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Donors ‘Stuff the Truck’ with toys

Footballs, dolls and other toys filled Toys for Tots boxes at a “Stuff The Truck” event held Sunday at Placerville’s Walmart. Sue Henderson, a local high school teacher who works with at-risk students, and her husband Hollis were on scene to coordinate the event, which included a visit from Safety Pup and hot dogs provided by […]

Stadium Club destroyed

The Stadium Club bar, a favorite dive among locals, fell victim to a devastating fire that started around 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 25. The crew at El Dorado County Fire Station 26 responded to the fire.

Its cause is currently under investigation. No injuries were reported.

“It was a good bar; it was always full. Our customers were wonderful,” said Jackie Pottage, owner of the Stadium Club, told the Mountain Democrat over the phone. “We have been open for 11 years and I couldn’t have been happier with the people of Placerville.”

23-year project takes flight

Aerospace engineer John McPherson recently got his hand-built airplane certified by the FAA. July 29 was the first time he landed it at the Placerville Airport to back it into the hangar that had previously housed his and Donna McPherson’s Cessna 182 since 1996.

The bright yellow-and-green wood-and-fabric airplane is based on a 1928 design by Bernard H. Pietenpol that was first published in Mechanics Illustrated in about 1930.

K-9 deputies get new gear

Eros and Barkus, the two K-9 German shepherds assigned to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, got slick, custom, K-9 ballistic (or protective) vests that are both bulletproof and stab-proof thanks to generous donations from the Saint Bernard Club of Greater San Jose and the Hangtown Kennel Club.

Made by Project Paws Alive, both vests came in “Ranger” green and have their names and Hangtown logo embroidered into the fabric. Each vest costs $1,400.

Wildfire destroys homes, vehicles

GARDEN VALLEY — Three mobile homes, one occupied and two empty, two sheds and 10 vehicles were destroyed in a 3-acre fire that broke out at 11:45 a.m. Monday on Mt. Murphy Road.

Resources included 15 engines, four water tenders, two fire crews, one bulldozer, two helicopters and and air tankers. Fire crews and emergency officials from Georgetown, Garden Valley, El Dorado County, El Dorado Hills, Rescue, Diamond Springs, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service responded to the blaze.

Animal lovers needed: Shelter’s kitty crowd, especially older kitties, wants homes

Even Bullet the one-eyed tabby cat appears pleased as all get-out at El Dorado County Animal Services these days, flipping and flopping on the front counter as he says hello to visitors.

The animal shelter at 6435 Capitol Ave. in Diamond Springs that opened its doors almost a year ago has proved a great fit for critters and caretakers alike. It’s a long way from being the “pound” anymore.

“They say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and that’s been true for us,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of El Dorado County Animal Services. “We’ve had people bringing in the animals, especially kittens right now — but then again, we’ve had more people coming here wanting to adopt.”

‘Jeffersons’ explain why they want their own state

Sheriff John D’Agostini as the first speaker on behalf of, if not directly for, the State of Jefferson.

“It is only an issue of representation,” D’Agostini began. “Our representatives have no voice in (state government). We have two representatives, and Los Angeles County has 22. How do we fix the issue of rural representation? We need to ask to be at the table.”

Later, citing a familiar maxim introduced to supervisors years ago by former District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago, he got a laugh noting, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Falling tree kills firefighter

U.S. Forest Service firefighter Michael Hallenbeck, 21, of Shingle Springs died Saturday afternoon when he was struck by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire just south of Echo Summit.

Hallenbeck was a member of the Organized Crew 36 on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Murderer Swift pleads guilty

Tears and hugs followed murderer Anderson Swift’s sentencing Friday. El Dorado County Superior Court Judge James Wagoner sentenced the Oakland man to life in prison without parole for the murder of Khrista Ibarolle in El Dorado Hills on Jan. 7 and other crimes related to a crime spree that began with a carjacking in Oakland and ended with a vehicle crash in an El Dorado Hills neighborhood.

Friends, neighbors and law enforcement mingle

Miniature ponies, hot dogs, classic cars, bounce houses, firefighters, SWAT, police, music and games can only mean one thing: National Night Out.

The annual event, originated in 1984 and held on the first Tuesday in August, brought a plethora of people and law enforcement together to celebrate safety. Fifteen neighborhoods participated and four main locations —MORE, Placerville Library, Benham Park and Grocery Outlet — served as party headquarters.

Protests start at StemExpress

Mothers and babies in strollers lined the street in front of StemExpress on Monday in protest of the company’s practice of selling the fetal body parts to research facilities.

Camino resident Lisa Hart said she was the one who called for the demonstration. There with her husband and teenage daughter, she said the protest was in response to Center for Medical Progress videos showing fetuses’ organs being harvested in an illegal and immoral way. In two of the center’s undercover videos, people posing a representatives of biomedical purchasing companies speak with Planned Parenthood employees, in detail, about the fetal tissue procurement process. Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue to Stem Express, which then passes it on to medical research facilities. A third video includes statements from a former Stem Express employee.

Duo caught allegedly growing pot

GARDEN VALLEY — El Dorado County authorities arrested a father and son after reportedly finding about 170 plants and more than 14 pounds of dried marijuana at an Ingot Lane residence.

El Dorado County sheriff’s SWAT and West El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team members went to the property on Wednesday, July 29, to serve a search warrant. All subjects on the property were detained without incident or injury.

Living Water projects purify the soul

It’s a long way between the multi-million dollar homes of El Dorado Hills and the rural villages of South America.

Helping bridge that gap are volunteers whose mission is to make a difference, one well and one water pump at a time. Operating under a faith-based organization called Living Water International in Houston, Texas, they travel to developing countries all over the world and put in wells and pumps.

The need is acute, with one-eighth of the world’s population not having access to safe water, according to Living Water. Millions suffer illness or die from water related diseases. Many people who have no running water must spend a quarter of their time collecting water for everyday use.

Fire torches home but not family’s spirit

The first celebration in the Forrest family’s new home ended with horrific results when a fire destroyed everything in the early morning hours of July 5.

A mother, father and their children literally escaped with the clothes on their backs, yet everyone feels lucky to be alive and grateful for the El Dorado Hills community’s support.

Kyburz Fire whips through the woods

WHITEHALL — The Kyburz Fire threatened residents, campers and drivers as flames tore through the wooded landscape on both sides of Highway 50.

The wildfire broke out at about 2 p.m. Thursday with fire crews on the ground and in the air, including the recently featured Super Scooper based out of Lake Tahoe, quickly taking action.

Seventy-five residences/vacation homes were evacuated along with 15 camp sites from the Sand Flat Campground, according to an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department press release. The Pollock Pines Community Center served as an evacuation center for those displaced. By Friday all mandatory evacuations had been lifted but some voluntary evacuations were still in place. The Sand Flat campground remained closed as of Sunday.

Bombardier a flying firefighter

Although it would be quite a treat to see the U.S. Forest Service’s giant CL 415 “Super Scooper” flying through the skies over Placerville, the sight would be a mixed blessing — it would mean there’s a wildfire nearby.

But it would also mean that the chances of containing the blaze quickly would be greatly increased, as the CL 415 Bombardier is a champion warrior assigned to the front lines of battle.

The USFS Tuesday proudly showed off its latest weapon in its firefighting arsenal, a huge CL 415 Aeroflite 260 Bombardier that will be stationed at the Lake Tahoe Airport for the next seven months as fire season hits critical mass. The aircraft, affectionately known as the Super Scooper, is the only such plane currently flying in the United States — and Tahoe forestry officials are thrilled to have it here for the season.

Bringing criminals to justice

Investigators who have the daunting task of trying to find closure to seemingly unsolvable, horrible crimes — cold case homicides — dig deep to find any shred of evidence to serve justice.

Justice — that’s just what the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office seeks as its investigators try to solve more than 60 cold case homicides.

“The loss of a family member to a violent crime is likely the most traumatic thing a human can go through in their lifetime, making it worse when the perpetrator is not held accountable for their actions,” said District Attorney Vern Pierson.

Jeepers Jamboree: Generations keep tradition alive

Rock music blared as cases of soda, water and beer were placed on ice. High Hill Ranch in Camino was abuzz with activity on June 28 as Jeepers Jamboree set up for the Jeepers Jamboree Volunteer Appreciation Picnic.

Three generations of Jeepers and off-road enthusiasts have carried the Jeepers Jamboree — the first, biggest and the toughest of U.S. off-road events — into the new millennium and a fourth generation is already learning the ropes. The current seven directors all have long-time ties with Jeepers, either as family members of the founding directors or as participants, or both.

“All of our Board of Directors were Rock Rollers, mechanics and work party crew for years before becoming directors,” said Mike Gerondakis, 61, who has been a Jeepers board member for three years and a participant in the jamboree since 1979. He is in charge of the work party crews who set up the camp for participants.

More golden days lie ahead

With an eye on reminding the world of El Dorado County’s prominent place in Gold Rush history, organizers of next year’s World Gold Panning Championship in Placerville will head to Spain next month …

Children removed from suspected drug house

EL DORADO — El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies arrested five people after reportedly finding narcotics and drug paraphernalia in a home where children lived.

Mid-morning on July 5 deputies conducted a probation search at a residence on the 5300 block of Union Mine Road in El Dorado, an El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department press release states. Outside the residence, they met Holly Moore, 47, of Fair Oaks and Benjamin Patterson, 32, and, the release states, it appeared Patterson was in possession of heroin, a hypodermic needle and syringe.

Recycling water all the rage

With the drought forcing water districts to find ever more creative ways to conserve, recycling programs have turned out to be fortuitous long-term investments.

Currently the El Dorado Irrigation District is the only water district in the county operating such a program. Those operations are carried out at two of its four wastewater treatment plants: one at Deer Creek in Cameron Park and the other in El Dorado Hills.

An outgrowth of development plans to ensure a reliable water supply for homes to be built in El Dorado Hills, identifying the need for recycled water goes back more than 20 years according to Kirk Bone, the director of Government Relations for Parker Development Company.

Finally, a hero has his Bronze Star

It was a long time coming, but after 70 years Placerville resident Wayne Queen has received the Bronze Star he earned during his World War II service.

A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, Queen, 89, still has strong memories of what some historians consider the greatest single battle ever fought by the American Army. Some consider it, in terms of participation and losses, arguably the greatest battle in American military history.

Born and raised in Heavener, Okla., Queen said he is Native American, being half Cherokee and half Choctaw. He said Heavener itself is notable for having some large stones covered with writing that some believe were inscribed by Vikings back in 1012 AD.

Suspected child molester nabbed

Scot Sutton, a 47-year-old resident of Placerville, was arrested on suspicion of molesting a minor younger than 14 on Monday, one day after the alleged victim reported the incident to the Placerville Police Department.

Placerville police investigators arrested Sutton in Sacramento and booked him into Sacramento County jail, where he remains in custody without bail, according to a press release from the Placerville Police Department.

At press time, investigators believe there are no other victims involved.

Wildfires flare up following storms

Firefighters battled two El Dorado County wildfires in steep terrain in the days before the 4th of July, possibly thanks to Mother Nature’s fireworks.

Thursday afternoon a fire broke out just before 5 p.m. west of Bucks Bar Road near Hanks Exchange, shortly after a thunderstorm rolled through the area. The official cause has yet to be determined.

Placerville home burns down

A Lumsden Park Drive home burned to the ground in the early morning hours of July 2.

El Dorado County firefighters responded to the blaze at 2:23 a.m. and found the Placerville residence fully engulfed, according to Division Chief Tim Cordero. One acre of property around the home also burned.

No one was injured as the home was empty at the time, and no other structures were damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

EDH murder: Offer discussed; new hearing set

The arraignment of a man suspected of shooting to death a 31-year-old woman in front of an El Dorado Hills night spot last January was postponed Monday as a tentative offer in the case may be forthcoming.

Anderson Swift, 41, of Oakland faces trial for murder if agreement is not reached, but no offer has been finalized and presented to the court or defense. Bill Clark of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office sought the delay Monday, saying “an offer” likely is going to be made ultimately for review by defense attorney Mark Ralphs.

Swift stands accused of slaying Khrista Ibarolle of El Dorado Hills in an apparent carjacking that turned deadly.

A sign of desperation? City’s sign changes debated

Problem: How to get the tens of thousands of Highway 50 travelers on their way to and from the Bay Area to Tahoe to turn off the freeway and visit Placerville.

Solution: Advertise upcoming downtown events on the Welcome to Placerville sign at Canal Street and Highway 50.

Problem with the solution: Changes to the sign would sully the grace and charm of the little town, rendering it nothing more than a billboard that makes the city appear “desperate.”

Forest fire management part of bigger strategy

The sound of buzzsaws broke the silence of the forest off Silver Fork Road as crews from the California Conservation Corp worked to create a fuel break off Highway 50 near Kyburz on Wednesday.

Cutting down small trees and brush, stacks of vegetation were scattered everywhere as two teams cleared one side of the road.

Part of a much larger plan called the Roadrunner Fuel Reduction Project, the goal is to eventually treat both sides of Highway 50 all the way from Pollock Pines to Twin Bridges. “That will take a couple of years to do,” said Will Harris, a battalion chief with the Forest Service. “But there is a plan and there is a vision.”

Aiming for a safer community

It was a sunny, clear day but my vision was marred by gun smoke. A dozen people lined up, shooting revolvers before moving on to semi-automatics. I was the only one at the range who had never fired a gun.

Geof Peabody was ecstatic to get me to the gun range not far from Placerville. After a morning filled with gun safety lessons and dry firing practice (using inert bullets that don’t actually shoot), it was time for four hours at the private gun range at Big Cut Mine.

This class was an introduction to handguns, one of six of Peabody’s NRA-certified classes, which have become very popular. In March he had 55 ministers sign up for a special minister-only class, requiring a split into two classes, he said.

Hangtown Cranker Classic: Take a ride, wheelers’ style

“Get up! Get out! Get better!” It’s the motto and game plan for Placerville Mobility Support Group, an organization founded in 2007 by Lynn Murray to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of people with ambulatory impairment. Murray, 69, was a coach for 32 years, a teacher and mountain climber. He also worked in construction. In […]

A swine time at the 2015 El Dorado County Fair

HANDS UP FOR FUN — Brian Prillwitz and his son Jack ride the roller coaster at The El Dorado County Fair, which officially opened today. The Hog Days of Summer fair runs through Sunday, June 21, and includes everything from fast rides to a livestock auction to a giant gator and plenty of delicious treats.

Fire near Sand Ridge Road contained

A fire on June 15 burned 6.7 acres at Highway 49 near the area of last year’s Sand Fire.

At around 2:10 p.m., a fire was reported near at 7541 Highway 49, Cal Fire’s Brice Bennett said. Reports put it near Sand Ridge Road and Crystal Boulevard. Originally estimated between 2 and 3 acres, the fire slowly grew to about 4 acres over the course about 30 minutes. Air attack — a spotter aircraft — from Cal Fire reported that, despite some spotting ahead of the main burn, the fire was advancing slowly.

Two air tankers were dispatched; a house, it was later reported, was partially painted orange in fire retardant. One residence was threatened.

New contractor gives form to Camp 2 Bridge

Syblon Reid Construction is two-thirds complete with the concrete structure for the Camp 2 Bridge project. After pouring 50 yards of concrete June 4, SRC will have one section of retaining wall to complete.

The replacement contractor has even completed some of the forms for the cantilevered part of the bridge.

Project manager from the El Dorado Irrigation District is Jake Eymann, who said …

Becoming a substitute family for children in need

There is no one kind of foster parent — some are single parents, others are married; they represent all different ages, races and income levels. Some have biological children of their own or adopted children living at home; others have never had children; still others have raised their own children to adulthood. Some are gay; some are not. All have to want to help children and have a lot of patience, said Katie Blankenship. Blankenship and her husband, Mike, have been foster parents for about 75 children over a 20-year period, sometimes having as many as six foster children at a time.

“I retired from working and knew there was a huge need for foster families so I …”

Fire scorches EDH home

A fire destroyed an El Dorado Hills home’s garage Monday afternoon.

El Dorado Hills Fire Division Chief Mike Lilienthal, interviewed at the scene, said firefighters were dispatched to 760 Knight Lane at 3:32 p.m. on June 8. When they arrived, they found heavy flames coming from the garage’s windows.

The crew immediately called for more engines and split in to two teams. The first used an attack line — a fire hose connected to an engine — to prevent the fire from spreading to the house next door, where flames started to lick the walls. The neighboring home sustained heat and smoke damage but did not catch fire. The second team went inside the burning house, where the …

Harris sentenced to life

A judge in El Dorado County court on June 5 sentenced a woman found guilty of killing her husband — 30 years after she was acquitted on a similar charge — to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years.

Judge Kenneth J. Melikian heard and denied a motion for a new trial during the sentencing of Colleen Harris, convicted by a jury April 15 for first-degree murder of husband Bob Harris. Melikian said he wanted to point out that he “found the evidence in this case overwhelming.” If errors had occurred causing a mistrial, he said, it would still not cause a different verdict. “I cannot see a responsible jury in this case vote anything but guilty. I reached the same decision they did.” In all the years he practiced law, as an attorney and judge, he said he had seen “very, very few acts as selfish as the one in …”

White to be arraigned for murder

Following a preliminary hearing on June 2, a man accused of murder will be held to answer for his alleged crime and an arraignment was set.

Prosecutor Lisette Suder opened the hearing by calling Denise Bye in the case of Jeff White allegedly killing Rick Kriewitz on Sept. 3, 2014.

The Wagon Train reins: Big-hearted horses return to lead the way

Those big beautiful black Percherons are back and once again will take the lead in this year’s Highway 50 Wagon Train.

In its 66th year, the Wagon Train — a living reenactment of history — kicked off May 30 with a rendezvous and barbecue at scenic Zephyr Cove, Nev.

After, it was up and over the summit, with stops along the way including a layover at Fresh Pond for a day of wagon rides, story telling and barbecue on Thursday, June 4.

A hot trail on cold cases

In the basement of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, through a gym, is a door in a back wall. It leads to what is affectionately known as the “Murder Room.” Inside, boxes of files and reports sit, waiting for a new lead, a break in the case. Some boxes are mostly empty, with just a few reports. But all share a common theme: unsolved murders.

On the tails of an ongoing, highly successful campaign of posting one wanted person per week on Facebook, the DA’s Office is hoping to replicate the success with its more than 60 cold case murders.

Dave Stevenson, an investigator and public information officer for the DA’s Office, said that while neighboring Placer …

Rescue Raceway back on track

On the backburner for a while, the Rescue Raceway is once again up and running with a full contingent of racing enthusiasts revving up their engines in the name of getting first to the finish line.

Located next to the Rescue Community Center on Green Valley Road, the return of the raceway is like the story of the comeback kid.

Originally it was a racetrack for remote-controlled cars powered by gasoline engines.

“But they were very noisy and the neighbors …”

Memorial Day Ceremony somber and celebratory

There are approximately 17,000 veterans in El Dorado County, and when the community gathers to honor the fallen, military families and service members show up in droves.

The El Dorado County Veterans Monument Memorial Day Ceremony took place on Monday, May 25, hosted by the Friends of the Veterans Monument at the El Dorado County Government Center off of Ray Lawyer Drive in Placerville.

The final days of Saigon

In 1975, Hollis Henderson was a 28-year-old USMC Warrant Officer stationed with Maine Light Attack Helicopter 367 in Futenma, Okinawa after three tours of Vietnam. He’d been in the Marines for 10 years. USMC Lance Corporal Ken Crouse was a 19-year-old serving as an Embassy Guard in Saigon in his first tour of duty. They were enjoying their duty stations — Henderson as helicopter crew chief and pilot, serving as the Logs and Records Chief and Crouse, living in the six-story Marine House in Saigon, five blocks from the U.S. Embassy, with 41 other 19-to-23-year-old Marines. “We could have taught fraternities some things,” said Crouse.

Retired colonel helps vets get benefits

A retired colonel is using his old rank to help other veterans get the benefits they are entitled to — even if it means directly ordering the vets to get help.

Col. Ed Swanson, 76, of Cool, retired from the Army and National Guard after 20 years of service. He worked briefly at the Pentagon for the Guard, but applied for a four-year tour. He was sent to Camp Zama, Japan, as …

King Fire: Blodgett Forest researchers share findings

A tour of the Blodgett Forest on May 15, 12 miles east of Georgetown, showed the devastation of the King Fire in the area — and how to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. It also showed other tests and research conducted in the forest.

The tour was led by Blodgett Forest Manager Rob York and Bill Keye, both registered professional foresters. Where living seed trees stood before the fire, they said, brush will now take over — if the forest is left unmanaged.

Arraignment set after shooter’s wife testifies

Cindy Hinds and her husband Joseph bickered like any other married couple. Except that bickering was downplayed by Cindy — and eventually led to Joe shooting Cindy’s father David Klinker.

Testifying during a preliminary hearing in Department 7 on May 14, Cindy, 31, explained she married Joe, 33, in …

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