Friday, December 19, 2014

Downtown upbeat about Christmas

The holiday season is usually a retail bonanza for merchants. This November, national retail sales were up by 4-5 percent, with the National Retail Federation predicting a whopping $616.9 billion in sales for this holiday season.

Downtown Placerville merchants have seen steady sales and some of them are hoping for the late season surge they experienced last year.

“Last year, there was a big surge about four days before Christmas,” said Danielle Thorne, owner of Ecological, 320 Main Street, which specializes in fair-trade items.

Stormproofing the watershed after King Fire

With last Thursday’s storm threatening more damage, U.S. Forest Service and Sacramento Municipal Utility District staff were out in force doing what they could to protect a watershed left scarred by the King Fire.

On Wednesday, crews were hurriedly putting in berms, placing risers over culverts, laying rocks and log barriers and taking other measures to protect the hillsides, roads, powerhouses and other structures before the storm hit.

Up and down Forebay Road, dump trucks rumbled by with tons of crushed rock. At the bottom of one gully, a front-end loader graded the area while rock was placed above to control the water flow and to keep the gully from turning into a small canyon. Meanwhile, what looked like a hydro excavator truck waited on …

Storm causes minor flooding, fallen trees, power outages

The storm that hit California late last week dumped rain and snow in El Dorado County, causing power outages, floods and downed trees.

For the previous 48 hours at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 12, the storm rained between 1 and 4 inches of water, with Placerville having the highest at 4.22 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s …

Behind the lines in WWII

“I was working at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond and I got drafted by the Army,” said Ray Haagen. Since shipfitters making Liberty ships (military cargo ships) had a deferred occupation, Haagen had thought he might not be drafted, but he was.

The 94-year-old Pleasant Valley resident hadn’t really talked about his experiences during WWII in the “Thunderbolt Division” — the 83rd Infantry Division, until he received a bottle of 1939 Chateau Lauretan wine in the mail from the son of a former Army buddy.

The unopened bottle had been signed by Haagen and a dozen others in Normandy in 1945 and labeled “Do not open until 1955.” Haagen didn’t remember signing the bottle, but he remembered working with supply sergeant Ben Young, who had held on to the bottle until his death in 2002.

“I was attached to Regimental Headquarters because I had taken typing in high school,” said Haagen. “I rode all over…”

George Peabody dies at 96

George W. Peabody, one of the foremost historians of El Dorado County, died on Saturday, Dec. 6 at a neighbor’s home that he helped build on the top of Lent’s Hill. He had recently celebrated his 96th birthday, but the holy tamales which Peabody attributed to having extended his health by seven months could only do so much against colon cancer.

Born Oct. 23, 1918, Peabody grew up in Southern California and attended South Pasadena College. He married Patricia Cecilia Davies on June 13, 1942, went to work for the Lockheed Corp. as an aircraft …

Winkler sentenced 26-years-to-life

A man found guilty of murdering his wife was sentenced to 26-years-to-life in state prison on Monday.

“I’m ready for a big dose of karma,” Katelynn White, a member of the audience, said as Todd Winkler, now dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit instead of a suit, was led into the courtroom. “That outfit fits him better.” White would have been the stepdaughter of Rachel Winkler had she not been murdered by Todd on Feb. 27, 2012. He was convicted on Oct. 22.

Before the sentence was decided, Judge Kenneth J. Melikian allowed members of the audience to give victim impact statements. The first was by Don Hatfield, Rachel’s father.

Nugget Markets gives Cameron Park store a lift

CAMERON PARK — Food 4 Less shoppers have seen their local grocery store transform before their eyes over the last several months and earlier this week Nugget Markets unveiled the store’s new name — Fork Lift — and kicked off a week-long celebration.

“It’s really a hybrid of Food 4 Less and Nugget,” said assistant store director Jazzmen Sinns. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

In addition to offering products shoppers have added to their carts since Food 4 Less opened in July 2002, Fork Lift has more than 20,000 new items, Sinns said, pointing out the …

Eyewitness to history — Pearl Harbor: Dec. 7, 1941

With the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor coming up this Sunday, the event still manages to evoke strong memories in those who lived through that event, even after 73 years.

One of those is Shingle Springs resident Bob Clarke, whose family lived in Hawaii at the time and who was an eyewitness to history.

Living in a home at the top of a hill overlooking Pearl Harbor, the Clarke family watched as the ships and nearby military bases were bombarded by the Japanese.

Clarke, who was 15 at the time, said he, his parents and two younger brothers were living in an area called Aiea, which was once an old plantation town.

Taxpayer group tackles water rights

In what was largely a reprise of the last meeting of the El Dorado County Water Agency, members of the Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County debated the pros and cons of pursuing additional water rights at their Dec. 1 meeting.

With Dave Eggerton, the outgoing general manager of the El Dorado County Water Agency providing an overview, the audience peppered him and each other with questions about the project.

At present the Water Agency, in conjunction with El Dorado County and the El Dorado Irrigation District, make up a joint powers authority called the El Dorado Water & Power Authority or EDWPA.

Together the three agencies are splitting the cost of an application to the State Water Board for an additional 40,000 acre-feet of water rights. The expected cost of the application is between $8.1 million to $11.7 million, with the big-ticket items being an environmental impact report, consultants and legal help.

After Thanksgiving: Christmas tree farms busy

Geri Hyder, armed with a walking stick, radioed down to her son-in-law, Rich Rumbaugh, to tell him that more cars were coming in to Indian Rock Tree Farm. Helpers in red shirts and hats scurry around, providing a full service of cutting, hauling, netting and putting trees on top of cars.

The Hyder family is everywhere — Larry, the patriarch, greeting customers and chatting. Granddaughter Aubrie Wallin and her cousins wrapped trees in nets a few feet away.

Meanwhile, the Hitchcock family of Sacramento was there to get their Christmas tree.

Turkey in the straw becomes dinner on the holiday table

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s natural to think of turkey.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys will be cooked and eaten this Thanksgiving. That’s one-sixth of all turkeys sold in the U.S. each year, with turkey also popular at Christmas and Easter.

A type of pheasant, turkeys are the only poultry native to the Western Hemisphere.

Available in many varieties, heritage domestic turkeys are the result of cross-breeding between domesticated European varieties and the wild turkeys of North America…

Plane crash kills Cameron physician

Dr. Doug Pleatman, 59, was killed Friday morning in the crash of his 1961 PA-24 Piper Comanche airplane near Garberville. The local weather at the time of the crash was fog and rain. Witnesses said they did not hear an engine and that a wing clipped a tree and the aircraft cartwheeled to the ground […]

Rock of ages: Diamonds in meteorite

A continuing source of “scientific gold,” the Sutter’s Mill meteorite that fell in El Dorado County is back in the news again.

This time it’s because researchers have found diamonds and other “treasures” in recovered parts of the meteorite that fell in the …

Marina School: State award for Rescue counselor

Her office is constantly filled with students coming and going, but that’s the way Myrna Harp likes it. “This is the comfort room, the safe place, and they know that,” said Harp. “There’s never a dull moment around here.”

Providing that comfort and safety in the perilous world of puberty is why Harp was selected by the California Association of School Counselors to receive the Donald G. Hays Award as Outstanding School Counselor of the Year for 2014. This is not a local or regional award — Harp was selected from out of all of the school counselors in California to represent the state.

Harp, 58, has been the counselor at Marina Village Middle School for 11 years. In that time she has been chosen as “Educator of the Year” for Rescue Union School District, the first time a counselor had been given that award and was the recipient of El Dorado County Child Abuse Prevention Council’s Champion for Children Award and was selected as a top 10 finalist for the American School …

Fire station sports rooftop garden

People driving past fire station No. 25 in Placerville might have thought they were seeing things as four towers of fresh greens seemed to be sprouting from the rooftop.

But no, it wasn’t their imaginations.

The latest idea in growing food in unlikely spaces, the project is the brainchild of the Casemade Garden Foundation in cooperation with the El Dorado County Fire Protection District.

Called “Sprout it from the Rooftops,” the project aims to “green” rooftops by turning …

Capital Southeast Connector called vital

SACRAMENTO — A realistic look at the connection between housing and jobs in southeast Sacramento County and El Dorado County was presented by Region Builders Inc. at the Sutter Club in Sacramento on Oct. 17. The focus was the Capital Southeast Connector project.

Region Builders Inc. was founded in 2012 as a …

Herrick Bldg. scaffolding gone

George, the Hangman’s dummy, newly restored and with all of his fingers, is swaying in the breeze; the exterior is painted and the scaffolding is gone — progress is being made on the renovation of the Herrick and Hangman’s buildings at 301 and 305 Main Street.

From snail-pace slow to all-in-a-rush, the renovation happens in fits and starts, but renovating 2-century-old buildings with a common roof and wall is an unknown, said Sue Taylor, who owns the buildings with her husband, Tim. “It’s not a typical remodel job. We’re doing a lot of research with this and it’s not something that can be plotted out and all the contractors scheduled.”

The Taylors have owned the …

Bear attack in Camino

On Monday, Oct. 27, Bart Emry of Camino let his dog Daisy, outside to do her business. It was two o’clock in the morning and Emry assumed Daisy’s nudge had meant the 11-year-old collie/lab mix needed to go.

But instead of heading out into the yard, Daisy froze on the porch. “I kept telling her to go, go, but she was staring at something,” said Emry, 55. He started to open the back door wider, but Daisy suddenly jumped backwards and Emry caught sight of why: 25 feet directly in front of them, a huge black bear was foraging in a bag of trash he dragged from a pile by the side of the house. The bear saw Daisy and charged.

Emry reacted by heaving the dog into the laundry room behind him. “I was bent over picking her up and I tried to kick the door shut, but the bear was on top of us and swiped my foot with his claw. I stood up and he stopped long enough for me to slam the door in his snout, which was only about six inches from my face.”

The wound on Emry’s left …

Ranalli, Novasel win county supervisor races

Although the election results are not yet final with 8,000 to 10,000 votes still to be counted, it looks like the two new members of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors will be Sue Novasel and Mike Ranalli.

Leading by 550 votes in the 4th District supervisorial race is Mike Ranalli with 52.7 percent of the vote. Ranalli’s opponent, Howard Penn, garnered 47 percent.

On the day after the election, Ranalli and his wife were out early picking up campaign signs. “I’m relieved it’s over and grateful for the opportunity to serve the county,” he said.

Asked why he believes he placed first, Ranalli narrowed it down to two main things. “Howard …”

Huge turnout for Deputy Oliver’s memorial service

ROSEVILLE — At least 5,000 law enforcement personnel, friends, family members and elected officials attended the memorial service for slain Sacramento County Sheriff Deputy Danny P. Oliver on Monday, Nov. 3.

Oliver, 47, a resident of El Dorado County, was shot and killed Oct. 24 during a murder spree that began in Sacramento and ended in Placer County. Placer County Detective Michael Davis Jr. was also killed during the incident and three other people were wounded.

EDH reflects on loss of deputy

One day after Jenny Oliver’s sixth grade friends met with grief counselors at Marina Village Middle School, they banded together to paint the rocks for Jenny’s dad, Danny Oliver, the deputy who’d been with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department for 15 years when he was shot and killed Oct. 24 approaching a suspicious vehicle.

While the news made …

Poor Red’s sold to brothers

The sale of El Dorado’s iconic restaurant closed during the week of Oct. 20-24 said Team Commercial Realtor Ann McQuillen. The restaurant — along with four other buildings including a barn, a beauty salon, a parking structure and a liquor store — sold for $777,500.

“It took a whole year to sell it, with all the liens that were on it,” said McQuillen, “and the kitchen was so far out of compliance with the health codes that whoever bought it had to be prepared to put a lot of money into it to bring the …”

Opportunity Acres: Ranch is a special choice

At long last, youths with autism have a place they can call their own: Opportunity Acres.

Located in Shingle Springs, the ranch is a mix of uses that at first glance don’t seem to fit together. For example, what does boarding horses and dressage have to do with rescued horses, goats and a petting zoo? And what does caring for horses have to do with a life/vocational skills program and non-public high school for those with autism?

Yet, all the pieces do fit together, with one activity …

Flying Samaritans change lives

Once a month, a group of doctors, nurses, medical students and dentists fly to Baja Mexico. They operate a clinic, Alma Luminosa, at San Quintin, on the Rancho Los Pinos, about 200 miles south of the border, and they make a difference in the lives of the people they touch.

They’ve been doing this since 1977 as the Flying Samaritans Mother Lode Chapter, and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Winkler convicted of first-degree murder

A jury found Todd Winkler guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, Rachel, on Wednesday afternoon.

The verdict from the jury of seven men and five women was read at 2:20 p.m., almost exactly 22 hours after deliberation began. Jurors also found that he used a deadly weapon — scissors — adding a year on to his potential sentence.

Rachel had been having an affair with James White, intending to divorce Todd and marry White instead. Prosecutor Lisette Suder posited that Todd found the computer she had used to calculate child support and alimony, leading him to stab her while she slept. Believing she …

New Animal Shelter now open

El Dorado County’s new Animal Services shelter facility opened Oct. 16.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to see the new facility project completed,” said Henry Brzezinski, chief of Animal Services. “We want to thank everyone who supported this effort, especially the County Board of Supervisors and the Chief Administrative Office. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of our community members and animal welfare partners. The new facility will be a great place to proudly serve our residents and to care for animals in need in our county.”

The new facility, located at 6435 Capitol Ave., Diamond Springs, will 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Camino manhunt ongoing

A manhunt in Camino began Friday morning after a deputy was shot at by a suspect.

Just after 8 a.m., a struggle occurred between a deputy and the suspect while on Cable Road, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Felton said. The suspect was able to retrieve a gun and fired a single shot at the deputy.

The deputy reported over the scanner that he had not been harmed; the shot hit his radio.

A manhunt began for the subject in Camino, though schools were only put on soft …

Winkler grilled by prosecution

Todd Winkler continued his testimony Tuesday morning regarding his killing of his wife Rachel — alleged as a murder by the prosecution but self-defense by the defense.

As he had testified on the previous Thursday, he said he got in bed with Rachel in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, 2012. She told him that she wanted full custody of their three children. Winkler added that she would not allow weekend or overnight visits, something that was “out of left field.”

She also threatened him. “She told me she would have James (White) come over and get rid of me.” Rachel and White had been having an affair, with Rachel intending to divorce Todd and continue her relationship with White.

Murder defendant takes the stand

Murder defendant Todd Winkler testified on Oct. 9 to deny many of the incidents connected to him that made his wife, Rachel, fear for her life before her death, attempting to discredit many of the claims made by previous testimonies of others during the trial, while also recalling the details of how the death of Rachel ultimately came to be.

Steve Clifford, the defense’s investigator, took to the stand for a quick testimony before Winkler. Clifford said that Rachel was a member of online dating sites Adult Friend Finder and Ashley Madison, joining in November of 2011 — a few months before her death. However, under the …

BAER Team prepares triage report

With the King Fire near 100 percent contained at the time and initial efforts made to repair some of the damage, the second phase of rehabilitating the fire area began on Oct. 1 with the arrival of what’s called a BAER team.

BAER, which stands for Burned Area Emergency Response, is a team of U.S. Forest Service specialists whose job is to identify any imminent post-wildfire threats to people and property as well as natural and cultural resources.

Composed of knowledge experts from different fields, the first people to arrive were soil scientists, geologists, hydrologists, engineers and a geographic system specialist brought in to help with mapping.

Todd Ellsworth, a Watershed Program Manager and Forest BAER coordinator, said other specialists would join them later including botanists, biologists and archaeologists.

Describing the role of the BAER team, Ellsworth said the fire crews had engaged in the first …

Rachel Winkler’s father takes stand in murder trial

The lover of Rachel Winkler continued his account on Tuesday morning of their affair and her fear of her husband, Todd Winkler, who stands trial for her murder.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney David Weiner, James White again relayed the version of the 1999 events …

Rachel Winkler’s lover testifies

The Todd Winkler murder trial Oct. 2 featured a doctor with a specialty of allergies explaining anaphylaxis, a Department of Justice criminalist examining blood on clothing and the lover of Rachel Winkler coming face to face with the man who admitted to killing her.

Before the first witness testified, a stipulation was entered by the prosecution and defense from Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Mike Roberts. If called to testify, the stipulation read, Roberts would say that, after the car wreck that claimed Cathy Winkler’s life, Todd Winkler had injuries to his left knee and left hand, a torn jacket, a scrape and bruise on …

Siblings of Winkler’s wives testify

“My philosophy is keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Christine Carlisle told the jury from the stand of the Todd Winkler murder trial Oct. 1.

Winkler is on trial for the alleged murder of his third wife, Rachel. However, the prosecution has also taken time to look at the 1999 death of his second wife and Carlisle’s sister, Cathy.

Winkler trial looks to ’99 Georgia death

Sept. 30, day four of the Winkler murder trial, turned attention to the 1999 death of Winkler’s second wife in Georgia.

The first witness of the day was Nanette Davis, a former coworker of Cathy Winkler for six months prior to her death. Cathy was Todd Winkler’s second wife and previous to Rachel, whom Todd is accused of murdering.

Cathy told Davis of her money problems three or four times, she said. She knew the Winklers had recently bought a private plane. The money situation was “stressful,” with Cathy as the “primary breadwinner.”

Winkler trial eyes autopsy, death of prior wife

Sept. 25, the third day of the Todd Winkler murder trial, opened with a review of the autopsy of Rachel Winkler.

Forensic pathologist Stephany Fyore, then-chief pathologist of the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office, performed the autopsy. There were numerous abrasions, incisions and stab wounds to her face and neck. Bruising around her left eye and nose led Fyore to believe Todd had likely punched Rachel.

One incision went from her left eyelid to her cheek, exposing the cheek bone. Another incision was on the eyelid. Some six linear scores marked her neck.

The fatal wound was a 1.5-inch-deep stab to her jugular vein, consistent with scissors with the blades closed stabbing her neck. “This is the fatal wound on the body,” Fyore said. The many other wounds were not life-threatening and mostly superficial, she said.

Winkler interview recounts grisly details of wife’s death

A murder suspect admitted in a police interview hours after his wife’s death that he hit her before she attacked him with scissors.

Back on the witness stand at the start of the second day of the Todd Winkler trial on Wednesday was Sgt. Mike Lensing, a detective that responded to the incident.

Couple with missing son now have lost home

Tragedy seems to have come in threes for Vern and Cyndi Matthews.

In June they learned that someone had ransacked their vacation home off of Spring Valley Road in Pollock Pines. They learned of the break-in from their son, Vernon “Cody” Matthews, who arrived a few days ahead of his parents.

Cody, an adventurous 24-year-old, had gone up early as he intended to live off the land for the summer.

According to Vern Matthews …

Weather brings red flag warning for King Fire

At 89,574 acres, the King Fire continues to grow but at a much slower pace as more and more resources are thrown at it, with containment at 35 percent as of Tuesday morning.

But with a return to dry conditions and wind, at a briefing Monday night, fire personnel issued a red flag warning from 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 until 8 p.m. Sept. 24, with temperatures expected in the range of 75-82 degrees on Tuesday and ridge top winds reaching 20 to 35 mph.

Held at the evacuation center located at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Camino …

King Fire structural damage confirmed

It’s been confirmed that some homes and other structures have been damaged due to the King Fire, according to a briefing provided to residents on Friday night in Camino and an update by on Sunday.

Located in the White Meadows area of Pollock Pines, fire officials said they are still investigating the damage and would be notifying property owners before releasing any further information. An update on on Sunday afternoon stated, “preliminary reports from the Damage Assessment Team from the White Meadows area indicate that 10 residences and 22 other structures were damaged or destroyed.”

The King Fire, which started in Pollock Pines, was up to …

Accused arsonist pleads not guilty

A not guilty plea was entered in court Friday afternoon for the man accused of setting the King Fire.

Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, had a plea of not guilty entered for him by Judge Gary Hahn, also denying all special allegations. Huntsman kept his head down as he entered the courtroom and next to his attorney, William Dittmann of the El Dorado County Public Defender’s Office, while a line of media cameras watched …

Arson arrest made in King Fire; Swansboro evacuated

The King Fire exploded to 70,944 acres between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and a man was arrested on a single charge of arson of forest land Wednesday night.

Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, was booked into the Placerville jail Wednesday night on a charge of arson of a forest land. His bail was set at $10 million. He is under suspicion as the cause of the fire.

The fire doubled in size overnight, from almost 30,000 acres to nearly 71,000, with no change from the 5 percent containment.

“The fire continued to burn actively throughout the night,” a Thursday morning update …

Firefighters and evacuees transform Pollock Pines

Monday was a day of ashes and smoke as the King Fire continued to grow, with the plume of white smoke turning to a dirty brown as the fire found fresh fuel and threatened even more homes.

With its population increased almost overnight, Pollock Pines became home to almost 1,500 firemen from all over the state as they arrived to fight a fire that burned around 200 acres on Saturday but moved on to engulf more than 11,500 acres by Tuesday morning.

One resident said he counted 55 fire trucks in the parking lot of Safeway on Monday morning. Added to that were more fire engines parked elsewhere along with water trucks, a line of bulldozers on flatbed trucks and scores of people watching …

King Fire nearing 19,000 acres burned, only 5% contained

The acreage burned by the King Fire has climbed to 18,544 acres as of Wednesday. It remains at 5 percent containment. Two injuries have been reported, and 2,448 structures (1,632 residences) have been threatened, according to an Inciweb update.

The California Highway Patrol Facebook page originally stated the fire had crossed over Highway 50 near Sly Park, but scanner reports and the CHP Facebook page later reported the fire “burns up to north side of U.S. 50 east of Sly Park,” but not across it Tuesday night.

King Fire grows to more than 2,000 acres

A fire quickly spreading east of Pollock Pines forced El Dorado County families to evacuate their homes on Sunday.

Mandatory evacuations of about 100 began about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, according to Matthew Marques, a volunteer at the evacuation center at the Pollock Pines Community Center.

The King Fire, off of King of the Mountain Road, began at 4:32 p.m. on Sept. 13 and spread to more than 2,000 acres by 4:20 p.m. on Sept. 14, according to the latest update available from Cal Fire as of press time. It was originally listed as 100 acres, with 10 percent containment, but updated later in the afternoon. It was located in the canyon of South Fork American River, northeast of Pollock …

Sheriff’s Office to star in reality series on Fox 40

El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini and his office will star in a new reality series premiering Saturday, Sept. 20 on Fox 40.

“Sheriffs … El Dorado County” is “not your typical ‘COPS,'” D’Agostini said at a press conference, “where you only see the crazy stuff,” such as only chasing criminals. “You see the true operation of the Sheriff’s Office.” In a press release, D’Agostini added that he wants “to encourage all citizens of …”