North Coast Journal



A phone line mix-up last month in the Eureka area resulted in more than a wrong number.

Instead of dialing the new Child Molester Identification Line, North Coast residents were apparently switched to a phone sex service and offered various options.

"We found there was a switching error with Telecon, a small phone company," said Matt Ross, a spokesman for state Attorney General Dan Lungren. Lungren had announced the new ID line and 900 number at a meeting of the Rotary Club in Eureka. The Times-Standard then published it.

"We didn't get many complaints," Ross said, "but the paper did."

The problem has since been solved by the phone company. Lungren's office reported that as of late August, 981 people statewide had called the Identification Line, and 79 calls netted positive identification of child molesters.

The calls came from employers, day-care centers and parents seeking information on adults with access to children. There is a $10 fee per name checked. The number is (900) 463-0400.


Despite settlements in two related cases, a civil lawsuit against a former Eureka priest, Gary Timmons, continues. Nine men claim they were molested years ago at various church facilities, and have sued the Catholic church, Timmons and two other priests.

The church agreed to pay $500,000 in an out-of-court settlement involving former priests Austin Peter Keegan and Patrick O'Shea. The case against Timmons continues and church leaders say the former St. Bernard's parish priest has been in a treatment center since the allegations were made more than a year ago.


Two big Humboldt County cases were decided last month resulting in guilty verdicts for three young men and a teenager.

Superior Court Judge William Ferroggiaro took about an hour to decide the fate of Jason Kahoalii, 16. He was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Jessica Powers, 12. He will serve time in a juvenile detention facility until age 25. Powers was killed last year by a gunshot through the mouth.

Earlier in the month a jury took only a few hours to convict three gang members of attempted murder. Ernesto Gonzales, Tracy Guido and Henry Frank, all in their early 20s, may serve life in prison for the drive-by shooting of Chay Brandon Thao in the Bayshore Mall nearly two years ago.


Another successful North Coast enterprise was purchased last month by a large out-of-town firm.

Moonstone Mountaineering, an Arcata firm founded by Fred Williams, was sold last month to the San Francisco-based Outdoor Industry Group. Williams will continue as president, managing and designing sleeping bags and outer wear for active people.

In the last few years, other North Coast giants such as Yakima and Music for Little People have been partially or completely purchased by larger firms.


After more than 20 years at the helm of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., and after taking the company from a spinoff operation of Georgia-Pacific to a Fortune 500 conglomerate, Harry Merlo lost his $950,000-a-year job last month.

Facing lawsuits because of defective building products and environmental snafus, Merlo appeared more a liability than an asset to the corporate board, who pressed for his resignation along with those of his top advisers.

Company woes included defective siding developed by L-P as an alternative to traditional lumber. Made from glue and wood particles, the siding is rotting away across the Northwest, and the company faces claims that could grow to $300 million. Even the siding on the walls of the Harry A. Merlo Field soccer stadium at the University of Portland is sprouting a mushroom-like fungus.

Back at home, L-P's labor problems at its Samoa pulp mill led to a shutdown last month after company officials said hourly employees were sabotaging equipment. Chris Biencourt, an L-P labor negotiator, was in town to negotiate a union contract with members of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers. In the midst of labor talks, L-P officials said a string of "incidents" occurred affecting equipment and worker safety. The latest incident involved a steam valve that was closed, causing a turbine to over heat.

In reaction, L-P officials closed the mill. More than 180 employees were idled for nearly a week. At press time, the mill had been reopened but managers threatened to close it again if there are similar problems.

Union leaders say they don't intend to strike, but are angry because they haven't been able to negotiate a contract with the company since 1991.


After years of bake sales and statewide bond campaigns, southern Humboldt residents are celebrating the recent acquisition of an old-growth forest by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Mill Creek forest, the last large stand of big timber along the lower Mattole River was owned by Eel River Sawmills and Richard Scheinman, of Petrolia. Biologists say the area is perfect for use as an ecological reserve because of its diverse wildlife holdings.

For years Eel River company officials had held off logging the land while attempts were made to raise the millions needed to actually purchase the land and standing timber. With the value of timber rising steeply, some thought the money would never be raised. But, instead of an outright purchase, Eel River agreed to work out a deal. The company will receive a combination of money, federal land and logging rights on state properties in return for the 530-acre forest.

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