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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 …

EID votes to continue water rights fight

The El Dorado Irrigation District board gave a thumbs up to pursuing additional water rights at its May 11 meeting.

However approval was by a narrow margin with Directors Bill George, George Osborne and Dr. Dale Coco voting for and Greg Prada and Alan Day voting against.

At issue is a project EID is a partner to, along with El Dorado County and the El …

Foothill Ammo owner: ‘We needed a good ammo shop’

There aren’t too many ammo stores where you can pull up a chair, munch a cookie and watch a slideshow or peruse a magazine while you wait for your partner to buy a box of 9mm Fiocchi target rounds or some Tannerite exploding targets. Foothill Ammo, at 3293 Saratoga Lane in Cameron Park, may be the only place in El Dorado County to offer that amenity.

The shop, which opened on May 8, is the dream of Chris Puehse, a former propane truck driver, miniature motorcycle builder and high-tech salesman. It …

Bus driver earns Northern California CHP award

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow awarded a local bus driver the Northern California Bus Driver of the Year award on May 8 for her quick thinking during a collision on Aug. 14, 2014.

Jennifer Shields was driving a school bus to Union Mine High School on Grizzly Flat Road near Mahaney Ranch Road at 6:50 a.m. when another car drifted into her lane, CHP Officer Quinn Cuthbertson said at the time of the incident. As the Mountain Democrat reported, she turned the bus hard to the left in attempt to avoid a head-on collision. The right front sides of both vehicles hit.

“Though a collision still occurred, thanks to Jennifer’s evasive maneuvers, she undoubtedly saved her young passengers from serious injury,” the Placerville CHP Office posted on Facebook.

King Fire: Watershed focus of Rubicon tour

An arsonist may be to blame for the scar the King Fire left behind, but the government also played an important role in the fuels that allowed the fire to become the catastrophic event that it was.

Driving into the Rubicon Watershed area, an area that used to harbor 1,000-year-old forest growth, is a devastating experience for those who never knew its beauty before the destruction. It’s especially hard to comprehend for those who have recreated in this area for years.

While 97,000 acres were impacted, the residual effects of the King Fire will be felt for thousands of acres, miles even, throughout the entire state of California. It is difficult to assess the statewide impact of the King Fire, which involves a myriad of agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service …

Inmate hand crews invaluable

Cal Fire Capt. Paul Gaines waved his hand in a zig-zag pattern, following a dirt trail up the side of a hill on Bacchi Ranch in Garden Valley. He was disappointed. The trail, actually a fire break, was supposed to be straight.

Gaines, the division supervisor of the Growlersburg inmate camp in Georgetown, spoke over the sound of chainsaws as Crew 2 continued the line on May 6 as part of a multi-day, statewide training and certification exercise. All 4,300 inmates in 196 crews must pass the tests and be certified to work for Cal Fire.

‘Sufficient evidence’ to arraign murder suspect Swift

After a preliminary hearing lasting the entire morning of May 5, Judge James R. Wagoner concluded there was sufficient evidence to arraign murder suspect Anderson Swift.

Deputy Seth Culver, lead crime scene investigator on the alleged murder of Khrista Ibarolle, 31, on Jan. 7, described the different scenes. He was called to the parking lot in front of 36 Handles on White Rock Road in El Dorado Hills just after midnight. Spent shell casings and the body of Ibarolle were at that scene.

On Highway 50 near Latrobe Road, about a half-mile away, a Honda coupe with significant damage was the second scene.

The final scene in El Dorado County was a house on …

Map contest again wows BOS

Former District 5 El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago always ranked it “high on her cha-cha scale” and called the annual event one of the board’s favorite meetings. This year’s Student Map Contest at the April 28 Board of Supervisors meeting was no slouch by comparison. Sponsored by the El Dorado County S.A.G.E. association of surveyors, architects, geologists and engineers, the map contest has grown in popularity over its 21-year history.

More than 700 school kids participated from 31 public, private and charter schools on the county’s western slope, and as it has throughout the history of the contest, Latrobe School dominated with 19 winning ribbons. Edwin Markham Middle School took …

El Dorado County man in Nepal quake

Bud and Jeannie Earnshaw have been glued to CNN since April 25, the day of the 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. Their son, Chris Earnshaw, 42, was hiking his way up to the Mount Everest Base Camp at 17,000 feet when the quake happened.

After a couple of anxious days with no word about Chris or the friend he was climbing Mount Everest with, Bud was contacted by representatives of Bio Bio Expeditions Travel Medicine Trek, with the news that his son was OK and so was his friend, Chris Pereira. The two, although not doctors themselves, were part of a medical expedition studying treatment for …

Chase ends with arrest of wanted felon

A wanted felon was arrested after a chase through Camino and Placerville the morning of April 26.

A patrolling K9 unit deputy spotted Abram Sassenberg, 34, driving a vehicle in Pollock Pines, a press release stated. Sassenberg was on Post-Release Community Supervision, a suspended driver’s license and an active felony warrant for his arrest. He refused to yield when deputies attempted to perform a traffic stop.

Sassenberg led deputies on a car chase through Camino, ending on Highway 50 in Placerville. Deputies successfully used two sets of spike strips, puncturing Sassenberg’s vehicle’s tires.

Deputies allegedly discovered ammunition, which is illegal …

Echo Summit bridge to be fixed: Caltrans targets 2019 construction

Motorists may not realize they are traversing a bridge when they wind down the east side of Echo Summit toward South Lake Tahoe. Caltrans, the state transportation department, alternately refers to it as a viaduct on its Website. A viaduct is a type of bridge that typically has several spans, usually of equal length. The Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct was constructed with three spans in 1939, and while it’s not falling apart, there is significant wear and tear after nearly 80 years of service.

Clark Peri, Caltrans project manager, gave a slide presentation to the Board of Supervisors April 7 outlining the agency’s plan to rehabilitate or replace the old bridge. Following public outreach and extensive environmental …

Denny’s waitress saves man during heart attack

Denny’s waitress. Substitute teacher. Lifesaver.

Chandra Sousa, 26, of Camino, added that last identifier on March 31 at about 6:30 p.m. when she saved Jim LaBerge’s life after he suffered a heart attack.

The 72-year-old Pollock Pines man went out to his car to get the agenda for the Hangtown Kennel Club board meeting. He returned inside and had just put the agenda on the table in the back banquet room of the Placerville Denny’s, he said.

“That’s the last thing I remember.”

Sousa, who was typing in an order at the register, remembers about 10 people being in the banquet room and one woman came out and yelled for someone to call 911. She also asked if anyone knew CPR, Sousa recalled. Despite a fair …

New ride for Placerville Police Department

Faster than a speeding bullet; more silent than a snail creeping through your garden — it’s the 2013 Zero DS ZF11.4 electric motorcycle acquired by the Placerville Police Department.

Placerville Police Sgt. Dan Maciel showed off the new bike to Placerville City Council on March 10.

“It’s more nimble than the Harley; easier to turn on our narrow streets,” said Maciel. “It’s very powerful at freeway speeds and half the weight of the Harley. “The PD also has a conventional Harley-Davidson police motorcycle.”

Expanding your horizons: Take flight with local pilot programs

In the passenger seat of a Cessna Turbo Skylane RG, piloted by a skilled pilot like Dick Wampach, the world unfolds beneath me, revealing its secrets and expanding my perspective of the area I know so well from the ground. Just about any kid — and many adults — is going to want to put down the video game and pick up a log book after seeing hidden ponds sparkling under the canopy of pines, the breadth of the foothills and rapid-filled rivers twisting beneath them. That’s the idea behind the Placerville Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle Flight Plan Program.

Harris found guilty of first-degree murder

After 40 minutes of deliberation, a jury found Colleen Harris guilty of the first-degree murder of Robert “Bob” Harris on April 15.

The five-man, seven-woman jury found Harris, 73, guilty of the 2013 murder of her then-72-year-old husband, with four firearms-related enhancements found true.

As the court clerk read the verdict at about 3:50 p.m., Harris, a 2008 El Dorado County Rose candidate, lowered her head into her hands, shielding her face from photographers while crying softly.

Defense attorney David Weiner requested the jury be polled to ensure the decision was unanimous. Each juror in turn confirmed the guilty verdict.

An old story, but a new marker

Amelia was only 18 years old when she decided that life was not worth living without the man she loved. Her story could have happened at any time in history, including current times, but it was in 1896 that she took her life in the Central House Hotel in Placerville.

“When I read her story, I cried, it was so sad,” said Bill Mackay. Amelia is the Cameron Park resident’s great aunt, the youngest daughter of his great grandfather, Henry Bernard …

Airborne at 95: Pilot tries to break world record

The paperwork is on its way to Guinness World Records, the record-making flight was documented and photographed on March 30, and now all Peter Weber, Jr. has to do is wait to see if he qualified.

The Cameron Park resident was 95 years, 4 months and 23 days old when he made his attempt to qualify as the oldest qualified pilot still licensed and flying solo in the world for the Guinness World Records. He’s been flying for 72 years and still flies several times a month out of the Placerville Airport in a rented plane.

“I was at the Placerville Airport one day and the manager said he thought I might be the oldest active pilot in California,” said Weber. That got him thinking that he might be the oldest active pilot anywhere. After doing research online at the …

Harris trial: ‘It was all my fault’

Colleen Harris contemplated suicide in the wake of her husband’s death. After calling her attorney, David Weiner, she stripped to her underwear and got in bed with Bob, who, earlier that day, received a fatal shotgun blast to his head.

She straightened the house up after returning from San Francisco, she testified Wednesday afternoon, then held Bob. She talked to him, making the bed, trying to clean the ceiling of viscera. She didn’t want her or Bob’s kids, or anyone else, to see the ceiling dirty. She moved his arm to his chest.

When prosecutor Joe Alexander asked if she changed clothes before law enforcement arrived, she replied, “I was going to end my life.” Then, she called …

Harris details night of her husband’s death

Colleen Harris, on trial for the murder of her husband, Bob, went in to detail in the moments presumably leading to Bob’s death during cross-examination by the prosecution on April 7.

After discovering that Colleen was texting Bob’s daughter, Pam Stirling, Bob became angrier than she had ever seen him. She tried to hug him …

Defendant Harris takes the stand in murder trial

The Colleen Harris murder trial continued on Thursday, April 2 as she took the stand herself and recalled her prior marriages and the death of her husband Bob Harris.

Dressed demurely in a high-necked blouse and slacks, Harris spoke in a quiet voice that was often at odds with the turbulent marital life she has led.

Governor orders mandatory water rationing

At a special press conference held April 1 at Echo Summit, Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. announced the first-ever mandatory statewide water reductions.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” he said. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”

The governor’s executive order calls for a 25 percent reduction in water consumption in comparison to what was used in 2013. The savings amount to approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months, or nearly as much as is currently in Lake Oroville.

Crafty creations for kiosks

Outdoors, brushes of white paint fly over the surface of rain catchment barrels imperiling the hair of fellow artists painting vines along the bottom of the barrels. Inside Catherine Moné’s house, four 9-year-old crafters pull out the gardening stakes, bird baths, bird feeders and wind chimes from a huge collection they’ve already made while, in the kitchen, other 9- to 13-year-olds are alternately stuffing a peanut butter/seed mixture into bird feeders and bagels into their mouths. This meeting of Funding for Farmlands is a little busier than usual, but it’s always a bustling scene.

The group is part of 4-H Gold Hill Toppers, and in November of 2014, they were looking for a 4-H Learning Service project that would serve a community need, allow them to research …

Courthouse debate results in letter from city

The Placerville City Council voted unanimously at the March 24 meeting to send a letter to the California Judicial Council in support of relocating the courthouse within Placerville city limits and requesting assistance with mitigating the anticipated economic impact to the downtown area.

Recent concern expressed by downtown business owners prompted both the letter and a special community meeting on March 22 with City Council members and members of the community to talk about the courthouse, both the Main Street courthouse and …

Harris unemotional in interview until affair discussed

Colleen Harris showed little emotion in an interview with detectives hours after the death of her husband — until the interview focused on her husband’s infidelity. But, after the interview, during a “fit for incarceration” examination, she was quiet and unemotional.

Registered Nurse Tom Kulesa and Dr. Roger Gallant testified the afternoon of March 24 during the murder trial that Harris — who gave her last name as Batten, her previous married name — showed a “flat affect.” Kulesa said she reported no pain and was calm and cooperative. She did not mention memory loss or mental problems to Gallant, something that would be “absolutely” important to the examination.

King Fire area gets a Band-Aid

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a helicopter dropping straw!

Helimulching was once again being carried out in the King Fire burn area as two helicopters dropped ton after ton of rice straw on the blackened hills, turning them yellow as clouds of thatched material spiraled into the air and then settled.

A joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service and the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District, 695 acres were treated …

Colleagues, law enforcement testify in Harris trial

In the days leading up to his death, Bob Harris was chipper. He was in the beginning phases of planning ways to raise funds for the Tahoe Baikal Institute. That’s what three colleagues testified on Wednesday in the Colleen Harris murder trial before it switched gears to law enforcement witnesses.

Bruce Ledesma, John Gussman and Robert Sheble, all former board members of TBI, were in contact with Bob Harris before his death.

“He seemed normal,” Sheble told the jury on March 18. Sheble was to stay with Harris at Bob’s South Lake Tahoe …

Prosecution: Harris killed out of love

Prosecutor Joe Alexander opened the Colleen Harris murder trial with a simple statement: Harris killed her husband, Bob, because she loved him.

On Jan. 6, 2013, she shot and killed Bob with a 12-gauge shotgun “as he lay sleeping in bed,” Alexander told a jury. “The defendant loved her husband. They had loved each other since they were children.” But, they had taken different paths in life, married different people and started families.

Both came together later in life and married on Sept. 2, 1990. But by the fall of 2012, the relationship “was not healthy…”

Shootout leads to house fire

A man shot at deputies responding to a domestic argument call in Cameron Park early Monday morning, spurring a shootout that ended with a house fire, but caused no injuries.

Deputies responded to the call on the 3100 block of Oakwood Road at about 2:30 a.m., El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Felton said. As they were speaking to a female outside the residence, a man inside — later identified by an EDSO press release as Michael Hoffer, 44 — opened fire with a rifle. One deputy was able to return fire. The shootout lasted between …

Coloma Post Office still delivering mail after 165 years

The tiny post office in Coloma may be 165 years old and counting, but old age and rumors that it’s haunted haven’t dampened its spirits.

Indeed, while over 100 post offices are said to have existed in El Dorado County at one time or another, it’s the Coloma Post Office that is still here while most of the rest have closed or been combined with others.

It’s also a meet up spot for the community as there’s no other mail delivery in the area. Instead residents stop by regularly to collect mail from their boxes while catching up on the local gossip.

Coloma is more than just a …

SubSea Systems creates underwater oxygen lounge

It was a perfect storm: four and a half hours of sleep after a Bob Seger concert, with a full eight-hour workday ahead followed by a three-hour City Council meeting with a mid-year budget review at the end of it. Coffee was ingested to stimulate my brain and prop my eyelids open, but it wasn’t going to get me past the budget review. Would putting on a SeaTREK helmet and sucking up copious amounts of concentrated oxygen, shooting a bubble gun and mugging for the camera while being 9 feet underwater keep me awake and coherent through the budget report? It was worth a try.

SubSea Systems in Diamond Springs is known internationally for its amazing inventions that enable people to interact with water in ways they could only dream of. Specialized helmets allow those who would not otherwise be able to …

STEM-based program leads the way

The first of the first: 25 Union Mine High School students are taking the first of four courses in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a four-year career technical engineering pathway at UMHS. Project Lead the Way is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-based national program designed to equip students with skills in engineering, open-ended problem solving, application of engineering design processes and the use of industry-leading technology and software that the world’s top companies use.

PLTW Engineering students explore mechatronics, forces, structures, aerodynamics, digital electronics and circuit design, manufacturing and the environment to prepare them for post-secondary education …

Burglar given stiff sentence

A man found guilty of a spree of burglaries was sentenced to 94 years and 4 months in prison.

Craig Ivan Adams, 35, received an additional 5 years per felony sentence — 11 of the 17 convictions — due to the appellate court decision in People v. Tittle, currently in the state Supreme Court. This was added to his approximately 55 years for the charges, prosecutor Anthony Garilli said.

A law enforcement official, who wished to remain unnamed, was a victim of Adams.

“I’m sworn to protect,” he said. “When I learned we were burglarized, I was devastated.” Both because his home had been burglarized and because he could not protect his family, who were not home at the time, he said. Now, every time they come home, they wonder whether they are victims again.

Snow survey results ‘grim’

The results of Tuesday’s snow survey at Phillips Station were disappointing, with an average of 6.7 inches of snow on the ground and slightly less than one inch of water content.

At only 5 percent of the historical average for the site, the results were actually down from last month’s average of 12 percent.

“It’s pretty grim,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey for the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), as he checked the numbers.

“And pretty reflective of measurements we’ve been taking up and down the Sierra over the past week or so as well as reflected in the telemetry measurements that come in each hour.

“We’re nudging up against the lowest snowpack on record,” he said, citing the snowpacks recorded in 1991 and 1977.

“Clearly there’s no good news in terms of any runoff,” he continued. “We were fortunate to have a fairly wet…”

Insurers not renewing in King Fire area

Thanks to the King Fire, Reverend Pattie Weber and her wife, Lisa Maslack, have to change their home insurance. While they have more than the recommended defensible space and were not affected by the fire, Liberty Mutual will not renew their wildfire insurance — a matter that is strictly business.

“A lot of people are experiencing this,” Weber said. After speaking with neighbors, many are suffering the same fate — their insurance companies, mostly big-name, national companies — will not renew wildfire insurance due to the King Fire and previous wildfires in the county. “We’re not special in this whole thing.”

Weber, a minister at the Cameron Park Spiritual Center for Positive Living, describes herself and her wife as “mindful stewards of the land…”

King Fire restoration plan in the works

While still in the draft stage, a plan to restore the area burned by the King Fire is drawing both support and criticism, with the U.S. Forest Service stuck in the middle.

Last year’s conflagration burned almost 98,000 acres, 63,000 of it in the Eldorado National Forest.

According to a restoration plan being circulated for comment, only 14,100 of the 63,000 acres will receive some kind of treatment, including salvage logging and the replanting of trees.

Laurence Crabtree, who is supervisor of the Eldorado National Forest, said so far the public feedback is mixed with some advocating for more timber harvesting while …

Shooting range draws fire, ire

Jackie Neau said she didn’t mind the noise so much. She’s more concerned with getting shot. Neau, a representative of the Friends of El Dorado Trail, shared her concerns with El Dorado County Supervisors Tuesday regarding a proposed outdoor shooting range on tribal land just off Shingle Springs Drive in Shingle Springs. She was one of more than 200 in attendance when the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians presented its proposal to the board and the community.

At issue is the tribe’s decision to move forward with a 29-lane shooting range on its land …

Sanford sentenced to life without parole

“I am absolutely, completely innocent,” Andrew Sanford said at a hearing Monday before being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. “I was nowhere around when the crime took place.”

Protesting his innocence on a conviction of the 1980 first-degree murder of Richard Swanson, Sanford said he was “appalled” at the District Attorney’s case, refuting supposed conversations he had and claiming he did not encounter witnesses at the time. Witnesses then lied on the stand, he said, at the prosecution’s behest. He claimed he would be …

Three arrested in connection to Sand Ridge Road murder

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office arrested three suspects in connection with the alleged Feb. 3 murder of Pete C. Thomas.

Nalana Omega, 31, of Placerville, and Raul Gonzalez, 22, of El Dorado — a validated Sureno gang member — were arrested on murder warrants at a Green Wing Lane residence, an area known for Sureno activity, in Placerville on Feb. 18, Lt. Tom Murdoch said. Roberto Barrera, 18, of Diamond Springs, also a validated Sureno, was arrested at Grocery Outlet, where he is an employee, the same day on a murder charge.

All three were arraigned on Feb. 20, each pleading not guilty. The three remain in custody with no bail due to the murder charges. They are being held in separate facilities — only Barrera is in Placerville — to prevent communication between them, Lt. Jeff Dreher said.

Visiting Judge Gary Hahn set the next hearing date as Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. in Department 7.

Longtime editor of the Mountain Democrat retiring

After almost 37 years at the Mountain Democrat — virtually all of it as an editor — Mike Raffety is retiring as of Feb. 23.

A fixture at the paper for more than a generation, Raffety has served in multiple capacities — reporter, editor, photographer, columnist and opinion shaper. He’s also been a steadfast champion of the community, celebrating its accomplishments while unsparing when criticizing those who fall short when it comes to looking out for its welfare.

Something of a renaissance man, Raffety was born in Berlin, Germany, and later adopted by an American military couple who moved back to the United States, eventually settling in California.

Placerville among 50 Best Small Downtowns in America

A January 2015 Best Choices Review of the 50 Best Small Downtowns in America ranked Placerville as No. 28. Extolled in Placerville’s virtues are the monthly stagecoach rides, the 160-year-old Belltower and the Placerville Hardware Store, as well as Placerville’s Gold Rush history and being the late artist Thomas Kinkade’s home town.

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