Saturday, 01 October 2022

Regional

Christopher James Bettega, 23, of Covelo, California, was arrested on Wednesday, September 8, 2021, for murder. Mendocino County Jail photo.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — Authorities have arrested a Covelo man on suspicion of the murder last week of his cousin.

Christopher James Bettega, 23, was arrested on Wednesday for killing William Daniel Bettega, 25, also of Covelo, according to a report from Sgt. Luis Espinoza of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.

Espinoza said that at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center began receiving calls for service concerning a reported assault and possible kidnapping in an unknown area of Covelo.

The reports initially identified cousins Christopher Bettega and William Bettega as being the reported victims. At the time of the call, the location of William Bettega was unknown, Espinoza said.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies began to respond to Covelo and while they were responding, Espinoza said a separate call for service regarding a deceased person was dispatched.

Espinoza said the Covelo Fire Department had been dispatched to an injured male on the roadway near the intersection of Crawford and Henderson roads. When they arrived, they determined the subject was deceased and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office was requested to respond.

When the deputies arrived at the deceased male's location, Espinoza said it was believed — based on evidence located at the scene — that the person was struck by a motor vehicle.

The deceased man was later identified as William Bettega, Espinoza said.

Espinoza said Mendocino County Sheriff's Office detectives were dispatched and assumed control over the investigation.

Based on the suspected nature of the death, sheriff's detectives requested and were assisted by an investigator from the California Highway Patrol Northern Division Investigation Services Unit. Espinoza said CHP officers assisted in documentation of the death scene.

A patrol deputy assisting sheriff's detectives located a vehicle in the Short Creek drainage just east of Biggar Lane in Covelo, Espinoza reported.

Espinoza said evidence consistent with a recent collision involving a pedestrian was located on the exterior of the vehicle. The vehicle was identified as being primarily utilized by Christopher Bettega.

Several people were contacted and interviewed over the next four days during the course of this investigation, he said.

On Wednesday, sheriff's detectives and patrol deputies served a search warrant at a residence near the intersection of Biggar Lane and Mendocino Pass Road in Covelo. At the conclusion of the search warrant, based on the information learned during the investigation, Espinoza said Christopher Bettega was arrested for murder.

Christopher Bettega was booked into the Mendocino County Jail on Wednesday afternoon. He’s still in custody in lieu of $1 million bail, according to jail records.

While this investigation is ongoing, Espinoza said there is no information suggesting the existence of any additional suspects and no evidence so far to support the initially reported kidnapping incident.

Espinoza said the investigation is still active and sheriff's detectives are asking anyone with information related to Christopher Bettega’S and William Bettega's activities on the night of Friday, Sept. 3, and during the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 4, to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's detectives ask any person or business with surveillance video which depicts a lifted white Chevy Silverado traveling on downtown Covelo roads between the hours of 12 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 4 to contact them.

An anonymous message can be left on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office thanked the California Department of Justice Eureka and Santa Rosa Bureau of Forensic Services Criminalists; CHP Garberville and CHP Ukiah Offices; CHP Northern Division ISU and Multi Disciplinary Investigation Team and the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office Investigators for their continued assistance during this investigation.

Around-the-clock, one-way traffic control will be in effect on Highway 99 north of Gridley, California, from Friday, September 17, to Monday, September 20, 2021. Map courtesy of Caltrans.

Caltrans is alerting motorists about around-the-clock one-way traffic control next weekend on State Highway 99 about 10 miles north of Gridley in Butte County.

Crews plan to conduct one-way traffic control from 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20, in the Cottonwood Creek area.

Motorists may expect traffic back-ups and 20-minute delays during peak travel times. Caltrans advises motorists to use alternate routes.

Flaggers at each end of the construction zone will be utilized along with a pilot car. Motorists are reminded that pilot vehicles are to be followed at all times within the project zone for the safety of construction crews and travelers.

Failure to follow pilot vehicles may result in a $220 citation with traffic fees doubled in construction zones. The California Highway Patrol will be on site, monitoring traffic safety during construction.

The following weekend, Nelson Avenue will be closed at Highway 99 from 8 p.m. September 24 to 5 a.m. September 27. Nelson Avenue residents will be detoured to Highway 162 then to Wilbur Road to connect with Nelson Avenue.

The extended closures will allow crews to construct a new highway alignment leading to the newly built Cottonwood Creek Bridge. Teichert Construction of Sacramento is the contractor on the $8 million bridge project.

Weather or unexpected events may delay or postpone work.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — Cal Fire said that firefighters are continuing to monitor hot spots from a fire incident that began on Monday night in Healdsburg.

At 8:10 p.m. Monday, Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit along with local agencies throughout Sonoma County responded to multiple vegetation fires throughout the Healdsburg area, officials said.

Cal Fire said crews were initially dispatched to a reported vegetation fire off Bailhache Avenue, followed by additional fires located north and west of Healdsburg.

The final fire was reported off West Dry Creek Road just before 10 p.m., Cal Fire said.

By 11:30 p.m. Monday, 15 fires were located and contained after burning approximately six acres, according to Cal Fire’s report.

Cal Fire said the largest fire of the night was located off Chiquita Road and was contained after burning approximately two acres.

At the peak of firefighting operations approximately 80 fire personnel were assigned to the fires including 20 fire engines, six water tenders and three bulldozers, Cal Fire reported.

Crews remained in the area on Tuesday night, where Cal Fire said they were continuing to monitor for hot spots.

Cal Fire said each fire within this incident is under investigation, with more information will be released when it becomes available.

Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to contact the Cal Fire Tip Line at 1-800-468-4408. Callers can remain anonymous if they wish.

John Louis Cea, 24, of Long Island, New York, was sentenced to state prison on Thursday, September 9, 2021, for grand theft and robbery cases committed in Mendocino County, California. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office.


NORTH COAST, Calif. — A New York man twice prosecuted and convicted of victimizing North Coast residents was sentenced Thursday to state prison.

John Louis Cea, 24, of Long Island earlier was convicted by plea on July 1 of felony grand theft of an amount of money over $950, as well as convicted of a separate crime of robbery in the second degree, also a felony, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office reported.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Keith Faulder on Thursday sentenced Cea to 68 months in state prison, the maximum sentence allowed under California law for the two convictions when sentenced together.

Robbery is defined under California law as a violent felony so any work or other credits the defendant may earn toward early prison release will be limited to no more than 15% of the sentence.

Cea came to Ukiah in October 2020 and stole $32,000 from an elderly business owner who was fixing a private ATM he had set up in a local cannabis business, officials said.

Cea watched as the 85-year-old man went back and forth between his Prius and the cannabis store. When the man was not looking, authorities said Cea opened the hatchback and stole a spare money machine cartridge loaded with $32,000 in cash.

About six weeks later Cea and another New York man returned to Mendocino County, this time with the intent to steal marijuana. Cea met a young couple and convinced them to meet him and his partner at the Burger King parking lot in Willits with two pounds of marijuana. When the couple arrived at Burger King, Cea and the other man forcibly took the marijuana from the couple their marijuana without paying for it, the District Attorney’s Office reported.

The two men jumped into a rental car and recklessly fled north on Highway 101 while pursued by law enforcement. The vehicle eventually crashed into a building in Laytonville. Cea’s partner was arrested near the crash scene, but Cea was able to elude capture and escape back to New York. He was tracked down, arrested, and extradited to California, authorities said.

District Attorney David Eyster prosecuted the case, with the assistance of the Ukiah Police Department, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, the Willits Police Department, New York law enforcement investigators, and the District Attorney’s own Bureau of Investigations.

The District Attorney’s Office offered special thanks to private citizen witnesses who called for law enforcement help and provided valuable information.

Those witnesses included a retired Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy and the Lake County District Attorney’s Office’s chief investigator.

NORTH COAST, Calif. — The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested a Ukiah man who stabbed a pet Chihuahua.

Diego Pulido, 26, was arrested following the incident, which the agency said occurred last week.

At 10:22 a.m. Aug. 29, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Communications Center received a 911 call regarding a disturbance in the 3900 block of Seiji Way in Ukiah, where the caller stated that someone had been stabbed.

Deputies arrived at the location within minutes and were advised by witnesses that a male subject, later identified as Pulido, had stabbed the family dog and possibly stabbed a 58-year-old family member.

The family member was preparing to leave the area with the family dog in order to obtain veterinary treatment upon the deputies’ arrival. Authorities said deputies summoned medical assistance for the family member and the dog.

The sheriff’s office said deputies were advised Pulido was currently inside of the residence.

Utilizing a patrol vehicle public address system, deputies were able to get Pulido to exit the residence.

When Pulido came out of the home, the deputies noticed he had what appeared to be blood on his hands, arms and clothing.

Deputies learned during the investigation that for unknown reasons, Pulido obtained a kitchen knife and stabbed the small family Chihuahua two times in the abdomen.

The family member also had blood on him, which initially led witnesses to believe he had been stabbed as well. However, the sheriff’s office said it was determined that the family dog had bitten the family member in the hand while trying to provide aid.

The family member took the dog to an out of county emergency veterinarian hospital where the dog received treatment and is expected to survive.

Pulido was ultimately placed under arrest for felony animal cruelty and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $15,000 bail.

Jail records showed that Pulido remained in custody on Wednesday.

Over-pumping during drought can increase nitrate at public-supply wells. Public domain image.


Intensive pumping of aquifers during drought can speed up deterioration of groundwater quality, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The results highlight clean drinking water supply vulnerabilities in California and other western states currently experiencing record drought conditions.

“Water quality problems from legacy groundwater pollution could get worse, faster, when pumping increases during drought,” said Dr. Zeno Levy, a research geologist with the USGS. “This could lead to more public drinking-water wells being shut down if costly treatment or cleaner water sources to mix with are not available.”

Researchers examined 30 years of data from California’s Central Valley to find increasing nitrate concentrations at public drinking-water wells were more prevalent in areas where groundwater levels dropped rapidly during drought.

Nitrate is a contaminant from fertilizer typically present at elevated concentrations in shallow groundwater throughout the Central Valley due to decades of agricultural land use.

Scientists found that increased pumping from wells during drought can pull shallow, contaminated groundwater down to depths commonly tapped for public drinking-water supply.

Previous groundwater research has focused on the risk of wells being overdrawn and running dry during drought. The new study provides a major advancement to understanding the related consequences to water quality caused by over pumping.

The study is unique in that it looked at regional linkages between groundwater use and quality, rather than local patterns at the scale of individual wells. This research was undertaken as part of a cooperative effort between the USGS and the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment Program.

The study "Critical aquifer overdraft accelerates degradation of groundwater quality in California’s Central Valley during drought" is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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