Three prominent Eureka residents died in two separate vehicle crashes on the North Coast Saturday, leaving a community stunned, perplexed and mournful and the California Highway Patrol concerned with winter's wrath.
Local attorney Mike Malloy, 49, was killed when his pickup rolled 250 feet down an embankment off U.S. Highway 101 south of Willits in heavy rain, Humboldt County Coast Guard officials said. On Sunday, the agency aided in the search for his body, which was found by Mendocino County sheriff's deputies about a quarter mile downstream of the Russian River. A local U.S. Coast Guard pilot recalled debris from the truck scattered from the road to the river in the fatal crash.
Services for the husband and father of three have been set for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Bernard Catholic Parish, 615 H St. in Eureka.
His wife Theresa, a passenger in the vehicle, was listed in stable condition with knee, rib and internal injuries at Ukiah Valley Medical Center. She's due to be transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital in Eureka this week, hospital officials said.
Deeply saddened, co-workers at local law firm Janssen, Malloy, Needham, Morrison and Koshkin remembered Malloy as "one of the good guys."
"Mike was definitely that," partner and colleague Tim Needham said of a well-liked friend he described as having no "masks."
"He was exactly what you saw," Needham said. "Mike was the kind of guy (a client) could go in and vent to and feel he'd solve all your problems when all he'd do is smile at you."
Active in the community, Malloy was past president of the Humboldt County Bar Association and served on the boards of Redwood Ombudsman, Humboldt County Council Campfire and St. Bernard. Malloy, who grew up in the county, went to St. Bernard High School in Eureka.
The tragic incident has shook the law firm.
Bob Janssen, another partner and long-time friend, has flip-flopped between crying spells and bouts with anger since the tragedy.
"I loved Mike," Jannsen said. "He truly wanted to make this world a better place."
Attorney Lynnette Staniford-Chen was struck by Malloy's honesty and principles, at times persuading her to help him on a pro-bono case because "it was the right thing to do."
It happens just that fast, CHP spokesman Jim Van Horn said. The CHP issued a warning to motorists to drive especially careful in the winter rains, which show no sign of subsiding anytime soon.
"We have these crashes, and we're jerked back into reality (that it can happen to us)," Van Horn said, referring to the two car crashes last weekend as "stinging" reminders.
The community is also grieving the loss of Bill Bayich, 66, and companion Mary "Betty" Lacefield, 71, two extraordinarily dedicated fans of the Humboldt Crabs minor league baseball team.
The team icons were killed in a T-bone crash allegedly caused by a 16-year-old boy fleeing police in a stolen vehicle Saturday night in Eureka, according to CHP spokesman Jim Van Horn.
"Pursuits are always dangerous," he said.
Among other agencies, the CHP is investigating the incident that started at R Street with the juvenile noticing the authorities, turned into a high-speed chase along Henderson Street and ended in tragedy at F Street. Van Horn said he didn't know if the teenager was sober or not.
But the instant death of two well-known, innocent residents is sobering enough, he implied.
"Bill did a lot for youth in Eureka," former Crabs General Manager Ned Barsuglio said, saddened by the double loss.
Barsuglio called the two "great fans," noting Bayich's 30-year commitment as a volunteer to the baseball outfit and the unyielding dedication of "Baseball Betty" to never miss a game since the early 1940s.
"The only time Betty would miss a game is if she went down to (San Francisco) to see the Giants play. And, there were Crab players there, too," he said.
When the 9 p.m. crash happened, the couple was returning from a basketball game at Eureka High School where Bayich went to school.
With Lacefield's and Bayich's death, the organization has lost five fans from the Crabs usual front row within a year period, the 78-year-old Eureka man said.
A recent California Supreme Court decision keeping dangerous sex offenders in custody beyond their time served has touched Humboldt County.
The controversial law affecting hundreds of people in the state allows for confining repeat violators to a state hospital after their prison release date if they are determined to pose a danger to others because of a mental disorder, a published report from the San Francisco Chronicle indicates.
The law was tailor-made for former county resident Elmer Bock, District Attorney Terry Farmer said of the three-time sex offender committed to Atascadero State Hospital.
"No one meets the profile more than Elmer," Farmer said.
Farmer and Deputy District Attorney Peter Martin called Bock a "classic, stereotypical pedophile" who, in his 80s, used to hang out in residential neighborhoods stalking children.
"Each time he got out he'd have a repeat performance," Martin said.
Bock started molesting children as early as the 1950s, until he was put away in June 1997, he said. With two felony prior convictions, the deputy district attorney finally made the case to keep Bock in the system under the new guidelines.
"There are some people too dangerous to be let out," Martin said.
But American Civil Liberties Union staff Attorney Bob Kim cried foul of the "added punishment."
Kim warned the 1996 law may work to replace other methods of dealing with violators, such as treatment and rehabilitation programs. The civil rights attorney believes the ruling may legalize a form of discrimination against a certain group of people.
"If we allow this to happen to one group of people in the criminal justice system, should we ask if it may be expanded to others?" he asked.
California is one of five states that imposes additional civil commitments for some sex offenders, according to the report. But the divisive issue has creeped into courtrooms across the nation.
There's a reluctance in the general public to believe these type of predators exist and roam a community's neighborhoods, Martin explained. Also leading to a low conviction rate, cases against sexual predators are hard to prove often times due to a lack of evidence, he added.
Local animal shelter manager Ron Latham said he's lost sleep in the last few weeks.
The clock is ticking and no solutions have surfaced yet on a new state mandate requiring pounds and shelters to extend the minimum impound time from three to six days. The law also demands the shelter release the animals to a nonprofit animal rescue facility or adoption organization, unless exempted.
Though the intent sounds good, the mandate is flawed in all practical purposes, said Latham of the Sequoia Humane Society shelter.
"The bottom line is, we don't have the space," he said, guessing the overcrowding will soon be "out of control."
"People aren't going to be able to drop off animals anymore," he said.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Santa Monica, will probably create an even larger backlog of animals in a shelter that already puts down animals every week, Latham said. It goes into affect July 1. This is one day after the shelter's contracts with Humboldt County and its cities expire.
These governments kick in $140,000 of the $350,000 operational budget. The shelter relies on private donations for the remainder, Latham said. As a result of losing the contracts, Latham also fears having to lay off at least three-quarters of his staff.
And, these are people who genuinely care about the animals, Latham said, frustrated.
The estimated cost to build another facility to handle the increase in tenants is $1.5 million. Even so, the money represents a Band-aid solution to a bigger problem, Latham lamented.
He contends if people were better pet owners in addition to spaying and neutering their animals, the county wouldn't have the extent of the problem that will mushroom in the coming months.
But people who move here do so to let their dogs run free, county agricultural commissioner John Falkenstrom said he's heard time and time again.
Of the 8,000 licenses sold through the county, 77 percent of the animals are spayed or neutered, Falkenstrom said. Unfortunately, the problem lies with the more than 20,000 animals not licensed at all, he estimated.
The commissioner said the county will do its best to comply with the law. But he also believes total compliance would be close to impossible.
For those interested in adopting an animal at the Sequoia Humane Society, the cost is $25.
The government is warning paramedics and firefighters of the possible danger in their life-savings devices.
Though seldomly occurring, aluminum valves on some commonly-used oxygen tanks may explode, the Food and Drug Administration cautioned in a published report. The FDA wants these valves that determine how fast the oxygen escapes from the tank into a mask replaced with brass ones. Most hospitals use the hard-to-burn ones, an Associated Press report indicated.
For starters, the maker of 60 percent of the oxygen regulators sold Allied Healthcare Products of St. Louis agreed to recall their aluminum regulators in models LSP 106, 270, 280, 370 and 735 and replace them with brass.
About 200,000 of the tanks are used, but the federal agency said it's aware of 16 explosions in a four-year period, the AP report added. Eleven people were injured in the explosions.
Still, for anyone on the receiving end of the high-powered combustion, it can be both dramatic and traumatic, local emergency response officials pointed out.
"When (the seal) fractures, it's like setting off a bomb," said Ed Cashman, operations manager of City Ambulance in Eureka. He said the common fear lies in dropping the canisters.
City Ambulance received the warning and checked its inventory of 20 tanks. None of them is the Allied brand, Cashman said.
Though no injuries have been reported locally as a result of these explosions, Cashman said he's heard of a high-pressured breathing apparatus blowing the equipment storage door off a local fire truck years ago.
Humboldt Fire District Chief Bob Heald also doesn't recall any mishaps or injuries caused by these tanks, but he did agree when it happens it's dramatic.
HFD doesn't store or carry the Allied brand either in its inventory of 20 tanks, Heald said.
The FDA is offering the emergency response teams some common-sense precautions to reduce the risk. It recommends cranking the valve slowly, so there's less friction and keeping the tanks and related equipment immaculately clean especially when refilling them.
Oxygen tanks come in steel or aluminum. The FDA suggests refraining from using aluminum tanks with aluminum valves, but ambulances prefer aluminum because it's lighter to carry around.
A proposed Classic Yacht Marina and Wooden Boat School edges closer to sailing into the Eureka area.
Pat McGrath, president of the Classic Yacht Preservation group, said the plans for the tourism-based project are "falling into place." The city of Eureka has all but completed a $35,000 study approved by the council in August 1997.
The feasibility study aims to evaluate the impact of the grand-scale project on the waterfront. And, if all goes as planned, the wooden boat facility should be operational within a year.
The 1997 Community Development Block Grant project is set to showcase at least eight historic boats refurbished and displayed at the harbor on F Street. Plans to offer a bed and breakfast inn on board, as well as a school to teach all facets of ship repair and restoration are included.
"What makes it work is the school," he said.
The Eureka resident is negotiating with College of the Redwoods to find a different spot for the wooden boat school, which he modeled after a similar program in the San Francisco Bay Area. McGrath also points to a wooden boat school outside Hilton Head, North Carolina, that became a "huge tourist attraction."
McGrath has spearheaded the project for years because he believes Eureka is a "rich maritime region" once one of the largest shipbuilding ports on the West Coast. The city's Redevelopment Agency is providing matching funds in the amount of $8,750 as 25 percent of the project.
As of Friday, callers won't be able to access a nurse via "Tele-Nurse."
The cooperative General Hospital program has been discontinued by Redding Medical Center, the host facility. The program allowed callers to get referrals and advice from the Tele-Nurse on call.
According to an issued statement, General Hospital officials are disappointed with the loss of the program. The monthly cost of the program amounted to about $8,000 for the Redding hospital. It was offered to this community free.
Another start-up program locally would run General Hospital at least $200,000, its statement indicates.
A former Sunny Brae Middle School teacher whose trial in connection with child molestation charges ended in a mistrial weeks ago is making his way back to a Humboldt County courtroom, District Attorney Terry Farmer confirmed Monday.
A gag order was placed on the case against Michael Scott Shaddix, 35, Farmer added. Now, the second round of legal wrangling has been set for May 17. In the first trial, the jury deadlocked on all 13 counts.
Defense Attorney Greg Rael called a press conference Friday, but the order signed by Judge Dale Reinholtsen restricted discussion related to the case, a Times-Standard report indicated.
The difficult and controversial subject of assisted suicide will take center stage Feb. 22 at the Trinidad Town Hall.
Local Dr. Eugene D. Robin will give a lecture on the topic: "Unintentional and Intentional Physician Assisted Euthanasia." The symposium is free to the public and starts at 7:30 p.m.
Educating the public about patient rights is one goal, the Stanford University professor said.
"The goal is to help the patient and family have the first choice of alternatives," he said in an issued statement. The topic of the public forum will expand into other countries.