Jul 5, 2014

We lose all the good ones. Wishing Lorna Rodriguez all the best

Lorna Rodriguez, who currently writes for the Times-Standard is moving back to the Bay Area. I have enjoyed getting to know Lorna and in the last year, covered  some of the same stories. I understand the move but just as in the case of Kay Recede, Robyn Ridpath, now Lorna, we are losing a good journalist.

In a small town, relationships are built, reporters get to know people. There is a humanity to the stories covered.

Opportunities for growth in careers in the media are limited, locally. I wish Lorna the very best in her new career.

Jul 4, 2014

Thank you to police, fire and all emergency personnel who worked today

Thank you for keeping us safe. God bless you and your families. Today, especially gratitude to all who fight for our freedoms and those who died for our freedoms.

Fire at 1652 B Street, all evacuated to safety

On 7/4/14 at approximately 1654 hours, Humboldt Bay Fire was dispatched to a structure fire with heavy smoke visible from the roof at 1652 B Street in Eureka.  Humboldt Bay Fire responded with a first alarm assignment consisting of three fire engines, one ladder truck, and two Chief Officers.

First arriving units reported smoke showing from a single story wood framed single family dwelling.  Crews made entry into the structure and found that all of the fire was above the ceiling in the attic space. Ventilation holes were cut in the roof and crews extinguished the fire from the attic access hatch. Crews also worked to protect the occupant’s belongings by covering them with salvage covers.

The occupants had smelled smoke shortly before a neighbor knocked on the door and said that the roof was on fire. All of the occupants were able to evacuate safely. No injuries to any civilians or fire personnel were reported.

A total of 18 Humboldt Bay Fire Personnel, responded to the fire. The fire was controlled in 30 minutes. Some crews remained on scene until 1930 hours removing debris and assisting with the investigation. Arcata Fire Protection District provided 1 engine company to cover any additional calls.

Wabash Street at B Street was closed to through traffic due to the water supply hose that was laid across the roadway.

The cause of the fire after investigation is faulty electrical wiring located in the attic.

Two July Arts Alive events you don't want to miss

Susan Strope's Studio S which features a water themed show with multiple artists including Howard Rutherford.

And Redwood Art Association honoring our very own Julia Bednar.

Jul 3, 2014

Pipe to manufacture cannabis, not a bomb; Meth arrest that recovers stolen car

Pipe to manufacture cannabis, not a pipe bomb

On 07-02-2014, at approximately 8:30 p.m., two Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies detained three adults and conducted a probation search at a 2331 Central Avenue, McKinleyville. While conducting the search, one of the deputies discovered what appeared to be a pipe bomb made of gray pipe. As a precaution the Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was called to the scene, along with additional deputies. Arcata Fire Department and was requested to stage nearby. Surrounding residences were evacuated. The Bomb Squad determined the item was not a pipe bomb, but appeared to be an item used to manufacture concentrated cannabis.

There were no arrests made and the investigation is continuing.

Arrest for meth recovers stolen car

On 07-02-2014, at approximately 4:00 p.m., a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy was driving a marked patrol car on Muncie Street, near Howard Avenue, Eureka. The deputy saw a 1993 blue Honda Civic stopped on Howard Street with an adult male driving it, later identified as Austin Edward Neuroth, 35 years old, from Eureka. The deputy saw Neuroth stop in front of a residence on Howard Street and appeared to conduct an illegal drug transaction with an adult female at the residence. The deputy  then watched the Honda drive away. The deputy saw the Honda had a broken windshield which is a vehicle code violation. The deputy imitated a traffic stop on the Honda and spoke with Neuroth, the driver. Neuroth told the deputy his driver’s license was suspended. The deputy conducted warrants check on Neuroth and learned there was an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant for Neuroth. The warrant was for driving on a suspended license. The deputy asked Neuroth if there was anything illegal in his vehicle, and Neuroth admitted to having a syringe in his shirt on the passenger seat of the car. The deputy arrested Neuroth on the arrest warrant and for driving on a suspended license. The deputy then searched the shirt pocket where Neuroth told him the syringe was located. The deputy located a syringe and approximately .4 grams of suspected methamphetamine. The deputy continued searching the vehicle and located a scale and  $300.00 in twenty dollar bills. When the deputy searched the remainder of the vehicle he located property that the deputy recognized may have been stripped from a stolen 1992 Honda. The deputy recovered the stolen Honda at 9:00 a.m. on Cummings Road, Eureka the same day.

Upon checking with the owner of the stolen Honda, the deputy learned the property in the Honda Neuroth was driving was property taken from the stolen 1992 Honda.

Neuroth was arrested for possession of stolen property, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of illicit drugs and driving on a suspended license, besides the outstanding arrest warrant. Neuroth was transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was booked on the charges. His total bail was set at $30,000.00

Bodhi Tree trial to continue next week, possibly mid-July

The second day of defense witness Jacob Swanepol''s testimony resulted, yet again in no definitive conclusions. Two opinions he gave were disproven or had questions raised when Ms. Firpo examined him on cross. This is the second defense witness who has become defensive when his own testimony has been used against him.

One such example was that in Swanepol's own testimony, he admitted to not being a blood spatter expert but a ballistics expert and that he could give his opinion about blood spatter only related to firearms.

Ms. Firpo pointed out yet he was testifying about blood spatter evidence in this case and opinions on other witnesses who are experts in the field.

There were opinions the defense witness gave that actually helped the prosecution, not the defense. Swanepol has testified yesterday that the bullet found on the staircase in Rhett August's apartment could have been transferred there in some other way, and today when Ms. Firpo asked him, if it could be the bullet that went through August's shirt but did not exit the back could have fallen into his shoe, Swanepol said that was possible.

Ms. Firpo used photos to challenge Swanepol's assertions and she aslo used photos and diagrams when it was helpful to make her points.

Judge Reinholtsen said that on Monday he would meet with the attorneys to "streamline the process" to give the jury an idea when they could expect to start deliberations. The jury will reconvene on Tuesday and tell the Judge if they are willing to hear three full days of testimony.

Virginia's My Word: That is the sign of a leader

I am proud to call Virginia a friend. Her My Word in today's Times-Standard shows what a lady she is and gracious. She thanked her team, thanked her opponent, and has taken action so her constituents can meet with her one on one.

Reaching out, especially to those who did not support her is a sign of a leader. In Virginia's case, her actions match her words.


Jul 2, 2014

Second defense witness testifies out of order in Bodhi Tree case

Jacobs Swanepol, a senior forensic scientist, who started his career in South Africa and then immigrated to U. S. testified this morning in the Bodhi Tree case. This is the second defense witness testifying out of order.

The defense's own witness other than describing how he arrives to conclusions and general information offered no information that was new or helpful to the defense.

"I don't want to wait 6 weeks", Vincent Sanchez disposition continued after he argues with his attorney in court

Vincent Sanchez, the double murder suspect from the Harris Street murders had a disposition/reset hearing this afternoon in Courtroom 4. His attorney Ms. Dixon wanted an additional 6 weeks so that an expert from UC Davis would be available. That expert witness is not available until the first week of August. Sanchez did not want to waive time for his preliminary hearing. "I'm ready to see what is to come towards me," he said to Judge Reinholtsen.

"I'd rather do a not guilty plea" Sanchez said in response to the time waiver question.

Ms. Dixon was given time to confer with him to explain why she wanted six weeks but he was adamant and kept insisting he was not guilty even after Judge Reinholtsen and Ms. Dixon explained his not guilty plea was on record and had not changed.

The disposition hearing has been continued for another week so Ms. Dixon can privately talk with Sanchez and see if he still wants to move forward before the six weeks. While he was waiting for his case to be called, he would randomly smile for no reason or stare into space.

His case will be in court again on July 9 at 2 p.m. in Courtroom 4.

Vincent Sanchez'd record requested from Metropolitan State Hospital

By his attorney, Jennifer Dixon who is with the Public Defender's office.

Jul 1, 2014

Allegations of kidnapping, human trafficking, forcible rape and more in Anderson jury trial

The allegations above also include oral copulation, sexual intercourse with force and violence,  one alleged victim between the ages of 14 and 18 and sexual battery. And this is just the charging document.

Today DDA Luke Brownfield and Anderson's attorney, Ben McLaughlin gave opening arguments.

Mr. Brownfield opened with, "In preparing my opening statement for you, I wrote what I wanted to say, what they taught me in law school. I scrapped it this morning. What you are going to hear is what you are going to hear in this case."

Mr. Brownfield continued by saying that while she does not recall dates, the jury would hear Jane Doe say that she was at the Arcata Plaza and saw a man there who she knew and asked him for a cigarette. He said he didn't have one but his buddy did. They walked to a van, a guy who she knew as Johnny, whose is Anderson,  said he had cigarettes but he needed to move his car. She got in, he moved it to an area behind the Plaza and another man got in the van. Then Anderson told her he needed to take this guy home, then they could go get cigarettes. They dropped the guy off. As he was driving, Anderson talked to her about him being a pimp and how much money she could make as a prostitute. Jane Doe told Anderson she would never have sex for money. Jane Doe said that at this point Anderson got mad. When they kept driving pas gas stations, places where they could get cigarettes, Jane Doe got worried and reached for her backpack which had her cell-phone. She could not find it. At this point, Anderson said something like, "Stupid bitch. Do you think this is my first hoe?"

Jane Doe said that Anderson grabbed her head, unzipped his pants and forced her to have oral sex. She tried to see where they were and all she could see was woods. Anderson then stopped the van in some remote area, forced her to the back of the van and raped her. "He forcibly removes her clothing, gropes her, threatens to kill her, throw her off the cliff," said Mr. Brownfield. "He doesn't ejaculate in her, does not wear a condom, again forces her to give him oral sex. and then ten minutes later ejaculates in his t-shirt."

Then Anderson tells Jane Doe something like, "You are now one of my prostitutes." He drops her off at Wildberries and tells her not to tell anybody. She does not want anyone to know what happened to her.

"Two-three weeks later she has symptoms of a STD, " said Mr. Brownfield. "She gets tested." She tells the nurse what happened. The nurse tells Jane Doe she has to report as a mandated reporter. It is at this point that Jane Doe calls the police.

"There is no DNA evidence to corroborate, no physical evidence. "It is your job to listen and decide if Jane Doe is telling the truth. It is your job to decide why she would make up a story."

Then Mr. Brownfield spoke about J.M., Jane Doe #2. A woman Anderson met at Sbarro. He initiated a long distance relationship with her, gained her trust, invited her to Sacramento for a weekend. Picked her up and "the first night they hung out. They drank and had a good time. The next morning, in her own words, all hell broke loose," Mr. Brownfield continued. "Mr. Anderson came at her with slutty clothes and said 'you are going to walk the streets. You are going to be one of my prostitutes'." When J.M. said no, and cried, he yelled at her. Anderson told J.M., "If you leave, it will only be worse for you." J.M. said she cried for 8 -9 hours and he kept yelling at her. "She did not have her cell-phone, her stuff, she was alone, in a strange place and did not know what to do."

Anderson left and came back and then said, "You don't have to walk the streets, you can work at my friend's brothel. he only gave her two choices. Work the streets or work in the brothel. The only choice Mr. Anderson gave her was to be a prostitute. Eventually, reluctantly, she went to the brothel. She was forced to have sex for money. She gave every dollar she earned to Mr. Anderson."

N.Q., Jane Doe # #, "was once in a dating relationship with Mr. Anderson". In a trip to see him in Washington, she found pamphlets and photos under his bed which were advertisements for prostitution. N.Q, broke off her relationship with Anderson and ran into him in Humboldt a while later. he askjed her if she needed a place to stay that night. Anderson talked to her about making money as a prostitute. N.Q. said she would never be a prostitute. That night she kicked him, fought him and ultimately got away.

M.V. , Jane Doe #4 met Anderson at the strip in Las Vegas. They exchanged numbers and met later. Anderson said he had pot and they should smoke. She got into his car. He grabbed her purse, took her to a RV Park on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Anderson told her that she was going to become a prostitute for him. "He threatened her, he then left her. She thought this was a test, if she walked out, it could get worse."

Anderson came back. "She was on the bed. He had sex with her." Anderson threatened her with what he would do to her if she did not prostitute for him.

Mr. Brownfield concluded by saying, "The things he did no one should do to another human."

Mr. McLaughlin opened his remarks with, "We can overlap and agree on some points. Both Mr. Brownfield and I need you to listen to evidence carefully and scrutinize." He brought up presumption of innocence and the prosecution proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"You will hear allegations, you will also need to pay attention to lack of evidence."

Mr. McLaughlin said that Jane Doe did not report the incident for "a month and a half. There was no DNA evidence. Law enforcement did not seize surveillance video. They did not search Mr. Anderson's vehicle or house. In short, investigation was non-existent."

Mr. McLaughlin said that Anderson did not test positive for chlamydia . He said the jury will hear from witnesses dating Anderson at the same time he allegedly raped Jane Doe and that they did not have chlamydia. "It is important that you pay attention Jane Doe does not remember when this happened. You will hear evidence from cell-phone records that disprove Jane Doe cell-phone allegation. Her cell-phone was used."

"Mr. Brownfield wants to tell you what evidence will show. I want to tell you what evidence does not show. Because of evidence lacking, you cannot find Mr. Anderson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Anderson dressed in a light blue pinstriped shirt sat next to Kevin Stonebarger, defense investigator. Kyla Baxley, the DA investigator on this case was present with Mr. Brownfield.

There have been previous posts on this case including coverage of J.M.'s testimony in an evidence hearing before jury trial.  This trial is going on at the same time as the Bodhi Tree trial.








An uneventful morning in the Bodhi Tree case

Brief testimony from APD officers and a HSU evidence tech who assisted APD evidence tech Leah Christian at the Arcata crime scene were questioned by Ms. Firpo and testimony today focused on search for the firearm in the case.

No new information to add to testimony heard. Defense cross was uneventful.

Providing customer service Rex style; from "I love you Mags" to thanking constituents

This morning I was teasing Rex that just like Jimmy Smith, he is always greeting people at the Courthouse. If you have lived here long enough, you know Rex is everywhere. And being out in the community is who Rex is, even before he was elected Supervisor.

On any given morning, if you come early enough to the Courthouse, you will find Rex working hard in his office but by the time the rest of us come wandering in, he is usually out and about the Courthouse.

Whether it is thanking people for paying their property taxes or greeting employees in on the way to the Courthouse, you can count on Rex on knowing what is really going on.

Today, he checked the progress on the flagpole, greeted some citizens and yelled, "I love you Mags!" as our new DA Ms. Fleming was walking into work and she broke into a smile. And then he followed it up with, "You better hurry up and get to work!"

Rex said that each Supervisor provides customer service in their own way and he believes on being out and about the Courthouse on a daily basis, especially thanking "our customers". He prefers that term to constituents. "Just because the County Building is the only place you can get a certain building widget, does not mean we have to act like we have no competition. Our constituents are our customers, they pay revenue and I want them to know they are appreciated."

He said starting October,"you are losing me on Saturdays and Sundays. I am usually here in the mornings, but it's duck season."

Jun 30, 2014

Timothy Littlefield deal in the works?

A reputable source claims that Timothy Littlefield is looking at or has made a deal that would get him a sentence of a four to ten years.

This case is supposed to be under appeal regarding Judge Feeney's decision to declare mistrial.

From several life sentences to a few years in prison, if there is a deal in the works.

Previous plea deal rejected back on table with no victim notification; exact deal

In the Elmy Workman case. Today a pre trial conference was scheduled, there was a change of plea on 6/11. And a conditional plea was entered on 6/25.

Judge Feeney ruled no unusual circumstances. The case was then heard in Judge Reinholtsen's court and the plea can be returned so it isn't a done deal.

This is the exact plea deal rejected by the victim. Allison Jackson, attorney for record was not notified. I told her of the change today. The case had DDA Luke Brownfield prosecuting then Paul Gallegos made an appearance then DDA Zach Curtis in Courtroom 4.

More to be updated...as details are available.

First defense witness testimony in Bodhi Tree case total letdown

No, it was not Bodhi Tree. Today, the defense presented a witness and this was out of order due to the witness' schedule. Whether there will be any other defense witness? Who knows? Hopefully, if there is, one can only hope that there will be some purpose to the testimony.

The prosecution will continue with their case tomorrow. The Bodhi Tree trial which was expected to end June 27 is still going on. No new information has been revealed in the last week and today was no exception.

At least the prosecution's witnesses last week gave information on chain of custody, how evidence was secured, details about the wounds. And the defense theory that purports shoddy investigation has yet to be proven.

There has been no media presence from Times-Standard or Channel 3 all of last week. No one from T-S, Channel 3 or Mad River Union was there today and they made a wise decision. Today's entire morning consisted of questioning of this one defense witness by Ms. Holmquist and Ms. Firpo.

The witness called by the defense was Daniel Schumaker. He is a self-employed, self-defined "crime reconstructionist" who owns a company called Contrast Forensics. He has a B.A. in Fine Arts and 15 years ago decided to use his graphics training in the courtroom. Ms. Holmquist asked him his qualifications, he said he had testified in 57 criminal trials, 21 civil cases. He uses a lot of equipment that other certified crime reconstructionists do not and some of the software he uses has largely been used in gaming.

He said he has worked for attorneys, public defenders and the DOJ but on cross by Ms. Firpo, he said he had only been approached for the DOJ for four years and never testified in court about the work that he did for them. And the work was about "1/2 a dozen trials.'

He name dropped the George Zimmerman trial and said he had worked for Fortune 500 companies.

Ms. Firpo objected to him being designated as an expert, and during the voir dire process, Ms. Firpo questioned him on several issues which were further brought out on cross. Ms. Firpo asked Schumaker that in order to do crime reconstruction, one has to see the original scene. Schumaker did not go to the crime scene. He went to the house in March 2014. There are different people living at the house and Ms. Firpo noted that the furniture, the way things were are not the same.

The diagrams he presented to the defense are based on photos and autopsy reports. He did not specify if they were photos by law enforcement or defense or both.

He was eventually designated an expert but during voir dire and cross, Ms. Firpo had him on the defense, got him to admit that diagrams he constructed had items missing that were present in photos he used to reconstruct the scene.

 When Ms. Holmquist questioned him initially, he had said he uses a lot of equipment no one else uses. When Ms. Firpo asked him that his equipment was not industry standard, he could not counter with anything to refute that statement. He is not a member of any accredited organizations and the one he belongs to, he was unable to provide numbers or any certification. Ms. Firpo questioned him about his work not being verified by any one else, that he had no law enforcement or investigation training or medical training.

Ms. Firpo asked Schumaker that he was not a medical expert and yet he generated diagrams from autopsy. His response was that Dr. Super and a forensic scientist from the DOJ reviewed his work.

Schumaker was paid $5,200 by the defense for two trips and his work on this case, which included today's appearance. All that work and money, and no new information was revealed, no new theory. When Ms. Firpo showed photos, read from testimony and told Schumaker that Dr. Super had mentioned some inaccuaricies in his diagrams, Schumaker reacted by saying, "then he changed his opinion, that is not what he said in our meeting." His response to being asked if he accurately portrayed the bullet trajectories was "that is why I put a skeleton in my diagrams" and people can count to where the 11th vertebrae is but refused to point out where this was on the body despite claiming he understood medical terms and could interpret autopsies.

Little details like missing blankets when recreating crime scene and removing dreadlocks on most diagrams of Mr. Marcet were Schumaker's preogative.

Instead of explaining anything, Schumaker deflected the responsibilty saying Dr. Super had viewed his diagrams. Schumaker insinuated that his computer software and interpretation of the crime scene was more accurate than Dr. Super.

For weeks, when more qualified experts and coroners have testified, Ms. Holmquist has been vigorous in her questioning. Yet when Ms. Firpo was questioning Schumaker, Ms. Holmquist seem annoyed, stood behind Ms. Firpo for quite a while and rolled her eyes when Ms. Firpo was asking questions.

I suppose there would be no need for a trial or the criminal justice system  if we were just to blindly accept the defense theory, and agree with Ms. Holmquist that Bodhi Tree did not do it!

HCSO Monday press releases: Pine school burglary, man assaulting sister's boyfriend and terrorist threats by McKinleyville man

Pine Hill elementary school burglarized

On 06-29-2014, at approximately 10:30 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s was notified of a burglary alarm at Pine Hill Elementary School, Eureka. When deputies arrived at the school, they met with school staff that had also arrived. Deputies and staff saw the suspect(s) broke a window on the northwest wall of the office. The suspects then reached through the window and opened the door allowing entry.  Deputies saw the office area had been ransacked.

With the assistance of school staff, deputies were able to watch a surveillance video of the burglary. Deputies saw the suspects appeared to all be juveniles, two females and a male. The school staff members who were present were able to identify a 14 year old male on the video.

Deputies searched the area for the suspects and located a 14 year old female at the corner of Herrick Avenue and Vance Avenue, Eureka. The female was in possession of food items stolen from the school nurses office. The female was taken home by the deputy and issued a notice to appear in juvenile court, before being released to the custody of family members.

A deputy went to the identified 14 year old male’s residence. The male had a check from the school in his possession.  The male was determined to be under the influence of alcoholic beverages. He was arrested and transported to Juvenile Probation.

Deputies are still seeking the third juvenile involved.

Man assaults sister's boyfriend

On 06-27-2014, at approximately 6:45 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office was notified of an assault with a knife and car theft that occurred in the 100 block of Sole Street, King Salmon. When deputies arrived, they met with the 21 year old female victim and her 25 year old boyfriend. They told deputies the brother of the female victim, Patrick Thompkins Rector, 25 years old from Eureka, came to the female’s residence unannounced at 6:00 p.m.  Rector does not reside at the residence. When Rector walked into the residence he was carrying a large hunting knife in a sheath. When Rector saw the 25 year old boyfriend who he has an ongoing dispute with, he immediately got angry and drew the fixed blade knife from the sheath. Rector brandished the knife over his head and lunged at the male victim who was on the couch with his sister. His sister was able to push Rector back with her foot, which allowed the boyfriend to escape through a window.

Rector and his sister argued and Rector stole his sisters white Acura Integra. Deputies searched the area for the Integra and located it on Buhne Drive, King Salmon, with a large fixed blade survival knife in the vehicle. The victims identified the knife as being the knife Rector attempted to stab the boyfriend with. No one was injured.

A be-on-the lookout for Rector was issued to all local law enforcement agencies. He is wanted for brandishing a weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, robbery and car theft.

Patrick Thompkins Rector is further described as a white male, 25 years old, 5’ 5” tall, 165 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes.

Terrorist threats made by McKinleyville man

On 06-28-2014, at approximately 2:30 p.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a man who was threatening to shoot people and claimed to be armed with explosives. The suspect, later identified as Bruce Richard Cotherman, 57 years old, from McKinleyville was parked in a green 2002 Subaru in front of Whitethorn Construction Company, 545 Shelter Cove Road, Whitethorn.  A 57 year old male employee of the business walked out to Cotherman’s car when he saw it was backed up to the loading bay area. When the employee asked if Cotherman  needed assistance, Cotherman told the employee if he came any closer he would die. Cotherman motioned towards his right pocket as if he had a gun and told the employee he would be shot if he moved. Cotherman threatened to kill anyone else who came near the employee or Cotherman’s vehicle. Everytime the employee attempted to move , Cotherman got angry and asked the employee if he ever wanted to see his family again. Cotherman yelled to the employee that he had enough C-4 explosives in his vehicle to kill the employee and everyone else in the business and six acres surrounding it. He then told the employee he was going to commit suicide and wanted everyone else to watch. Cotherman then threw his car keys away.

After several minutes of being held hostage, the employee saw Cotherman divert his attention downwards and away from the employee. The employee made a decision to run, leaving Cotherman by himself at the Subaru. A Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived shortly after the employee escaped.  When Cotherman saw the uniformed deputy, he submitted to the deputies commands and was taken into custody.

The deputy was able to determine the boxes and items that Cotherman claimed were explosives in his vehicle were liquid plant fertilizer. The deputy was also did not find any weapons on Cotherman or in his vehicle.

Cotherman later told the deputy he intended to commit suicide by law enforcement, but changed his mind when the deputy arrived.

No one was injured during the incident.

Cotherman was taken to mental health for an evaluation and was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on 6-30-2014. He was booked on charges of false imprisonment and terrorist threats. His bail was set at $50,000.00.