Crime

Friday, February 15, 2019

Remains Found by the Eel River in 2016 Identified

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 1:54 PM

George Preston Daniels - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • George Preston Daniels
When George Preston Daniels didn’t show up at the Humboldt County Courthouse on March 24, 2016, for charges stemming from what authorities said they believed was a marijuana rip-off, he became a wanted man. But, most likely, he was already dead.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office confirmed today that remains found along the Eel River in May of 2016 were identified last month as belonging to Daniels.

Over the spring and summer of 2016, bounty hunters from a local bail bonds office had scoured the area — even hiring a small plane at one point to search for Daniels’ vehicle — to no avail, in spite of a reward offered by his bail bondsman.

In fact, his body had been found in May of that year by a person canoeing the Eel River near Stafford. At the time, Chief Deputy Coroner Ernie Stewart said it appeared the body had been there "quite some time" and the case was being treated as a homicide.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Drug Task Force Record Streak Continues with Loleta Bust

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2019 at 12:49 PM

Heroin from the largest one-time seizure in county history. - HCDTF
  • HCDTF
  • Heroin from the largest one-time seizure in county history.
The Humboldt County Drug Task Force continued its record streak Sunday with the seizure of 12 pounds of heroin stashed in a hidden compartment during a traffic stop in Loleta — believed to be the largest one-stop confiscation in the county’s history.

Two men — Carlos Cota-Alonso and Edgar Barragan-Castano — from Sonora, Mexico, were arrested during the operation that included task force special agents being assisted by a narcotic detection K9 and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.

Agents had previously obtained a search warrant for the vehicle after establishing “probable cause to believe that both subjects were distributing multiple pounds of heroin in Humboldt County.”

Also recovered was $6,000 in cash that is “be held pending asset forfeiture proceedings."

This record-breaking seizure comes on the heels of record-breaking year for the task force. Over the course of 2018, the multi-agency investigative team recovered nearly 35 pounds of the drug — more than double the volume confiscated in the previous six years combined.

In the Jan. 17 Journal article “Out of the Shadows,” which looked at the causes behind the surge, Sgt. Jesse Taylor attributed the increase to a “perfect storm” of circumstances, including an upsurge in heroin use tied to prescription painkillers and changes in sentencing laws.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Task Force Finds 6 Pounds of Heroin in Bust

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 12:02 PM

Heroin and cash seized from Arcata's Warren Creek Road on Friday. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE
  • Humboldt County Drug Task Force
  • Heroin and cash seized from Arcata's Warren Creek Road on Friday.
The Humboldt County Drug Task Force is continuing its record string of heroin seizures.

Heroin seized in a bust Friday in Arcata. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY DRUG TASK FORCE
  • Humboldt County Drug Task Force
  • Heroin seized in a bust Friday in Arcata.
The task force reported this morning that agents served a search warrant at a residence in the 500 block of Warren Creek Road in Arcata and located approximately 6 pounds of suspected heroin, as well as $6,000 in cash  believed to be the proceeds of drug sales.

At the scene, agents arrested Jorge Luis Valdez-Chavez, 28, of Sonora, Mexico, on suspicion of possessing and transporting a controlled substance for the purpose of sales, according to a press release.

Last year, the task force seized nearly 35 pounds of heroin, more than double the volume confiscated in the previous six years combined, with three busts made between August and November accounting for a third of the 2018 total.

The task force asks that anyone with information related to this investigation or other local narcotics activity call 444-8095.

See the full press release copied below.


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Friday, January 25, 2019

Lawson Feels Son's Case is Moving Toward an Arrest After Meeting with DA

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Charmaine Lawson speaks to the crowd. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charmaine Lawson speaks to the crowd.
Charmaine Lawson said she emerged from a meeting with the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office yesterday feeling the investigation into her son’s 2017 stabbing death is moving “in the direction of an arrest” and that she’s “somewhat satisfied” with the case’s progress.

Charmaine Lawson has been publicly critical of law enforcement and prosecutors since her son David Josiah Lawson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Humboldt State University, was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party on April 15, 2017. Kyle Zoellner, a 23-year-old McKinleyville man, was arrested as a suspect in the murder but a judge later ruled that there was insufficient evidence to hold him to stand trial and dismissed the case. For months, there seemed to be slight action in the case until the Arcata Police Department turned its investigation over to the DA’s office on Nov. 6. Then interim APD Chief Richard Ehle said at the time that his detectives found physical evidence linking a specific suspect to the murder but, months later, District Attorney Maggie Fleming is still reviewing the case, awaiting additional information from the Department of Justice.

Charmaine Lawson has publicly announced her frustrations with the DA and APD multiple times, including during Monday’s People’s March and Rally, and spent much of this week protesting Fleming outside the Humboldt County Courthouse.

Yesterday she met with multiple people in the DA’s office, including Fleming, Ehle and Chief Investigator Wayne Cox.

“I’m still demanding justice and that’s never going to change,” Charmaine Lawson said. “I’m not gonna’ say that I am fully satisfied because there is still someone walking free but I will say that I am somewhat satisfied. The case is going in the direction of an arrest. It’s what I prayed for.”

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Dozens Gather at Vigil for Josiah Lawson, Urge Action From DA

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 8:45 PM

A Justice for Josiah sign and posters of Lawson illuminated by candlelight at the vigil. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A Justice for Josiah sign and posters of Lawson illuminated by candlelight at the vigil.
Red and white roses surrounded a photo of David Josiah Lawson on the front steps of the Humboldt County Courthouse this evening as people gathered to voice their concerns, frustrations and support for the slain Humboldt State University student.

“My heart is filled with rage and sadness,” Renee Saucedo, a supporter, told the crowd of approximately 50 people. “It has been 20 months since Charmaine lost a child and there has been no justice. I feel ashamed.”

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Major Pot Bust Yields 1 Arrest, More Expected

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 3:13 PM

Nearly 1,000 growing cannabis plants were found. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Nearly 1,000 growing cannabis plants were found.
One person was arrested and more are expected after the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office found a “substantial indoor” cannabis grow and several hash labs at a property on the 900 block of Vance Avenue Thursday.

The unit served a search warrant at the site and reported finding nearly 1,000 growing plants, 8,500 pounds of cannabis trim, approximately 275 pounds of cannabis bud and 26.5 pounds of butane honey oil. Also seized was more than $13,000 in cash.
Hash lab found at the Samoa site. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Hash lab found at the Samoa site.

See previous coverage of the operation here and here.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

'Substantial Indoor Grow,' Hash Lab Found in Samoa

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 2:28 PM

Scene found during the serving of a search warrant today. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Scene found during the serving of a search warrant today.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit found a “substantial indoor cultivation site and multiple butane hash oil (BHO) labs, one of which was active,” while serving a search warrant today in the Samoa area.

According to a Facebook post, multiple people have been detained for questioning.
See earlier coverage here. The post said the warrant was served based on “citizen tips” and more information will be released at a later time.

"Fire personnel responded to the scene to investigate the hazardous conditions created by the active BHO operation," the post states. "These cultivation and extraction sites do not have county or state permits for operation."



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Sheriff's Team at Scene of Possible Hash Lab Near Samoa Pulp Mill

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Officer in bullet proof vest speaks to another officer outside one of the buildings. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Officer in bullet proof vest speaks to another officer outside one of the buildings.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Special Services Team is serving a warrant at 936 Vance Avenue in Samoa near the former headquarters of the old Samoa Pulp Mill. The deputies were at the site before 10:30 this morning.

According to scanner traffic, there is a likely hash lab in the building. Scanner traffic also has officers referring to asset forfeiture and to “popping” a safe.
HCSO spokesperson Samantha Karges confirmed that the Special Services Team was serving a search warrant in the area but declined to provide further details at this time.


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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Charmaine Lawson: DNA Evidence Identifies Son's Killer

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 3:10 PM

Charmaine Lawson places roses in two hearts drawn in the sand at a recent vigil held for her son. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Charmaine Lawson places roses in two hearts drawn in the sand at a recent vigil held for her son.
The mother of slain Humboldt State University sophomore David Josiah Lawson took to Facebook this morning to express frustration that the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office still hasn't made a charging decision in her son's case two months after the Arcata Police Department handed over its investigation.

"The Department of justice [has] identified my son's DNA on the knife that was used to stab him to death," Charmaine Lawson posted on the Justice for David Josiah Lawson Facebook page. "They have also identified my [son's] murderer on the knife, yet the case is still being reviewed. Where's the justice?"

District Attorney Maggie Fleming, meanwhile, indicated her office is still doing due diligence in determining the strength of the case in order to determine how to proceed.

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Brown Commutes Sentences of Two Local Women Convicted of Murder

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown - OFFICE OF THE GOVENOR
  • Office of the Govenor
  • Gov. Jerry Brown
Among the 131 people who had their criminal sentences commuted by Gov. Jerry Brown on Christmas Eve was Dianna Mae Preston, a Trinidad woman who came to be known as the “vigilante granny” for chasing down and fatally shooting a Eureka man she wrongly believed had molested her granddaughter.

Brown set a record for pardons and commutations handed out during his term in office, with this latest round containing two other Humboldt County cases, including another murder.

With Brown’s action, Preston will become eligible to apply for release from prison. She had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of first degree murder, premeditated murder with the special allegation of lying in wait and using a firearm in commission of a felony in 2003.

“I have spent 15 years in prison and at 73 I am no longer the same person I was all those years ago,” Preston wrote in her application to the governor. “I know what I did was wrong, and nothing can truly compensate for the life I took. But I continue to try to make amends in the only was possible, which is living every day as a better person than I was then.”

Wearing a wig and sunglasses, Preston ambushed Kevin R. LaPorta outside of his Eureka acupuncture business in July of 2002, shooting him several times as he reportedly begged for his life before reloading her weapon as he fled into a Chinese restaurant, where she followed him inside to fire the fatal shots, according to media reports at the time.

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