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April 8, 1999

 

Cracking an old case

Clinic headed for closure

Headwaters fallout

Number of retail jobs up

New CR president named

Feds ready for water debate

Parks eye property prospects

Same time, same place

Memorial set for Sunday



Cracking an old case

Following a convicted murderer's confession that he killed a young North Coast boy nine years ago, Blue Lake police searched the premises of another man who may be involved.

Chief Floyd Stokes said Blue Lake police used Humboldt County Sheriff's search dogs at the home of Steven Danny Hash of Blue Lake to look for evidence related to the May 1990 shooting death of the slain Curtis Huntzinger, 14. Hash lives blocks away from the Huntzinger home.

Thomas Michael Fox, an inmate serving a life term in San Quentin State Prison for killing 11-year-old Danny Williams of Eureka two years ago, recently confessed to killing the Huntzinger boy with a revolver at Hash's home, Stokes said. The two murder cases are unrelated, but the boys may have been separate victims of a pornographic business the men managed, the chief added. Polaroid photos of nude boys were sold, he said.

Why the confession from Fox now?

Stokes described Fox as a "lost man," one the chief feels needs some form of redemption.

"He couldn't sleep because the death of Danny Williams and the death of Curtis Huntzinger haunted him," Stokes said Fox told him during an interview.

To the slain boy's mother, Nancy, her point of resolution is nearing, she said.

"In the last nine years, I've been through it all," said the mother of 14 children. Huntzinger has even tried to assist the police, conducting her own informal investigation.

Days before he was killed, her son told her that Hash, a family friend at the time, sexually molested him, she said. The alleged mother-and-son talk has tormented Huntzinger, prompting her on several occasions to head over to Hash's home armed, only to turn around halfway.

"We trusted this man," she said, citing her nagging regret of befriending Hash. "Because you blame yourself (as a parent)," she admitted.

Police are questioning Hash but he has not been charged. The FBI has also been involved in the investigation.



Clinic headed for closure

Next Tuesday, Humboldt County will assess the public's reaction to the proposed closure of its women's health clinic in June. The Board of Supervisors is holding a hearing on the matter at 1:30 p.m.

The closure of the Eureka facility is reflective of a change in the county's priorities and direction, Public Health Director Jeff Arnold said. Indeed, the move shows a shift from direct to indirect services such as prevention programs.

"Public health departments across the nation have started moving in that direction," he said.

The department would like to use its funds for new community health programs that promote prevention to a cross section of the general public, Arnold explained. County Public Health plans to continue to offer some adult health services now provided by the clinic, including HIV testing and immunizations.

But the prospect of the clinic, in its 20th year, closing June 12 has upset some patients, employees former and existing and those who send referrals to the clinic, former director Kate Mott said.

There are other facilities in the county that provide reproductive services, but clinic advocates are still concerned that attention given to low-income patients and those most vulnerable to multiple reproductive problems will be missed.

The state's Adult Health Clinic's nurse practitioner, Jan Ostridge, said she refers many women to the clinic who are sometimes "intimidated by large, medical offices." It's getting an appointment in time to field health problems that may also present a challenge, she added.

"The clinic has the kind of personal service I hate to see disappear," she said.

In the fiscal year 1997-1998, 1,400 people were reported to have used the clinic, which the county estimates costs about $200,000 to run.

Several weeks ago the county moved about $190,000 from the public health department to social services. These funds are generated from state sales tax revenue.

But that transfer was not related to the proposed closure of the clinic, both Arnold and Chief Administrative Officer John Murray said, adding no current programs in public health would be reduced as a result of the transfer.

But the process is far too easy, said Supervisor John Woolley, who voted against shifting funds. Woolley suggests the structure should change to make it harder to move funds about so there's not an "unclarity of purpose" in the county's direction.

The $190,000 transfer is earmarked to cover rising costs in social services' Adoption Assistance Program. The money is in addition to $447,000 transferred to Social Services last September.



Headwaters fallout

Threatened with a lawsuit, the new California Department of Forestry Director Andrea Tuttle has hit the ground running.

Within the first few weeks of being on the job, Tuttle is evaluating whether to impose the same guidelines of Pacific Lumber Co.'s habitat conservation plan (HCP) on an pre-approved but controversial timber harvest plan (THP), CDF spokeswoman Karen Terrill said from her Sacramento office. The HCP, which was the result of the government's Headwaters Forest settlement, dictates how the company manages its 200,000-plus acres.

THP 520 involves 700 acres adjacent to the Headwaters Preserve, which was transferred to PL from the Elk River Timber Co. as part of the agreement, PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel confirmed. CDF has deemed the parcel a working forest that's exempt from the habitat plan because PL isn't the original applicant.

The timber company should have results of a routine survey of the endangered spotted owls within a month, Bullwinkel said. Until then, the company will not log on the site. But citing a "much needed" boost in log inventory, the company expects to harvest the land in the interest of jobs and resources, she added.

And the prospect of that harvest happening so close to the biologically and geologically sensitive Elk River has caused a stir in the environmental community.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court challenging the THP, which was approved during last-minute negotiations over the Headwater purchase.

"There was obviously some serious arm-twisting and rule-bending going on at the last minute," Sierra Club representative Kathy Bailey said in the statement.

Environmentalists fear logging the site will cause hillside erosion and choke the river with debris.

"If this plan is completed, it will likely lead to the local extinction of the coho salmon in the South Fork of the Elk River," North Coast Earth First activist Josh Brown said.

Earth First rally organizers said on March 27 they counted 120 activists and nearby property owners who came out to protest logging on the old second-growth site.



Number of retail jobs up

Keeping in line with a steady rise in overall employment since 1994, jobs in retail in Humboldt County were up in February by 200, a monthly economic report indicates. This rounds out a gain in employment by 1.8 percent from the previous month and 2 percent from the year before.

The unemployment rate in February was 7.9 percent, according figures from the state Employment Development Department.

The rise in the number of retail jobs was not accompanied by an increase in retail sales in February, down almost 10 percent from January.

Outside the service sector, the county lost 100 manufacturing jobs this February. This reflects a decline of 6.3 percent from the month before. Lumber-based manufacturing generates about 75 percent of the county's income in this category.

Hotels and motels showed a rise in occupancy rates in February, up by 17 percent from the month before, according to the Humboldt State University Index of Economic Activity report prepared by Professor Steven Hackett.



New CR president named

Kathleen Crabill, 42, believes it was a "prophetic" sign when she bought a canoe paddle she hoped to use on the North Coast.

Come July 1, the Storrs, Conn., educator an outdoor enthusiast at heart can put it to good use with her Mad River-brand canoe as the College of the Redwoods president and superintendent. This week, Crabill was selected by the Redwoods Community College District Board of Trustees for the Eureka college's top spot.

What's her first reaction to being the first woman to hold the job in the school's 34-year history?

"Yippee," she said, mocking conventional professionalism with emotional glee. "I'm delighted to get out (there)."

Crabill decided long ago that the Redwood Coast is a "beautiful part of the country," she said, always hoping to raise her now 5-year-old daughter here.

Given her specific skills and level of expertise, she was lucky to capture the right job in the area she wanted to live, she said with humility. But given her background, she was talented and impressive enough to capture the CR position out of three finalists and 82 applicants, college officials noted.

Crabill is currently serving as the interim president of Gateway Community-Technical College in New Haven, Conn., home of Yale University. Prior to Gateway, Crabill served as a dean and interim president at Quinebaug Valley Community Technical College in Danielson, Conn.

The move west isn't one she takes lightly. With the exception of a short stint in England, Crabill has spent her life on the East Coast.

She earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction and a master's degree in the teaching of English as a second language, both from the State University of New York at Albany. Crabill grew up in upstate New York.

The high-profile position at CR comes with many challenges, commanding input and feedback from a variety of sources at the college, Crabill said. She's an advocate of brainstorming and wants to use these fact-finding missions to develop ways to help students enter an ever-changing workforce with confidence.

Professionally, her own new place of employment is "an incredibly alive institution," she said of CR. Personally, she plans to continue honing her cooking skills as a cheesecake connoisseur.



Feds ready for water debate

Water wars will take center stage in Eureka next week, when the amount and direction of Eel River flows that have energized interests in a few North Coast counties will top the agenda of a public hearing.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-sponsored meeting in Humboldt County is set for 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. April 14 at the Doubletree Inn, 1929 Fourth St. The day before, the Mendocino County version is set for the same times at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center, 200 S. School St., Ukiah.

The federal agency recently released a controversial draft outlining the environmental impacts of a Pacific Gas and Electric's minimum flow requirements on the long, flat and windy river.

Even after the power company voluntarily agreed to increase flows, environmentalists say the flow levels released from the Cape Horn Dam in Mendocino Countywon't go far enough in saving salmon and steelhead trout populations that once thrived in the Eel.

One group in particular, the Friends of the Eel River, contends flow diversions from PG&E's Potter Valley Hydroelectric Project have had a devastating effect on the river's ability to recover.

"We're allowing this (biological) system to die, and it's got to stop," FOER spokeswoman Nadananda said. The flows are "totally inadequate."

The commission ordered PG&E to study its project's effects on the river, and the power company agreed to divert 15 percent less water into the Russian River this month, leaving more for fish migration in the spring farther north, PG&E spokesman Lloyd Coker said from his San Francisco office.

Coker figured the annual flow increase amounts to 23,370 acre feet of water less through the diversion tunnel.

It appears neither side is happy with the water diversion debate. Humboldt County's neighbors to the south, where the thrust of development lies, appear unsatisfied with the commission's river flow analysis, too.

Sonoma County Water Agency officials have suggested challenging the draft report, due for its final round later this year.



Parks eye property prospects

California State Parks will soon evaluate whether to increase the recreational value of a 135-acre site near Big Lagoon now owned by Louisiana Pacific, parks district director John Kolb said.

The $1.3 million purchase is due to close in May, with $900,000 contributed by Save-the-Redwoods League and $400,000 kicked in by the Coastal Conservancy.

The property is located about 25 miles north of Eureka, adjacent to U.S. Highway 101 and bordering the lagoon bog. The purchase "gift" is meant to give the bog an "ecological buffer zone," according to the conservancy.

And preserving the property's scenic and environmental value is the first priority, Kolb said.



Same time, same place

The Farmers Market returns to the Arcata Plaza from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 17 for its 21st season, one of several seasons planned if California Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin has her way.

Strom-Martin's recently proposed bill extending the sunset clause for market sellers from Jan. 1, 2000 to 2005 is headed to the Agricultural Committee. The bill keeps the small farmers certified on the goods they list.

In Strom-Martin's district, 20 certified farmers markets often turn the marketplaces into community events.


Memorial set for Sunday

A community-wide memorial is planned this weekend for active Eureka residents, Carole Sund, 42, and daughter Juli Sund, 15. The two women were killed along with family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, while sightseeing near Yosemite National Park in February. Preliminary DNA results have identified the foreign exchange student from Argentina.

The major homicide case has drawn worldwide media attention, hundreds of letters of mourning to the families and now dignitaries, among them U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is scheduled to attend the service slated for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sacred Heart Church, 2085 Myrtle Ave. in Eureka.

The church seats 800, but it's anyone's guess how many people will be present, Downs said. The Humboldt Transit Authority will be providing bus service from the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds to the church starting at 1 p.m. Four buses will shuttle mourners every few minutes, Downs added. A reception will follow the service.

Husband and father Jens Sund, who wrote a letter acknowledging his grief in the Times-Standard Tuesday, has asked at least one of his daughter Juli's friends to plan the ceremony. In the letter, he shared his own childhood tragedies and urged her friends wrought with grief to continue their active lives, as his late daughter and wife.

Carole Sund married Jens 21 years ago, as his childhood sweetheart. She became a mother of four and a diligent child advocate, forming Humboldt County's CASA, court-appointed special advocates.

Juli Sund was also active, with violence awareness programs, her cheerleading squad at Eureka High School. She was also an accomplished violinist with grand-scale dreams, family and friends have recalled.

Feinstein, who has been in touch with the family, has been moved by the "terrible tragedy" and "wants to pay her respects," her spokesman Jim Hock said. The senator from California has been working to secure a military plane to transport the body of Pelosso back to homeland, upon release of her remains by the FBI.

Meanwhile, the multi-agency task force working the case is questioning witnesses and possible suspects, FBI spokesman Nick Rossi said, but no one has been charged as of press time Tuesday.


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