Saturday, 20 July 2024


The closing arguments took place in Judge Barbara Zuniga's Department 2 courtroom in the Wakefield Taylor Courthouse in Martinez on Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


MARTINEZ – The number of bullets in a handgun used to shoot two men fleeing from the Clearlake Park home. An orange jacket and a fourth suspect alleged to have worn it. The lack of blood on a shotgun and a hammer not discovered at a crime scene until a followup investigation.

What all of those things have in common is they're key points of contention between the prosecution and defense in Renato Hughes Jr.'s double murder trial.

Closing arguments in the trial began Thursday in Judge Barbara Zuniga's Martinez courtroom, where the trial was moved after a change of venue was granted.

Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon spent the day arguing the merits of their theories about what happened in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005, in the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds.

One of the irrefutable facts of the case is that Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, were killed that morning as they ran from Edmonds' house.

Edmonds admitted to shooting them as they fled and, in testimony during the trial, stated he shot Foster once in the back while Foster was down, a statement that would play a key part in Hanlon's arguments Thursday.

Hughes, 23, who wore a light gray suit and sat quietly through the day's proceedings, is being tried for his friends' deaths because the three of them are alleged to have set out to rob Edmonds of his medical marijuana, Hopkins argued.

That opens the door for the provocative act theory, which holds a person responsible for any deaths that result during the commission of a crime – such as an armed robbery – that could result in a lethal response.

Hopkins said Thursday that Hughes also is facing an assault charge because Edmonds was struck with a shotgun, plus an attempted murder charge in the near-fatal beating of 17-year-old Dale Lafferty, the son of Edmonds' girlfriend, Lori Tyler.

The boy was hit in the head repeatedly with a metal bat, which eventually required doctors to perform a procedure similar to a frontal lobotomy to reduce the swelling on his brain, Hopkins said. Lafferty has suffered permanent brain injury.

The other thing the two seasoned attorneys could agree upon is the sad nature of the case.

"There's clearly one thing in this case where there's absolutely no doubt. This case is a tragedy," Hopkins said as he led off closing arguments.

"Anyone involved in this case will never be the same," he added.

Both he and Hanlon would remind the 12-woman jury during the day that their's was a solemn, crucial task – the end of which was justice, not trying to make things right for those involved.

Crucial to achieving a conviction, as Hopkins would explain in a review of legal principles, is the need for jurors to come away from looking at the evidence with an abiding convicting of Hughes' guilt.

That includes showing Hughes was aware that his friends were allegedly intending to commit the robbery, and that in doing so he was aiding and abetting them – resulting in a provocative act.

"In this case there is a great difficulty in determining the facts of the case because of the circumstances surrounding the event," which Hopkins described as a "melee" that affected the perceptions of many of the witnesses.

Edmonds has said he saw two shotguns during the alleged attack by the three men on his family, although only one shotgun was recovered. "That's doesn't mean he's making it up," said Hopkins.

It does, however, require careful analysis of all witnesses and their credibility, based on the circumstances under which their recollections were created, Hopkins said.

Hopkins alleged that Hughes, Foster and Williams were part of a "crime team" that went into the house with the intent to confront someone and steal marijuana, and it ended in a deadly confrontation.

They allegedly broke a sliding glass door to gain entry to the house at 4 a.m., an act not done "for some legal purpose," Hopkins said.

He said the men began screaming and yelling and demanding "weed." They rushed into the home's master bedroom, where Foster allegedly struggled with, and assaulted, Edmonds.

Hughes, meanwhile, allegedly punched Tyler repeatedly in the face, Hopkins asserted. He said Hughes was wearing an orange jacket, a seemingly small detail mentioned in Tyler's 911 call that would have greater import as the two attorneys' arguments developed throughout the day.

Lafferty and his friend, 16-year-old Justin Sutch, got in the fight, with Lafferty originally wielding the bat that Hopkins said wound up in the hands of Williams, who beat Lafferty with it.

Lafferty wasn't doing anything to anybody when he was assaulted, said Hopkins. "He (Williams) just hauls off and creams him at that point."

Hopkins alleged that any reasonable person would know that hitting a person several times in the head with a metal bat will kill, so he asserted that Williams meant to kill the teenager.

The desperate struggle, said Hopkins, could be heard on the audio of a surveillance camera.

During the fray, Edmonds had "some adrenaline rush or something," said Hopkins, after he saw Lafferty's assault.

He said Edmonds threw the men off of him and someone – possible Sutch – held the bedroom door closed while Edmonds retrieved his pistol from a gun safe.

"The physical evidence show that 10 shots were fired," said Hopkins, all of which can be heard on the surveillance tape.

Although Edmonds thought he first shot the pistol in the hallway, it was in the living room where three shell casings were found. He was firing at Foster and Williams as they tried to get out the broken sliding glass door. Edmonds fired another round outside that was found in a pickup tire.

"And he fires three more and three more, in fairly rapid succession," Hopkins said.

When Edmonds later shows the pistol to police, there is one bullet remaining in the chamber and thee more in the magazine, which – in additional to the 10 shots fired – makes for a total of 14 bullets in the pistol, another point that would be argued when Hanlon's turn came.

Hopkins said Edmonds' state of mind can be inferred from the surveillance tape, on which he can be heard screaming. "It was clearly in response to the provocative acts that were happening in his bedroom."

He attacked the testimony Hughes gave during the trial, in which Hughes said he and his friends were at Edmonds' home to buy marijuana.

Hopkins questioned why, if they were buying marijuana at 4 a.m., they had a getaway car with its doors and trunk propped open, and why the car was parked down the street rather than being parked at Edmonds' home.

He also challenged the idea that a fourth person, who Hughes said was with them, could have squeezed into the back seat of Foster's Honda, which had clothes and his college book bag stacked on one of the seats.

If it were an attempt to buy marijuana, Hopkins asked why they broke the window, which experts agreed was shattered from the outside in. They also would have needed more than the $10 found on Williams to buy the drug, Hopkins suggested.

And then there's the matter of the weapons.

"They want us to believe there's no shotgun," said Hopkins. "It takes 47 days to locate a shotgun that could be involved."

That gun – a long-barreled, 12-gauge pump action shotgun with a wooden stock – was found in a field of wild parsley on 14th Street in Clearlake Park. The shirt Hughes wore at the crime scene was found covered with wild parsley burrs, Hopkins added.

In his testimony on the stand last week, Hughes said a fourth man – who he knew only as "Dre" – had been with he and his two friends that night. While Hughes said he had remained in the car outside, only rushing in when he heard a commotion, he said Dre was in the house with Williams and Foster.

"There is no 'Dre,'" said Hopkins. "Mr. Hughes does not make a credible case for his existence."

Sutch had recalled seeing a taller, skinnier man who didn't match Hughes' description and who was wearing the orange jacket. But Hopkins dismissed that testimony, saying Sutch also had stated at one point that a large white man had been involved in the alleged attack as well.

Defense attacks 'gaping holes' in prosecution theory

Hopkins' remarks lasted about two hours. The remainder of the day belonged to Hanlon, who, for more than three and a half hours, argued against Hopkins' statements, pointing to holes big enough to drive a truck through, he said.

Hanlon began by reminding the jurors of the importance of their part in determining Hughes' innocence or guilt. "Other than voting, this is the most intense and important public service you can do."

He emphasized that the law allows people charged with crimes to be cloaked with a presumption of innocence until the prosecution makes a case that leaves jurors with an abiding conviction of the truth of the charges.

"It's clear no one really knows what happened here," said Hanlon.

Hughes, he said, didn't shoot or hurt anyone, and had a minimal role in the incident.

He questioned why blood wasn't found anywhere on the shotgun if Hughes – who had a cut, bleeding hand – had truly carried it from the crime scene to the field where it was found. Just leaving the gun exposed to the elements wouldn't have cleaned away the traces of proteins, said Hanlon.

A woman also reported seeing Hughes run by her home – "running like the devil was chasing him" – but didn't see him carrying a shotgun, Hanlon said.

He agreed with Hopkins that the case was complex, but he accused the district attorney of attempting to shift blame onto Hughes and fit the evidence to fit the provocative act theory.

Merely being at the scene didn't mean Hughes was involved, said Hanlon. "The real issue in this case is, did by client aid and abet?"

The answer, in Hanlon's opinion, was no.

And then there was the issue of the fourth suspect, Dre. "There was always a fourth person there," said Hanlon. "It was clear."

Yet he faulted Clearlake Police investigators for making up their minds early in the investigation that it was a simple home invasion robbery. "That's all they wanted to see and they don't look at the whole picture, which could lead them other places."

Hopkins, he added, was part of forming that initial theory.

Hanlon questioned why witness testimony changed and enlarged over time, with the description of the taller man in the orange jacket beginning to match Hughes over time. He also asked jurors to consider why the clothes of Tyler, Edmonds and the others at the scene weren't tested for DNA evidence.

"You can't do what the police did," he told the jury, as they prepare to decide the case. "They solved it in the first miserable day."

A hammer found at the scene that had a microscopic spot of blood matching Hughes' DNA is another piece of questionable evidence, said Hanlon, because it wasn't discovered during the initial investigation, leaving its validity open to doubt.

Hanlon's defense of his client included a rigorous attack on Edmonds, who he called a drug dealer – who uses children to sell drugs – and a murderer, who shot Foster again while he was on the ground.

"He gets to do whatever he wants," Hanlon said of Edmonds. "Think about it: Is that someone you believe?"

Hanlon also challenged Hopkins' statements about the 14 bullets in Edmonds' pistol. Pulling the pistol out of evidence to show the jury, Hanlon said it could only have held 13 bullets.

On the surveillance tape an 11th shot can be heard, which led Hanlon to assert that Edmonds reloaded the pistol to continue shooting at the fleeing Williams and Foster.

"What you have here is cold-blooded murder by Shannon Edmonds," he said.

Doctors confirmed that one of the four shots that hit Foster in the back was fired while he was face down on the ground, Hanlon said. The bullet entered Foster's back and exited through his shoulder.

"He made a decision – 'I can be the executioner,'" Hanlon said of Edmonds, who he also suggested planted evidence on Foster and Williams to make it appear as if a robbery had taken place.

A key piece of information in Hughes' favor, said Hanlon, is that he wasn't picked out of a photo lineup by the witnesses at the scene.

Even if Hughes aided and abetted in a robbery, Hanlon said it doesn't fit the provocative act charges.

He said Hughes – a graduate of a Catholic high school, who had passed a violence prevention program and was preparing to return to school at San Jose State University – wasn't likely to have committed the crimes of which he stands accused.

Hanlon asked jurors to carefully question the rebuttal arguments that Hopkins will offer. "You cannot convict my client on these types of facts."

Zuniga told jurors that court will resume at 9 a.m. Friday, at which time Hopkins will give his rebuttal to Hanlon's arguments.

The judge will then give jury instructions, with the jury adjourning for the day at 1 p.m. due to a scheduling conflict for one of the jurors.

Jury deliberations to reach a verdict will begin next week.

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This vehicle rolled off Highway 175/The Hopland Grade Thursday but the two occupants escaped with only minor injuries. Photo by John Jensen.


HOPLAND GRADE – Two people escaped serious injury Thursday afternoon when the vehicle they were riding in went off the roadway and flipped over.

A gold SUV was reported as having gone off the Hopland Grade at 3:53 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officials at the scene reported that the vehicle had flipped over more than once, but that the two occupants had survived and walked away with minor injuries.

The driver may have had a problem due to a medical condition, the CHP reported.

The roadway was closed for at least an hour and a half while emergency personnel assisted the crash victims and removed the totaled vehicle from the scene.

No further information, including names of the vehicle's occupants, was available late Thursday.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – An evacuation order for several homes affected by the Soda Complex was lifted Wednesday, while the fire's containment percentage remained the same as the previous day.

The Soda Complex is located to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District. It was sparked by a dry lightning storm June 21.

Forest Services spokesman Marc Peebles said the lifting of the evacuation order became effective as of 6 p.m. Wednesday. The order had been for seven residences located in Lake and Mendocino counties between Deadmans Flat and Sunset Gap near the fire's east flank.

Peebles said National Forest road 20N04 and areas around the immediate fire area are open to residents but remain closed to the general public due to the large amount of fire equipment traveling in and out of the area. Residents returning to the area are advised to use caution when driving.

Incident Commander Dave Fiorella of the US Forest Service's Southern California Incident Management Team No. 3 – headquartered at Upper Lake High School – thanked the residents for their patience and understanding during the evacuation period, which he called “a very stressful and inconvenient event.”

Overall the Soda Complex grew to 8,652 acres and stayed at 90-percent containment, said Peebles.

The last active fire of the complex – and its largest – is the Mill fire, which remained at 85-percent containment Wednesday but grew slightly, reaching 3,043 acres, Peebles reported. The fire had approximately 860 personnel assigned to it, down 30 from the previous day.

Firefighters continued aggressively mopping up fire areas and dealing with debris that rolled out of the fire line, Peebles reported. Crews are holding operations along steep terrain in the southeast portion of the fire.

Air patrols of the fire areas also are continuing, according to Peebles, as are water drops. A suppression rehabilitation group has been established for the complex and will begin work on the fireline.

Peebles reported the fire is expected to be contained on Saturday.

Forest Services spokesperson Phebe Brown reported that the Vinegar Fire, part of the Lime Complex, has now burned 13,111 acres on the Mendocino National Forest and is 30-percent contained.

Brown said the Vinegar Fire and the 20,894-acre Yellow Fire in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness are burning toward each other.

Smoke from area fires caused alarm for some county residents, as Lake County News reported in a midday update on Wednesday.

Cal Fire reported receiving thousands of calls from concerned Lake and Sonoma County residents, worried that a new fire might be the cause of the smoke. However, air reconnaissance found no new fires.

Lake County Air Pollution Control Officer Bob Reynolds reported Wednesday that the fires on the National Forests are primarily responsible for the smoke and degraded air quality over the county.

West to northwest winds are bringing the smoke into the county's air basin, he said, where air quality conditions are expected to remain unchanged through Thursday. Even with the smoke, air quality is expected to remain in the good to moderate range.

Reynolds said he was in Mendocino County Wednesday morning, where the air was smoky around Boonville and the northern Ukiah Valley. He said areas of the northern Sacramento Valley were experiencing bad air quality as well.

For more information about the forest fires visit Forest Service Web site at or For information about other fires around the state, visit

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Kelly Mather is accepting a new position with Sutter Health in which she'll promote the wellness model throughout Northern California. Courtesy photo.


LAKEPORT – Sutter Lakeside Hospital chief executive officer Kelly Mather says she's leaving the position for a new job in the Sutter Health organization.

Mather, who has led the hospital since 2001, will leave Sutter Lakeside Sept. 2.

“This was a very difficult decision for my family and me as my time at Sutter Lakeside has been richly rewarding,” Mather said in a statement. “Sutter Lakeside is a 'healing hospital' pioneer and I look forward to sharing its successes with other health care organizations.”

In her new job she'll be heading Sutter Health’s efforts to promote the wellness model of health care and improve community health programs throughout Northern California.

The Sutter Lakeside Board of Directors has begun the process of hiring a successor to Mather and will rely on existing local and regional leadership to oversee hospital operations while the search unfolds.

Bill Kearney, Sutter Lakeside’s Board chairman, praised Mather's efforts. “Kelly has led the hospital with passion and insight and has gained the respect and admiration of the hospital staff, physicians and the Board of Directors,” he said in a written statement.

Mather served as the chief executive officer of San Leandro Hospital from 1996 to 2001, prior to taking the helm at Sutter Lakeside.

Since 2001, the hospital's capital improvements have included expanding its Emergency Department, adding a surgical pavilion and most recently the Don Pifer Medical Imaging Service, a $10 million dollar renovation to the medical imaging department featuring the latest diagnostic technology and patient conveniences.

In addition, the hospital campus has undergone a major face lift and its Wellness Center has expanded.

Mather has focused on a “healing hospital” model that combines wellness and illness care. She's worked with a Rural Health Partnership model to better address the community health needs of Lake County, and also has helped develop several innovative community benefit programs such as the “Healthy Kids are Contagious” school site program, which provides a health and wellness curriculum to students of Lake County schools.

Sutter Lakeside reported that, under Mather's leadership, the hospital has been one of the few financially stable rural hospitals in California.

However, decreased Medicare reimbursement forced hospital leadership to seek federal assistance, resulting in Sutter Lakeside converting to a Critical Access Hospital in March. That federal designation is meant to provide increased Medicare funding to certain rural hospitals that meet specific criteria.

Mather said she's grateful to all the employees, physicians, community leaders and Lake County residents who have supported the hospital and its over the past seven years.


LAKE COUNTY – Smoke from wildfires on public lands continues to wreak havoc with Lake County's air quality, which could move into the unhealthy range on Friday.

In recent days, smoke pouring into Lake County's air basin has led some county residents to conclude that there must be new fires nearby.

But county Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart reported that the smoke is coming from the Soda Complex on the Mendocino National Forest and the Lime Complex, with west to northeast winds bringing the smoke here.

The Soda Complex of four fires has burned nearly 8,652 acres and is 95-percent contained, according to the US Forest Service. The Lime complex, composed of 92 fires that includes those on the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, is spread across several wilderness areas and National Forests in Northern California, with 116,488 acres burned.

Using the Federal Air Quality Index for particulate matter, Gearhart said Lake County’s air quality is expected to be in the moderate range for a 24-hour average.

Although the 24 hour average may be moderate trending to unhealthy, mid-day to early evening conditions have been in the unhealthy for sensitive groups to unhealthy range, with similar conditions expected Friday, Gearhart said.

On July 10, air quality also was in the unhealthy for sensitive groups range, according to statistics Gearhart provided.

Smoky conditions can cause issues for everyone, but can be particularly hazardous for young children, the elderly, individuals with heart conditions or chronic lung disease such as asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.

Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait advises area residents to be cautious.

“Variable weather conditions and ongoing fire activity may result in localized areas of reduced air quality, which could pose health risks to people with underlying health conditions,” she said. “Since we can’t always predict when and where ‘pockets’ of poorer air quality may occur, it is prudent to be careful until conditions stabilize.”

Individuals with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung or heart diseases should carefully adhere to their medical treatment plans and maintain at least a five-day supply of supply of prescribed medications. They should limit outdoor activity and unnecessary physical exertion. Drinking plenty of water to avoid drying of the airways is generally recommended, unless restricted for medical reasons.

Dust masks are not protective against the most harmful pollutants caused by wildfire smoke that drifts to nearby areas, health officials reported. Masks are useful in filtering out the larger particles and ash that are encountered in burn areas and should be considered when recovering property or cleaning areas that have burned.

Air purifying respirators, such as N-95 filtering face pieces, may be effective in reducing harmful particulate matter, but also increase the work of breathing, can lead to physiologic stress, and are not recommended for the general public in Lake County. Their use should be limited to individual circumstances requiring additional protection in personnel trained and familiar with the proper fitting and use of these devices.

Mechanical air filtering units with HEPA filters, can be useful, according to health officials. It is important that the size and the air flow of the unit be matched to the indoor space it is intended to treat. There are a variety of other devices marketed to purify air that should be avoided, as they might be ineffective under wildfire circumstances and some can actually worsen the air quality by producing ozone.



CLEARLAKE – The Department of Defense and the US Marine Corps on Wednesday offered limited new details regarding the death of a local Marine killed Monday in southern Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Ivan I. Wilson, 22, of Clearlake died while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province on Monday, the Department of Defense reported Wednesday afternoon in its formal identification statement.

First Lt. Curtis Williamson, spokesperson for the First Marine Division, said the incident that took Wilson's life occurred Monday.

Few other details about the circumstances surrounding Wilson's death were available due to security concerns, said Williamson.

That included Williamson not being able to confirm that Wilson was killed as the result of an improved explosive device, a piece of information communicated to his family by the Marine Corps on Monday, according to a previous statement by family friend Ginny Craven.

“It's tantamount to basically telling the insurgents, 'That method is effective and continue to use it,'” Williamson said.

Wilson received a posthumous promotion from private first class to lance corporal, Williamson said. Promotions after death aren't rare, but neither do they happen in every instance of a soldier killed in action, he added.

The first Marine from Lake County killed in the current Middle Eastern military conflict, Wilson also was the 560th US casualty in Afghanistan since coalition military operations began there in 2001, according to In all, 897 coalition soldiers have died and thousands of Afghans since 2001.

Violence has been escalating in Afghanistan in recent months, with casualties for US and coalition forces higher than those in Iraq during the same period, statistics show.

The violence and resulting deaths are blamed on an apparent strengthening in southern Afghanistan of a Taliban-led insurgency.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a July 22 interview on PBS's “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” that coalition forces in Afghanistan are seeing “more sophisticated attacks more often by terrorists,” according to an article by the Armed Forces Press Service.

Mullen also is quoted in the article as saying the increase in attacks comes at a time when that country's police force and government are underdeveloped. Also lacking, he said, is border security along the Pakistani border, where terrorists appear to be staying.

A 2004 graduate of Clearlake Community School, Wilson enlisted in the Marines on Sept. 11, 2005.

The Department of Defense said Wilson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Twentynine Palms. He was serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Here at home, on Wednesday morning flags at the county courthouse were lowered to half-staff in Wilson's memory.

County Public Services Director Kim Clymire told Lake County News that the flags, lowered at the suggestion of Supervisor Rob Brown, will remain at half-staff until next Monday, July 28.

Jones and Lewis Funeral Home of Lower Lake confirmed Wednesday that they will be handling Wilson's services, but they had no information yet on when the services would take place.

Neither Williamson nor the Marine Corps Casualty Office said they could release information on when Wilson was to be brought home to his family.

Because Wilson was killed in action while on active duty, the Marines will be in charge of carrying out a funeral complete with military honors, said Rich Feiro, firing party commander for the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team.

The team, which has provided funeral honors at hundreds of funerals for local veterans who have left active service, plans to attend the services and stand in formation to honor the young Marine, Feiro said.

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Tule boat making is a traditional Pomo skill. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


BIG VALLEY – It's summertime, which also means it's tule boat racing time at Big Valley Rancheria.

The rancheria's seventh annual Tule Boat Festival, which began Wednesday, will culminate on Friday in the annual tule boat races.

The races will be held on Clear Lake offshore of Big Valley Rancheria, located on Mission Rancheria Road.

The event is a chance for tribal members from around the county to practice the traditional Pomo craft of building sturdy boats from native tules.

Dance groups, activities for youth and environmental demonstrations also are a part of the annual festival.



The boats are made from local tules and, when built properly, are watertight. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



The annual event is being held at Big Valley Rancheria on Mission Rancheria Road. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Animal Care and Control Officer Eric Wood and Whiskey, a young pit bull on the mend after being hit by a semi. Courtesy photo.


LAKE COUNTY – A dog that was hit by a semi and left without vet care for two days until her seizure by an animal control officer is preparing to start rehabilitation, while another dog taken into protective custody was euthanized due to his age and condition.

Animal Care and Control Director Denise Johnson said that “Whiskey,” a 6-month-old female pit bull taken from a Lucerne home by Officer Eric Wood on June 27, is on the mend after her painful ordeal.

However, a 10-year-old German shepherd dubbed “Luke” – taken into county custody by Wood earlier this month – had to be euthanized, Johnson said.

Johnson said Whiskey is getting ready for rehabilitation. She's spent the last month in the care of Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport.

Whiskey had been hit by a semi truck and left to cry in pain, with no medical care, in her owners' backyard in Lucerne for two days, officials reported.

The dog's back right left has some nerve damage; although she can walk and put pressure on it, she drags the paw, so her leg is in a split to stop the paw from dragging, said Johnson.

Johnson said the next six weeks will be very important in Whiskey's recovery, and will determine if she'll regain use of the leg or if it will need to be amputated.

Johnson said Whiskey is in good spirits, and appears determined to run and jump again. But much of how she recovers will hinge on finding her the right foster home, which hasn't happened so far. The dog will require detailed care for the next eight weeks.

Whiskey's former owners – Paul Westergren, 43, and Carrie Malsack, both of Lucerne – are facing charges of animal cruelty and failure to provide veterinary care, the latter of which is a misdemeanor, said Johnson.

Johnson said Gary Bazzano of Middletown, Luke's former owner, is facing similar charges because he left the dog without vet care for two weeks. The dog had been unable to walk, and also had been found without food or water.

The older German Shepherd was euthanized at Clearlake Veterinary Clinic on July 16 after it was determined his age and weight – he was at 120 pounds – made it impossible for rehabilitation, said Johnson.

“The most humane thing to do was to put him down,” Johnson said. “It was a very emotional day at Clearlake Vet and Animal Care and Control. It really is a shame that it had to come to this.”

In recent weeks more animal cruelty cases have appeared to come to the surface, Johnson said. She said in just under two weeks, out of five animal cruelty reports, three were validated.

“The number of reports are usually three to five per week but they aren't usually valid,” she said.

Most of the time the reports come from a disgruntled individual – a neighbor or relative – or arise from issues with spouses, but usually it turns out that the animals are OK, said Johnson.

In other cases, she said the issues aren't affecting the animal's health and the owner is willing to change the situation, so Animal Care and Control works with them and checks back to make sure the changes have been made.

Lately, however, the reports are more often valid and the cases are extreme, said Johnson, so Animal Care and Control is trying to bring the problem to the attention of the public.

That's important to do, she said, because most times animal abuse leads to, or is happening hand-in-hand with, abuse of children, spouses or the elderly.

“So if people see animal abuse and report it we can step in and, if needed, we can call for outside agency assistance to handle the human issues,” she said.

To report animal abuse call Lake County Animal Care and Control, 263-0278.

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Luke was euthanied July 16 because officials said he could not be rehabilitated. Courtesy photo.




LAKE COUNTY – Cal Fire said Wednesday that the thick smoke clogging the county's air basin is coming from other North Coast wildland fires, and isn't the result of any new fire activity in the county.

Cal Fire's St. Helena command center reported receiving thousands of calls from concerned Lake and Sonoma County residents on Wednesday morning, as conditions became smokier.

Residents in Hidden Valley Lake told Lake County News that heavy smoke was coming into their area.

In response, Cal Fire sent out helicopters to scout the south Lake County and north Sonoma County area, but they found no new fires.

Lake County's Air Quality Management District had advised on Tuesday that changing wind patterns could result in more smoke coming back through Lake County, brought here primarily from fires on the National Forests.

With this year's already devastating fire season well under way, Cal Fire isn't discouraging residents from being vigilant. The agency suggests calling fire officials if they see a column of smoke emerging from the ground.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Soda Complex remains on track to be fully contained by Saturday, according to the US Forest Service.

The four-fire complex was sparked to the north and northwest of Lake Pillsbury by a dry lightning storm on June 21. It's located on the Mendocino National Forest's Upper Lake Ranger District.

Forest Service spokesman Marc Peebles reported Thursday that the complex is still expected to be fully contained on Saturday.

That's when the last and largest of the complex's fires, the Mill Fire, also will be contained. It's burned 3,043 acres and was at 93-percent containment Thursday.

Overall, the complex had burned approximately 8,652 acres, according to Peebles. There are 810 fire personnel, 22 crews, 29 engines, three dozers, 10 water tenders and three helicopters assigned to the complex.

Peebles said the Southern California Incident Management Team No. 3 – which is headquartered at Upper Lake High School – will remain in unified command with Cal Fire to manage the Soda Complex through Friday at 8 a.m.

Peebles said firefighters have made excellent progress on the fire, improving, holding and performing mop up procedures on containment lines throughout the fire perimeter. He said fire suppression repair work has begun and is being coordinated with district resource advisors.

At the same time, multiple aircraft continue to support firefighters on the ground with water drops, and the area of the complex's contained fires – the Monkey Rock, the Big and the Back – will continue to be patrolled by air, Peebles reported.

Specific figures on the Vinegar Fire on the Mendocino National Forest, which is now managed as part of the Lime Complex, were not available Thursday.

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LAKE COUNTY – The county's jobless rate was up slightly over May, according to a recent state report.

The county's preliminary June 2008 unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, up slightly from the revised May rate of 9.2 percent and 1.7 percent above the year-ago, June 2007 rate of 7.8 percent, according to Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department's Eureka office.

At 9.5 percent, Lake ranked 44th among the State’s 58 counties, according to Mullins, which records show put it among the county's lowest rankings over the past few years.

Some surrounding county rates included 11.1 percent for Colusa, 6.4 percent for Mendocino and 5.6 percent for Sonoma. Mullins said Marin had the lowest rate in the state at 4.6 percent and Imperial County had the highest with 22.6 percent.

The comparable California and U.S. rates were 7.0 and 5.7 percent respectively, he added.

Mullins said total industry employment increased 150 (1.0 percent) between June 2007 and June 2008 ending the year-over period with 15,660 jobs.

Year-over job growth occurred in manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; private educational and health services; other services; and government, Mullins reported.

At the same time, Mullins said year-over job losses occurred in farm; natural resources, mining and construction; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality.

Industry sectors with no change over the year included information and financial activities, Mullins said.

Government led industry gainers adding 130 jobs each over the year and private educational and health services was up 70. Mullins said manufacturing and trade, transportation, and utilities each gained 30 and other services increased 10 jobs for the period.

Professional and business services led decliners dropping 60 jobs, and the natural resources, mining and construction category was down 30, according to Mullins. Leisure and hospitality dropped 20 and farm shed 10. Seven industry sectors gained jobs or held steady over the year, and four declined.

For those filing unemployment insurance benefits, Mullins said the Employment Development Department is encouraging them to do so online at On-line claim filing is the fastest, most convenient way to apply for unemployment benefits, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


LAKE COUNTY – Two children injured in recent vehicle-related incidents appear to be doing OK, officials reported Tuesday.

Ten-year-old Jacquelyn Newton of Seaside, who was visiting Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa with her family, was hit Saturday by a pickup truck driven by 35-year-old Dennis Olson of Kelseyville, as Lake County News reported.

A UC Davis Medical Center official told Lake County News on Tuesday that the girl was in good condition.

California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Dye said the child suffered a partially collapsed lung, right leg fracture, and lacerations to her liver and spleen laceration as a result of the collision.

CHP arrested Olson on charges including hit and run and driving under the influence causing bodily injury.

On Monday evening, an 8-year-old Lower Lake boy also was flown to UC Davis Medical Center after he had a collision with a pickup, according to CHP Officer Mike Humble, who did not have the boy's name.

Humble said the boy, who was riding a motorcycle near his home on Riata Road, collided with a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer driven by Annette Jean Holley, 44, of Lower Lake.

“It appears that he's a fault,” said Humble, who did not have further information on the particulars of the incident.

The boy suffered a cut to his face and complained of abdominal pain but who was otherwise OK, Humble 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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