed would not be introduced in court?” Hopkins asked.

Morshed said if they were introduced in court, they would have to disclose, when questioned, that the device was off due to it not being calibrated.

Hopkins asked if the sheriff's office maintained a policy to take suspected DUI drivers to get blood, urine or breath tests at a location other than the scene. Morshed said yes.

In a final round of cross examination, Haltom asked if all PAS tests in the county weren't calibrated. Morshed said it was just those used by the sheriff's office.

Dispatcher reports on emergency calls

Kimberly Erickson, a communications operator with the county's Central Dispatch, was on duty on the night of the crash along with Deputy Martina Santor.

Erickson remembered receiving the first call about the boat crash, which was from Perdock, who used his cell phone to dial into the Central Dispatch number. Cell phones dialing 911 usually are routed through California Highway Patrol Dispatch in Ukiah before being transferred to the appropriate agency.

Erickson said she thought she called out REACH air ambulance along with different fire departments, and tried to find an agency with a boat that was available. Santor notified Ostini.

She said they received many calls about the crash – between 20 and 30 – as she attempted to dispatch emergency response, a situation which was “extremely chaotic.”

The airwaves were so flooded that Santor issued a Code 33, telling other law enforcement officers not to use the radio and to keep the airwaves clear for dispatch.

Erickson said Perdock called in several times with information about the situation and the location.

Haltom asked Erickson if she treated others trying to report the crash differently because she had already spoken to Perdock.

“If they weren't able to provide anything new we let them know we were aware of the situation,” she said, adding that she was interested in getting information from anyone who could give it.

The first incident report which Erickson generated showed a time of 9:10 p.m. Medics from Kelseyville Fire were on scene by 9:25 p.m. The initial reports noted that there were three people in the water, information which Erickson said she believed Perdock gave her.

Boat Patrol deputy testifies about scene

Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells got a call around 9:30 p.m., about 20 minutes after the crash. When he arrived at the scene, Ostini told him to tow the sailboat back to the boat barn at Braito's.

He said Morshed gave him a ride back to get the sheriff's boat, and the two of them then came back for the Beats Workin' II.

Wells estimated it took him 45 minutes to tow the badly damaged sailboat, which he placed in a boat slip in front of the boat barn.

The next day he went to Doug Jones' business to retrieve the sailboat's trailer so he could tow it out of the water and place it in the boat barn.

He said he and Jones discussed the trailer being in disrepair, with broken lights. Wells said the ball on the trailer hitch he had wasn't the right size, so he had to borrow one before being able to tow it.

Jones, who testified on Tuesday, had stated that he saw lights on the sailboat, and that he had attempted to tell Wells, who he said replied that he couldn't have seen lights.

But on Thursday Wells denied that such an exchange took place, adding that he knew very little about the case at that point.

Wells said he didn't participate in the investigation on the night of the crash, that his time was taken up in towing the boat.

“Were you aware of any issue to do with lights on the sailboat?” Hopkins asked.

“No,” said Wells, adding that he didn't know there were allegations that he sailboat's lights weren't on. “I was in and out of there pretty quick” before he left to tow the boat.

On May 3, 2006, Wells photographed the sailboat's bow, stern and mast lights before removing and packaging them. They were then placed in an evidence locker in downtown Lakeport. The bow and mast lights appear fine, and the stern light, which was bent over, remained intact as well.

He also determined that the boat had cabin lights, one of which he found lying on the cabin floor.

Wells recounted on the stand that while he and Morshed were towing the sailboat back to the boat barn they discussed what was going on with the situation on shore but didn't get into the case's specifics.

A high ranking sheriff's deputy was involved in a crash and it wasn't a topic of discussion? Haltom asked. Wells said it might have been for Morshed, but it wasn't for him.

He said he was too busy dealing with the sailboat. He'd never towed one before and didn't know to tie the rudder down straight. “I was chasin' that thing the whole way over there,” he said, explaining that the sailboat's rudder caused it move around behind the 22-foot aluminum sheriff's boat.

Once the sailboat was at Braito's, it was left unsecured for as long as seven hours, with Wells estimating that he left around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. before returning at 9 a.m. By that time, Ostini already was there.

Testimony continues on Friday.

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*.

* = 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. .


MIDDLETOWN – A local man won more than $1.5 million at Twin Pine Casino this week.

On Tuesday the man, who requested anonymity, hit a MegaJackpot of $1,501,686.39 by playing a “Marilyn Monroe” dollar slot machine.

The machine, which is known as a “Wide-Area Progressive,” is electronically connected to other similar machines throughout the country, and these types of machines can pay off very large jackpots through a group play network rather than through standard individual play.

Twin Pine has several wide-area progressive machines on its new gaming floor to accommodate customers who are hoping to hit the supersized jackpots.

Twin Pine Casino is owned by the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California.

Referring to the major jackpot, Carl Rivera, the Rancheria’s tribal council chairman, said, “The tribe has been pointing to this moment for a long time. We knew it would happen, but you just never know when. With the recent grand opening of Twin Pine as California’s newest casino, it couldn’t come at a more exciting time for all of us.”

The $1.5 million jackpot is the largest single payout in Twin Pine’s 15-year history. It also represents the largest payout of its type in Lake County history, and exceeds the jackpots of all other casinos in the Bay Area.

“It’s a real thrill to see one of our many loyal guests combine with one of our most popular gaming machines to produce such a life-changing event,” said Richard Howard, General Manager of Twin Pine Casino.

Twin Pine Casino has operated a Las Vegas-style gaming facility of the latest slot machines and table games since 1994.

This year the Middletown Rancheria recently opened its 107,000-square-foot new casino/ hotel/ restaurant complex at its current Middletown location.

Visit .

HIGHLAND SPRINGS – The Lake County Sheriff's Office has identified a man who disappeared while swimming this past Saturday at Highland Springs, and who authorities say died of heart disease not drowning.

Oakland resident Chinh Pham, 63, was the victim in the Saturday evening incident, according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.

Howe said sheriff's deputies responded to Highland Springs Park in Kelseyville on a report of a drowning at approximately 6 p.m. Saturday, July 25.

When they arrived they were told that Pham had been swimming and then went under water and didn't resurface.

Lakeport Fire and the Northshore Dive Team also responded to the scene where, at approximately 6:13 p.m., dive team leader Capt. John Rodriguez found Pham.

Howe said Pham was found 45 feet off shore and approximately 15 feet under the water, tangled in weeds. Pham was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pham's wife told deputies they were in Lake County on vacation, and were with a group of friends and went to the park for recreation, said Howe.

He said Pham was swimming just offshore when he went under water and never resurfaced. Several people at the park dove into the water in an attempt to help the decedent but could not locate him.

The results of an autopsy showed that Pham's death actually was due to ischemic heart disease and not drowning.

The American Heart Association reported that ischemic heart disease – also called coronary artery disease – is a condition in which the arteries to the heart are narrowed, resulting in less blood and oxygen reaching the heart muscle. The result can be a heart attack.

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

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County health officials are reporting a growing number of H1N1 flu virus cases.

The Mendocino County Public Health Department is reporting a total of 12 cases in that county, with one new hospitalized patient in stable condition. Six other patients who previously were hospitalized have been released.

Lake County has so far reported one case, as Lake County News has reported.

The Centers for Disease Control is reporting a total of 43,771 cases in the United States and its territories, and 302 deaths. In California, there have been 3,161 cases and 52 deaths.

The H1N1 influenza virus will continue to cause mild to severe illness throughout the summer and into the annual flu season, officials reported.

A vaccine for the virus currently is under development.

On Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to make recommendations for the vaccine's use when it becomes available, and to determine which groups of the population should be prioritized if the vaccine is initially available in extremely limited quantities.

The committee recommended the vaccination efforts focus on five key populations: pregnant women; people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; health care and emergency services personnel; persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age; and people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Those groups total approximately 159 million people in the United States.

The novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine. It is intended to be used alongside seasonal flu vaccine to protect people.

LAKEPORT – Cash management issues in the county's animal control department that were discovered in a regular audit earlier have been resolved, according to county officials.

The recently released grand jury report noted in its overview of the county's administrative office that an internal audit found “significant cash management improprieties including undeposited receipts totaling more than $45,000 and several months of unpaid invoices, and veterinary costs in excess of $10,000 to treat a single animal.”

“The department was lax in its procedures,” said Deputy County Administrative Officer Jeff Rein. “As a result of audit, we have tightened procedures up.”

Rein said nothing appeared to have been missing, nor does it appear to be a criminal issue, more one of negligence. Deposits are supposed to be done on a daily basis, not once a month.

County Auditor-Controller Pam Cochrane said the discrepancies were discovered during an annual, unannounced department audit conducted earlier this year.

“When we were out doing our routine audit in March we discovered there were some irregularities with regards to a lot of money laying around,” Cochrane said.

Specifically, they discovered $4,900 in cash and $46,000 in undeposited checks amassed during a two-week period, from donations to licenses. There also were a few large checks from the cities of Lakeport and Clearlake, which have animal control services contracts with the county. Cochrane said her office encourages large departments to regularly make deposits.

Cochrane's office brought the discrepancies to the grand jury's attention, and also to that of the County Administrative Office.

However, when her auditors went back to audit Animal Care and Control again in June, the issue had been resolved, regular deposits were being made and the audit yielded no findings, Cochrane said.

Cochrane attributed the failure to make the deposits to a “transition in staff.”

Deputy Animal Control Director Bill Davidson said the department's procedures have improved by “leaps and bounds,” and they've been making regular deposits for several months. During the June audit he said the auditors said it was the quickest one they had ever done.

“Right now things are running smooth,” Davidson said.

He said Animal Care and Control Director Denise Johnson was privy to most of the specifics about the situation, but she's out on medical leave. Johnson suffered serious injuries in a fall from a horse earlier this month and currently is in a wheelchair.

Regarding the grand jury's statement about $10,000 spent on a single animal, Davidson said he didn't have a record of that much being spent, although it did cost the department $7,000 to care for a dog, dubbed Dixie.

Dixie was impounded last summer as part of an animal cruelty investigation, as Lake County News has reported. She had been hit by a semi truck and her owner didn't take her to the vet, letting her lie in the yard in pain for two weeks before Animal Care and Control was notified.

Davidson said the costs for Dixie's care – resulting from her severe injuries and a rare bacterial infection – snuck up on them.

Rein said Johnson looked to the administrative office to implement new polices and procedures to make sure the problems with cash management and deposits wouldn't reoccur.

“We will be watching them closely to make sure that this doesn't happen again,” Rein said.

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

UKIAH – The former chair of the water and fire board and assistant fire chief for the coastal hamlet of Westport was convicted last week of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the 2005 shooting of a political rival.

Kenneth Allen Rogers, 51, who since has moved to Lake County, was convicted by a jury in Ukiah last Wednesday, according to his attorney, J. David Markham of Lakeport.

Markham, who was appointed by the court to represent Rogers after his previous attorney had to leave the case due to a conflict, said Rogers is facing 25 years to life on the conspiracy charge alone when he's sentenced in Ukiah at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 14.

Tim Stoen of the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, who prosecuted the case, said Rogers could be looking at a life term.

Rogers was accused for conspiring with an employee, Richard Peacock, to kill Alan Simon, a political rival of Rogers', on June 17, 2005.

“It was a very dramatic case,” said Stoen.

Stoen said Rogers and Peacock hatched the plot due to a “cascading set of reasons.”

Rogers had chaired the water and fire board in Westport, a town of about 80 full-time residents north of Fort Bragg, where Rogers had lived since 1997, said Stoen.

Stoen said residents in the district claimed Rogers was harassing them, and a successful recall effort was launched, culminating in the Aug. 21, 2004, vote in which he was replaced by Simon.

“He took it hard,” said Stoen.

Then, in January of 2005, Rogers and Simon crossed paths again, when Rogers was fired as assistant fire chief, with Simon voting against him. Stoen said Rogers later won a lawsuit proving he had been wrongly terminated.

But Stoen alleged that Rogers' anger continued to grow. In May of 2005, a notary who visited Rogers said spittle was flying from his mouth at the mention of Simon.

Peacock – who Stoen called a “street thug” – was released from custody on March 26, 2005, after serving time for several felony charges including one involving a firearm.

The prosecution alleged that Rogers and Peacock conspired to kill Simon, with Stoen saying that Rogers had a “triple motive” – his recall, the firing and his belief that the recall had hurt his chances for higher political office in Sacramento. Stoen said Rogers, the chair of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee, had claimed that the Republican Party was his “religion.”

Stoen alleged that Rogers and Peacock thought they had planned the perfect crime, with the shooting taking place on a Friday night.

Peacock went to Simon's home and fired nine shots into the front door. Stoen said Simon dove to the floor and was hit in the scalp and arm by the bullets.

Despite being injured, Simon was able to identify the suspect's distinctive vehicle – a Mazda Miata with a damaged front bumper.

The vehicle would be spotted later on the night of the shooting on Branscomb Road toward Laytonville. Stoen said as Peacock made his getaway, he turned into a remote area where Rogers owned property.

Peacock was arrested the next day and put on trial. He received 71 years to life because the shooting was his third strike, Stoen said.

After Peacock was convicted, the issue remained whether or not he acted alone. During Rogers' trial, Peacock was called to testify, but refused to turn on Rogers, which Stoen suggested was because Peacock didn't want a “snitch jacket” placed on him in prison.

Since Simon was shot, Rogers moved to Lake County, where he has property, said Stoen. Rogers went back and forth between Westport and Sacramento a lot, and so he also spent a lot of time in Lake County. “Clear Lake's been a central part of his life for some time,” Stoen said.

Markham said Rogers had been out on bail since his 2005 arrest, but was remanded into custody after the jury's verdict was delivered last week.

The conviction will be appealed, said Markham.

“I'm going to file a notice of appeal and that will simply get the process started,” he said.

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

The Toyota sedan involved in Wednesday's crash was hit from behind. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – Traffic on Highway 29 was snarled for nearly an hour Wednesday afternoon after a traffic collision sent at least one person to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

First reported at 2:45 p.m. the collision, located just south of Thomas Drive on Highway 29, involved a 1995 Mazda van and a 2008 Toyota sedan.

First responders indicated via radio that four persons had suffered mild to moderate injuries.

Medics and fire personnel from Lakeport and Kelseyville were on scene as well as California Highway Patrol officers.

CHP Officer Mark Crutcher told Lake County News that a couple from Kansas was preparing to make a left turn from Highway 29 when the Mazda van struck it from behind.

The Toyota suffered serious rear-end damage, while the Mazda was damaged enough to require a flatbed truck to transport it from the scene.

Three persons involved were still on scene at 3:30 p.m. while CHP investigated the accident and medical personnel evaluated their injuries.

Both vehicles appeared to be registered in states other than California. The van carried plates from Washington state and the Toyota from New Mexico.

The roadway was opened to two-lane traffic by 3:30 p.m. although cleanup crews continued to remove debris that had been pushed to the side of the road.

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




Emergency personnel clean up the crash scene outside of Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – The trial of a Carmichael man facing a felony boating under the influence charge for a fatal 2006 sailboat crash on Clear Lake got under way on Tuesday morning.

Bismarck Dinius, 41, was in court with his family, supporters and interested community members as opening arguments were presented in Lake County Superior Court's Department One before visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne.

By the end of the first day of testimony, the trial lost two jurors. The two young women were replaced by two males, changing the jury's composition from seven males and five females to nine males and three females.

Those developments also leave the proceedings with only two alternates – one male and one female – to get through the trial, estimated to take at least a month to complete.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins told jurors that he would present evidence that showed Dinius had responsibility for steering a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber during a nighttime cruised on April 29, 2006.

While the boat was under way – without lights, Hopkins alleges – it was hit by a power boat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty sheriff's deputy. Weber's girlfriend, Lynn Thornton, was fatally injured. As a result, Dinius is facing felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury. Perdock was not charged.

Hopkins and Dinius' attorney, Victor Haltom, spent a total of an hour and 20 minutes presenting summaries of their versions of what happened that night.

Weber and Thornton were in Lake County on the day of the crash for the annual Konocti Cup sailing race, in which Weber's sailboat, the Beats Workin' II, took part, they said.

Later that night, after spending time with fellow sailors at Richmond Park Bar and Grill, Weber, Thornton and some new friends took a cruise across Konocti Bay.

Hopkins, in his opening, argued that the sailboat's lights weren't on, and that two fishermen that night saw a boat under way without lights.

Coming from the other side of the lake was Perdock, bringing with him a friend and the friend's daughter. People also saw Perdock's 24-foot power boat, said Hopkins, and there are a “wide range of estimates” about his speed that night.

After the crash, which occurred at about 9:10 p.m., sheriff's deputies and paramedics responded to the shore, while good Samaritans already had towed in the boat, so the exact location was hard to determine, said Hopkins.

“This is not like a car collision. You don't have skid marks. You don't have landmarks to tell you where it is,” he said.

Weber, said Hopkins, had a 0.18 blood alcohol level based on a blood draw, while Dinius' blood alcohol tested 0.12, according to test results. Perdock's blood draw showed no presence of alcohol or drugs.

When Hopkins asserted that, by law, Dinius was the sailboat's operator, Haltom objected. Byrne allowed it for the purposes of Hopkins' general introduction.

Hopkins alleged that the sailboat's light toggle switches showed the running lights weren't on, which he said is a crucial factor in the case.

He told the jurors that one of their biggest challenges will be having to listen to experts. “You're going to have to stay awake, pay attention and be patient.”

One of those experts, a Department of Justice criminologist, will testify that the filament in the sailboat's broken stern light has characteristics that indicate it was a “cold break,” meaning, the light was not on when it was broken, Hopkins said.

Hopkins stated that with Dinius at the helm, he was responsible for ensuring the running lights were on.

“Failure to have running lights on is a substantial factor in the cause of the collision,” said Hopkins.

During his statements, Haltom – accompanied by two attorneys from The Innocence Project – argued that Weber was “running the show” on the boat, not Dinius, who he said wasn't the operator.

“The evidence that you will hear in this case will show that that is not the case,” he said, noting that “any 6-year-old” can sit at a sailboat's tiller when there's no wind.

While the Beats Workin' II was on its cruise across Konocti Bay, “Things go horribly wrong,” with Haltom alleging that Perdock was going “very, very, very fast.”

A retired police officer saw Perdock's boat and noted to friends that the driver was “going to kill himself or someone else” said Haltom.

“The power boat is going so fast it literally devours the sailboat,” Haltom said.

Haltom told the jury that the key issue for them to decide is causation – and who, ultimately, is responsible for the crash.

He said the evidence actually show is that it is Perdock's “speed and recklessness” that is the crash's cause.

Haltom alleged that in the day after the crash, the sheriff's office left the sailboat unattended at the sheriff's boat yard, and that Perdock was treated “a little differently than you or I would have been.” That included getting a hug from Sheriff Rod Mitchell at the scene and not having a breathalyzer test administered to him on shore after the crash.

Also introduced to the jury was information about witnesses who Haltom said will testify that Perdock was at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa in the hours before the crash, with one witness allegedly spotting him at the bar.

“The evidence in this case will show that Russell Perdock and Russell Perdock alone is the cause of this accident,” said Haltom.

Witnesses questioned closely on sailboat lights

During the morning session, Hopkins began calling witnesses to testify.

Jim Ziebell, who helped skipper Weber's boat during the Konocti Cup on April 29, 2006, was the first to testify. He discussed the hours before the crash and his experience sailing on Clear Lake.

Ziebell said he saw the sailboat's stern light when it left on the cruise, but couldn't see the bow lights. “There's a position where even people on the boat can't see them,” he said. Having sat at the tiller of Weber's vessel, he could say that neither the stern or bow lights are visible from that position.

Haltom asked Ziebell if he knew of a reason why someone would turn off the boat's lights while under way. “I would never turn off the light,” he said. “I can't imagine any reason why I would.”

The lights aren't bright enough that turning them off would help with stargazing, he said.

While traveling home on his own power boat from Richmond Park at around 9:30 p.m. the night of the crash, Ziebell said he saw the silhouette of the sailboat being towed, but thought it was because someone ran out of gas.

Haltom asked Ziebell how long it would take to execute a turn in a sailboat if a boat was bearing down on it.

“I don't think it would be possible,” said Ziebell. “The boat behind me has the burden of missing me. I don't have the burden of missing him.”

The morning after the crash, Ziebell and some friends saw the unsecured sailboat sitting at Braito's Marina on the lakeshore at Buckingham Point.

Also called to the stand was Doug Jones, the past commodore of a local sailing club who knew Weber and had worked on his boats. Jones was at Richmond Park after the Konocti Cup and saw Weber, who he said was “loud” and intoxicated.

Jones said he “grabbed a burger and a couple of beers and came home” at around 6:30 p.m. After being driven home by a friend, he sat at his tenant's home on the lakeshore and spotted Weber's boat sailing by, about 300 to 400 yards out, at “deep dusk.”

“I did not notice any bow light,” said Jones, which caused him to pay attention because he was concerned about not seeing the light. “The light should be on by that time.”

Jone said he saw a bright stern light and a red glow that he realized were cabin lights. The sailboat also was running under full sail.

The night of the crash, Jones said close to 10 sheriff's patrol cars came down his driveway and said there was a boating crash. Jones went out to his dock and saw the boat being towed into view.

The next day he said he spoke to Lloyd Wells, a deputy sheriff with the Lake County Sheriff's office, who came to pick up Weber's boat trailer in Jones' boat yard.

Jones asked about the crash and said Wells didn't identify who drove the power boat. Wells also reportedly said the sailboat didn't have any lights one. Jones said he saw the lights on, and Wells replied that he couldn't have.

Fishermen describe night on the water

Most of the afternoon was devoted to hearing the testimony of Anthony Esposti and Colin Johnson, who were prefishing for a catfish tournament on the night of the crash.

The men, in a 14-foot aluminum fishing boat, noted in their separate testimony that the night was extremely dark. They both said they saw a sailboat without lights before witnessing the boat crash later in the night.

Esposti, who was more familiar with Clear Lake, said they put into the water at about 4 p.m. and fished until after dark.

He said he saw no lights on the sailboat, only seeing it after Johnson flashed it with a spotlight. However, he did see the stern light on Perdock's boat, which he said was very loud. Esposti estimated it was traveling about 40 miles per hour.

“We watched it on its course until it collided with something,” he said.

It was so dark, with no moon, that they didn't know what it hit, but he could hear the engine when it came out of the water as the powerboat flew over the sailboat, said Esposti. They could hear yelling for help, so he and Johnson approached the boat and found it with a broken mast.

Esposti said they heard screaming from the boat. Asked what he saw on the sailboat, he replied, “God ... blood.”

He and Johnson helped tow Perdock's boat to shore while two other boats which had come out to render assistance towed the sailboat.

In cross-examining Esposti, Haltom asked him about statements he'd made previously to investigators, including comments about going out later in the evening, at 7 p.m. Esposti insisted there were several hours of daylight when they started.

He believed he had seen the sailboat on its cruise between 7 p.m. and 7:30 pm. but couldn't remember it being under sail. Esposti believed the crash happened about two hours later, with the power boat traveling on a straight line before the crash.

When Johnson took the stand, his testimony contained several notable differences from Esposti's beginning with his assertion that they headed out for their fishing trip close to the time it began getting dark.

He said he heard people laughing and talking on the sailboat, but saw no lights of any kind – not even cabin lights. Johnson also didn't see a sail. Without his spotlight, they couldn't see the boat at all.

Johnson said they heard and saw the power boat as it moved across the bay. “Then all of a sudden it just jumped up in the air,” he said, describing how he saw the boat's navigation lights spin 360 degrees and they heard the crunching of the crash.

“I was clueless about what it ran into,” he said.

He and Esposti made their way over the sailboat; when they got there, Johnson stood and pulled himself up to look into the sailboat, where he saw a man doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Thornton. The side of the boat had blood on it, he noted. He then started yelling to the shore for help. Boats arrived to help shortly afterward.

When Haltom asked him about the speed of Perdock's boat, Johnson replied, “I think that it was somewhere between 40 and 50 miles per hour.”

During his testimony, Johnson said he flashed Perdock's boat with his spotlight when the boat was coming straight toward him. It then “tailed off” toward the sailboat.

With no speed limits on the lake, boats can travel at any speed, Johnson said. “You've got to watch out for yourself,” he said. “He was just coming too close to me for my comfort.”

Haltom wanted both Esposti and Johnson subject to recall for possible further testimony at some point during the remainder of the trial.

At the end of the day, Byrne admonished jurors not to read about the case or talk to anyone about it.

He said the evidence will come in phases. “It's important to keep an open mind,” he said.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.




It is an unprecedented alignment of the stars. Not wholly unlike the recent total solar eclipse or the appearance of Halley’s Comet.

The CyberSoulChildren who are alive and conscious on July 31, 2009, can be cognizant of the fact that not one, but two major Motown acts are appearing at the same time in and around Lake County, within 60 miles of each other. The Four Tops are appearing at Cache Creek Casino Resort. Smokey Robinson is appearing at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.

This is an insightful, culture altering occurrence, juxtaposed against the golden anniversary of the birth of Motown. As a chronicler of the evolution of rhythm and blues, the time has come for me to offer up and perhaps correct some Sound Of Young America (as Berry Gordy called it) history.

I remember striving to find some semblance of that Sound on the airwaves when I arrived on the shores of Lake County in 1997. There was a commercial station that used to air a promo once or twice an hour that stressed that they played the best in Motown. They’d then follow it with a Billy Preston track or an Aretha Franklin track, neither of whom was ever a Motown artist.

Sometimes of course, they would play a legitimate Motown artist, but they would err (no pun intended) enough to make the CyberSoulMan uncomfortable. So, for those of you who are perhaps carrying around those suppositions as fact, here is the CyberSoulMan version of some Motown history. Be forewarned that I can’t squeeze the whole soulful slate into 1,000 words.

Motown was created by Berry Gordy on Jan. 12, 1959. Originally it was called the Tamla Records but incorporated as Motown Record Corp. a little over a year later.

At first it was simply a record label, a vehicle to expose to the world the very unique tapestry of the artists involved in the Detroit Sound. The first group signed to the label was the group formerly known as The Matadors. This was the group that Smokey Robinson sang lead for and when they signed with Tamla, they became The Miracles.

Other early Tamla acts were Marv Johnson, Mable John and Mary Wells. The first certifiable Tamla hit was “Money” by Barrett Strong, which charted at No. 2 on Billboard's R&B hit list in 1959.

The first million-selling record for Motown was “Shop Around” by The Miracles. The first Billboard No. 1 pop hit for the corporation was “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

Berry Gordy amassed a stable of artists that also included Martha & The Vandellas, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips and The Jackson 5.

Somehow, it became ingrained in parts of the American psyche that Motown was an exclusively African-American company. Nothing could be further from the truth.

From virtually its inception forward, Motown has been integrated. It has had many artists and acts that were not African American. Among them, Chris Clarke, Rare Earth, Judas Priest, Dorsey Burnette, R. Dean Taylor, The Pretty Things, Stoney & Meatloaf, Shaun Murphy, Duke Jupiter, Teena Marie, Michael McDonald and the great Bobby Darrin, among others.

Some of you may recall the film “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown,” which documented the saga of The Funk Brothers, the extremely jazz savvy studio musicians who did all the instrumental tracks for Motown from 1959 to 1972. They, too, were an integrated band.

Motown also developed Motown Latino Records which focused on Spanish language Latin American music.

In addition, Motown employed songwriting/production teams that included Smokey Robinson, Holland/Dozier/Holland, Norman Whitfield and many others that reflected accurately this melting pot called America.

Clearly, Motown wasn’t all African-American in its scope. Similarly, all African-American music wasn’t Motown. To insinuate that Aretha Franklin music is Motown distorts history. Though Aretha grew up in Detroit she was never Motown. There is room enough in Detroit for more than one iconic style or genre.

Billy Preston and others incorrectly tagged by that aforementioned radio promo not withstanding, there are many distinctions within the canon of African-American music, some of them geographic, some stylistic, some differences subtle, some very overt. It helps to do the homework. There will only be a quiz on the above material if you choose to self administer it.

The last time Smokey Robinson appeared in Lake County, I believe, was in 2004 at Robinson Rancheria. I had not seen Smokey live since 1967 when he was still fronting the Miracles. Tammi Terrill opened that show at San Francisco’s Basin Street West and gave the Smokey a good run for his money.

I was pleasantly surprised when Smokey played Lake County last. Not only had he matured gracefully, but he was a better performer. And he was my favorite in 1967. For those of you who can’t make his upcoming show, KPFZ 88.1 FM will broadcast my 2004 interview with him on Saturday, Aug. 1, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Duke Fakir is the only remaining founding member of the Four Tops. Obie Benson, Lawrence Payton and their great baritone lead singer Levi Stubbs have gone on to glory in Soul Heaven. Don’t let that hinder you from attending their show if you are so inclined. They have recruited former Temptation Theo Peoples and Lawrence Payton’s son Roquel to round out and continue their great sound.

For an awe-inspiring deeply emotional view of Levi Stubbs performing for the last time with his group (and the new replacements) go to: . Have your hankies on the ready!

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Sunday Brunch in the Garden, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Chris Forshay featured on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Will Siegal & Friends, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Monday, July 27, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, Blue Wing Saloon & Cafe, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2244 or .

Rootstock, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 31. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Information: 800-660-LAKE or .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Information: 888-77-CACHE or .

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

LAKEPORT – The details of forensic testing, chain of evidence procedures and testimony from a former sheriff's sergeant who stated he was ordered not to give a breathalyzer test at a crash scene were discussed during testimony Wednesday in a trial over a fatal sailboat crash.

The second day of Bismarck Dinius' trial took place on Wednesday.

The 41-year-old Carmichael man is charged with felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury and two lesser included offenses of boating with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 and boating while under the influence.

Dinius is alleged to have had a blood alcohol level of 0.12 while sitting at the tiller of Willows resident Mark Weber's sailboat, Beats Workin' II, on the night of April 29, 2006. The prosecution alleges that Dinius, by steering the boat, was responsible for operating it, and that he failed to have the boat's running lights turned on.

The sailboat was hit by a powerboat driven by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock. Witnesses on Tuesday gave estimates that Perdock was driving his boat between 40 and 50 miles per hour that night, which was extremely dark and moonless.

Weber's girlfriend, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later.

Establishing the custodial chain and testing of key pieces of evidence in the case – including blood samples from Dinius, Weber and Perdock – was a focus of much of the day's testimony.

Sheriff's Det. Jerry Pfann, who manages the agency's evidence storage, explained how he was contacted shortly before 2 p.m. the day after the crash and traveled to the Lower Lake substation to pick up Perdock's blood sample, taken the previous night at Redbud Community Hospital. The hospital has since changed its name to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake.

Pfann said all sworn personnel and some designated civilian personnel have access to the substation, which serves as patrol office and holding area for inmates for court, and has a room for evidence storage.

He found Perdock's sample in a small refrigerator and transported it to the sheriff's main office on Martin Street in Lakeport.

Pfann told the court that he placed Perdock's sample – along with those from Weber and Dinius – in an evidence refrigerator, at the back of a shelf behind other materials in evidence. “Because of the nature of the case and who was involved, I wanted to be the only person who knew where they were,” he said.

The next day – Monday, May 1, 2006 – Pfann found all the samples the way he had left them before taking all of the items to the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Lab in Santa Rosa for testing.

Pfann brought the samples – picked up from the DOJ earlier this month – to court on Wednesday, where District Attorney Jon Hopkins had him open the sealed plastic and paper envelopes containing the vials of blood and reseal them in new plastic bags before submitting them into evidence. Court had a brief recess while Pfann went to retrieve his portable heat sealing machine.

Beland testifies about night of crash

A former sheriff's sergeant who stated that he was ordered not to give a preliminary alcohol screening – or PAS, also known as a breathalyzer – test to Perdock at the crash scene also took the stand.

James Beland related how he got the call and volunteered to notify Sheriff Rod Mitchell before responding to the Konocti Bay area, where the crash took place.

Beland said Sgt. Dennis Ostini, the primary supervisor for the sheriff's Boat Patrol, led the investigation.

When Beland met up with Ostini and then-Sgt. Mike Morshed at the scene, he recalled, “I said, 'I have a PAS on board.' Do you want to use it?'

“Sgt. Ostini's response was, 'No, no no, Perdock has already volunteered to do blood,'” Beland said.

Beland said his patrol vehicle was one of the few at that time that had a mobile audio visual unit (MAV) which could be used for videotaping witness statements. Another deputy used the unit to take statements and Beland had to wait before being able to transport Perdock to the hospital, getting there, he believed, around 11:30 p.m.

After the blood draw, Beland said he and Perdock parted ways. He said he didn't see Perdock with any signs of intoxication.

During questioning, Beland also admitted that he had written the wrong date – April 30 rather than April 29 – on one of the pieces of evidence, which was brought to his attention several months later.

Haltom asked Beland if he was still with the sheriff's office. Beland replied that he was terminated last December.

“Was your termination related to this case?” Haltom asked.

“Yes,” Beland responded.

Hopkins objected to the question, and Judge J. Michael Byrne sustained the objection.

Under Haltom's cross-examination, Beland described seeing Mitchell arrive at the crash scene, where he walked up to Perdock and hugged him.

Beland explained that Ostini was the second-most senior sergeant in the sheriff's office at the time of the crash. Rather than press the PAS, Beland said, “I pretty much followed what those two had to say.”

“Were you ordered not to give a breath test to Russell Perdock?” asked Haltom.

“If I had done that I would have been written up,” said Beland, who was a new sergeant in April of 2006.

He added, “It was a discussion on how to handle the situation, but it was also an order.”

Beland said he had no reason to question Ostini. “He's a very fine upstanding person,” and also was a mentor.

It wasn't until a few months later that Beland said he became upset about the decision not to do the PAS. When Haltom asked why, Hopkins objected and Byrne sustained the objection.

Haltom asked Beland if he administered breath tests in other driving under the influence-type arrests. Beland said yes.

“Is it desirable to get as early a possible test result as you can?” Haltom asked, to which Beland again responded in the affirmative.

Beland explained that having the PAS results helps verify field sobriety test results. It also gives a timespan during which blood alcohol levels may be going up or coming down.

After Dinius' preliminary hearing, which took place in May and June of last year, Beland said he wasn't happy with his performance, so he researched his activities that night. Originally he couldn't remember exactly what he did after leaving the hospital – he'd stated in court last year that he and Perdock had driven around afterward, but he couldn't remember where he had taken him.

About the time that he gave testimony in the preliminary hearing in late May of 2008, Beland said he generated a report that stated he was ordered not to give the PAS at the scene.

Beland said the blood test was a good call, but he “couldn't say either way” about whether not giving the PAS was a bad call, since he didn't know how boating collisions were handled.

Hopkins asked if there was a difference between breath and blood tests. “So, blood's the best?”

Yes, Beland replied. Haltom objected and Byrne sustained.

Hopkins asked the question another way, questioning Beland about whether blood was better than breath and urine tests. Beland said yes.

Beland mentioned in his testimony that some of his reports where changed, including the original report that documented how he handled Perdock the day of the crash.

His original report stated that he notified Mitchell of the crash. He said Capt. James Bauman ordered him to take that part out.

Under continued cross-examination, Haltom asked, “Is it optimal to have both blood and breath?”

“If it was a vehicle accident, yes,” Beland said.

Hopkins, taking another turn at questioning Beland, challenged his assertion that his report was altered by the sheriff's office, but that he had changed it himself at the order of a commanding officer. That wasn't unlike Beland ordering his own patrol deputies to correct reports, Hopkins suggested.

Hopkins asked if it was standard procedure to have higher-ranking officers approve reports. It isn't standard for supervisors, Beland responded.

But Beland said he was an exception. “They wanted my reports approved.”

Criminalists explain testing procedures

Gregory Priebe, a senior criminalist with the DOJ's Santa Rosa lab, spent time on the stand Wednesday afternoon explaining the science behind blood alcohol testing, testing procedures, handling evidence and levels of impairment.

Priebe tested all three blood samples in the case. His analysis found no alcohol in Perdock's blood which, by agency protocol, was then sent to the DOJ toxicology lab in Sacramento because anything under 0.08 percent blood alcohol undergoes additional testing.

Weber's sample showed 0.18 percent blood alcohol and Dinius' 0.12, according to the testing done by Priebe, who said he has tested between 7,500 and 10,000 samples in his career.

Hopkins asked Priebe about the impacts of alcohol on human function and judgment. Priebe said effects range from impairment of a person's ability to process information and its impact on inhibitions and vision.

“You're just not processing information at same rate as you're processing it when you're sober,” Priebe said.

“Would that affect your ability to remember to turn your lights on, for instance?” asked Hopkins.

It could, said Priebe.

Priebe went on to explain, “Everyone is impaired at a 0.08 percent,” and most people are impaired at 0.05 percent.

At Hopkins' request, Priebe explained intoxication levels and how quickly they would change for a hypothetical 200-pound man, whose body composition would cause him to eliminate 0.018 percent alcohol per hour. That's about the rate that same man's blood alcohol level would go up for one 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or one and a quarter ounce glass of hard liquor.

Priebe also stated that the DOJ blood draw kits have gray-stoppered tubes to hold blood that contain sodium fluoride, a strong enzyme inhibitor, which doesn't require they be refrigerated. The samples can safely be stored at room temperature, but handling samples is an issue determined by agencies. DOJ refrigerates samples to slow the enzymatic process, he added.

Under Haltom's cross-examination, Priebe explained that drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time period would cause a person with an otherwise empty stomach to reach a peak intoxication rate within 15 to 30 minutes, while a person with a full stomach's peak intoxication would come between 30 and 90 minutes.

Priebe said this was the first time he's testified in a case involving a sailboat. His only experience on a sailboat led to the craft sinking in the bay.

He didn't know much about sailboats, but said he understood what it took to steer such a vessel. “I know how difficult it is because I sank one of these things,” Priebe said.

Haltom asked Priebe about a time limit for taking blood samples. Priebe said there is a three hour time period in which samples should be collected in order to accurately reflect intoxication levels.

Priebe, in response to another question by Haltom, said there was no rush in testing the samples in this case. “We have a bureau policy we turn around blood alcohol results, try to, within five days of receiving the sample,” he said, adding that toxicology labs take longer.

Being able to respond to conditions in a sailboat, said Priebe, takes longer than in an automobile.

Hopkins asked how many drinks a 200-pound man would have to drink to have a blood alcohol level of 0.12. Priebe calculated 6.6 drinks.

If that person's blood alcohol level actually was declining from a peak three hours earlier, Priebe calculated the peak would be 0.15.

Senior criminalist Gary Davis, who works at DOJ's Sacramento toxicology lab, discussed the drug testing conducted on Perdock's blood sample, which included screening for six groups of drugs, among them opiates and barbiturates.

An initial screening will indicate if a general type of drug is present, said Davis. A confirmation test identifies the specific drugs present.

“Can the screening test be misleading,” asked Hopkins.

“It can be wrong at times,” said Davis.

Haltom asked about the screening's results.

“The initial one was positive for opiates and nothing else,” said Davis, explaining opiates include Codeine, Vicodin, Hydrocodone, opium and Oxycontin.

“Are you testifying that that was a false positive?” Haltom asked.

“Yes,” Davis said.

False positives happen less than 5 percent of the time, Davis explained, and can be triggered by small bubbles that appear in the samples.

“I don't know what exactly happened in this case,” said Davis.

Hopkins asked if he asked for a second screening on the blood sample. Davis said yes, and the result was a negative test.

Phlebotomists, retired sergeant testify

During the day's testimony, the jury also heard from the two phlebotomists who drew the blood samples.

Andrea Estep, who works at St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake, took Perdock's sample at 11:30 p.m. the night of the crash. She acknowledged she wrote the wrong date – April 30 – on the sample.

Estep, who works late-night graveyards shifts, explained that she often dates materials for the next day and didn't double-check herself that night before turning over the sample to Beland.

LaDonna Hartman took Weber's sample at 11:15 p.m. and Dinius' at 12:05 a.m. at Sutter Lakeside Hospital and gave them to Sgt. Mark Hoffman.

Both Hartman and Estep explained how they took the samples and sealed DOJ blood draw kits before turning them over to the deputies.

Beland took Perdock's blood sample to the Lower Lake substation, where Pfann retrieved it the next day, while Hoffman took Weber's and Dinius' samples to the main sheriff's facility before logging them into the evidence facility.

Hoffman, now retired, was a sheriff's patrol sergeant in April of 2006. On the stand Wednesday he described being one of the first responders to the crash scene, where he was instructed to take Weber to the hospital for the blood draw.

Testimony continues on Thursday.

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

Note: This story contains information that some people may find disturbing.

KELSEYVILLE – A man shot and killed himself early Saturday morning during a traffic stop near Kelseyville.

Ryan Randall Williams, 28, of Kelseyville died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the scene of the stop, according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.

Howe said that Sgt. Andy Davidson was traveling northbound on Highway 29 a mile south of Soda Bay Road at approximately 12:28 a.m. Saturday, July 25, when he recognized the vehicle traveling in front of him as possibly belonging to Williams.

Davidson confirmed through Central Dispatch that the vehicle was Williams’. Howe said Davidson knew that Williams was on parole and was wanted for a parole violation.

When Davidson activated his forward facing red light, attempting to stop Williams at the corner of Highway 29 and Soda Bay Road, Williams slowed, turned on his blinker and turned onto Soda Bay Road near Kit's Corner, according to Howe.

Then Davidson activated his siren and overhead emergency lights, and Howe said Williams slowed and pulled onto the shoulder of the road but did not come to a complete stop.

Williams started to accelerate and pull back onto the roadway. Howe said Davidson accelerated onto the roadway, past Williams and tried to block his vehicle. At that point Williams’ vehicle accelerated and hit the driver’s side rear bumper of Davidson’s patrol vehicle then traveled in the oncoming traffic lane.

Howe said Williams’ vehicle left the roadway and was traveling parallel to the patrol vehicle on the embankment on the opposite side of the road. Williams then swerved back down the embankment, across the oncoming lane and collided with the driver's side of Davidson’s patrol vehicle. Williams' vehicle then left the roadway and crashed into a heavily wooded area.

Following the crash, Williams was found in the vehicle with severe head trauma, and a loaded handgun with one expended cartridge was also found in the vehicle near Williams’ feet, Howe said.

Williams was extricated from the vehicle and prepared to be flown by REACH to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Despite life saving efforts on scene, Howe said Williams died as a result of his injuries prior to being flown out.

The investigation revealed that Williams' head trauma was not caused by the vehicle collision, but by a single self-inflicted gunshot wound. Howe said it appeared that when Davidson attempted to stop Williams he decided to take his own life.

Editor's note: News agencies do not normally cover cases involving suicide unless, such as in this case, they involve an act that is committed in a public manner.

HIGHLAND SPRINGS – Officials reported the summer's first drowning on Saturday, which occurred at Highland Springs.

Shortly before 5 p.m. officials were called to Highlands Springs where a male subject had reportedly drowned.

Lakeport Fire and the Lake County Sheriff's Office controlled the scene, while the Northshore Dive Team was called, said dive team leader Capt. John Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the drowning resulted from a swimming accident.

He and two other dive team members – including Keith Hoyt – responded to the scene.

Hoyt said once the team got in the water, Rodriguez found the victim – whose name and age were not available – after about 10 minutes.

The man's body was found about 75 feet offshore in about 12 to 15 feet of water, said Rodriguez.

“We had about a 5-foot visibility,” Rodriguez explained, noting that the area of the lake where they were searching had a lot of snags and thick weeds.

The team, however, had good information about where the victim had last been seen, which Rodriguez said was the key to the whole operation.

“It led us right to the victim,” he said.

Hoyt said a group of the victim's family members were at the scene, where an event was taking place.

Some good Samaritans who also were at the lake had done repeated dives in an effort to help find the man, but with no luck. Hoyt said they were very close to the location were the body ultimately was found, but the water was a little too deep and the man's body was completely covered by weeds.

Hoyst said the men were extremely upset after being unable to find the man.

He said he thanked them for what they did, which he told them was more than a lot of people would have done.

“They did the right thing,” he said.

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

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