Monday, October 17, 2016

Flooding Possible With High Tides and Storm Surge

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 12:50 PM

  • National Weather Service
The worst of the storm that hit Humboldt County with a one-two punch is over but there is a chance of coastal flooding in low-lying areas of King Salmon and Arcata this afternoon when the storm surge and high tides meet up.

According to the National Weather Service, tides are expected to peak between 8.5 and 8.9 feet at the North Spit gauge between noon and 2 p.m. The evening could see another one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch of rain along the coast.

Troy Nicolini, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Eureka office, said the storm brought local rain totals to more than 700 percent of normal for this time of year — with 6.29 inches since July compared to a normal total of .85 inches.

The system unloaded 3.94 inches of rain on Eureka over the last three days — while portions of Del Norte County saw 10 inches — along with some thunder and lightning that was unusual this early in the season, Nicolini said. 

"It was a pretty darn wet storm," he said.
Sunny skies are forecast to return by Wednesday with temperatures hitting a high of 66 along the coast and inland areas seeing top numbers on Thursday, with Willow Creek slated to reach 78 and Garberville topping out at 80. The warmer weather is expected to continue through the weekend.

Coastal flood advisory from the National Weather Service:





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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arcata Neighborhood Concerns Focus of Meeting

Posted By on Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September.
Arcata residents expressed frustration at the changing character of their neighborhoods and what they perceive as an increased boldness in the crimes being committed on local streets during a Thursday night meeting with city officials that was spurred by a brazen attack last month on a young girl walking to school.

While the focus was on the Westwood neighborhood where the 12-year-old student was using a path from Cahill Park to Arcata Elementary School, the crowd of nearly 100 came from throughout the city.

“I’m really thankful,” Councilmember Mark Wheetley said during beginning remarks at the D Street Community Center meeting. “If we didn’t have this room packed, I’d be worried. I have a 12-year-old daughter also, so it really hit me hard.”

The suspect in the attack, Dylan Jackson Wilson, faces charges of assault on a child with the intent to commit a felony and committing a forcible lewd act on a child. A court hearing is scheduled Monday for the receipt of a medical report on his mental competency.

Attendees at Thursday's meeting were divided into three groups that focused on neighborhood watch, general policing and infrastructure needs, including clearing pathways that have become overgrown or known loitering areas.

Mayor Paul Pitino, councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Michael Winkler, City Manager Karen Diemer, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre, City Engineer Doby Class and Julie Neander, deputy director of the recreation division, also headed or sat in on discussions.

Many navigated to the law enforcement sessions — led by Police Chief Tom Chapman, Lt. Bart Silvers and Neighborhood Watch coordinator Ginger Campbell — to share their stories, ask for advice and look for solutions.

Residents spoke about problem houses with drug activity, car break-ins day and night, and a general decline in their feeling of safety, including one woman who said someone opened a gate in the middle of the day and stole her running shoes right off the porch.

Suggestions included forming parent patrols, joining or starting a neighborhood watch and using apps like SeeClickFix to share real-time information on problem hot spots by taking photographs.

“I’m not going to not go down that path on principle,” said Thia Bachemin, the mother of a fifth grader at Arcata Elementary, noting the community needs to come together to be an “agent of change.” “What’s going to happen is the problems are just going to move to a new place.”

The main message from law enforcement and other city officials was for residents to get to know their neighbors, keep a watch out for suspicious activity and to call the city — and to keep calling — as problems arise.

“The strength that we have is the neighbors being our eyes and ears,” Silvers said.

Class agreed, saying the same applied to abatement issues at properties.

Chapman told residents his department was aware of many of the city’s problem homes and that reporting incidents helps police create a record that can be used to build a case.

Parent Kate Hutchings, a member of Arcata Elementary’s parent teacher organization who suggested using the SeeClickFix app to spread the word about concerns and issue areas, said the city has done quite a bit of work cleaning up the path where the attack took place.

“I hope that momentum stays,” she said.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Aid Worker Kidnapped in Niger Reportedly from McKinleyville

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

  • Redwood Coast School of Missions
  • Jeff Woodke.
In a statement sent to the Journal, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman indicated he’s working with the State Department to facilitate kidnaped missionary Jeff Woodke’s safe return home.

“My thoughts are with Jeff Woodke and his loved ones during this extremely trying time,” Huffman said of the 55-year-old McKinlyville man who was abducted in West Africa on Friday night. “It is devastating to see my constituent who has spent his life dedicated to humanitarian service be victimized in this way. I am working with State Department officials and will do everything in my power to ensure Jeff’s swift and safe return home.”

Reuters is reporting that Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum has confirmed the identity of the American kidnapped last night as 55-year-old Jeffery Woodke of McKinleyville.

Additionally, Bazoum issued a statement offering some additional detail about the attack, including that an armed man on a motorcycle arrived at Woodke's home in Abalak and opened fire on an armed guard before a Toyota truck returned to abduct Woodke.

"These criminals are now heading towards Mali. Our forces are on their trial," Bazoum says in the statement, according to Reuters.

Read the full report here.

The New York Times also now has a report up, which can be found here.

Multiple news reports are identifying the Christian American aid worker kidnapped by armed gunmen in Niger yesterday as a 55-year-old Mckinleyville man.

Britain’s Daily Mail and CBN News, a Christian online reporting outlet, have both identified the man as Jeff Woodke, a Humboldt State University alum who works for the Redwood Coast School of Missions run through Arcata First Baptist Church. According to the Redwood Coast School of Missions website, Woodke has “committed the past 25 years of his life to a ministry he founded in Niger amongst a number of unreached people groups.”

According to multiple accounts, gunmen stormed the home of a longtime American aid worker in the the West African city of Abalak, killed a bodyguard and a local police officer in a shootout and then fled with a kidnapped American toward Mali. CNN reported that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being put into a 4x4 vehicle, noting that “such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.”

CNN further reported that "authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly."

Radio France Internationale reported the victim had worked in the area since the 1990s with Youth with a Mission, which bills itself as a “global movement of Christians … dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The group reports that it works in more than 1,100 locations spread across 180 countries — including Abalak, Niger — with a staff of more than 18,000.

It’s unclear who is responsible for the kidnapping and the U.S. State Department has so far said publicly only that it is aware of reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Niger. Attempts to reach North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Arcata First Baptist Church were not immediately successful this morning.

A short bio on Redwood Coast School of Missions indicates missionary work in Niger has been a huge part of his life’s work.

“Jeff’s passion in providing humanitarian aid to those who are amongst the poorest in the world, coupled with his desire to see God’s kingdom advanced in a largely Muslim world has played a large part in the life and ministry of (Arcata First Baptist Church),” the site says.

On her Facebook page, Christian author Cheryl Ford indicated she was a 15-year member of the same Humboldt County church as Woodke and that her family went to Niger under his leadership a couple of times.

“One had to marvel at the man,” she wrote. “My world kind of stopped yesterday over this news.”

Ford also quoted Tracy Rickstrew, who worked at Arcata First Baptist Church and whom Ford identifies as a “former Niger team missionary,” as follows: “Our friend and director when we worked in Niger, Africa was kidnapped yesterday. Please pray for him and his family. I know his heart would not be for his own life, but for God’s glory in all of this. He is tough and his faith is resolute and we know that there is nowhere on earth that he can go where the Spirit of God is not already with him.”

Back in June of 2014, Woodke was a guest speaker at the Arcata First Baptist Church. Watch the video below:

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Court Cracks Down on Skipping Jury Duty

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 1:21 PM

The Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • The Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.
If you are among the estimated 75 percent of Humboldt County residents who have been ignoring a jury summons, the Superior Court may come a calling to let you know your time is up.

According to a press release sent out by the court this week, jury services staff have resorted to phoning service skippers and are setting up five-day standby lists in order to have enough jurors available for trials.

The release says the court could also look at sending deputies to “escort individuals to the courthouse for jury service and/or may issue an order to show cause for appearance at a court hearing.”

“Steps are now being taken because of the number of jury trials that must be heard,” court CEO Kim Bartleson says. “If jurors are not available, a case could be dismissed.”

Duplications in the 176,000 or so names on the master jury list, compiled from voter registration and Department of Motor Vehicle records, are filtered out before potential jurors are randomly selected for a summons, according to Bartleson.

For reference, Humboldt County has about 80,000 registered voters and a total population of 135,000, according to the U.S. Census. And to be able to serve, jurors must be at least 18, proficient in English and U.S. citizens who has not been convicted of a felony, although there are some exceptions to the latter.

About 200 summons are sent out for an average court day in Humboldt County, Bartleson says. The number of potential jurors needed for the selection pool varies depending on the number and type of cases up for trial. The issue is most people aren’t showing up.

“The drop in response rates has been an ongoing problem,” she says.

Take Wednesday, for instance: 600 jurors were summoned and 75 appeared for a response rate of 12.5 percent. That’s down from an average 51 percent jury yield back in 2012, according to data collected by the Judicial Council of California, the policy making body of the California courts.

The general goal for response rates is around 40 percent, according to Blaine Corren, a spokesperson with the council.

“Some courts, people report higher than others,” he says.

Jury response varies across the state with some California counties boasting rates as high as 87 (Colusa County), while others were as low as 5 percent (Nevada County), according to judicial council data from 2012 and 2013, the most recent available.

The statewide average came in at 57 percent.

With every batch of summons sent out, a certain number are expected to drop out due to deferments or being excused, as well as simply failing to show. Around 12 percent are estimated to never make it to the intended recipient due to outdated addresses or other mailing issues.

“The low average response rate makes it difficult for the jury commissioner to be confident that enough people have been called to appear: trials have been delayed by inadequate numbers of prospective jurors,” District Attorney Maggie Fleming said in an email to the Journal. “Of course, lengthening the process in this way reduces the number of cases we can try.”

In most cases a person is considered to have done their yearly service if they are not selected for a jury after one day at the courthouse. After serving on a jury, that timeline is expanded — at least in Humboldt County — to two years.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Alcohol, Hearing Evidence May be Excluded in McClain Trial

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 1:37 PM

  • Thomas McClain
SAN FRANCISCO  — A federal judge said Tuesday he is unlikely to permit evidence that a man shot and killed by an officer in Eureka two years ago was drunk and had hearing problems when the case goes to trial this November.

According to his parents' May 2015 lawsuit, 22-year-old Thomas McClain was complying with orders and had his hands up when Eureka Police officer Steven Linfoot opened fire on Sept. 17, 2014. Linfoot fired seven bullets, three of which hit Thomas McClain as he stood in his front yard on Allard Street.

The city claims McClain was reaching for something in his waistband — it turned out to be a BB gun — and that Linfoot acted appropriately to neutralize what he considered a potentially deadly threat.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III denied the city's motion for summary judgment on excessive force and wrongful death claims, finding that one eyewitness contradicted Linfoot and the other officers' version of events, and that officer commands were unclear in a dash cam audio recording.

During a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, the McClain family's attorney, Dale Galipo, argued that allowing evidence that McClain was drunk at the time of the shooting would encourage speculation and prejudice the jury.

Nancy Delaney, a private attorney representing the city of Eureka, replied that evidence of McClain's drunkenness is necessary to explain the young man's irrational behavior and mindset.

"We have a young man, who reached for — if the officers are telling the truth — what we know was a replica gun," Delaney said. "That makes sense if the imprudent actions are of one under the influence of alcohol."

In a reply brief opposing the motion to exclude evidence of intoxication, the city cited testimony from one witness who said McClain was "very intoxicated" and consumed at least four or five drinks that night.

During the hearing, Delaney also cited a toxicology report, which found McClain had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent, well above the legal limit for driving impairment of 0.08 percent.

"One of the things that makes sense here is you have someone that because of alcohol does the stupid thing of deciding, 'I'm going to end this and just show them it's not a real gun,'" Delaney said. "That can only be understood with the undisputed evidence that this young man had consumed a lot of alcohol."

Galipo responded by accusing the city of stretching the bounds of logic in an attempt to introduce prejudicial evidence at trial. He further contended that the city has offered no expert testimony to back up its theory that a drunken person would behave in such a manner.

"They have not retained a designated expert to talk about the effects of alcohol on a person," Galipo said. "There's a bit of a leap of logic that someone who has three to four to five drinks is going to reach for a replica gun."

Delaney argued to exclude evidence of McClain's hearing impairment as well, which she said could confuse the jury. Deciding whether the use of force is reasonable must be based on the officer's perspective at the time, Delaney said, and Linfoot did not know McClain had hearing problems during the incident.

Orrick seemed inclined to exclude evidence of both intoxication and hearing loss.

"I think the issue is what the officers knew at the time," he said. "They didn't know anything about the drinking or the hearing issue. I think there's some concern about prejudice with respect to the drinking."

Orrick reasoned that if he allows the jury to hear information that was not known to officers at the time of the shooting, such as McClain's intoxication, he would have to permit the inclusion of evidence on the hearing loss as well.

Delaney still pushed for the inclusion of the alcohol-related evidence. "If it's hearing impairment and alcohol, or no alcohol or hearing impairment, we'll take the former," she said.

The trial is expected to start on Nov. 14 at the Federal Courthouse in. Orrick said he expects the trial to wrap up within five or six days with the goal of giving the jury enough time to reach a verdict before Thanksgiving.

This story was reprinted with with the permission of Courthouse News Service.

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Public Defender to Retire, Judgeship Not Likely

Posted By on Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff. - FILE
  • File
  • Kevin Robinson, center front, with the rest of the Public Defender staff.
After a decade on the job, Humboldt County Public Defender Kevin Robinson has informed the Board of Supervisors that he will be retiring in January.

In a short letter sent to the board last week, Robinson says his last day heading the Public Defender’s Office will be Jan. 20 and offers to assist with training his yet-to-be-settled-upon replacement. Robinson has been with the office for 22 years, having joined as a deputy public defender in 1994.

In an interview with the Journal last week, Robinson said he’s looking forward to slowing down and spending some time with his 8-month-old granddaughter, who lives in Davis. Other than that, Robinson said he’s not sure what retirement will hold for him. Some time back, he applied to be appointed by the governor for the judgeship that has been vacant in Humboldt since Judge Bruce Watson retired at the beginning of the year.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Sheriff's Office Investigating County's 19th Homicide

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 4:55 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is investigating another homicide, after a 23-year-old was stabbed to death in Weott on Friday night.

The homicide is the 19th recorded in the county so far this year, and comes in the midst of the county’s single grisliest annual homicide total in at least 30 years. It also puts the county on pace to record nearly 25 homicides this year.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a report of a disturbance in the 400 block of Newton Road in Weott at about 10:40 p.m. Friday. While en route, deputies were advised that one of the subjects, a 23-year-old male, had been stabbed and driven to a local hospital, where he later died.

An investigation determined there was a physical altercation that led to the stabbing, according to the press release.

See the full release from the Sheriff’s Office copied below:

Homicide Investigation - Case 201605035
On Friday, October 7, 2016 at about 10:39 p.m. Humboldt County Deputies received a report of a disturbance on the 400 block of Newton Rd, Weott. While en route, Deputies were told one of the subjects, a 23 year old male, had been stabbed and driven to a local hospital. Deputies arrived at the Newton Rd residence to investigate the incident. Deputies determined there was a physical altercation between two males which resulted in the 23 year old male getting stabbed.
The 23 year old involved party was later pronounced deceased at the hospital.
Detectives were called to the crime scene and are investigating this incident.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

HumBug: Seasons Change

Posted By on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Tiny acmon blue butterfly. Each wing about the size of your little fingernail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Tiny acmon blue butterfly. Each wing about the size of your little fingernail.

Seasons change, and with them the insects we see. Headed toward winter now, there are fewer dragonflies. It seems the big common green darners are all gone now, migrated elsewhere. But on a recent stroll along the Van Duzen, I saw several others. A solitary dusty, old-looking western river cruiser and a couple too far off to identify.

Mylitta crescent butterfly, Each wing about as big as my thumbnail. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Mylitta crescent butterfly, Each wing about as big as my thumbnail.

I saw several California sister butterflies. They all looked worn and tired, with faded and shredded wings. There were several small Mylitta crescent butterflies (Phyciodes mylitta), a few tiny gray (with a line of square orange dots) Acomon blues (Plebejus acmon). Interestingly enough this species may have several broods throughout the year and the colors vary from brilliant blue in spring, to dark gray later in the year. Their larvae form symbiotic relations with certain species of ant wherein the ants provide protection and the caterpillar secretes honeydew, which the ants consume.

Blazing star, about 4 inches across. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Blazing star, about 4 inches across.

As there is every year, there was a single blazing star plant (Mentzelia laevicaulis) blooming on the river bar. Funny thing is that I see only a single one of this plant every year but in different places on the river bar.

Finally, near the end of my stroll, I noted one of the mosaic darner family of dragonflies patrolling a tiny sheltered side stream of the river. It never ceased its flight, only occasionally hovering for a few seconds. I don't know how long I spent trying all the tricks I know to get a good shot of it. When I posted it in an entomological site, I got a quick response that it was a shadow darner (Aeshna umbrosa). This large dragonfly is one of the most cold tolerant and is common throughout North America. It can often be seen late in the season patrolling along brushy riverbanks.

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Fortuna Police Investigating Apparent Murder-Suicide

Posted By on Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 10:42 AM

The Fortuna Police Department has identified the deceased as 50-year-old Steve Sisson and 81-year-old Jerry Sisson. No motive has yet been identified in the case.

The Fortuna Police Department is investigating what it believes to be a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of a father and his son.

Police were called to a report of two unresponsive males at a home in the 1000 block of Emerald Lane yesterday afternoon and arrived to an 81-year-old Fortuna man and his son, 50, of Hydesville, dead of gunshot wounds. Police believed the son killed his father before turning the gun on himself.

Authorities aren't yet releasing names of the deceased. See the full press release from the Fortuna Police Department copied below.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

McKinleyville Man Killed in Morning Crash

Posted By on Sat, Oct 8, 2016 at 8:20 PM

The California Highway Patrol is investigating a single car crash that left a pedestrian dead in McKinleyville before dawn today.

According to the CHP, Kevin Leigh Patton, 48, of McKinleyville, was travelling about 30 miles per hour westbound on Airport Road at about 5:10 a.m. in his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. For unknown reasons, a pedestrian, 61-year-old Rocklin Luke Gulley, also of McKinleyville, walking eastbound on the on the north shoulder of the road stepped into the westbound lane of traffic, right in front of the Silverado. Gulley was struck and killed.

Neither alcohol nor drugs is suspected to have been a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation.

See the full press release from the CHP copied below:

On October 8, 2016, at approximately 0510 hours, CHP Officers responded to a traffic collision on Airport Road west of Central Avenue in Mckinleyville.  A 2005 Chevrolet Silverado, driven by Kevin Leigh Patton, age 48, of Mckinleyville, was traveling westbound on Airport Road at approximately 30 mph.  Rocklin Luke Gulley, age 61, of Mckinleyville, was walking eastbound near the north shoulder of Airport Road.  For reasons still under investigation, Gulley walked into the westbound lane of traffic and collided with the Chevrolet.  As a result of this collision, Gulley sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel.  Patton did not sustain any injuries as a result of the collision.  Alcohol and/or drugs are not suspected to have been a factor in this collision. 
The California Highway Patrol Humboldt Area is investigating this traffic collision. 

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