Monday, 15 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate climbed once again in January, according to the latest report from the state Employment Development Department.

Lake County’s January 2008 unemployment rate was 10.4 percent, up 0.8 percent from December, and 0.7 percent above the year-ago, January 2007 rate, according to Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department's North Coast region Labor Market Information Division.

The comparable California and U.S. rates were 6.3 and 5.4 percent respectively, Mullins reported.

Some surrounding county rates included 7.2 percent for Mendocino, and 5.2 percent for Sonoma. Marin had the lowest rate in the State with 4.0 percent and Colusa had the highest at 19.6 percent.

Lake County's unemployment rate ranked it at 40th out of the state's 58 counties.

Total industry employment increased 940 jobs (7.1 percent) between January 2007 and January 2008, ending the year-over period with 14,270, according to Mullins.

Mullins noted that year-over job growth occurred in farm; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; private educational and health services; other services; and government.

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

The information industry was the only sector with no change over the year, Mullins added.

The government sector led industry gainers adding 760 jobs over the year, Mullins said. Farm and private educational and health services were up 220 and 110, respectively. Trade, transportation and utilities increased 40. Manufacturing and financial activities each gained 20 and other services added 10.

Natural resources, mining and construction led decliners, dropping 100 jobs, according to Mullins. Professional and business services and leisure and hospitality were down 90 and 50, respectively.


Lake County Skies on March 13, 2008 at 9 p.m.


LAKE COUNTY March is the month when the glorious stars of winter give way to the more sedate stars of spring.

On our star chart, you can see the constellation of Leo the Lion rising in the east. In Greek mythology, Leo was a huge beast that terrorized the Peloponnesian villages, devouring anyone he met. It took Hercules, the Greek strongman, to subdue Leo.

The brightest star in Leo is Regulus. It’s five times larger than our sun, and spins very fast – once every 15 hours. As a result, it looks like an egg!

Our Sun and Regulus, courtesy of Astronomy Now Online.

Sharing the spotlight in the spring night skies is the planet Saturn, the Ring Master. Saturn is visible in Leo this year, and is about as bright as Regulus. Our star chart shows its location.

Saturn courtesy of NASA.

Saturn is the second-largest planet in our solar system. Unlike the earth, which is solid, Saturn is a big ball of gas.

Saturn has approximately 44 moons. The beautiful ring system was created when one of the moons drifted too close and broke up into thousands of chunks of rock in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Even through a small telescope, Saturn is a magnificent object.

Looking toward the north, we see Ursa Major, the big bear overhead. Some of the stars in this constellation make up The Big Dipper. The two stars that make up the end of the cup of the dipper point to Polaris, the North Star.

Image courtesy of Jerry Lodriguss.

For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory Web site at On March 8, starting at 8 p.m., the observatory will be open to the public. The topic for the evening is “Scopes for Folks,” a presentation about telescopes for the average person. You will also be able to view Saturn through the observatory’s telescopes.

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


NORTH COAST – An invasive pest that has caused major concern for state and federal agriculture officials since its discovery in California last year is moving closing to Lake County, with the confirmation this week that the moth has been found in neighboring Sonoma County.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) reported Friday that a single male light brown apple moth was found in a trap that was part of a 613-trap array deployed in the county as part of the state's detection program.

The tiny moth, native to Australia, has a mighty appetite, with hundreds of major crops – including winegrapes, pears and other North Coast commodities – among them.

The discovery trigged more trapping in the immediate area to determine if additional moths are present, CDFA reported. If they are, officials will carry out eradication efforts, and quarantines to limit movement of plants, produce and yard waste will be put in place.

That doesn't count the damage to interstate commerce, because many states have now issues restrictions on California produce because of the moth. Internationally, trade partners Mexico and Canada have imposed export regulations on California because of the moth infestation.

Those restrictions on trade with Mexico could have serious implications for local farmers if the moth were to be found here, because Mexico has banned pears that come from infested counties.

In an interview with Lake County News last May, Chuck Morse, the county's deputy agriculture commissioner, said a large quantify of local Bartlett pears are shipped to Mexican markets.

Currently, there are no detection traps in Lake County for the light brown apple moth, according to a CDFA report. In December, 126 had been reported in the county.

CDFA has categorized the moth as a “Class A” pest – it's most serious rating – because of the risks it poses to the state's multibillion-dollar agriculture industry.

Officials also warn the moth could damage the natural environment, causing damage to park lands and California's beloved redwoods, cypress and oak trees.

Since the discovery of a light brown apple moth was confirmed in the Bay Area in February 2007, more than 17,000 of the moths have been found in 14 counties.

Sonoma is the second of Northern California's major wine country counties to find the moth.

Last May, the moth was found in Napa County. Since then, a second moth has been found there, but CDFA said Friday that Napa's small, isolated infestation has been eradicated, thanks – in part – to a “twist tie” treatment that emits a pheromone to confuse the moth and prevent it from breeding. The twist ties also were used to rid Los Angeles of its own small infestation.

In response to the infestation, Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) introduced the Light Brown Apple Moth Act of 2007, which established the Light Brown Apple Moth Program in the CDFA and created an account from which the department can allocate funds to local agencies for eradication activities.

Last September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into the bill into law.

CDFA and the US Department of Agriculture are working together to conduct the light brown apple moth eradication program.

As part of that program, they've implemented aerial spraying of moth pheromone over Central Coast communities. The spraying has resulted in public outcry and hundreds of health complaints which the agencies have maintained are not related to the pheromone.

Aerial spraying is supposed to take part over some Bay Area communities beginning this summer as part of this year's eradication program, which has resulted in resolutions against the spraying by the city councils of Albany and Berkeley. Additionally, Berkeley is threatening to sue the state.

Last week, several Bay Area legislators introduced a suite of bills that would, among other things, place controls on the state secretary of agriculture's power to direct an eradication effort and require more notifications and studies before spraying in urban areas.

Earlier this year, USDA dedicated nearly $74 million to the effort, which will include a nationwide survey to see if the moth has spread to other states besides California and Hawaii.

Officials said they plan to closely look at the nursery industry, as it's believed the moth – like so many invasive species – entered the United States in imported plant materials.

A USDA study estimates that if California becomes generally infested, the moth could cause as much as $640 million annually in crop damage.

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


KELSEYVILLE Parents, grandparents, teachers and anyone else concerned about the growthe of gang activity in Lake County are invited to a town hall-style meeting Thursday evening in Kelseyville.

The Gang Awareness Town Hall meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Kelseyville Presbyterian Church, 5430 Third St.

The meeting is sponsored by the Lake County Gang Task Force, which is made up of individuals from the Lakeport Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Lake County Sheriffs Office and the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission, according to Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission chairperson Kathleen Sheckells.

CHP Officers Adam Garcia and Mike Humble, Lakeport Police Detective Norm Taylor, as well as a former gang members and other gang experts are scheduled to address the participants.

Topics will include a basic gang lifestyle orientation; a history lesson on Lake County gang activity, with an emphasis on ways to recognize when youngsters may be most influenced by the gang lifestyle;

current activities of various local gangs; and how to recognize true gang members by their clothing, behavior and communication techniques.

Event coordinator Katherine Rose encourages non-English speaking parents and families to attend as wireless headphones will be available through which English-to-Spanish translation will be available.

Pizza and soft drinks are provided for guests at no cost.

For more information about the event, contact Kathleen Sheckells, 262-1611, Extension 111.

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


Future homeowners Aliesha Plata and Trenia Conatser eagerly begin the construction of their new homes which are now nearing completion at the groundbreaking in April 2007. Left to Right: Homeowner Deon Lax; children of Aliesha Plata, Nick, Deserea and Paul; future homeowner Aliesha Plata; future homeowner Trenia Conatser; Conatser's children Andrew and Nicole. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.




CLEARLAKE – Habitat for Humanity will mark a special event next weekend, when it holds a double dedication for two homes it is about to complete.

The dedication takes place at noon Saturday, March 8, at 15798 and 15802 37th Ave. in Clearlake. The public is welcome to come join in the celebration.

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lisa Willardson reported that the event will celebrate the ninth and 10th homes Habitat has worked on locally.

She added that the community will have an opportunity to experience first-hand the results of almost a year of hard work by volunteers and homeowners.

Habitat for Humanity is a world wide, nonprofit, Christian-based group that works hard to make a difference in Lake County, one family at a time in eliminating poverty housing.

While giving the opportunity of homeownership to those that might not be able to purchase a home through conventional methods, Habitat for Humanity also offers homeowner workshops to help prepare the prospective homeowners for their home.

During the building process, homeowners must also help build their home and other Habitat homes under the direct supervision of a construction manager.

After completion, homeowners pay a zero-interest mortgage, taxes and insurance monthly. The mortgage fees are then used along with donations from the community to build more homes in Lake County.

Willardson reported that volunteers find that building or helping with the family selection process for Habitat for Humanity is very rewarding and a good way to give back to the community.

Habitat is also always looking for land to build on, as well as those wishing to volunteer in a variety of ways – from help with construction to office work.

For those who are looking to own their own home or for those that wish to volunteer, call Habitat for Humanity at 994-1100.


LAKEPORT – One of downtown Lakeport's decorative lamp posts was destroyed earlier this week when it was hit by a garbage truck.

A Lakeport Disposal garbage truck driver called Lakeport Police Tuesday morning just after 7 a.m. to report that he had knocked over the lamp post, located at 199 N. Main St. in front of Transitions, reported Lt. Brad Rasmussen.

“The pole went down and actually caused some damage to the business,” said Rasmussen.

The collision, Rasmussen explained, broke the lamp post off at the base.

“Since it was knocked down by a vehicle the city will be seeking restitution,” he said.

The Lakeport Main Street Association worked to raise money for the lamp posts, which are now maintained by the city's Public Works Department, said Lakeport City Engineer Scott Harter.

Harter said the lamp posts cost between $4,000 and $5,000 each. He didn't have a timeframe for when the lamp post might be replaced.

Another 12 lamp posts along Third Street and at the City Hall parking lot are due to be installed in conjunction with the first phase of the downtown improvement plan, said Harter.

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


LAKE COUNTY – An effort is under way to strengthen a national sex offender registration law after a federal judge dismissed a case against a former Lake County resident based on a technicality.

Late last month Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kansas) introduced HR 5475 to close a loophole in the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, also known as the Adam Walsh Act, which became law in 2006.

The act, named for the Florida child kidnapped and murdered in 1981, creates felony violations for federal sex law offenders who fail to register and for state sex law offenders who travel between states without registering.

Moore's new bill is in response to U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs' January decision to dismiss charges of violating the Walsh Act against Terry Lee Rich, 59, of Kansas City, Mo., formerly of Clearlake, where he was convicted of sex offenses in 1996.

Rich was indicted on federal charges last summer after he failed to register after moving to Missouri.

The dismissal of Rich's case, Sachs wrote in his decision, was based on the use of present verb tense in the statute, which says an offender who “travels”rather than “traveled” across state lines without notifying authorities is guilty of breaking the law.

Sachs said the wording led him to believe it was necessary to determine if Rich had traveled across state lines after the law was enacted in July 2006. Based on that criteria, Sachs ruled he could not find Rich had, in fact, made interstate trips, and therefore he had not violated the act.

Following his release from jail, Rich promptly disappeared, once again failing to register with law enforcement, according to a report from the Kansas City Star.

Rich has a string of convictions for sex crimes spanning nearly three decades, according to court records obtained by Lake County News.

In Oregon, he was convicted of child sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping and two counts of public indecency in 1971, 1978 and 1985, respectively, court documents relate.

Later, he moved to California, coming to Lake County. In 1996, he was convicted in Clearlake for two counts of annoying or molesting children who were 7 and 8 years old, according to court records.

Two years later, he was convicted in Santa Rosa of felony sexual battery on a child said to be 7 or 8 years old at the time of the offense.

Rich left California for Iowa in 2002, where court records indicate he was arrested that November for failing to register as a sex offender. He was arrested the following year for the same offense, and sentenced to five years in prison.

He didn't serve the full term, and was released from prison in February 2006, according to court records.

Moore's bill will make technical corrections to the bill, including adding retroactive language that will hold offenders responsible for registering with the proper authorities irrespective of the date of interstate travel.

“It’s unfortunate that this technical deficiency exists,” Moore said in a written statement. “Congress never intended to exclude any sex offenders from the registration requirements. I am confident that Congress will make the necessary change to ensure that all sex offenders comply with the law.”

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


From left, Coach Mike Humble, Tyler Hayes and Coach Nick Lavelle hold Hayes' third place bracket sheet from the North Coast Section Championships. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.

LAKEPORT – Looking at Tyler Hayes, the words “small but mighty” come to mind.

The 18-year-old Clear Lake High School wrestler's small, sculpted frame weighs in at 103 pounds. He's polite, soft-spoken and friendly, and has a firm handshake as an introduction.

But once he steps onto the wrestling mat, the fierce competitor comes out.

On Friday morning Hayes will begin competition at the State Wrestling Championships at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena. He's the only Lake County wrestler to reach that competition this year.

He'll have to win two out of three matches on Friday in order to advance into the weekend competition, explained his coach, Mike Humble, who has guided the Clear Lake High wrestling team for eight years.

The entire Hayes family – including parents, grandparents and siblings – left Thursday to make the trip to Bakersfield.

He's had a strong career as a high school wrestler, medaling at the North Coast Section championships for three years. This year he was league champion for his weight group, the smallest of 14 weight classes, said Humble.

Wrestling takes dedication and stamina. After-school practices take place five days a week and last between three and a half and four hours, said Hayes. They include a 2.7-mile run, two hours of wrestling and, on some days, weight training. Then there are weekend tournaments.

Hayes competes in track and field and runs cross country, which has given him endurance, another good trait for a wrestler to have, Humble said.

While doing all of that, Hayes maintains straight As in his school work.

Assessing Hayes' talent, Humble pointed to his strengths. "For his weight class, he's very strong, so strength is a big factor in his abilities."

Hayes also walks onto the mat with confidence. When he loses, dad Gary points out, he tends to learn from it and come back, beating the same opponent he lost to in their next meeting.

“I have to go in with the attitude I'm going to win,” Hayes said.



Tyler Hayes pins opponent. Photo courtesy of Ginny Craven.


His trip this weekend caps off some strong years for his team, which has struggled to fill all of its weight classes consistently, said Humble, who wrestled at Petaluma High School and works as a California Highway Patrol officer.

Yet, the 16-member team has been getting stronger, said Humble. “The kids that we get through here are quality.”

That may be helped by the middle school wrestling program. Hayes and Humble spent Wednesday afternoon working with the younger children, two of which included Hayes' younger sisters.

Hayes himself began wrestling at a young age, in the fourth grade, coached by Rob Brown and Ronnie Campos. His older brothers, Michael and Benjamin, also wrestled.

“It's fun,” Hayes said of his family's enthusiasm for the sport. “We all like it.”

That's despite the fact that Hayes has had his fair share of injuries, ranging from putting out his back to a separated shoulder and an injured ankle.

During the last few years local wrestlers have gone far, says Humble. In 2006, Steve Franklin of Middletown High and David Laird of Clear Lake High both competed at the state meet. Franklin went all the way to the National High School Wrestling Championships, while Laird finished ninth at state – just one slot away from a trip to nationals.

In 2007, Clear Lake wrestlers Justin Mills and Michael Knoppman competed at the state meet.

Hayes definitely wants to keep wrestling, so he's looking at attending Santa Rosa Junior College. Coach Humble said the school has a good record of getting wrestlers placed a colleges and universities. Hayes said he's thinking about enlisting in the Coast Guard.

What is it that keeps him working hard at this tough sport?

“I like that it's one on one,” said Hayes. “When you're out there, you make a mistake, it's on you.”

He added, “When you get your hand raised after a match, it's a great feeling.”

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


NORTH COAST – Sonoma County authorities are looking for a vehicle belonging to a murder victim who was found shot repeatedly at a beach in Jenner.

Officials are concerned that the car may be driven by a suspect in the case.

The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office is looking for a silver, 2006 Honda Accord four-door sedan, with California license plate number 5UJU394.

The public is asked to report any sightings of this vehicle immediately by calling 911. Any person in this vehicle should be considered dangerous and should not be approached.

The car belonged to an as-yet unidentified murder victim found by a park ranger early Sunday morning at the Blind Beach parking lot near Jenner, according to a report released late Sunday night.

The ranger contacted the Sonoma County Sheriff's dispatch to report the shooting, and also notified them of a vehicle that he had passed on Goat Rock Road.

While the deputies were making their way to the scene, one of them passed a vehicle matching the broadcasted description traveling in the opposite direction, away from the crime scene, at a high rate of speed, the report stated.

The deputy made a U-turn and caught up to the vehicle on Highway 116 at Crescent Avenue in Monte Rio, where a traffic stop was conducted, officials reported. Four subjects in the vehicle were detained and later questioned in regards to the incident.

Based on the information ascertained from witnesses, officials reported that the four subjects in the vehicle and physical evidence that was located at two separate crime scenes, all four subjects were later arrested and booked into the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and murder.

The four suspects that have been arrested for the above listed charges are; David Prak, 19, of Santa Rosa; Sarith Prak, 21, of Santa Rosa; Preston Kahoone, 22, of Santa Rosa; and Quentin Russell, 24, of Santa Rosa.

Theinvestigation was conducted by detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Bureau in collaboration with patrol, Search and Rescue, California State Parks and the District Attorney’s Office.


LAKEPORT – Fans of Lake County's own Faded At Four will get the chance to see and hear the band perform on Saturday night – their last local performance before they journey south to take part in in the finals of a national talent competition.

Faded At Four will play at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at Carlo's and Vinny's, 370 S. Main St. The cost to attend is $10 per person. The event is limited to those 21 and older.

The superstars-in-waiting – Jon Foutch, Brian Kenner, Martin “Martan” Scheel and Chris “Pencil” Sanders – are competing in the Bodog Battle of the Bands.

They will travel to Los Angeles in the next week and a half for the competition's regional finals. The band will perform at The Avalon in Hollywood on March 12.

A total of 4,500 bands from across the U.S., Canada and Europe began the competition last summer.

The winner of that competition will take part in the reality-based TV show “Bodog Battle of the Bands,” in which eight bands will take part in touring and music-based contests in hopes of winning a $1 million recording contract from Bodog Music.

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


LAKEPORT – A man accused of killing a local taxi driver last summer was booked into the Lake County Jail on Thursday afternoon.

Morgan Matthew Jack, 31, of Nice is being charged with the June 2007 murder of 39-year-old Paul Womachka.

On Feb. 15 the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported receiving an arrest warrant for Jack for Womachka's murder.

Womachka went missing after reportedly giving Jack a ride from Robinson Rancheria's casino to Big Valley Rancheria in the early morning hours of June 27, as Lake County News has reported. His body was found in his taxi minivan two days later, submerged in Big Valley Rancheria's marina.

On Thursday Jack was brought back to Lake County from San Quentin State Prison, where he had been housed after violating his parole for a 2001 conviction, which he received for possessing a blank check that did not belong to him.

Jack is being held on $530,000 bail for the first-degree murder charge. Booking documents showed that he is due to appear in court March 3.

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


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