Thursday, September 22, 2016

Internet Drug Sends Eureka High Students to Hospital

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 4:24 PM

  • File
A number of Eureka High School students were hospitalized today after taking a natural hallucinogen.

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said it’s believed a student purchased Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds over the Internet and shared them with his friends, many of whom then suffered nausea, vomiting and generally “feeling terrible.” In addition to the students who were hospitalized, some were sent home with their parents, Mills said.

City Ambulance of Eureka transported one student to the hospital, and others were treated by Humboldt Bay Fire or transported to St. Joseph Hospital by their parents.

Mills said he believes all students are expected to fully recover but couldn’t say that with certainty at this point. Eureka High School Principal Jennifer Johnson said it appears some students ingested the seeds not knowing their hallucinogenic qualities. 

Hawaiian baby woodrose is a perennial climbing vine with large heart-shaped leaves and white trumpet-like flowers. It’s large furry seeds grow in pods, and contain Lysergic Acid Amide, a naturally occurring tryptamine that gives off LSD-like psychedelic effects. According to the drug information website, when the seed are chewed they give off a hallucinogenic trip that lasts for six to eight hours. warns that ingesting the seeds is unsafe, and can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, sweating, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. People with psychiatric conditions or psychotic tendencies might also suffer more severe reactions, the site warns.

Johnson said the school's automated phone system has notified all parents of what happened, urging them to talk to their children about the dangers of ingesting unknown substances. She said about 10 students total took the drug, and said they were very cooperative with the school's investigation.

"We do know who the source of the seeds was and that student is facing disciplinary consequences," Johnson said. 

Mills, who spoke to the Journal on his way to St. Joseph Hospital, said the case remains under investigation.

“The main thing from our standpoint is we are investigating it and if we can bring charges on it, we will,” Mills said, adding that officials already believed they have identified the student who purchased the drug and brought it to school. “The problem is, and I could be wrong, but I don’t believe it is a scheduled narcotic. The question then is, what can we charge?”

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UPDATE: Judge Allows Budget Motel Evictions to Proceed

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 10:35 AM

  • Thadeus Greenson
In a ruling filed this afternoon, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge has given the city of Eureka the green light to condemn the Budget Motel.

The motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, had asked the court to intervene and stop the city’s forced eviction of his tenants, which was initially scheduled to happen this morning, due to substandard conditions and more than 340 code violations. Through his attorney, Kushwaha asked the court to give him 45 days to address the violations, which include bedbug and cockroach infestations, hazardous wiring, inadequate plumbing and heating fixtures and a host of other things.

But Judge Dale Reinholtsen found Kushwaha had little chance of ultimately winning the case and that the alleged violations are “hazardous and pose an imminent threat to occupants of the motel and the surrounding community.”

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restraining Order Blocks Budget Motel Evictions

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:23 PM

  • Thadeus Greenson
The city of Eureka’s efforts to shutter the Budget Motel on Fourth Street have been put on hold.

This afternoon Bradford Floyd, a local attorney representing the Budget Motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, received a temporary restraining order to halt the city’s plans to clear the property tomorrow. On the heels of a recent code inspection that turned up 341 violations, the city served Kushwaha and his tenants on Monday with notice that it would enforce a notice to vacate the property at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving, who’s also serving as acting city manager while Greg Sparks is on vacation, said the city feels the property poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of its residents, first responders and the general public. Specifically, Gerving said widespread bedbug and cockroach infestations, open and unpermitted electrical wiring, rot and mold render the place unfit for habitation. Additionally, Gerving said, inspectors noted missing plumbing fixtures — like toilets and sinks — in some rooms and unrepaired fire damage in others.

This afternoon, the Journal contacted Kushwaha in the office of the Budget Motel and he declined to comment, other than a brief statement: “We got a restraining order against the city. We are not going anywhere.”

The case is set for a hearing at 8:45 a.m., at which point a judge may determine whether the city can follow through with its plans to clear each of the hotel’s 44 rooms, board them up and fence off the property.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lawsuit seeks hefty fines for 5 coastal commissioners

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 6:24 PM

Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure is one of five coastal commissioners facing thousands — if not millions — of dollars in fines in a civil lawsuit alleging they failed to “disclose private, ‘ex-parte’ meetings with developers, lobbyists and other individuals” as required by law.

The lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court last month by the recently formed nonprofit corporation Spotlight on Coastal Corruption also names Commissioners Erik Howell, Wendy Mitchell, Mark Vargas and Steve Kinsey, who serves as the board’s chair.

"We have documented a shocking pattern of under-reporting of ex-parte communications with five Commissioners," said attorney Cory Briggs, who is representing Spotlight, in a statement on the group’s website.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

A 'Moral Obligation': Eureka Celebrates Family Shelter Opening

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Betty Chinn gets a standing ovation at the grand opening of her new family shelter on Friday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Betty Chinn gets a standing ovation at the grand opening of her new family shelter on Friday.
A host of elected officials and community members turned out Friday to catch a first glimpse of Betty Chinn’s new family shelter, which will be up and running in the next couple of weeks.

“I’m here as your congressman, but I’m also here like all of you, as a fan of Betty Chinn,” said North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, adding that the breadth of those in attendance speaks to Chinn’s ability to bring people together and a communitywide recognition that Chinn “understands the needs of the most vulnerable.”

Huffman was one of a parade of officials to take the podium Friday in front of the newly renovated building, which will provide transitional housing for 14 families and convalescence care for 10 people recently discharged from the hospital. Mayor Frank Jager said Eureka is blessed to have Chinn’s “tireless” advocacy on behalf of homeless people, noting that the city doesn’t have any social service funding to build housing on its own. “The city supports her because we know Betty will do the right thing,” Jager said.

Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor and former Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass said Chinn has an “uncanny ability to somehow remove the word ‘no’ from people’s vocabulary,” marveling at how Chinn is able to bring people together to support her cause. But Bass also recognized that wasn’t always the case, making passing reference to a period in the not-too-distant past when Chinn was blamed by local business owners and city leaders for “enabling” the local homeless population.

“I look at that now as a very dark time in our recent history,” Bass said.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn expounded upon that sentiment, noting that some to this day maintain that if local homeless services were cut, these people would leave the area. Bohn disputed that notion. “If they’re here,” he said, “it’s our moral obligation to help them.”

When Chinn took to the podium, she attempted to deflect the praise that had been directed her way over the course of about 45 minutes from a half dozen speakers. “What can I say,” she asked. “Look at that beautiful building.”

“You made that happen, not me,” she told the crowd, noting all the donated funds, materials and labor that enabled the project.

For more on Chinn and the new shelter, see last week's Journal cover story here. And for those wanting to help, find out ways to get involved by visiting and see the following wish list was distributed to those in attendance Friday.

Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation Wish List

Bunk bed frames (twin sized)
Twin mattresses
60 storage bins (soft plastic Hefty storage bins)
Sheets and comforters (twin sized)
Trash cans and trash bags (30 gallon)
Door mats
Bulletin and dry erase boards
Housekeeping items: toilet paper, mops, brooms, mop buckets, dust pans, etc.
Bus tickets (city and county)

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman presents Chinn with a plaque of congressional recognition. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman presents Chinn with a plaque of congressional recognition.
Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass refers to challenges Chinn's outreach faced from local business owners and the city of Eureka as a "dark time in our recent history." - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass refers to challenges Chinn's outreach faced from local business owners and the city of Eureka as a "dark time in our recent history."
A bunk bed sits in the newly remodeled family shelter, which is decorated with donated art and furniture. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • A bunk bed sits in the newly remodeled family shelter, which is decorated with donated art and furniture.
Chinn with her grandson, Benjamin. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • Chinn with her grandson, Benjamin.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

HumBug: Uninvited Guests

Posted By on Sun, Sep 18, 2016 at 3:02 PM

The dramatically named phantom hemlock looper moth (Nepytia phantasmaria) or a close relative. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • The dramatically named phantom hemlock looper moth (Nepytia phantasmaria) or a close relative.

The black lights of my “light trap” don't make for a regular trap; the insects are free to come and go as they please. That's the trick, though — the lights are irresistible.

Moths, of course, come by the dozens, but there are others. An opportunistic praying mantis seeks an easy dinner. A burying beetle shows up and a really big California prionus (Prionus californicus). And this time of year, the termites.

A burying beetle with a mite on its back. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A burying beetle with a mite on its back.

A California Priornus Beetle, one of the largest beetles in our area. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A California Priornus Beetle, one of the largest beetles in our area.
These are the flying reproductives on their nuptial flight. Their script, dictated by millions of years of evolution is this: Leave the nest, fly, drop to the ground, meet up, shed wings and seek a crevice in the ground to found a new dynasty. But they are drawn like sailors to a siren's song, although it's not the lights that will kill them, but the bats.

A little brown bat. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • A little brown bat.
In flight, the termites are clumsy, fluttering creatures, unlike the swift, agile, mammalian hunters, who have learned over the last few weeks that the place where I set up my trap is a target-rich environment. So, early in the evening, the termites come, followed all too swiftly by the little brown bats and maybe others. It is a slaughter. By the time the “flutter mice” leave, there might be one or two termites that aren't flying, but hugging the fabric. If you're quick, you might get a glimpse of the hunter. Photographing them is a different matter altogether. They are so small and quick, my best camera can't pick them up, autofocus, adjust light levels, initiate exposure and initiate flash before they're gone. Yet they aren't big enough to trigger my game camera. So I set the focus to manual, pick a likely spot and wait. I rarely guess right, and my reflexes are seldom good enough to get get a shot. Usually what I get is a dark photo of the forest around me, but once in a rare while I get it right. And that makes me grin in the darkness.

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

No Charges in Fatal June Crash

Posted By on Sat, Sep 17, 2016 at 4:12 PM

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming.
The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has opted not to pursue criminal charges against a 21-year-old woman who lost control of her truck on State Route 299 in June, killing a hitchhiker she'd picked up earlier in the day.

The California Highway Patrol arrested Adryan Nicole Pollock, of Eureka, on June 16 at the scene of the crash, after she'd lost control of her Dodge pickup, causing it to roll and eject Hugh Grant Jr., 78, of Klamath, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Grant was pronounced dead at the scene.

CHP Sgt. Jeff Borgen said the responding officer decided to arrest Pollock on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter in an abundance of caution, in part because Pollock didn't have "satisfactory identification" with her and there was some question about her identity. 

In an email to the Journal, District Attorney Maggie Fleming explained that evidence in the case indicates Pollock swerved her truck to avoid an oncoming vehicle that had crossed over into her lane, resulting in the rollover crash that ejected Grant. Neither alcohol nor drugs were believed to be a factor.

"We concluded this was a tragic accident that did not involve criminal liability," Fleming wrote.

See past Journal coverage of the accident here.
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

UPDATE: Court Document Indicates Kitchen was 'Extremely Intoxicated'

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 11:37 AM

Marcia Kitchen's booking photo.
  • Marcia Kitchen's booking photo.
Marcia "Marci" Kitchen pleaded not guilty to both charges facing her this afternoon and denied all special allegations during a brief arraignment. She's next scheduled to appear in court Sept. 29, with a hearing set Oct. 6 to determine if there is enough evidence to hold her to stand trial in the case.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Marcia “Marci” Kitchen has been charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and one count of DUI causing injury. She also faces special allegations related to there being multiple victims and her fleeing the scene of the crash.

A statement of probable cause compiled by DA investigator Adam Jager in order to get a warrant for Kitchen’s arrest sheds additional light on the case. According to the document, Kitchen was seen returning to her residence minutes after the collision in her gray Jeep Wrangler, which police later found concealed behind a fence in her backyard less than two miles from the crash scene on Eel River Drive. “Within 10 minutes,” Kitchen returned to the scene of the crash, where multiple officers observed that she was “extremely intoxicated,” according to the document.

“During the lengthy investigation, it was determined that Marcia Kitchen was in fact the driver of the Jeep when it struck the two pedestrians, one being her daughter,” Jager’s statement reads. “This is based on the following facts: The vehicle is registered to her, it was located concealed at her residence, the Jeep’s driver’s seat was adjusted for someone of her stature, there is physical evidence that confirms the Jeep is in fact what struck the victims and Kitchen made statements to friends and family after the collision that she is the one who was driving her Jeep when the pedestrians were struck.”

Kitchen is scheduled to be arraigned in the case this afternoon and is free after posting $750,000 bail.

Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, who also calls herself Marci Marz.
Marcia "Marci" Kitchen, a Fortuna woman suspected of being the driver in a July hit and run crash that killed her daughter and another teenage girl, was booked into the Humboldt County jail Wednesday on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. She was released after posting bail, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office's online booking sheet.

Kitchen has been the focus of a two-months-long investigation by the California Highway Patrol since the days following July 12, when her 14-year-old daughter Kiya Kitchen and her friend, Faith Tsarnas, also 14, were struck and killed while riding skateboards on Eel River Drive just after 9 p.m.

Kitchen posted bail at 9:18 p.m., according to the booking sheet, on a warrant issued by the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office for a suspected violation of penal code section 191.5(b), vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Kitchen's attorney, Ben Okin, said she surrendered to authorities as he repeatedly said she would in the event a warrant was issued for her arrest.

For background on the case, see past Journal coverage here. We'll update this post with additional information as we get it.

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office (Note: the press release incorrectly states one of the charges facing Kitchen, as she was charged with vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence):

On behalf of the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is providing the following information in regards to the arrest of Marcia Maelinda Kitchen, dob 8/27/1977, from Fortuna.
On Wednesday, September 14th Kitchen self-surrendered to the DA’s Office on a Ramey warrant. Kitchen was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility at 8:09 p.m. for the following charges: gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person, fleeing a crime scene, causing great bodily injury in commission of a felony, and for causing bodily injury or death to more than one victim while driving. Her bail was set at $750,000 and was posted at 9:18 p.m. Kitchen will be arraigned today, September 15th at 1:30 p.m. at the Humboldt County Superior Court.
Any further information regarding this case should be directed to the Humboldt County District Attorney.

Editor's note: This post was updated from a previous version to correct an error regarding the penal code section Kitchen is alleged to have violated and the time she posted bail.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Ballet of the Fog and the Stars (Video)

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 3:46 PM

Like this picture? Check out the video below. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Like this picture? Check out the video below.

Work week got you down? Or maybe it’s Humboldt’s seemingly endless feed of grisly news? Whatever it is that’s conspiring against you this Wednesday, push it aside and take a moment to appreciate this beautiful place we call home. Heck, thanks to Eureka’s David Wilson, you won’t even have to get out of your chair.

Wilson spent much of a recent night perched on a ridge line between the south and north forks of the Eel River with his camera.

“My hope was to create a time lapse that successfully spanned the sunset-to-night transition and caught the star-lit valley filling with fog as the Milky Way and star field slid across the sky,” he wrote in an email to the Journal. “I started shooting still photographs for this time lapse at 7:24 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2016, to catch the sunlight disappearing. It wasn’t until about 9:30 p.m. that the fog first came into the view far down the valley. It rolled up both river valleys simultaneously. … It flowed like fluid, billowing, advancing and retreating as it filled the valleys and washed over the hills. It spotted like a wildfire, with puffs appearing here and there ahead of it. The Milky Way slid across the frame above.”

Wilson's perch. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Wilson's perch.

Wilson kept shooting at regular intervals until the fog overtook him and he could no longer keep his camera dry, snapping his last frame at 2:34 a.m.

Check out the video below, which is scored by Wilson’s son, Jarren, a marine biology major at Humboldt State University who has studied music since his days at Freshwater School. The elder Wilson is a Humboldt County native and HSU alum, who teaches Photoshop and digital media at College of the Redwoods. He’s obviously also a photographer with a thing for time lapse videos, as his YouTube page will attest.

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Opioid Prescription Rates Falling in Humboldt

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 2:03 PM

Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem. - FLICKR
  • Flickr
  • Humboldt County is making progress in addressing its sizable pill problem.
While Humboldt County still has more opioid prescriptions than people, the county reports it is making headway in battling what has become a nationwide epidemic.

The Humboldt County Department of Human Services reported this morning that the amount of opioids prescribed in the county has dropped by 23 percent since 2010, falling from 1.29 prescriptions per person to 1.14. This is obviously good news, especially for a county with some of most dire addiction problems in the state.

DHHS attributes the decline to a number of factors, including more local prescribers using a medication tracking system and the work of Rx Safe Humboldt, a community coalition focused on “reducing harms from opioids.”

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