Monday, 22 July 2024


CLEARLAKE – This week a Clearlake Oaks man was found guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm for a November 2008 shooting.

On Wednesday a jury convicted 45-year-old Patrick Dewin McDaniel Sr. guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm of the charges. He was found not guilty of attempted murder.

McDaniel was found guilty of shooting 42-year-old Patrick O’Conner Sr. on Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving, according to the Lake County District Attorney's Office.

He also was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, and carrying a loaded firearm in public.

In addition, the jury found true special allegations the defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of the crime, intentionally discharged a firearm and caused great bodily injury to the victim.

William Conwell, McDaniel's defense attorney, said he could not comment on the case.

“I think the jury reached the right result,” said Deputy District Attorney Sharon Lerman-Hubert.

Lerman-Hubert said McDaniel faces a maximum of approximately 18 years in prison when he's sentenced on Nov. 7.

The confrontation that led to the shooting took place outside a home on Second Street in Clearlake Oaks, where McDaniel, his younger brother, Cecil, and some others were visiting.

According to the original investigation reports, Patrick McDaniel and O'Conner had exchanged words earlier in the day when the McDaniels arrived at a neighboring home. Witnesses stated that prior to the shooting McDaniel was argumentative, and was bragging and flashing a small semiautomatic pistol.

McDaniel went outside where he and O'Conner – who was in his yard with his 23-year-old son, Patrick Jr. – again had a confrontation. The O'Conners approached McDaniel, who was alleged to have pulled a gun from his coat pocket, struck Patrick O'Conner Sr. with in the head with the pistol and then shot him once in the chest.

After O’Conner Sr. was shot, he managed to run back to his house next door, where he was assisted by family members until medical personnel arrived. Deputies found him seated in front of his house.

Patrick O’Conner Jr. testified that he heard one shot, and then two more clicks as he and his father fled, the District Attorney's Office reported.

Deputies arriving at the scene searched for a reported five hours seeking the McDaniel brothers, as Lake County News reported last year.

Officials said the gun believed to have been used by Patrick McDaniel was found the next morning in a yard three houses west. The .380 caliber Walther PPK was picked up by a 5-year-old boy playing in his yard. The gun was jammed with a round in the chamber.

The McDaniels fled, with deputies arresting Cecil McDaniel on Dec. 3 in Clearlake Oaks.

Patrick McDaniel was arrested on a fugitive warrant by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police on Dec. 17 and extradited by the US Marshals Office to San Quentin State Prison before being returned to Lake County.

After his arrest, Sgt. Det. Jim Samples of the Lake County Sheriff's Office interviewed McDaniel in Nevada, at which time McDaniel admitted to the shooting, but claimed it was an accident, and that he was defending himself and his brother, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Lerman-Hubert also prosecuted Cecil McDaniel, who in April was found not guilty of felony battery with serious injury for breaking O'Conner's son James' jaw just after the shooting occurred.

Patrick McDaniel's trial was a long one, beginning on Aug. 18 and Oct. 7, with Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom presiding.

The trial's length was due to a large amount of evidence, 20 witnesses and numerous delays, said Lerman-Hubert.

During the trial, Lerman-Hubert called to the stand a Sutter Lakeside Hospital doctor who worked on Patrick O'Conner, and who testified that the injury he suffered was life-threatening.

The seven-woman, five-man jury deliberated on the case for approximately five hours in Department Four in Clearlake, according to the District Attorney's Office.

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 .

LAKE COUNTY – The remnants of super Typhoon Melor, which pounded Japan on Thursday, is moving over the Pacific Ocean and heading towards the West Coast, and combined with a powerful jet stream, will develop into a strong storm that is expected to move into Lake County late Monday.

The National Weather Service in Sacramento stated that this storm has the potential to produce a significant amount of rain across interior Northern California, including Lake County, beginning on Monday through Wednesday, accompanied by strong winds.

Typhoon Melor, which blew across central Japan on Thursday with winds of up to 123 miles per hour, caused transportation disruptions and landslides on Japan's southern, according to Reuters.

Rain is expected to arrive in Lake County Monday afternoon and spread over interior Northern California by Monday evening, the National Weather Service predicted. Periods of heavy precipitation are possible overnight into Tuesday, with some areas receiving between 2 and 7 inches of rain.

High winds also will accompany this storm, with sustained winds expected around 40 miles per hour, and gusts up to 60 miles per hour or more at higher elevations in the mountains and foothills, based on the National Weather Service forecast.

Winds at these speeds can down tree branches and cause property damage, officials cautioned.

Because this is predicted to be the first significant storm of the season and water levels are low, significant impact on most rivers and streams is not expected. However, the National Weather Service said that excessive runoff from heavy rainfall could cause flooding issues on smaller streams, creeks and tributaries that have accumulated plant growth through the summer.

Additionally, areas that have experienced fire events and have burn scars could experience debris flow, the agency warned.

Temperatures Friday through Sunday should reach daytime highs near 80 degrees, with overnight temperatures in the low 40s, but as the storm approaches, highs through Wednesday will only reach the mid 60s with precipitation continuing, the National Weather Service forecasted.

Next Thursday, skies will be partly cloudy and daytime temps rise back in to the 70s, with the National Weather Service predicting sunny skies for the remainder of next week.

Residents are advised to make preparations in advance of the approaching storm and monitor weather reports for updated information.

E-mail Terre Logsdon 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 .

LAKEPORT – A visiting judge ruled Tuesday that two Clearlake men will be held for trial in the Sept. 22 homicide of a Montana man who had been staying in the county since the spring.

Shannon Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, were in Lake County Superior Court's Department A on Tuesday for their preliminary hearing in the homicide of Shelby Uehling, 25, who had been staying both in Cobb and Clearlake.

Retired Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Raymond Giordano ruled there was sufficient evidence to try Edmonds and Norton for the murder.

Edmonds also faces a special allegation of using a knife, and Norton faces a charge of being an accessory and a strike enhancement.

However, Giordano found that prosecutor Art Grothe hadn't provided sufficient evidence to back up a charge against Norton of assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or a special allegation that he used a billy club to beat Uehling.

Uehling was found face down next to an oak tree along Old Highway 53 in the early morning hours of Sept. 22. The first officer at the scene found that he had no pulse, according to Clearlake Police Sgt. Brenda Crandall, who was the a patrol supervisor on shift when Uehling's body was discovered and was one of five witnesses called to the stand during the six-hour hearing.

Based on the evidence that's been gathered so far, Grothe argued a theory for the homicide that proposed the motive was Edmonds' anger with Uehling, who had been dating Patricia Campbell, Edmonds' girlfriend of four months, during a brief time when she and Edmonds had split up.

Uehling had been severely beaten, suffering multiple blows to the skull and face, bruising to his chest, arms, legs and hands.

But the fatal wound was a three-inch laceration to his neck that severed his carotid artery, with another serious stab wound to his lower back that punctured a lung and still another stab wound to the buttocks. The thyroid glands in his neck also has been crushed and lacerated from blunt force trauma.

Grothe argued that Edmonds and Norton went to the area of Old Highway 53 and Lotowana with the specific purpose of killing Uehling.

He theorized that when the attack occurred at about 1 a.m. Sept. 22, Uehling had been asleep in his small red Honda Civic, with the seat in a reclining position and a shaving kit in the backseat.

Grothe suggested that Norton had swung a golf club through the open car window, embedding the head of the club in the dashboard and breaking off the shaft, which police would find down the road closer to the tree where Uehling's body would be found.

Uehling was pulled from the car, beaten and stabbed, said Grothe, with witnesses telling police that they heard Uehling screaming in agony as he fought for his life. Witnesses also told police that the heard one of the alleged assailants say at the scene of Uehling, “He's dead.”

But Edmonds' defense attorney Doug Rhoades took exception to the idea that the two men set out with the intent to kill Uehling, calling it “a stretch.”

Rather, Rhoades argued that it was just as likely a scenario that a fatal confrontation may have resulted without that intent, and that Uehling – who was found with a knife in his shoe – may have been an aggressor at some point in the struggle.

In the smaller Department A courtroom, Edmonds sat at a table with Rhoades which also was shared by Grothe and the case's lead investigator, Tom Clements. Defense attorney Stephen Carter sat with his client, Norton, in the jury box.

During the day Norton and Edmonds, both wearing black and white jail jumpsuits, their wrists shackled to their waists, would occasionally exchange pointed looks and raised eyebrows as the testimony against them was presented. At one point, five bailiffs were stationed in the courtroom.

Edmonds shot and fatally wounded two men as they ran from his Clearlake Park home during a 2005 break-in. He was not charged in that case, and this is the first time he's faced any felony criminal charges in Lake County.

Witnesses recount crime scene, events leading to man's death

Crandall, the second officer to arrive on the murder scene, said the attack occurred in an area called “the resorts,” composed of old cabins and mobile homes along Old Highway 53.

When she arrived she found an officer standing next to Uehling's body. In the roadway was a large amount of blood and pieces of evidence, including the broken shaft of a golf club, a mini Maglite flashlight and a trail of doughnuts. About 50 yards from his body was Uehling's Honda, with the driver's side door open and the engine still running. Crandall secured the scene and began taking photographs.

At the scene she spoke with a witness who had been outside at his residence on Lotowana, covering up his boats that night, when he said he heard a lot of yelling and screaming. “He stated that it sounded as if someone was in agony,” Crandall recounted.

The witness told Crandall that he had seen two men walking away from the crime scene.

Carter asked Crandall during cross examination if she had seen blood on the golf club or in the car's interior. She said she did not, that she hadn't performed a close examination but was just trying to get photographic impressions of the scene.

Norton's girlfriend Jackie Shelafoe said they've been living together on and off for two years at her trailer on Clement Drive, but she'd only known Edmonds for a few months.

She recalled twice visiting Edmonds' home a few trailer parks away on Sept. 21 before finally walking home at about 9:30 p.m. She then took her medications for bipolar disorder and went to bed.

Later that night, at about 11:45 p.m., Norton came in and made a phone call to Edmonds, telling him that someone – believed to be Uehling – was up at the top of the hill on the Lotowana side. He then hung up, grabbed a golf club Shelafoe kept by her front door for protection and ran out of the trailer.

About 20 minutes to a half hour later, Norton returned to the trailer with Edmonds, with Shelafoe noting that Norton had blood on his blue jeans.

“Melvin said, 'Don't worry, we didn't stab anybody,” she said.

She said Norton and Edmonds then changed clothes, with Norton grabbing white plastic shopping bags from the kitchen, into which they placed the clothes. They also washed up.

Shelafoe also recounted that they had a billy club with that, measuring 10 inches in length but extending to a fully opened length of 24 inches, that belonged to Edmonds. In pictures Grothe showed her, Shelafoe also identified a two-bladed knife that Edmonds owned.

Shelafoe, who said Norton had assaulted her last year, said she was scared when she saw the men come in with bloody clothing, “because I was afraid they'd done something wrong.”

Under cross examination by Carter, Shelafoe said she couldn't recall specifically seeing Norton take the shopping bags from the kitchen, and also didn't see the men wash up or change, although their clothes were different when they left the home.

Girlfriend recalls days before Uehling's death

Campbell, who lived with Edmonds at the Lakeside Resort, followed Shelafoe to the stand.

On the stand the young woman was at times exasperated, angry, embarrassed and impatient with the questioning by the three attorneys.

Campbell said on the stand that during their four months together she and Edmonds would occasionally fight and split up briefly, and she would either move from his trailer go next door to her mother's or to her father's Clearlake home.

About a week before Uehling's death she had briefly dated him after meeting him at the home of her mother's friend. It had been Campbell who had reached out to Uehling after meeting him.

Edmonds, Campbell said, knew that she and Uehling were dating but didn't know about their brief sexual relationship.

The relationship, which was marked by the couple using methamphetamine together, broke up quickly. Campbell accused Uehling of stalking her after he came to her mother's home and banged on all of the windows, trying to get in. That incident ended after Norton and Edmonds told Uehling to leave, she said.

Campbell – who after she broke up with Uehling texted him a picture of her and her daughter – said she sent him a final message on Sept. 21 telling him she didn't want him to contact her any more.

During testimony Campbell said that at one point Uehling had made a threat against Edmonds, telling her that if Edmonds ever tried anything Uehling had items in the trunk of his car that could “take care” of Edmonds.

Campbell said she moved back in with Edmonds on Sept. 20. At the time she was using methamphetamine, but she said it was Uehling's drug use that made her stop seeing him. During testimony she stated that Uehling had gone to her father's home and said he would quit using drugs to get back together with her.

Campbell said she slept all day on Sept. 21, waking up briefly to eat some of the barbecue that Edmonds and his friends had fixed. The next time she woke up was at 5 a.m. the next day, when the police showed up at the residence.

Grothe asked her if she had ever told Edmonds about Uehling's threat against him. She said yes. “I was just warning him just in case anything went down,” she said, noting that the conversation took place within a few days of Uehling's death.

Clearlake Police Officer Timothy Alvarado testified to interviewing two brothers who lived near the crime scene. One of them heard a man scream, “No, leave me alone,” before hearing another man state, “He's dead.” He also claimed to have seen two men leaving the area in dark clothing after apparently considering taking the Honda with them.

During his turn on the stand, Clements recounted going to the home shared by Shelafoe and Norton on Sept. 22, where during the service of a search warrant officers found Norton's and Edmonds' clothing in the shopping bags in the trailer's first bedroom, stashed under the bed.

Tucked between the mattresses of that same bed was an “asp,” or retractable billy club, and the two-bladed knife, both of which had been identified as belonging to Edmonds.

That same day, he interviewed Edmonds once and Norton twice, noting that both men originally denied having anything to do with the incident.

Eventually, Norton said they went to confront Uehling to make him stop harassing Campbell, and an argument ensued in which Edmonds and Uehling began fighting. During the fight Edmonds reportedly got a cut on his forearm, which Grothe later would argue was accidentally self-inflicted.

Clements, who also was present for the autopsy, conducted by Dr. Thomas Gill, described the extent of Uehling's injuries.

Grothe argued that the attack was intentional and a “joint endeavor for which Edmonds specifically armed himself.

Rhoades said Edmonds was known to usually have a knife on him, and said the evidence presented a scenario that was a “far cry from, 'Let's go up there and kill him.'”

Carter argued that there was no evidence to show his client had committed murder, with the two main weapons – the billy club and the knife – identified as belonging to Edmonds.

Giordano ordered the men held for trial. They'll return for arraignment at 8:15 a.m. Oct. 19 in Department 3. They remain in jail on $1 million bond.

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 .

SPRING VALLEY – A fire believed to have been sparked by an antique car caught a hillside on fire in Spring Valley early Friday afternoon.

The fire, which occurred along New Long Valley Road within a mile of Highway 20, was dispatched at 12:26 p.m. Friday, according to Cal Fire, which had joint command of the incident.

A passing United Parcel Service driver reportedly stopped to empty his fire extinguisher on the car as firefighters and California Highway Patrol responded to the fire, which blocked traffic in and out of the valley.

The fire then moved up a nearby hillside. “We took care of the vehicle fire an part of the wildland fire, and Cal Fire took over from there,” said Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Ken Petz.

Northshore sent an engine and a medic unit to the fire, said Petz, while Cal Fire sent five engines, a bulldozer that was used to create a fire break and aircraft.

Cal Fire said the blaze was contained at 12:54 p.m. The blaze was estimated to be about a half-acre in size.

Petz noted that, despite the dry conditions, there hasn't been much fire activity recently.

The only other fire activity of note in the area was reported by the Mendocino National Forest.

Late Thursday, a small fire just over an acre in size was reported in the Rice Valley area of the Mendocino National Forest, according to spokesperson Tamara Schmidt.

Cal Fire reported that it sent engines, dozers and hand crews to assist in fighting the fire, located in the vicinity of Lake Pillsbury.

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 .

CLEARLAKE – An emergency slide repair project along Lakeshore Drive and San Joaquin Avenue in Clearlake will begin next week, with preparation work under way Friday.

FEDCO Construction will start the project – located on Lakeshore Drive adjacent to Nelson's Island and between San Joaquin Avenue and San Joaquin Avenue Extension, on Monday, Oct. 12, and continue through Nov. 6, the city reported this week.

Work hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Tree removal began Thursday and is expected to continue Friday, the city reported.

The project will widen and reconstruct Lakeshore Drive just northwest of the gooseneck. Work will include excavation and grinding out of the existing embankment, and placing new pavement. A portion of the existing roadway embankment also will be stabilized.

Lakeshore Drive through the construction area will be reduced to one through lane and controlled by a flagman. Officials said motorists should expect delays.

Electronic message boards will be in place prior to the start of the project, advising motorists of the work schedule and any changing conditions. Lakeshore Drive will be open to two-way traffic during the nights and weekends. Motorists are advised to drive safely through the construction zone.

The project is weather-dependent, and cooler-than-normal or rainy weather could delay the work schedule.

Anyone with questions should call Clearlake City Hall at 707-994-8201.

Lake Family Resource Center Executive Director Gloria Flaherty explains renovations at the group's new domestic violence shelter in Kelseyville to Congressman Mike Thompson on Monday, October 5, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – As he prepares to return to Washington, DC this week, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson visited Lake County on Monday and toured the county's new domestic violence shelter.

Thompson, accompanied by district representative Brad Onorato, met with several groups on Monday during one of his regular stops in the county.

Late in the afternoon, he met with the Lake Family Resource Center Board of Directors at the new domestic violence shelter and administrative offices, located at 5350 Main St. in Kelseyville.

The group closed escrow on the $1.1million property in July, as Lake County News has reported. It will include 35 beds contained throughout several small cottages, as well as housing Lake Family Resource Center's administrative offices, and community meeting rooms and classrooms.

Executive Director Gloria Flaherty and board members including Dr. Bill Cornelison, Kathy Fowler, Barbara Breunig, Joanne Van Eck and Barry Parkinson, showed Thompson around the facility, which currently is undergoing renovation.

Flaherty explained how that families will have separate space but also will share common areas for meals and laundry.

Those communal situations, said Flaherty, are meant to instill a sense of stability in families escaping violence. They also hope to help families recreate bonds.

Flaherty said the people who stay at the shelter can stay anywhere from overnight to as long as a year. The average stay is six to nine months, during which clients are working on becoming independent, including saving for deposits on new places to live.

Originally, Lake Family Resource Center had planned to build a new facility, but they then became aware of the former motel property in Kelseyville, which Flaherty previously said was much less expensive than what it would have cost to build a shelter from scratch.

On Monday she credited Thompson with urging she and her board to look first at purchasing an existing motel or resort property.

As he listened to Flaherty explain the plans, Thompson appeared impressed.

“I see the vision,” he said.

On Tuesday, Thompson is due to return to Washington, DC, where he'll get back to work on issues including the health care bill.

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 .

LAKE COUNTY – For those who aren't registered to vote but want to vote in the Nov. 3 election, the deadline is coming up.

The Lake County Registrar of Voters Office advises voters that a consolidated general district election is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

At this election, voters who reside within the city of Lakeport will have the opportunity to vote for or against Measure C (use and sale of fireworks within the city).

In addition, voters who reside within the boundaries of the Mendocino-Lake Community College District, Upper Lake High School District, Upper Lake Elementary School District and Lucerne Elementary School District will have the opportunity to elect governing board members for each of the school districts.

Please be aware that new residents of Lake County, and registered voters who have moved to a new address, changed their mailing address within the county, or changed their name, that you need to reregister in order to be eligible to vote in the upcoming consolidated general district election.

Don't delay – the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 3 consolidated general district election is Monday, Oct. 19.

The completed voter registration form must be either personally delivered to the Registrar of Voters Office on or before Oct. 19 or, postmarked on or before Oct. 19 and received by mail by the Registrar of Voters Office.

Please be aware that pursuant to Section 2101 of the California Elections Code: "A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election."

Residents may register to vote at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office, Room 209, Courthouse, Lakeport or may phone the Registrar's Office at 707-263-2372 for information.

Registration forms are also available at most local post offices, libraries, senior centers, city offices and chamber of commerce offices.

From left to right, Kaj Ahlmann, chairman, Lake County Winery Association and owner, Six Sigma Ranch; Gregory Graham, winemaker/owner Gregory Graham Wines; Matt Hughes, People's Choice Wine Awards event chair, and past chair Lake County Winery Association; Donna Roumiguiere of Steele Wines, winner of Winery of the Year; and Ron Nagey, event volunteer and concept originator. Courtesy photo.

LAKE COUNTY – The inaugural “People's Choice Wine Awards” has crowned its first winners.

On Oct. 3, the Lake County Winery Association hosted the final portion of the People’s Choice Wine Awards for consumers at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery in Lower Lake.

The event brought 300 people to the Lake County wine region for a day of wine tasting and voting.

The day's public tasting was the culmination of a few months of concentrated efforts.

Earlier this summer, wineries in and outside Lake County were invited to submit their wines to the first ever, “Lake County” wine competition. The only criterion for taking part in the competition was that wines had to be produced using Lake County grapes.

In August, a panel of 10 prestigious wine judges gathered at Langtry Estate and Vineyards to narrow down the number of competing wines from the 168 submitted. A total of 38 wines in 164 categories were nominated to be part of the People's Choice competition.

The day's tasting concluded with the revealing of awards. Ribbons were given to winners and runners-up in each of the categories including: varietal, American viticultural areas (AVAs), "Best Red Wine of Lake County" and "Best White Wine of Lake County."

A special award was given to the "Winery of the Year" which was determined by the winery with the most votes for all its nominated wines.

The People’s Choice tasting was organized as a "double-blind" tasting. All bottles were uncorked in the tasting room by a few trusted volunteers and brought out one at a time, disguised in foil or black paper bags. A plain label revealed the wine varietal but named the brand only as "x", "y", or "z".

A few of the winning wineries included: Best Sauvignon Blanc, 2008 Hess Collection; Best Chardonnay, 2008 Shannon Ridge; Best Cabernet: 2006 Shed Horn Cellars; Best Zinfandel, 2007 Writer’s Block from Steele Wines. A full list of winning wineries is available at .

“The People’s Choice Wine Awards event was created to educate and expose the public to the excellence of Lake County Wines,” says Kaj Ahlmann, Chairman, Lake County Winery Association and owner, Six Sigma Ranch. “To that end, we feel we met our goals. People had fun and were very enthusiastic – about the event and the wines. This was a perfect first occasion, and we look forward to doing the same next year...and beyond.”

The Lake County Winery Association’s People’s Choice Wine Awards event was sponsored by the following businesses and organizations: Lake County Winegrape Commission, Tallman Hotel, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, Kädär Hungary Cooperage, Synergy Glass and Packaging, Twin Pine Casino and Hotel, Bella Vista Farming Company, Clearlake Chamber of Commerce, Elk Mountain Vineyards, Foods Etc., Hardesters Market, Jonas Oil, SaverGlass, Inc., M.A. Silva Corks, U.S.A., Rosenthal Vineyards and World Cooperage.




Best of show for both reds and whites went to Gregory Graham Winery. Pictured at Greg and Marianne Graham. Courtesy photo.





Community members visited Six Sigma Ranch on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, to take part in the final part of the People's Choice Wine Awards. Courtesy photo.


LAKE COUNTY – It's another record-setting year for the eradication of illegal marijuana in Lake County.

Since 2006 Lake County has led the state in the number of plants eradicated within its borders, with increasing amounts found on state and federally owned lands, as Lake County News has reported.

It appears no different this year.

So far this season, with another month to go, Lake County Sheriff's deputies and agents with the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) have pulled 517,942 illegally grown plants from both public and private lands, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

In addition, officials have seized 272 pounds of processed marijuana and 14 firearms, and made 34 arrests, Bauman said.

In 2008, there were 498,174 plants eradicated, 220 pounds of processed marijuana and seven firearms seized, and three arrests made, according to Bauman.

Total plants eradicated for 2007 totaled 507,000 and 344,241 for 2006, based on previous state reports.

Bauman said the sheriff's office has one detective assigned full-time to marijuana suppression.

Depending on the operation, as many as 10 to 15 CAMP members assist with an eradication during the season and another two to four local police officers assist with an operation, he said. That means a typical eradication operation can involve anywhere from one to 20 people, including CAMP.

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 .

From time to time, clients ask me who is entitled to see their will or trust. Often they ask because they want to keep matters confidential. Confidentiality is best discussed into two ways: before death and after death. Now, let’s examine each.

While a person is alive, the person’s estate planning attorney is strictly prohibited from disclosing any information to anyone else without the client’s express consent (authorization). An attorney is not supposed to even disclose that the client came to him for estate planning.

So, as long as the client does not invite other persons to sit-in on the estate planning meeting, or subsequently allow others to read their estate plan documents, then the contents of that person’s will or trust will remain confidential.

That said, if the client later on becomes incapacitated and the named successor trustee steps in during the period of disability, then that other person will naturally read the trust (estate planning document). The trust document can advise the successor trustee, however, to keep the document confidential from other inquiring persons.

At death, the estate plan will have to be disclosed, to one degree or another. If a will is used, it is filed with the county superior court of residence; at which time anyone in the public is allowed to see the entire document. If a trust is used, however, it is not required to be filed with the county court, and so does not become a public record (unless trust litigation ensues). This makes the trust a more confidential document than a will.

Clearly, however, neither a will nor a trust is a “secret” document. That is, after death, one’s beneficiaries and heirs (i.e., those familial persons otherwise entitled to inherit under California Law) are each entitled, upon request, to a copy of the trust and/or will, as relevant. One cannot exclude disinherited heirs (e.g., a disinherited child) from receiving a copy of the estate planning document.

A major distinction between a will and a trust is that you can to a keep matters more confidential with a trust, as it does not become a publicly available document. If a trust is used, then it is best to remove any minor gifts to persons who otherwise are not entitled to receive a copy of the trust; instead, have their gifts pass by way of a will, in order that such minor beneficiaries do not become entitled to receive a copy of the trust. For example, a gift of an antique grandfather clock to a neighbor should not be included in the trust if one does not want the “neighbor” to know the contents of the trust.

Lastly, and importantly, after one dies, all beneficiaries are entitled to receive information about the estate’s assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements to the extent that such information is pertinent to their inheritance. This usually comes in the form of an inventory and accounting by the trustee or executor to the beneficiaries.

In summary, until one passes on, the estate planning documents can be kept confidential. After death, copies of the estate planning documents are allowed to the heirs and beneficiaries.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

LAKEPORT – A local man has been arrested by Mendocino County authorities in connection with an alleged sexual assault that occurred last week.

Carlos Alberto Lopez, 38, of Lakeport was arrested Tuesday by officials with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, according to a report from Lt. Rusty Noe.

Lopez works as a correctional deputy with Mendocino County, Noe said.

On Oct. 1 the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a report from a female subject who stated that she had been the victim of an assault during her release from the Mendocino County Jail, Noe reported.

Noe said that, due to the nature of the criminal complaint, the case was referred to the sheriff's office's detectives.

Working with the sheriff's internal affairs division and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, detectives started a criminal investigation and were able to develop evidence that confirmed the victim's allegations, Noe said.

Noe said that on Tuesday, Lopez was called into the sheriff's office for an interview, after which he was arrested and booked into the county jail on charges of a sexual assault under the color of authority.

Lopez was placed on paid administrative leave pending the completion of the internal affairs investigation, Noe reported.

Noe said Lopez posted $15,000 bail and has been released.

Because all officers in the state have protection under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, by government code it is unlawful to release an officer's photo, Noe said.

LAKEPORT – A local man has received a sentence of more than 15 years in prison after being convicted of a sexual assault that took place last year.

On Monday Darnell James Mitchell, 46, of Nice was sentenced to state prison by Judge Arthur H. Mann for a sexual assault that took place last November.

Mitchell pleaded guilty on Aug. 24 to one count of assault with intent to commit rape, which is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four or six years, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Police reports indicate that on Nov. 2, 2008, the victim was at Mitchell’s residence with several other people.

The victim, who was 14 years old, consumed an unknown amount of alcohol and then she, Mitchell and another 18 year-old female left the residence and went to a nearby playground and continued to drink.

The investigation found that Mitchell attempted to grope the 18-year-old. She was able to escape but was forced to leave the victim, who was at that time passed out from the effects of the alcohol.

The 18-year-old shortly returned to the park with another young woman to help her get the victim home. There they saw Mitchell lying on top of the victim.

Mitchell reportedly fled when he saw the two young women approaching. The two young women then took the victim home.

Judge Mann elected to impose the upper term of six years, which was doubled to 12 years because Mitchell admitted that he had been convicted of a prior strike in Alameda County in 1997.

Mitchell’s sentence was further enhanced by two years because he admitted that he had served two prior prison terms. He previously was sentenced to a term in state prison for failure to maintain registration as a sex offender and one prior prison term, so another one year and eight months was added to his sentence.

The District Attorney's Office said the total aggregate term is 15 years and eight months. Because assault with intent to commit rape is a violent felony, Mitchell must serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The lead investigator on the case was Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Mitchell was represented by Jeremy Dzubay.

The victim received services through the District Attorney’s Victim Witness program. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg.

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