Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – A federal judge has found that juror misconduct and a breach of due process requires a reexamination of whether or not a man sentenced to death in 1984 for killing his wife was mentally competent to stand trial.

Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. of the U.S. District Court for California's Eastern District made the ruling March 17 in the case of Gerald Frank Stanley, 63, whose appeal was made on his behalf by federal defenders.

Stanley was convicted of the Aug. 11, 1980 murder of his wife, Cynthia Rogers Stanley, in Nice, according to case records.

Damrell ordered proceedings to begin within 30 days of his ruling on whether or not a new competency hearing – nearly a quarter-century later – should be held.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins said he intends to appear in Butte County Superior Court – where Stanley's trial was moved due to pretrial publicity – on Thursday morning.

There, Hopkins will ask Judge Sandra McLean to set a hearing on the feasibility of holding a retrospective competency hearing in the case.

Stanley reportedly shot his wife with a sniper rifle while she was at her father's resort in Nice, according to Lake County News research into the case. Stanley then fled the scene, with authorities launching one of the largest manhunts in county history in an attempt to find him. Stanley later was arrested at his mother's Anderson home.

Robert Crone, then the Lake County District Attorney, prosecuted the case, which was reported to have cost the state $1 million, research of the case revealed. Crone and his prosecution team lived in Butte County for nearly a year while the trial was under way.

On Feb. 7, 1984, Stanley was sentenced to die in the gas chamber, according to State Department of Corrections documents. He has remained on San Quentin's death row since then.

Hopkins emphasized that Stanley's guilt is not in question, and he's not going to be released. In fact, Damrell upheld the finding of guilt in the Stanley case, as has the California Supreme Court, court records show.

“The guilt stands,” said Hopkins.

If the competency trial is held again and Stanley is ruled incompetent, he would no longer be subject to the death penalty and instead would be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, Hopkins said.

One of the factors cited in Damrell's ruling was juror misconduct in the trial's competency phase, court documents show.

At the beginning of the Stanley trial's penalty phase – in which jurors were to consider whether he was to receive the death sentence – doubts about Stanley's competency were raised, Hopkins explained.

That resulted in a three-month break in the proceedings while a competency trial took place, and Stanley was ruled mentally competent to stand trial, Hopkins said.

Later, however, it was found that one of the jurors in that trial allegedly was guilty of misconduct because she failed to state that she had been a violence victim, said Hopkins. That was a concern because it could have affected her ability to make an impartial decision.

Damrell's ruling also pointed to a statement by an expert witness in the case that Stanley was incompetent as of 1981, which contradicted that witness' previous testimony.

The issue now, said Hopkins, is a complicated one.

“We have to engage in the process of deciding his competency 25 years ago,” he said.

Such proceedings are not unheard of, said Hopkins, although they're rare. He pointed to other, similar cases in other federal circuit courts where retrospective competency hearings have been ordered. “There is some precedent.”

In addition to pursuing the request for a hearing on the feasibility of a retrospective hearing, Hopkins also asked to have Stanley brought from death row to the Butte County Jail in Oroville, a duty that fell to Butte County Sheriff Perry Reniff's office. Stanley is expected to remain in custody in Oroville during the proceedings.

Hopkins also plans to file a motion to have Stanley's case brought back to Lake County if it's decided to go through with a new competency trial.

Originally, the defense was granted a change of venue due to pretrial publicity. However, Hopkins believes he can successfully argue that enough time has passed that the case is no longer well known locally, and a competency proceeding could find an unbiased pool of jurors.

Stanley's federal appeal is not being carried out at his request, according to previous statements Stanley has made to this reporter.

Several years ago Stanley began trying to have the appeals process stopped with the help of Jack Leavitt, a Hayward-based attorney, according to interviews with both men.

Stanley stated that due to his failing health he was seeking an execution date and, if one was granted, he had offered to disclose the location of the body of Diana Lynn Ramel, a woman with whom he was romantically involved and who disappeared in February 1980. He has stated he did not kill her.

He did, however, murder his first wife, Kathleen Rhiley, in 1975 as she was taking their children to school in Concord, according to Lake County News research. Stanley served four and a half years for that crime.

At one point Stanley also was believed to have been involved in the murder of a young Redding woman, Sheryl Ranee Wright, who was last seen the day before Cynthia Rogers was shot, according to case research.

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HIDDEN VALLEY – The man accused of stabbing two children last week had no local adult criminal history, according to court records.

Thirty-one-year-old James Robert Pagan was arrested Friday for allegedly stabbing a 10-year-old girl to death and injuring another 14-year-old girl, as Lake County News has reported.

Pagan was reportedly being held in the Lake County Jail on $1 million bail. He did not appear in the inmate search on the sheriff's Web site Monday; however, the site has not been recording new bookings since late last week.

Authorities have not officially confirmed the two victims' identities, which sources told Lake County News were the children of a local physician.

Sheriff's deputies originally arrested Pagan on charges of murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, according to a sheriff's office statement on Saturday.

Lt. Dave Garzoli of the sheriff's investigations branch released additional information later Saturday that reported another charge – willful cruelty to a child – had been added.

Before his Friday arrest Pagan appears to have had little contact with local authorities.

In a search of Lake County Superior Court records, Pagan's name only showed up once – for a May 2007 traffic citation.

A search of criminal records in other counties where Pagan is believed to have lived previously also turned up no evidence of him having issues with the law as an adult.

As of Monday afternoon, a criminal filing against Pagan for the stabbing case had not been logged in the Superior Court records system.

Regarding the circumstances of this recent case, no further information has been forthcoming from investigators.

A sheriff's office statement on Saturday said further information would be available on Monday, but nothing more has so far been released.

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Forrest Garrett offers advice in his "Shop Talk" column.

Last month we began discussing my "Ten Rules Of Thumb" to help readers find the best shop for their vehicle repair needs.

In part one we discussed the importance of word of mouth in finding the right shop for you.

Now, it's time for the second rule of thumb: Calling the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR).

A quick call to the BAR, or a visit to their Web site at www.autorepair.ca.gov/stdPage.asp?Body=/Consumer/verify_a_license.htm will reveal if a repair facility is currently licensed and if that facility has had past violations.

No repair facility has the right to charge you anything without your prior approval. No repair facility has the right to do any repairs even if they are free without your prior consent. A current license from the BAR and a customer rights and entitlement sign must be visible and in a conspicuous location to be seen easily along with a current city or county license of operation.

An avid motorcycle rider who followed my rules of thumb reports the following findings after calling the BAR: "One shop had a delinquent license, so perhaps they do not have an active repair facility. Yours and others had current valid licenses with no disciplinary actions. I could not find licenses on two other shops. One shop I found interesting is that it is owned by a woman. Don't get me wrong, there nothing wrong with that, I don't want to sound sexist. My wife runs and operates her own business successfully for many years and makes more money than I do, but a woman owning a motorcycle repair business was a surprise. I would like to talk more with this owner and find out why she started her repair business and what her experience and background in the industry is. She may be another Shirley Muldowney or the Motorcycle Hall of Famer Theresa Wallach. This alone I find interesting and unusual and if the owner does come from a motorcycle background than I would find it a plus for that shop."

My comments on “Mr. Rider's” Findings: Good for you for using the sources at hand to find the information to draw your opinion from. As far as a license being delinquent, a shop does not need a BAR license to sell parts but cannot do repair work while their license is in a delinquent status.

There is no reason for a repair facility to have their license in a delinquent status ever. If a shop is changing from a parts and repair facility to strictly retail selling then they must submit a form of

canceled to BAR. If in the case of my shop you have two facilities that merged together, Lakeport Garage / Ironhorse creations at the same address, then in that situation BAR only allows there to be one license permitted at a single address. So I canceled my Ironhorse Creations BAR license and it is the motorcycle retail sales end of the business while Lakeport Garage is the repair facility with the current BAR license.

As far as finding current licenses on businesses, remember you’re looking for it from a California state agency and sometimes their information is slow to get on line. Also if you do not match the name and information of the shop up correctly the Web search can give you a bad or non report of that business.

If one wants to be sure then all one does is makes the simple phone call to Bureau of Automotive Repair at 1-800-952-5210.

Next time: The third rule of thumb and using the Internet.

Forrest Garrett is owner/operator of Ironhorse Creations and Lakeport Garage, family-owned and operated since 1968. E-mail him your questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


NORTHSHORE – A power outage Wednesday afternoon left homes and businesses along the Northshore dark for more than four hours.

The blackout began shortly before 4 p.m., said JD Guidi, a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Approximately 5,030 customers along Clear Lake's eastern side were affected, Guidi explained.

Power was fully restored to all customers by 8:14 p.m., he added.

Guidi said the outage was caused by equipment failure.

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Local unemployment levels from January of 2006 through February 2008.


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's February unemployment rate was an improvement over January's, according to the latest report from the Employment Development Department.

The preliminary February 2008 unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, down 0.9 percent from the revised January rate of 10.5 percent, but 0.2 percent above the year-ago, February 2007 rate of 9.4 percent, according to Dennis Mullins, of the EDD's North Coast Region Labor Market Information Division.

At 9.6 percent, Lake ranked 36 among the State’s 58 counties, Mullins noted. Some surrounding county rates included 7.0 percent for Mendocino, and 4.9 percent for Sonoma.

Marin and San Mateo had the lowest rate in the State at 3.9 percent and Colusa had the highest with 18.9 percent, according to Mullins. The comparable California and U.S. rates were 6.1 and 5.2 percent respectively.

Total industry employment increased 920 jobs (6.8 percent) between February 2007 and February 2008, ending the year-over period with 14,530 jobs, Mullins' report noted.

Mullins said year-over job growth occurred in farm; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; private educational and health services; other services; and government.

Year-over job losses occurred in natural resources, mining and construction; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality, he added.

The industry sector with no change over the year was financial activities, Mullins reported.

The government sector led industry gainers adding 770 jobs over the year, according to Mullins. Farm and private educational and health services were up 200 and 110 respectively. Trade, transportation and utilities increased 40; manufacturing was up 30; information and other services gained 10 jobs each.

Natural resources, mining and construction led decliners dropping 110 jobs over the year, Mullins said. Professional and business services and leisure and hospitality were down 90 and 50 respectively.

Mullins said that EDD encourages those who are filing for unemployment insurance benefits to do so on-line through its Web site at www.edd.ca.gov. Online claim filing is the fastest, most convenient way to apply for unemployment benefits, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.




HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A 10-year-old girl has died following a Friday afternoon stabbing and an alleged suspect in the case has been arrested.

Chief Deputy James Bauman reported Saturday morning that James Ronald Pagan, 31, was arrested on charges of murder for his alleged part in the girl's death and attempted murder in connection with his allegedly stabbing a second subject, a 13-year-old female.

Pagan, who also is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon and willful cruelty to a child, is being held in the Lake County Jail on $1 million bail, Bauman reported.

Bauman reported that sheriff's deputies and Cal Fire rescue personnel responded to a location on Firethorn Road in Hidden Valley Lake at 4:30 p.m. Friday after receiving a report that a 10-year-old female had been stabbed with a knife.

Upon arrival, Cal Fire medics cared for the girl while sheriff's deputies found the second stabbing victim, the 13-year-old girl, Bauman reported.

As rescue personnel were helping the girls deputies interviewed eyewitnesses, who identified a male suspect as allegedly being responsible for the assaults, according to Bauman.

Following the stabbings the male had allegedly fled to a Sugar Bush Court home, Bauman said.

Deputies found Pagan at a Sugar Bush Court home, where Bauman said he was detained and questioned, while sheriff's detectives were brought in to process the scene.

The 10-year-old girl was taken to Redbud Community Hospital for treatment, where Bauman said she died as a result of her injuries.

Officials flew the 13-year-old victim to the Children’s Hospital in Oakland for treatment of her injuries. Bauman had no update on her condition Saturday morning.

Because of the girls' ages, their identifies have not been released.

Bauman said sheriff's detectives processed the crime scene throughout the night, and Pagan was subsequently arrested and transported to the jail.

The investigation is continuing, with Bauman reporting that more information is expected to be released Monday afternoon.

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SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – Lake County fire units responded to a tanker fire Tuesday that closed down Highway 20 for several hours.

The tanker truck, carrying 7,500 gallons of kerosene, caught fire at about 9:30 a.m. one mile west of Mitchell Flat and several miles into Colusa County, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A CHP report issued late Tuesday explained that Dennis R. Moody, 59, of Willits was driving the 2007 Peterbilt tank truck pulling a silver tank trailer at or near the 55 mile per hour speed limit when the drive-line broke, causing it to bounce below the undercarriage.

The drive-line bounced into the tank, causing it to puncture, according to the CHP report.

A spark was then ignited by the loose drive-line, causing a fire to break out in the undercarriage. CHP said the fire spread to the tanks and ignited the kerosene in them.

When Moody noticed the mechanical problem and saw the fire, the CHP report said he immediately pulled over to the right shoulder.

Moody left the vehicle and went to a safe area while awaiting the arrival of emergency personnel, CHP reported. He did not suffer any injuries.

Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown reported that his district sent one water tender and a battalion chief to the blaze as part of its mutual aide agreement with Williams Fire Department.

Williams sent two engines, two water tenders, a rescue unit and two chief officers, Brown reported.

Also responding was Lake County Fire Protection District with a water tender and Cal Fire with an engine, according to Brown.

Brown said the tanker was fully involved when the fire units arrival. The truck's aluminum tanks had split open, which he said such tanks are designed to do so an explosion won't result.

Firefighters decided to let the fire burn itself out due to the size, said Brown.

The fire burned a half-acre of grass, but Brown said the biggest concern was the environment, including a small stream just downhill.

Firefighters were successful in keeping the waterway clear because they let the fire burn down before applying about 15 gallons of foam, said Brown.

The roadway was completely closed until 12:30 p.m., when CHP opened the eastbound lane to one-way traffic control.

Caltrans advised that they would be on scene conducting cleanup until about 9 p.m., and advised drivers to expect delays due to continuing traffic control.

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SACRAMENTO – Thirty-six Clear Lake High School students, led by registered nurse Rachelle Maher and three chaperones, recently took a two-and-a-half-hour bus trip to visit the “Bodies Revealed” exhibit in Sacramento.

The exhibit offers an up-close examination of the human body in a manner unique to public display.



The exhibit shows the human body in a number of positions. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


More that 200 separate exhibits ranging from individual internal organs to full-sized examples of the circulatory, skeletal and muscular systems at various stages of dissection are viewable from multiple angles.

The students maneuvered through nine galleries while listening to individual, handheld audio devises that access prerecorded information describing details for each item on display.



Students get an up-close look at the human form. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


The exhibition has been designed to change the way people see themselves.

“The educational impact of the exhibition is immeasurable,” wrote Dr. Roy Glover, chief medical director for Bodies Revealed. “For centuries, the medical community has learned about the inner workings of the human body through the sturdy of real specimens and now it’s possible for the public to gain an intimate knowledge as well.”



A closer look at one of the bodies on exhibit. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


The exhibition concludes its swing through Sacramento on March 31. The hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is located at 2040 Alta Arden Way, Sacramento. Call 1-888-263-4379 for ticket information.



Students take a closer look at human bones. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


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The exhibit looks both at bone structure and musculature. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The human heart, up close. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – A man convicted of taking part in a gang-related assault last summer has been sentenced to four years in prison.

On Friday Judge Richard Martin sentenced Octavio Juan Sanchez, 21, of Ukiah to prison for the July 4, 2007, gang assault on a 14-year-old boy in Lakeport, Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff reported.

On Jan. 11 Sanchez pleaded guilty to charges including felony assault likely to produce great bodily injury, participation in a criminal street gang and promoting criminal conduct by criminal gang members, Hinchcliff reported. Other charges and special allegations were dismissed.

Sanchez's plea to the gang participation charge will constitute a “strike” if Sanchez is convicted of a felony in the future, Hinchcliff added.

Sanchez's attorney, J. David Markham, did not return a call seeking comment on Friday.

According to the investigation into the July 2007, which was led by Lakeport Police Department, Sanchez was a documented member of the Aztec Tribal Chollos, a known Mendocino and Sonoma County gang affiliated with the Nortenos, Hinchcliff reported. Sanchez also had a previous gang-related conviction for assault in Mendocino County.

The July 4, 2007, assault took place when Sanchez and other gang members – who were in a residence near the Safeway shopping center on 11th Street in Lakeport – saw the 14-year-old victim and three others leaving Perko's restaurant, wearing blue clothing commonly worn by Sureno gang members, according to Hinchcliff.

A witness in the residence reported that Sanchez and his fellow Nortenos began talking about the “Scraps” – a derogatory term used by Norteno gang members to describe Sureno gang members – coming out of Perkos, Hinchcliff explained.

The attack resulted because the Norteno gang members believed the victim and his friends were Surenos. The victim's brother, who was with him during the attack, admitted to belonging to the Angelino Heights gang, which Hinchcliff said is a Sureno gang in Lake County.

Sanchez's group confronted the victim and his companions and a fight resulted, during which the boy was struck in the head with a rock, Hinchcliff explained. The teen was taken to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, treated and released.

In an even more tragic twist to the story, two days after the gang assault the 14-year-old was involved in a vehicle collision near Kelseyville and suffered internal injuries. He died on July 8, 2007 as a result of those injuries, as Lake County News reported last summer.

Hinchcliff said at Friday's sentencing Sanchez asked the court not to sentence him to anything greater than the midterm, claiming that he was not really participating in gang activity. In return, Hinchcliff argued that defendant should be sentenced to the upper term because of his prior record and the seriousness of the crimes.

Citing Sanchez’s lengthy criminal record of theft, drug- and gang-related crimes, Judge Martin sentenced Sanchez to the upper term of four years in prison.

Hinchcliff said another participant in the assault, a juvenile,was prosecuted previously in the juvenile court.

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LAKE COUNTY – Officials are reporting that traffic is beginning to move after it was closed down along the Highway 20 corridor into Colusa County due to a truck fire.

The California Highway Patrol reported a big rig tanker on fire shortly before 10 a.m. on Highway 20 one mile west of Mitchell Flats and several miles into the boundaries of Colusa County.

CHP reported that the truck, which was giving off heavy smoke, was completely blocking the highway after the fire began. At least three CHP units were on scene.

Just after 11 a.m. the Chico Dispatch Center reported that the truck – a double tanker carrying 75,000 gallons of kerosene – was “still an active burn” and that it was going to be allowed to burn out.

At shortly before 1 p.m. CHP reported one lane of traffic has been reopened.

Previous to that, traffic was being either turned around or rerouted onto southbound Highway 16 when possible.

Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

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LAKE COUNTY – The state budget is months away from taking its final form, but a multibillion-dollar deficit anticipated in the 2009-2010 fiscal year and cuts proposed earlier this year have Californians concerned about parks, schools and a variety of other services.

In January Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his proposed budget, which suggested 10-percent, across-the-board cuts of all state departments.

One of the most shocking proposals contained in Schwarzenegger's severe budget-cutting plan was the closure of 48 state parks, including Clear Lake State Park and Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, as Lake County News has reported.

The future of parks and other critical funding is likely to come into clearer focus later in the spring.

Roy Stearns, spokesman for the State Parks Department, told Lake County News that a lot is riding on the governor's “May revise,” the updated budget document he'll submit shortly.

That document, said Stearns, will be based on additional information the governor has received since his initial budget was released in January. It will the be up to the state Legislature to respond and begin hashing out a final budget.

So far, said Stearns, the parks department hasn't received any indication of what changes might be in store.

If the budget were to pass as it is now written, “We would absolutely be closing some parks,” said Stearns.

“After more than a decade of repeated cuts, all the efficiencies are gone in our department and the only viable alternative is to close some to keep others open and marginally healthy,” he said.

Stearns said the Assembly and the Senate are now holding hearings, and State Parks Director Ruth Coleman and her staff have been before budget committees of both houses at least once. “What we have heard from both Republicans and Democrats is that neither wants to close parks, but so far, there is no clear proposal as to how to fill our $13+ million reduction to not have that happen,” Stearns reported.

Parks officials don't believe they'll actually have to lay off permanent employees, said Stearns. “We have about 300 vacancies in the department and the reductions called for in the present budget proposal would eliminate about 136 positions and we feel we can cut vacancies to keep real people.”

Stearns said that will mean that, in many cases, workers will have to move to an area where there is a park with a vacancy requiring their specific job skills.

Local resources could be lost

Richard Bergstresser is a Humboldt County park ranger and board member with the State Park Peace Officers Association of California, a labor organization representing the state's park rangers and lifeguards.

The closures, said Bergstresser, will take good, well-paying jobs out of the community, and cause upheaval for many longtime parks employees, not to mention the lose of important tourism opportunities.

Local parks Superintendent Jay Sherman said he has four full-time ranger positions, a part-time office assistant and five full-time maintenance personnel. In addition, the parks employ four seasonal maintenance positions and about eight more season visitors services staff who collect entrance fees, and conduct school, campfire and Junior Ranger programs.

Two local field ranger positions are vacant with the December retirements of husband-and-wife team, Tom and Val Nixon. Tom Nixon began work at Clear Lake State Park in 1981; his wife started there seasonally in 1978.

Val Nixon told Lake County News that the park hasn't been able to fill the positions she and her husband held because of a statewide ranger shortage. Instead, a ranger trainee is scheduled to begin at the park in July.

The Nixons now volunteer at Clear Lake State Park. Val Nixon said there were threats before of closures but “we've never seen a list before,” or seen a park closure.

Sherman added that, in his 17 years as a State Parks employee, he hasn't seen closures, although he's seen reduced hours and days that parks were open to the public.

The good thing about the park closure proposal is that it has rallied support for parks, said Nixon. She said she's been pleased to see local residents rally to speak up on behalf of parks.

Sherman agreed. “The community is doing a fantastic job getting the word out.”

However, threatening to close – and actually closing – parks can result, ultimately, in a loss of public support, Nixon said.

The California State Parks Foundation reports that the two local state parks attract nearly 150,000 annual visitors and generate more than $334,000 in revenue – not counting impact on area businesses and the hospitality industry.

Nixon said Clear Lake State Park, especially, is extremely busy during the summer. However, parks are expensive to run and “never run at a profit,” she said.

Sherman added that Clear Lake State Park is popular both for camping and day use, and is widely visited by area residents.

Day use passes at Clear Lake State Park cost $5, $2 at Anderson Marsh, said Nixon. Both parks offer $1 off for seniors.

It was those overly affordable day fees that state Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill proposed last month should be raised in order to keep the parks open.

Hill's office analyzed park user fees and determined that they haven't kept pace with inflation. She suggested increasing park fees, which she estimated could raise $25 million, roughly half of which could be used to offset the closures and the rest could be used to go toward ongoing maintenance.

Sherman said the parks had a small, across-the-board fee increase about four years ago.

Closing the 48 parks would save a mere $8.8 million, a drop in the bucket when looking at the state's budget, said Bergstresser. The costs, he said, could be much higher. “It's going to be a major hit across many sectors of the economy.”

Unforeseen consequences

But Bergstresser pointed to another concern that he says hasn't gotten as much attention – just what will happen to these mothballed parks?

Lake County's parks are under the Northern Buttes District, headquartered in Oroville, said Bergstresser. That would mean already short-staffed parks in Colusa and Oroville would be required to send over staff on an occasional basis to check on Anderson Marsh and Clear Lake State Parks.

The result, he said, would be serious neglect issues, which could lead to vandalism and natural degradation.

Sherman said, in the worst-case scenario of a park closures, he thinks it likely that someone would be left as a caretaker for local park lands.

Once closed, Bergstresser said it's unlikely that the parks could be counted on to either be maintained or reopened, considering a current backlog of $1 billion in deferred maintenance for state parks.

Sherman said deferred maintenance for local parks goes back many years, but recently they've been catching up. They're now finishing up improvement to Clear Lake State Park's day use picnic area and this fall intend to begin upgrades, repairs and replacements to the parks water and wastewater system.

Other planned projects include making the park more accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and improving Dorn trail, Sherman said.

The Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association also is raising money to build an education pavilion, he added.

It's hard to know, Bergstresser said, if the closure proposal is just a shot across the bow at the beloved state parks, or if it really will happen.

The “unprecedented” action of park closure was threatened during Gov. Pete Wilson's administration, said Bergstresser.

“State parks, as a whole, have been on a starvation diet for the last 20 years, since the Wilson administration,” he said.

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A new fund remembers 2002 murder victim Barbara LaForge and seeks to raise money to help violence victims. Lake County News file photo.


LAKEPORT – It's been five and a half years since Barbara LaForge was murdered in her downtown business. It's an unsolved crime that continues to haunt those who knew her and the community at large.

Now, LaForge's friend, Gail Salituri, an artist whose gallery shared space with LaForge's frame shop, is founding an effort to not only keep LaForge's memory alive but also to benefit other victims of violence.

Beginning April 1, Salituri is kicking off a fundraising campaign for the LaForge Memorial Fund.


LaForge, a talented artist and framer, was shot to death on a weekday morning in the downtown gallery in October of 2002. The case remains open and under active investigation, according to police.


Salituri's motto for the campaign is, “It's never too late to be remembered.”

The fund is now open at Westamerica Bank, Salituri said, and can receive private donations, all of which will benefit Lake Family Resource Center's domestic violence shelter fundraising campaign.

As part of the fundraiser, Salituri will hold raffles and silent auctions of artwork in the coming months.

Gloria Flaherty, executive director of Lake Family Resource Center, said Salituri's offer was a definite surprise.

“Gail's offer was, like, a bolt from the blue,” Flaherty said.

The idea appears to have sprung from a contact between Wilda Shock, a member of the center's Wine and Chocolate committee, who initially spoke to Salituri about donating a painting for that event's silent auction. The Wine and Chocolate Fundraiser was held in February.

Salituri did donate a painting, but she decided she wanted to become further involved.

"For years, I have thought long and hard about how we can remember Barbara LaForge,” said Salituri. “When I was introduced to this project by Wilda Shock, I knew immediately this would be the perfect venue and remembrance.

“Although I do know it is five and a half years later, I felt it was never too late to do something, and the motto immediately came into my mind, 'It's never too late to be remembered,'” Salituri added. “Helping someone in distress is something that is close to my heart, and also something Barbara would have done.”

Having Salituri's support is a special addition to the shelter effort, said Flaherty. “She's such a respected artist, and to have someone of her status to volunteer to assist is humbling, and it's an honor.”

The LaForge fund's creation comes in time for the official launch of the shelter project's capital campaign, scheduled for later this month, said Flaherty.

Over the last year, the shelter project has raised $130,000, which Flaherty called “seed money” for the campaign. “The ultimate goal is around $3 million,” said Flaherty.

Flaherty said the $3 million figure will depend on a combination of government and private foundation grants, along with local fundraising.

In addition to the actual funds raised, Flaherty said they're also receiving donations of materials and help.

Sutter Lakeside Hospital will lease the center property for the shelter at $1 a year for 50 years, said Flaherty. Kelseyville Lumber will provide building materials at cost plus 5 percent. Other community members, including contractors, are offering labor and other types of help.

The April fundraiser will include a silent auction for a newly painted, original Salituri oil, “Lake County Hills Spring Bloom.” The painting features Salituri's eye-popping use of color and light to portray the local landscape. The framed 8-inch by 10-inch original is valued at $475.





For the raffle, noted local watercolor artist John Clarke – who each year paints an original watercolor for use as the Lake County Wine Auction poster – is donating a lithograph of his painting, “Golden Gate,” valued at $125 unframed. Salituri's Inspirations Gallery and Frame Shop will donate framing on the painting, for a total value of $400.






Salituri said the opening bid for her painting in the silent auction is $85; tickets for the raffle to win Clarke's lithograph will cost $5 each or five tickets for $20.

Tickets go on sale and silent auction bids open on April 1, said Salituri, with Kathy Fowler, a member of the Lake Family Resource Center Board of Directors, scheduled to draw the winning raffle ticket on June 1.

After the June 1 event, Salituri said she will open bids for the next silent auction and begin offering tickets for a new raffle, which will be held later in the summer.

Tickets will be available at Inspirations Gallery, 165 N. Main St., Lakeport; Lake Family Resource Center, 896 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport; and the Lakeport Chamber of Commerce, 875 Lakeport Blvd.

Those interested in the fund also can visit Salituri's Web page, www.gailsalituri.com/Memorial.html.

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


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