Saturday, 20 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment jumped to the highest level in decades in November, while the unemployment rates for California and the rest of the country dipped slightly.

The California Employment Development Department's monthly report showed that Lake County's unemployment rate hit the 17.7 percent mark, a jump from its adjusted 16.4 percent rate in October.

Lake County's November unemployment rate is the highest reported since 1990, as far back as the Employment Development Department's online records extend.

The state's overall unemployment saw a small drop in November, from 12.5 percent in October to 12.3 percent in November, but up from 8.3 percent in November 2008, according to the report.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 10 percent in November, down from 10.2 percent in October but up from the 6.8 percent rate in November 2008, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lake County's jump in November is likely the result of last month's closure of Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, which was estimated to have taken away as many as 700 jobs, although at this time of year the resort usually had a seasonal reduction in its labor force.

The November numbers show only an increase of 190 unemployed people over October.

However, the report also showed that Lake County's overall labor force in November was reported at 24,750, down from October, when there were reported to be 25,600 people in the local labor force. In October, 4,200 people in Lake County were reported to be out of work, while in November there were 4,390 unemployed.

Within the county itself, the following unemployment rates were reported: Clearlake Oaks, 25.8 percent; Nice, 24.6 percent; city of Clearlake, 24.3 percent; Middletown, 21.6 percent; Lucerne, 18.5 percent; Kelseyville, 17.3 percent; city of Lakeport, 16 percent; north Lakeport, 15.6 percent; Cobb, 14. 6 percent; Hidden Valley Lake, 14.4 percent; Lower Lake, 14.1 percent; Upper Lake, 7.2 percent.

Six of California's 58 counties had higher unemployment rates than Lake: Yuba, 17.9 percent; Merced, 18.3 percent; Trinity, 19.1 percent; Sutter, 19.4 percent; Colusa, 22.6 percent; and Imperial, 29.2 percent.

The lowest unemployment in the state was in Marin, which had an 8 percent rate.

Lake's neighboring counties registered the following unemployment rates: Colusa, 22.6 percent; Glenn, 14.6 percent; Mendocino, 11.2 percent; Napa, 10 percent; Sonoma, 10.1 percent; and Yolo, 13.2 percent.

California's nonfarm payroll jobs totaled 14,194,200 in November, a net loss of 10,200 jobs since the October survey. This followed a gain of 31,100 jobs – as revised – in October, the Employment Development Department reported. Those numbers are based on a survey of 42,000 California businesses.

The year-over-year change – November 2008 to November 2009 – showed a decrease of 617,600 jobs, down 4.2 percent, according to the report.

A federal survey of 5,500 households showed an increase in the number of employed people, according to the report. That federal survey estimated the number of Californians holding jobs in November was 16,067,000, an increase of 26,000 from October, but down 931,000 from the employment total in November of last year.

The number of people unemployed in California in November was estimated at 2,254,000 – down by 45,000 from October – but up significantly from the 716,000 unemployed that were reported in November of last year.

The Employment Development Department reported that there were 781,449 people receiving regular

unemployment insurance benefits during the November survey week, compared with 740,272 in October and 593,670 in November 2008.

New claims for unemployment insurance were 84,738 in November, up slightly from 83,475 in

October and 80,920 in November of last year, the agency reported.

The Employment Development Department reported that five categories – mining and logging; construction; information; professional and business services; and other services – added jobs over the month, gaining 13,500 jobs. Professional and business services posted the largest increase over the month, adding 8,000 jobs.

At the same time, six categories reported job declines in November, down 23,700 jobs. They included manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; and government. Trade, transportation and utilities posted the largest decline over the month, down by 8,200 jobs.

The report showed that one industry division, educational and health services, posted job gains over the year, adding 18,900 jobs, a 1.1-percent increase.

Ten categories – mining and logging; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government – posted job declines over the year, down 636,500 jobs, the report explained.

Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 135,400 jobs, a decline of 4.9 percent. The report said that construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 16.1 percent, a decrease of 118,200 jobs.

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HIGH VALLEY – A large fire early Friday destroyed three buildings and did major damage to the main old ranch house at High Valley Ranch outside of Clearlake Oaks.

Fire officials estimated the total damages to be about $1.5 million at PSI World, the retreat center which makes its home at High Valley Ranch.

Destroyed were two bunkhouses and a laundry building, said Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Brown said firefighters were dispatched just after 3 a.m. Friday to a possible structure fire west of High Valley Road.

The first unit on scene reported three to four structures were fully involved and others were threatened, he said.

Brown added that alert tones were activated to warn firefighters of downed power lines and to request mutual aid.

Fire personnel were able to stop the fire halfway into the ranch house, where they prevented it from entering the second floor, Brown said. Also saved was a mobile home in front of the ranch house.

Heavy water use from multiple engines overwhelmed the hydrant system of High Valley Ranch and a water tender shuttle was set up to pull water from Brassfield Estate Winery, he said.

A total of 22 firefighters responded to the scene, Brown said.

Northshore Fire sent three engines from its Clearlake Oaks, Nice and Lucerne stations, along with two water tenders from Clearlake Oaks and Upper Lake, and a medic ambulance and two battalion chiefs, he said. Lake County Fire Protection sent one engine and one water tender.

No injuries to fire personnel were reported.

Brown said Northshore Fire, Cal Fire and the Lake County Sheriff's Office are continuing the investigation into the fire's cause.

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SACRAMENTO – On Thursday, the state Senate voted to ratify the Habematolel Pomo compact, putting the tribe on track to break ground on its new gaming facility later this month.

The 30-3 vote took place Thursday afternoon.

That followed a 69-0 vote by the Assembly last week, as Lake County News has reported.

Late Thursday, Sherry Treppa, Habematolel's tribal chair, said it was unprecedented for both houses of the Legislature to approve a compact while they were in recess.

That clears the way for the tribe to start building its new $25 million, 34,000-square-foot facility, which will include 349 slot machines, six game tables, retail shops and restaurants on an 11.24-acre parcel on Highway 20 outside of Upper Lake.

The project is estimated to create about 140 new jobs for the county, tribal officials reported.

As part of the state compact, the tribe will pay the state 15 percent of its revenues.

On a local level, the tribe has entered into agreements with the county for payment in lieu of property tax; has paid more than $378,000 for upgrades to the sewer system and will pay another $112,000 to hook up to the system; has pledged to help mitigate off-reservation impacts; and will support fire and law enforcement – including $80,000 annually to Northshore Fire Protection District.

The tribe has overcome huge obstacles to keep the project on track, Treppa said.

The compact, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in September, needed to be ratified by the Legislature before the plan could move forward.

That didn't happen before the end of the legislative session in September, as the compact was signed three days before the session ended. However, Assembly members Wes Chesbro and Noreen Evans worked to get the necessary legislation before lawmakers during its recess.

Treppa said the 205-member tribe was worried that the compact might not get through the Legislature this year. If it hadn't, they would have had to wait until next August for their next chance.

Because the project's funding is tied to strict deadlines, “That would have been the end of us,” Treppa said.

Chesbro spokesman Andrew Bird said Chesbro did a “gut and amend” on SB 89, originally a budget bill presented last year. After inserting the Habematolel compact into the bill, it was presented on the Assembly floor Dec. 10, where it was approved.

Bird said Chesbro worked the floor and made a speech to get support for the amended bill.

Chesbro called the compact “a unique developer agreement,” and said the approval was urgent because Lake County is suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and the jobs are badly needed. Lake County's unemployment rate for October was 16.2 percent.

Evans told Lake County News that she helped get the Assembly speaker's agreement to take the bill up on the floor in the hopes of getting the new jobs for the county secured before Christmas. Like Chesbro, she also helped convince Assembly colleagues to give it their support.

She said it was important to point out how the tribe has worked with local agencies. “They're really ready to go forward and break ground,” she said.

Evans called it “pretty extraordinary” to get the measure through, especially with the Legislature's focus on other issues like the “Race to the Top” legislation and water bonds.

It's also unusual to take up an issue like this that would solely affect a small county like Lake, Evans said.

She said she shared with Assembly members the need for jobs in Lake County. “That really got their interest and got their vote, and that was really heartwarming to see,” she said.

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee held an information session Wednesday on Habematolel's compact, as well as that of Pinoleville in Mendocino County.

Kirstin Kolpitcke, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research, told the committee that Habematolel's compact allows for a class three gaming facility with up to 750 slot machines; for every slot machine from 350 and above, the tribe would pay the state $900. Kolpitcke said the tribe also has agreed to pay into the state's revenue sharing fund.

“The administration believes this compact is good for the state and good for the tribe,” Kolpitcke said.

Lake County Deputy Administrative Officer Debra Sommerfield, accompanied by county Special Districts Administrator Mark Dellinger, also spoke to the committee Wednesday in support of the tribe.

Sommerfield read a letter from District 1 Supervisor Denise Rushing and County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who praised Habematolel's efforts to work with local government and be a good neighbor.

The letter stated that the county and tribe have established “an exemplary government to government relationship.”

If the Senate didn't ratify the compact, county officials worried that the project would be lost and “the community will suffer the consequences.”

The compact didn't face opposition from Stand Up California, a group that closely monitors gaming issues in the state.

“I did not find a problem with the Upper Lake situation,” said the group's director, Cheryl Schmit.

Schmit, who interacted with county government in looking at the tribe's plans, said it was important that the tribe worked out local agreements with the county.

Treppa said there are still hurdles that remain for the tribe, and that's the reason for the urgency.

The legislation must be signed by the governor and the secretary of state, and then must go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, for approval.

The BIA typically doesn't sign California compacts because they feel the state is taxing the tribes, Treppa explained.

However, “They won't disapprove them because they know it's critical to the tribe,” she said, and if the BIA takes no action in 45 days, the compact is deemed approved.

Ratification is critical because it will open up funding from the tribe's lender, Michigan-based Luna Gaming, she said.

Treppa said the tribe wants to get the facility's doors open before Memorial Day weekend or by the first of June in order to hit the peak season, which runs from the end of April to the start of October.

Once the tribe's final environmental impact report is published Dec. 21, they should be able to break ground on the casino within a few days, and would likely have full funding for the project by Jan. 15.

She credited local support, particularly that of county officials, for being instrumental in getting the needed approvals.

“We are blessed to be able to work with a county as forward thinking and willing to work with a tribe as Lake County,” Treppa said. “If we didn't have county support, we wouldn't have been able to get this done out of session.”

Individuals who want to find out more about job opportunities at the new facility are encouraged to call the Habematolel tribal offices in Upper Lake, 707-275-0737. Treppa said resumes can be faxed to 707-275-0757.


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LAKE COUNTY – Health officials reported that they're broadening their strategy to get the H1N1 flu vaccine to Lake County residents.

Over the next few weeks, Lake County Health Services projects that local health providers will have collectively received approximately 16,000 doses of Pandemic 2009 (H1N1) vaccine since the beginning of the pandemic in spring of this year.

According to information from the California Department of Public Health, this will mark the approximate half-way mark for the total amount of H1N1 vaccine that will be distributed this influenza season.

The flu has so far claimed the life of one Lake County resident, as Lake County News has reported.

Pandemic 2009 (H1N1) influenza illness remains widespread in Lake County and throughout California, according to Lake County Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait.

Although the amount of illness may be starting to level off, influenza illness remains at higher than normal levels for this time of the year, she said.

Tait said vaccination efforts to date are thought to have reached roughly 10 percent of the Lake County population overall and there are concerns that shortages of the formulations licensed for children under age 3 years have hampered vaccination of this vulnerable group.

“It appears that the pediatric formulation of vaccine will remain in short supply this year,” said Tait, noting that this appears to be the result of production issues.

Although parents can choose to have their young children vaccinated with a preparation of the vaccine usually used in persons 3 years of age and older – an option made possible by a state waiver to its law concerning use of vaccines containing the preservative thimerosal – Lake County is also shifting its vaccine strategy in order to reduce the likelihood that adults will contribute to the spread the infection, Tait reported.

Lake County residents of all ages can now request a Pandemic 2009 (H1N1) vaccination, according to Tait.

“We want everyone to consider vaccination against H1N1 influenza anyway, but by shifting to this broader vaccination approach now, we hope to reduce the amount of influenza in the community that may expose children who remain unvaccinated due to shortages of vaccine for their specific age group,” she said.

Health officials say the youngest children are the most vulnerable to influenza infection and have the highest rates of hospitalization when they do become ill.

Vaccine has been arriving in small shipments of varying quantities of the different preparations intended for people of different ages and states of health. The limited and unpredictable quantities have made it challenging to publicize vaccine availability or to offer large vaccine clinics, Tait noted.

“We definitely don’t want to schedule a large vaccination event and have to turn people away,” said Tait.

In addition to efforts of local health care providers to vaccinate their patients, the local pharmacies that

offer vaccination services have improved access to the vaccine in Lake County.

Lake County Public Health recommends that local residents continue to seek H1N1 vaccination over the coming months.

Vaccination can be obtained in any of the following ways: Check with your doctor or clinic to see if they have vaccine available; check with your local pharmacy; check with Lake County Public Health.

Vaccine supplies are expected to be more plentiful in early 2010.

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SONOMA COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol said this week that a teenager involved in a fatal crash on Thanksgiving weekend wasn't drinking at the time of the incident.

The Santa Rosa CHP office said that toxicology testing found that 19-year-old Steven Culbertson of Lakeport had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he hit two other vehicles during a four-car collision at the intersection of Lakeville Road and Highway 27 on the night of Nov. 28.

Culbertson, who allegedly was traveling at a high speed in his Mini Cooper, reportedly failed to stop for a red light at the intersection, based on witness reports and physical evidence. He clipped one car before broadsiding a Nissan Quest carrying the Maloney family of Sonoma, the CHP said.

The entire family – parents John and Susan Maloney, and their young children, Aiden and Grace – died at the scene, as Lake County News has reported. Culbertson was taken off life support and died the following morning.

Within days of the crash, Petaluma resident Michael Loffredo told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the CHP that he allegedly saw Culbertson sitting at the bar at Traxx, a Petaluma bar and restaurant, shortly before the fatal collision.

Because Traxx is licensed as a bar and restaurant, Culbertson would legally have been allowed inside the bar, officials reported.

Even so, CHP Officer Jon Sloat told Lake County News on Friday that investigators with the CHP and Alcoholic Beverage Control followed up on Loffredo's claim and weren't able to substantiate his account.

Sloat said investigators have warrants in for Culberton's cell phone texts and credit cards.

However, based on other witnesses and cell phone records that they've received so far, it's the CHP's conclusion at this point that Culbertson wasn't at Traxx that night and that his Mini Cooper wasn't in the parking lot of the establishment.

Sloat wasn't aware if investigators had tried to corroborate Loffredo's story with his own family members, who he also said were there, or if they checked to see if Loffredo had been at the restaurant as he said he was.

They're also investigating whether Loffredo may have made a false report to the authorities, Sloat said.

Meanwhile, Sloat said they've only been able to put together “a little bit” of what Culbertson was doing in the hours before the crash.

“It's still in pieces,” said Sloat.

The CHP's Major Accident Investigation Team is still working on an estimate of how fast Culbertson was going, Sloat said.

He said an investigation into an incident like this usually takes a month.

“We want to take our time and cover all our bases,” Sloat said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

COVELO – This week authorities took into custody a Covelo man accused of taking his child.

Douglas Whipple, 23, was arrested for concealing and child and a parole violation Monday afternoon, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

At about 1 p.m. Monday sheriff's deputies were summoned to a location off of Tabor Lane in Covelo regarding a parental abduction of a child, Smallcomb said.

Upon arrival deputies spoke with the mother of a 1-month-old infant and learned that Whipple, the child's father, allegedly had come to the home and wanted to take the child, according to the report.

After a brief altercation, Whipple allegedly kicked opened the door to the residence and took the infant, Smallcomb said.

Deputies learned the infant was dressed only in a blanket and was currently breast feeding. Smallcomb said the father had taken no other implements to care for the infant upon fleeing the location.

Following a search of the area, deputies located Whipple, who led them on a foot chase. Smallcomb said Whipple was seen running into a residence where deputies found and arrested him.

Deputies learned the child had been taken back to the mother's residence and were able to conduct a welfare check of the infant, Smallcomb said.

Whipple was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of parole violations and child secreting, and is being held without bail, Smallcomb reported.

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On average, it takes me about 30 hours to write each column. I research through books, magazines and the Internet in an effort to be as thorough as possible, check my facts and have the most updated information. I typically putter through each column a little bit each day and have over a dozen different columns going at the same time. I’m already working on some of March’s columns.

I started writing this particular article in early November, so I got a good laugh this week at the timeliness of the topic.

On Sunday I was listening to “The Culinary View“ on the local radio and Julie Hoskins was talking about pasties and meat pies, then on Wednesday Ron Jones’ column was about mincemeat pie; all I could do is laugh out loud about how foodies tend to think alike. Pasties, mincemeat pies, and shepherd's pies all stem from the same basic recipe.

Shepherd's pie is the perfect winter dish for your family since it is an all-in-one meal. You have meat, vegetables and potatoes all in the same dish. To help plan meals ahead you can make two of them, freeze one and eat the other one. Shepherd's pie is a great thing to make on a Sunday afternoon. If you like rustic food you can’t get more rustic than this unless you are making meat on a stick over a fire.

Shepherd's pie is basically a thick, lamb-based stew baked with a mashed potato topping. It’s a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs winter dish, although you can lighten it up a little bit here and there by substituting ingredients. You can make this dish with beef but then it’s technically called cottage pie (shepherds don’t raise cows, duh). It’s also been made with chicken, salmon, sausage and turkey, and I’ve even seen vegan versions.

I like to make various versions of shepherd's pie, especially since my wife likes lamb but my daughter doesn’t. My daughter's "petting zoo vegetarianism" causes her to hate eating anything cute and cuddly, so I try to pass things by her from time to time.

In her own defense she has developed a palate much more sophisticated than most people. She will take one bite of shepherd's pie, drop her fork and say, “This is lamb,” and then walk to the kitchen to find leftovers to eat. Months later I’ll make the exact same recipe with beef and she’ll love it. (We've established that cows aren't “cute.”)

My wife loves lamb – just not in the same way my daughter loves lamb, but that’s what keeps my kitchen interesting. My wife also loves curry, my daughter doesn’t ... OK, so it’s not interesting, it’s hell.

Chefs have a love/hate relationship with shepherd's pie since, on the one hand it is a cheap to make dish (love), but on the other it has no “sex appeal” (hate). It's not fancy, it's not complicated, it's not stylish or trendy. Unless you are going to an Irish pub, nobody goes out to a restaurant to have shepherd's pie. I suppose shepherd's pie is too plebeian for most restaurants.

Originating in the Middle Ages in England, shepherd's pie started out as a stew baked into pastry “coffyns.” When the potato made its way to England in the 18th century the mashed potatoes were added, but unlike in today's common recipes the mashed potatoes completely surrounded the stew. It was seasoned with cloves, pepper, prunes, raisins, etc. Seasonings were typically very strong; since there was no refrigeration and meat spoiled quickly, the strong seasoning could cover the taste of meat that might be past its prime. As with many rustic-style foods, it was designed to use up the little bits of this and that which might be lying around the kitchen.

Mincemeat pies were, and still are, popular in England. One of my favorite culinary memories is eating pasties (PAS-tees), which is another form of mincemeat pie. They're like little handheld pot pies. I remember eating pasties out in the snow with mittened hands, the cold air chilling my tongue just before the hot pasty hit it.

In this recipe if I use ground lamb I like to grate the vegetables, but if I use cubed lamb I also cube the vegetables. It just seems to give a desirable level of consistency. When modifying it for my daughter's taste, I use this exact recipe but substitute beef for the lamb and rosemary for the curry powder to make cottage pie.

OK don’t tell anybody I said this but if you are in a pinch you can use potato buds or freeze dried potatoes and it will come out just fine.

Shepherd's Pie


1 pound lean, ground or cubed lamb (or whatever meat you choose).

1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)

1 onion, grated (about 1 ½ cups)

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste (I like the sun dried tomato paste)

1 tablespoons curry powder

¾ cup red wine

¾ cup chicken stock


4 Russet or starchy potatoes

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons butter

½ cup cheddar cheese

Pinch salt and white pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Brown the meat in a fry or sauté pan on high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling and continue to cook on high until the liquid is almost evaporated, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes). Pour into a 9-inch round casserole or equivalent.

Meanwhile peel and cube the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender, drain, process through a food mill or ricer, or mash and mix in the rest of the topping ingredients. Carefully spread your potatoes over the filling, trying not to mix them together. One way to make this easier is to take a zip top bag, put the potato topping in it (after it has cooled some) and then cut off one corner and pipe it onto the filling.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until the potato topping starts to brown.

Frozen shepherd's pie should be thawed, then cooked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to bubble.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

SONOMA COUNTY – A jury has found that a man who killed the mother of his two young children and stuffed her body into a toy box was sane at the time of the crime.

Honorio Pantaleon, 32, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder of Patricia Barrales. But on Friday, a Sonoma County jury returned the verdict regarding Pantaleon's sanity, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.

Last week, the jury convicted Pantaleon of first degree murder for killing Patricia Barrales in May 2008. They also found him guilty of the special circumstance of torture and the attempted murder of his mother-in-law, which occurred in Mendocino County two days after Barrales was murdered.

The same jury that decided his guilt began to receive evidence on Monday regarding Pantaleon's mental status.

Passalacqua said the verdict case exemplified the horrific tragedy of this crime.

“The victim and her family received justice in a Sonoma County courtroom today,” he said Friday. “This was a heinous attack that underscores the tragic consequences of domestic violence. This man planned a purposeful attack to kill and torture his partner. He will never again be free to harm any other innocent people.”

On May 10, 2008, Barrales returned to the Santa Rosa apartment she shared with Pantaleon and their children after celebrating Mother’s Day with her family in Ukiah, Passalacqua's office reported.

A short time after returning home Barrales was murdered. Both of the minor children were present during and witnessed the crime.

The oldest child, who was 4 years old at the time, provided officers with information which led to the location of the victim’s remains.

Barrales had 68 stab and incised wounds on her body, including her head, neck, chest, back and abdomen.

Pantaleon had used at least two knives during the commission of the crime before he placed Barrales' body in a toy box, moved the toy box into the children’s closet, covered up a bloody carpet and left with his two children and family dog.

He drove to his parent’s house in Kelseyville where he began planning to murder the victim’s mother, officials reported. He and a friend then reportedly drove to a sporting goods store to purchase ammunition.

On May 12, Pantaleon entered his mother-in-law’s home, pointed a rifle at her chest and pulled the trigger. The gun did not discharge and Pantaleon hit her on the head with the rifle and fled the location. He was arrested in Ukiah later that day.

The now 5-year-old son of the victim testified via closed circuit television to avoid the trauma of being in the courtroom with his father, Passalacqua's office reported.

The witness who purchased the ammunition with Pantaleon refused to testify, was found in contempt and placed into custody. He will remain in custody pending completion of the sanity phase or until he agrees to testify.

Deputy District Attorney Tashawn Sanders was the lead prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney Tania Partida was the second chair assigned to the case, Passalacqua's office reported. Sergeant Alissa Johnson with the Santa Rosa Police Department was the lead investigator.

Pantaleon's sentencing is pending.

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NAPA COUNTY – An early morning crash in Napa County on Wednesday took the lives of two men, one of them from Clearlake.

Augustine Quezada, 29, of Clearlake and Saul Alverez-Ayala, 46, of Napa died in the collision, which occurred on Silverado Trail north of Skellenger Lane at 5:45 a.m. Wednesday, according to the California Highway Patrol's Napa office.

The CHP's report explained that Quezada, who was driving a 2008 Ford Mustang, was traveling southbound on Silverado Trail at an unknown speed as Jorge Mora, 22, of Napa, approached from the opposite direction in his 1981 Honda Accord, also at an unknown speed. It was raining at the time.

For reasons not determined, Quezada's Mustang spun out of control in a counter-clockwise direction, traveling into the northbound lane. The Mustang's rear bumper collided with the Accord's front bumper.

Alverez-Ayala, who was riding in the right front passenger seat of Mora's Accord, was pronounced dead at the scene, the CHP reported.

Emergency personnel transported Mora and Quezada to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, where the CHP said doctors pronounced Quezada deceased just after noon on Wednesday.

The CHP said that Silverado Trail was closed for three hours for the investigation and cleanup.

Quezada and Mora were both reported to be using their seat belts, while the CHP said Alverez-Ayala was not.

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call the CHP's Napa office at 707-253-4906.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

SACRAMENTO – The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has a few suggestions for motorists looking to stay safe this year: never drink and drive, watch your speed and always buckle up before heading out.

In an effort to keep California’s roads safe this holiday season, enhanced CHP presence will occur during the upcoming Christmas enforcement period which begins Thursday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Dec. 27.

“The holidays are about family, friends and celebration,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Unfortunately it’s also a time of year when we see too many alcohol-related fatalities.”

According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) there were more than 4,000 collisions that occurred during last years’ Christmas enforcement period in California.

During that same time period, 37 people died on California’s roadways and among those killed, 23 lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes.

“Driving impaired is not worth the consequences,” said Commissioner Farrow. “Pre-plan your holiday celebration by designating a non-drinking driver before the event.”

Along with the increased enforcement effort, the CHP is asking motorists to help keep the state’s roadways safe by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“Hopefully by drawing attention to the enforcement efforts, motorists will choose to voluntarily comply with the traffic safety laws and be there to ring in the new year,” added Commissioner Farrow.

The CHP will conduct a similar holiday enforcement effort over the long New Year’s weekend which begins Thursday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010.

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FORT BRAGG – A body found amidst the burned debris of a Fort Bragg home has been identified.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Coroner's Division positively identified the structure fire victim as Ariel Robin Hembel, 31, according to a Friday report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.

Hembel's body was found by firefighters on Wednesday at her residence at 32280 Ellison Way, as Lake County News has reported. Fire destroyed the building.

Smallcomb reported that Fire Investigator Larry Graft has determined the cause of the fire to be accidental.

He said the fire started in the area of the roof where the wood burning stove chimney runs through the roof.

Hembel's cause of death appears to be from inhalation of smoke but is pending toxicology results, Smallcomb said.

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LAKE COUNTY – Local officials are urging community members to be careful in hiring potential Santas this holiday season.

On Wednesday, District Attorney Jon Hopkins' office issued an advisory about reports of persons who have been convicted of child molestation offering their services as Santa Claus.


Before hiring a person or allowing a person to play Santa, local businesses should consider looking on Megan's List to make sure they are not exposing children to potential inappropriate and illegal behavior, Hopkins said.


Megan's list can be accessed on the Internet by visiting .


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